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Your Phone: A Marketing Power Tool

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Creative Commons from allvectors.com

Creative Commons from allvectors.com

In a world filled with social media and mobile tools, your most powerful customer engagement device may actually be—the telephone! People rarely get personal phone calls these days (of course I’m not including those awful robo-calls and mass marketing). And the human voice brings so many more nuances to a conversation than a text or email. Plus, it’s more Efficient. I know, this sounds crazy. But here’s the thing: a phone call is Fully Interactive. It is way faster than emailing or texting. And it doesn’t have that annoying delay of Skype. That’s right, when I say something over the phone, you can respond Immediately, no waiting. And then I can respond to you Right Back!

Here are 5 ways to use your phone to ramp up your business:

  1. Key Deliverables. At any point where there are key deliverables in a project, I like to call the client. Is there anything we missed? Any concerns? Any new developments moving forward? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve learned information I’d never get in an email or through the many conversations we post on the cloud-based project management tool I often use.
  2. Setting Meetings. Have you ever been part of a spiraling email chain where people are trying to choose a meeting date and time? Huge time-waster! Put in a call to the key person, find out options, make a few other calls, done. Yes you can use a Doodle Poll. But people often hedge and put things down as “maybe” and then who knows where you are. So pick up the phone and set up your meeting now!
  3. Negotiating. Unless there is just one easy clause of a contract to adjust, any detailed negotiations should happen in person or by phone. You can more easily find out Why a party needs a particular clause. And you can better convey your own concerns and goals.
  4. Building Vendor Relationships. Building relationships with suppliers and team members is one of the most important things you can do to deliver better customer service. Having those conversations in person (you can still email backup in writing) is the best way to build and retain those connections.
  5. Thank You’s. Yes I often also Write These on a Notecard and send them. I know, that’s even more retro/radical. And yes, I send emails, too. But sometimes calling and saying “thank you”to a vendor or client in your real voice is yet another important human interaction that builds trust and long-term collaboration.

Amy DeLouise is probably on the phone, so you can also reach her on Twitter @brandbuzz, on Linked In  or via email at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com.

Guns, “Nones” and $1’s: 6 Things You Should Know About Millennials

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Here are two stats about Milliennials that strike me as worth mentioning. #1: the under-30 crowd increasingly does not associate itself with any formal religion. (Pew Research 10/12 ).  #2 This same under-30 crowd has the lowest gun ownership, compared with all other age cohorts. (General Social Survey). Gallup-None-NPRGraphic2

ImageNow, a social scientist might say these trends are unrelated.  Ahh, but that’s where the storyteller/ branding aficionado in me begs to differ!   Rather than clinging to their guns and religion, it seems Millennials don’t particularly like associating themselves with the brands and organized institutions of the past.   They like to be independent thinkers. In fact, Millennials identify themselves politically as Independents, rather than D’s or R’s (another study).  

And while they don’t need any formal institution like a political party telling them what to believe or say, Millennials definitely keep up with their peers through social media. No, not Facebook you old boomer people.  I mean  Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit and Twitter.

But here’s another interesting stat: 71% of Millennials have raised money for/on behalf of a nonprofit. And for those who haven’t, the main reason is that NOBODY ASKED. Shouting, sorry. Image

What that says to me is Nobody Asked in a Medium They Pay Attention to, anyway. Also, they like learning about nonprofit opportunities from their peers. And they like to know that what they do or give will Actually Make a Difference (see my other posts on showing nonprofit impact w/video stories!)Image

So….if you want to reach Millennials, remember that they…

  1. probably won’t shoot you
  2. nor will they pray for you (at least, not in a formal place of worship)
  3. do like to think for themselves
  4. don’t necessarily like being Official Members of Organized Groups
  5. and if you want their time and money, please have one of their peers ask them nicely for it
  6. Oh, and show them your results please!

Market Your Brand Like a Food Truck

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By Amy DeLouise and Pam Vinal

This year’s edition of the famed Zagat restaurant guide includes a brand new section titled “Food Truck Reviews.”  Gourmet food trucks that use social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to reach their customers are not new.  But recognition in the world-renowned guide proves these meals on wheels have not only created a new dining experience, but their marketing strategies are garnering even more customers.  Here are a few marketing tips we can all learn from the Food Truck craze.

Create a Customer Experience

“Happy Friday! Today we R serving lobster & shrimp rolls, whoopie pies & cool drinks near Conn & M St NW and Ballston Metro! Both start~11:30.”

