Playing 20 Questions

While walking my dog in town yesterday, I strode up Main Street (Boonton, NJ) and, glancing right, saw that a new business was occupying one of the storefront retail spots.

I saw chairs. I saw desks. And a small sign, identifying the occupant as PMD.

That’s it. If I was a potential customer, I didn’t know it – nor was I going to stop and ask.

Now, I make so secret of the fact that I despise meaningless names, especially when they are a jumble of letters. But even if this company was open for just one week, or about to open next week, shouldn’t there be something to tell me what it is about?

PMD could mean Plaster Mask Designers. It could stand for Plutonium Manufacturers and Distributors. Or Paul, Mike, & Darryl. By itself, without any other explanation, it’s just a Potentially Meaningless Description.

Besides coming up with a real name, all it would take would be one eye-level sign: New Jersey’s Only Nutella Bakery (or whatever) – and now I know why you’re there. Without having to ask questions.

You have 3 seconds while I’m walking past your retail store. Or driving past your billboard. Or browsing by your tradeshow booth. Or visiting your website. And I don’t have time for 20 questions.

Give me the one message that matters, at eye-level, in 3 seconds. Your Purpose that Makes a Difference (PMD). Or you’ll just be another acronym in memory’s dustbin.

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Let’s Kill Some Giants

I recently had the opportunity to read through Stephen Denny‘s new book (pre-release copy), Killing Giants, which takes up the theme of effectively designing your business and marketing to take on the “big boys” in your marketplace.

Stephen is an experienced marketer who spent over 20 years working with major brands before launching out on his own. I ran into him several years ago on Twitter and have always enjoyed his thoughts. He has been a regular contributor to LeadershipChat and he will be talking about his ideas on leadership with us this week (see below).

This book’s a keeper. And not only because I am a fellow entrepreneur and status-quo rattler, but also because the format of the book makes it easy to digest. See ordering information for Killing Giants at the bottom of this post. In the meantime, here’s my video review:

Stephen will be our guest this week on LeadershipChat, where we will discuss Leadership and Decision-Making (Tuesday, March 29, 8 pm ET, #LeadershipChat on Twitter). Please be sure to read the preparatory post written by my talented co-host, Lisa Petrilli (To Kill a Giant: Leading David against Goliath)

Want to know more about those 10 Strategies? I thought so. Here’s a sneak peek at the Table of Contents:

Order Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry wherever you buy books:

In the US: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BAM! | Borders | Indi Bound | 800 CEO READ

In the UK: Amazon | Waterstones

In Australia: QBD | Emporium Books | Angus & Robertson | Big W Entertainment | Boomerang Books | Booktopia

In New Zealand: Mighty Ape

In South Africa: Loot

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Marketing Profs Digital Forum Re-cap

It was a cold week in Austin, TX. But there was plenty enough warmth among the attendees at the Marketing Profs Digital Forum, where a bunch of smart people (they let me in, too) gathered to think together about the future of digital marketing.

Or, actually, the present of digital marketing.

I won’t attempt to give a full overview, but instead, just put a spotlight on a few things that were exceptional.

Organization - the Marketing Profs staff did it right. And, they were all friendly and fun to talk to. You know what? That matters. Special kudos to Megan Leap who did a lot of the pre-event and on-site orchestration. And there was some scrambling that had to occur, with weather-related postponements and what not.

The Now RevolutionJay Baer and Amber Naslund kicked off the promotional tour for their new book, The Now Revolution. And – no surprise here – their presentation rocked. Especially their use of simple slide design as adjuncts to tell the story. Yes, slide design matters.

Content did Rule – Many of the presentations were quite meaty. Some of these conferences can get fluffy, but not here. Plus, and C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley (whom I consider a dear friend) gave a nice talk about the main thoughts in their recently-released book, Content Rules. Both are solid presenters (and, I finally got to meet C.C. for the first time).

Mobile - one of the best talks for me was Christina Kerley (CK)’s overview of why mobile is huge and getting huger. I’ve known CK for years but had not seen her present before. Fabulous. And I walked out totally convinced about the importance of developing for mobile RIGHT NOW.

Anthropology – huh? Yep, one of the highlights was a talk by an anthropologist, Michael Wesch, who gave a breathtaking 300,000 foot view of how media shapes and reflects culture. Many of us felt stunned at the end. It was also another example of using background slides to help tell a story rather than impart a content outline. Yes, storytelling matters.