This is just an example of a recent Twitter post from Red Hook Lobster DC, a gourmet food truck serving Maine lobster rolls daily to the hungry masses in Washington, DC.  Throughout the day the lobster truck will post similar updates of its whereabouts, even offering a digital map on their website. These digital tools make grabbing lunch an interactive treasure hunt instead of a mundane meal.  Customers are seeking out the food trucks, traveling to new locations, and meeting new and interesting people.  The main draw of social networking component of food truck marketing is the interactivity.  Food Trucks have found a way to use social media to create an entire experience for their customers instead of simply using the medium to push advertising on them.

Encourage Customer Participation

Too many organizations waste the community-building value of Twitter and Facebook by simply posting the same advertisements they use in all other outlets.  Social media is interactive, so make your social media campaigns interactive.  Let your customers participate in something instead of just consuming information.  Throw contests, request feedback, give them a reason to contact you.  Food Trucks have proven that if you give them the map, customers will find you.  And don’t forget to give feedback to those customers:

“Thanks to all the intrepid customers who came out today @GPBFarmMarket.”-LobsterTruckDC

Go Where Your Customers Are

Food Trucks are always on the move, and not just when they drive to different locations.  In the past several years, these traveling restaurants have continued to adopt new technologies and used social media to listen to and act on customer feedback.  One example: Food Truck Festivals.  This new trend is popping up in cities across the country.  Festivals invite all the local food trucks to one place, sell tickets in bulk, and hold contests.  The result of this collective marketing and shared venue is an expanded customer base for all participants.

Team with Other Brands

Even if your current campaign is a successful one, consider opportunities to team with other brands—yes even brands in your own space—to reach more customers collectively. If you are in a service space, offer a workshop or webinar series in which multiple companies offer expertise and share the expense and resources of a Facebook marketing campaign for the event. If you are a nonprofit, combine with related nonprofits to do and integrated fundraiser for a specific community. The goal is to maximize outreach and minimize duplicated efforts.

Excel in Your Niche

You can have a million dollar marketing campaign, but if your product isn’t good then the advertisements are not worth a dime.  The most popular Food Trucks are not your average hot dog and sandwich carts. Each  has a specialty — from crepes to Korean fare and everything in between. Although some have expanded offering a wider range of foods, each started with a niche set of high quality products.

Like the Food Trucks, social marketing is viral and has landed in some part in the customer’s hands.  Sites and Apps like Yelp and Foodspotting are based on customer-to-customer reviews.  If your customer leaves loving your product, and the experience it took to get it, then be sure that they will post that opinion.  In this social media world a happy and satisfied customer is now equal to a quality advertisement.


Happy New Year

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It’s time to kick off the New Year.  Are you ready? Here are some of my resolutions, when it comes to branding and marketing, that is.

1. Add more video content. YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google. So it’s important that people searching for a brand find the content there. I’ve been primarily using Vimeo, because I prefer its copyright protections, but this year I may have to give in and post some clips on YouTube.  I already have video clips on my site, but I could do more to keep them fresh–I am a video producer, after all!

2. Set aside less time for email, more time for social media.  According to Neilsen Research, social media has now surpassed email for communication. I want to be sure I’m working in this space and not still getting sucked into the batting-away-emails mode.  Facebook also just surpassed Google in terms of most sought website. So maybe I have to suck it up and put a professional page there, in addition to my personal one. What do you think?

3. Be a more consistent blogger. I’ll admit this year I fell off the wagon a few times and didn’t post weekly. That reduces pickup by Google and other search engines. Guest posting was really successful and I want to add some more guest bloggers this year. Let me know if you’d like to be one!

4. More speaking engagements.  I got pretty tied up with content production this year, and only did a handful of engagements. This year I’ll be giving 5 workshops at the NAB Convention in Vegas, so I’m already on my way to doing more presentations in 2011.  It’s a great way to meet people, and take time to consider the big picture of social media, marketing and brand strategy.

5. More comments from you.  I’ll admit it, I’m a little anxious about posting on controversial subjects. It gets more hits but the comments can get rough. But I’ll try to be a little more daring this year. Shoot me a topic you’d like to hear more about.

Happy New Year to you and yours. May it be a great year for advancing your mission, raising awareness about your issue, or bringing more impact for your company.

Can Twitter Help Offset the Negative Brand Impact of Downsized Marketing?

In the last two weeks I’ve spoken with one VP of marketing whose job was completely eliminated at a major national nonprofit, and one marketing director at a mid-sized for-profit who confessed she had no time to do long-term strategic work since she was really functioning as communications director, and without any support staff.

Who hasn’t felt the pinch on long-term strategic thinking when short-term tactical communications work needs to get done? And why should we care?

I think we should care because organizations are likely to find that while they net some short-term savings with cuts to personnel and marketing budgets, their brand may take a bigger hit than they think in the long-term.  If all you’re doing is getting out your weekly customer e-newsletters and press releases, you may actually be suffering from internal bleeding without knowing it.  With tactics focused on short-term “get the word out” communications, organizations can be missing out on three key marketing strategies: attracting new customers/donors, retaining existing ones, and constantly establishing your brand as the best in class.

So, how to maintain a brand focus without all the people and budget to help?

Consider what some of the biggest firms are now doing: using Twitter as a tool to provide customer service.  USA Today reported this week that companies like Comcast, Pepsico and Whole Foods are using Twitter to provide customer service more quickly and successfully than 800 numbers and websites once did.  Pepsico went so far as to change its top customer service employee’s title to “Global Director of Digital and Social Media.”

Title changes aside, how can mid-sized for-profits and nonprofits use this technology to do more than put out 140-character press releases?

  1. If you are a school or university, consider tweeting to keep in touch with alumni on issues they care about.  But also tweet parents about important news–changes to the soccer game schedule, deadlines for scholarship apps, etc.  Letting them opt-in will make them feel they aren’t going to miss important news.
  2. If you are in the business of social change, keep donors up to date on the impact of their funding.
  3. If you are a government agency, keep stakeholders apprised of policy issues and where they stand, and any new information you have posted elsewhere about it to save them time fishing for it.
  4. If you are a for-profit, keep customers apprised of issues and information that could negatively or positively affect their business outcomes, so you can demonstrate your depth of knowledge in your field and your value.
  5. If you are a thought leader in your area of expertise, consider sharing what you know, what you are reading, and people worth watching. (For some reason, nonprofit leaders are particularly late adopters of this technology, and yet they have the most to benefit from one another and the least staff resources to pull in the information in other ways.)

Nothing replaces people and budget, but it looks like Twitter can offer some interesting opportunities to maintain a good brand presence in this downturn.

Addressing Brand Threats

The salmonella-in-peanuts debacle reminds us that brands built over a lifetime can be ruined in an instant—even for actions and outcomes for which those brands are not responsible. Sales of direct-to-consumer peanut butter—which does not contain the tainted Peanut Corporation of America nuts—are down 25%. Big names like Kelloggs (Keebler, Famous Amos), JM Smucker (Jif) and ConAgra Foods (Peter Pan) are reeling. Thousands of smaller companies have filed for bankruptcy. The lawn fertilizer giant Scotts even filed a law suit for damage to its bottom line and its good name against a supplier who failed to admit to Scotts that it had sold tainted peanut meal, used in the company’s wild bird seed. (The Washington Post, Sunday March 1st). Peanut farmers, who had nothing to do with the infected processing plant, said they are experiencing staggering losses and will plant 30% fewer crops this year (NPR, 2/10). The very brand of the peanut itself has been damaged.
One of the lessons to learn from this brand catastrophe is that if what’s known as the “brand promise” is broken, even if not by your organization, you may be punished anyway. Nonprofits learned this the hard way after the United Way and Red Cross accounting issues arose, and Congress, the IRS and donors large and small began asserting themselves with concerns about financial oversight at other 501(c)3’s.

So, how to deal with such brand threats?

Of course, you must actively push out the great stories of your organization and what it does in the world. Web-delivered success anecdotes, You-tube videos, and Facebook updates are all part of this package, and most nonprofits are already actively managing and updating this content in order to “tell their story” every day. But often overlooked is another component of brand management: defending your story, and your good name, from becoming tarnished by forces both internal and external.

Two excellent antidotes to brand threats are 1) good governance, and 2) good listening. In today’s climate of more rigorous oversight, small organizations must create better clarity, benchmarks and rules for how they run themselves. Larger ventures have a different challenge: peeling back the layers of programs, administration and large boards so that constituents–donors, staff, volunteers—can understand what you do and how you do it. Maintaining a high level of transparency and using governance best practices are part of the antidote for brand problems.

Engaging Critics

Intertwined with good governance must be a regular process for good listening. That means listening to those who are actively “marketing” against you. Maybe it’s an individual who was unhappy with an outcome at your hospital. Perhaps it’s a small but vocal group who disagrees with your organization’s position on a policy issue. Or someone who posts an anti-your-organization social networking page (case in point: the uproar over the new “Avatar” TV series’ lack of Asians in its lead cast, led by a Facebook group with more than 2,200 members as of today and causing the studio to recast at least one lead role.) Whatever the source—and this is critical–you need to be engaged with critics of your brand. Even when you think/know they are wrong. Even when it’s just one person. Because, in the world of 24 hour news cycles and the blogosphere, one person can be a very powerful voice.

Listening Gets Results

And if you listen, you will often find at the heart of the complaint a real issue you need to address—something that is showing a tear, if not a break, in your brand promise. Fixing it gives you the opportunity to improve your services and outcomes before a problem reaches crisis proportions. And then, be sure to tell everyone about those improvements. Rinse, repeat!

Why Brand? The Case for “Selling” Nonprofits

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Nonprofits often resist marketing. Marketing and sales smack of for-profit activities. In the best of cases, marketing dollars are viewed as an expenditure that reduces money for core mission projects. Worst case, branding, marketing and brand management are considered downright inappropriate.

But whether you know it or not, you are already selling your mission. The question is to whom, how, and how effectively?

In today’s highly competitive marketplace of ideas, your non-profit organization has very little emotional space in which to differentiate itself from the pack. When a nonprofit calls or sends us mail, or when a friend discusses volunteering, we look at this request not just against a backdrop of all our nonprofit investments but also against the other competing interests in our lives—our son’s Little League team, our work picnic, the birthday party we are hosting next weekend.

Here’s where a strong brand comes into play.

When a household already contributes to a church and a Little League Team and a PTA, they may feel that their nonprofit “basket” is full. To make an impression on this family, a nonprofit has to make a bold and memorable case for support. Having a strong brand already in place can help open the door or close the sale. For example, when my local volunteer fire department comes knocking at the door for their annual donation drive, I already understand their brand. They volunteer at our schools to explain fire safety to the children. The firehouse hosts kids’ parties and we’ve all taken the tour and tried to lift the 100-plus pounds of gear each firefighter wears in a fire. And a few years ago, they put out a fire on my street. They have a strong brand and they don’t need to tell me what they do. So the conversation is focused on what level of donation I am able and willing to give for the cause.

Not everyone can have as compelling and easy a case to understand as the local volunteer fire department. But if they don’t, they need to work hard to make it easy for people both inside and outside the organization to “get” what change they make in the world. Then, the trick is that once you’ve invested time and dollars making your brand known, you need to manage your brand so that there’s no slippage. Your “brand promise” has to be delivered as expected every time your organization or its name/logo is used. And that means Every Time, or you may have done lasting damage to your mission by reducing your ability to raise funds and attract talented staff and volunteers. (More on how good governance connects to your brand promise in a future posting).

Do you have a brand success story or brand crisis? Please share (names can be changed to protect organizational anonymity)!

Nonprofits Boost Brand Impact with Social Media

In a recession, successful branding may seem to be a challenge for nonprofits, but there are also opportunities to improve brand awareness.

Brand defines an emotional connection between the entity providing a good or service and the people it wants to reach. Corporations measure the impact of their brand by market share and profits. For nonprofits, the product is change. Successful nonprofit branding communicates the change the organization makes in the world quickly and easily to a multi-layered audience: people in need, donors, volunteers, staff, public policymakers, and the general public.
In difficult financial times, some for-profits will be able to increase market share because advertising costs go down and/or their competitors go out of business.  Nonprofits can also take advantage of the new fiscal playing field to jockey for better position. One tool they can use is social networking sites. These allow nonprofits to magnify their brand power and increase reach for minimal overhead and out-of-pocket costs. For example, an increasing number of nonprofits are creating Facebook group and fan page sites to increase “market share.” Readers/viewers are not just potential donors, but also current and future volunteers–the lifeblood of nonprofit work. Organizations can use traditional online tools (web, email) to drive existing supporters to these pages.  At the same time, they can encourage their “fans” or “members” on the social networking site to spread the word about the mission they care about.  501(c)3’s can also register as a “cause” in order to raise funds. And they can take content originally created for web, print and video and re-purpose it to find new audiences on these sites. You-Tube offers another opportunity for building brand awareness. Video through this web portal can be a powerful tool to tell how a nonprofit is changing lives.
So while the economic times are creating fundraising challenges, nonprofits can and must take advantage of social networks to spread their unique brand of change.