Tom Martin – I’ve been hankering to meet Tom for years. We’ve talked and collaborated on-line; finally we got to hang out. Not only were our discussions fun and fruitful, but he gave a great talk on his Mardi Gras marketing initiative. Good times.

BBQ – Yes, one minor (but not unimportant!) reason for going to Austin was to have some great barbecue. And Tim Hayden helped orchestrate a very fun outing at the County Line, where the food was plentiful and delicious, and there was time to be with fine folks like Jason Falls, Frank Eliason, Aaron Strout, Tom Webster, Tamsen McMahon, Matt Ridings, and many more (yes, I know I’m forgetting names…can I get away with it by blaming age, the cold, or something else that avoids culpability??)

For me, this conference was about face time with people. I went to share vision and thoughts with folks I respect in the field, and I was not disappointed. It was also about having fun with semi-crazy folks like DJ Waldow, who along with CC Chapman and Matt Ridings helped produce an ad-hoc series of Ann Handley Day videos. Thanks to the Marketing Profs folks for putting on the event (despite all weather-related dampeners!), and I look forward to future events!

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

10 Can’t-Miss Predictions for 2011

I don’t usually do year-end prediction posts, but after reading so many enlightening missives from brilliant thinkers, I was hit by a sudden flash of inspiration – a massive and luminous outpouring of the blindingly obvious. So, here goes – my can’t miss social media marketing predictions for 2011.

  1. More people will search for stuff on-line in 2011. It’s been growing every year for quite a while now, and the big surprise is, that this behavior will continue to occur.
  2. Mobile is going to be big. Really big.
  3. E-commerce will explode onto the scene. As people discover that they can buy things on-line, they will do more of it. Books, music, toys, pet food – you name it. Disintermediation is the key word here. Big for 2011.
  4. Apple will introduce flashy new versions of its hardware and software products. And people will buy them. In fact, some people will wait in long lines to buy them – and others won’t.
  5. A lot of people will do a lot of stuff on Facebook, which will have more users in 2011 than it has now in 2010.
  6. Very important people will be profoundly embarrassed by revelations made about them via the Internet.
  7. Market valuations for software vendors will go up and down while fluctuating during the year.
  8. Companies will try to sell stuff using social media, and social media purists will be so upset about it, they’ll whine on Twitter and blogs.
  9. Everyone will hate SxSW’s method of choosing panels by popularity contest, but a million bloggers will beg for votes on Twitter anyway, while saying how much they despise doing so.
  10. People will discover that if you join smartphones with location apps with coupons you can cause a lot of people to make a lot of noise on-line about it, and generate stoopid company valuations.
  11. (Bonus) Content will rule. There may even be a book about it (hey – had to get a plug in there for CC and Ann!)

What about you? What are your profoundly insightful predictions for the exciting year ahead?

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

See prior spoofs :>}

Auto Dealers and Social Media

Since I’ll be speaking this week on a panel about social media and car dealerships, here is a collection of interesting links I’ve collected with the help of friends in my network (& Google!) – how automobile marketing can be enhanced (or damaged!) via the power of social media:

Still wondering if social media is a growth opportunity. Just spend a minute watching this real-time chart update itself. And here are a bunch of infographics showing growth and usage – stunning.

I will say that my experience thus far with automobile dealers has been mostly negative. I’m still waiting to work with a dealer that is:

- more interested in the long-term relationship than the immediate deal,

- pro-actively helpful and friendly even if a sale is not immediate, and

- transparent and up-front about pricing.

None of the above is rocket science, but all of it would earn major points in a socially-networked world. So, how can an auto dealer effectively use social networking to grow business?

1. You have to be good - so customers freely and gladly recommend you (first and foremost in importance!).

2. You need to be “find-able” on-line, with a helpful website and a social presence that makes people feel welcome.

3. You need to be astonishingly responsive.

4. You need to follow through with a positive experience at every level.

Note that the most important factors are those things that have always been most vital in establishing a reputable business. Social media only magnifies – for better or for worse – who you already are.

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Rapid Market Research Firm

Do you have a short runway between right now and takeoff, when you’ve got to gather solid consumer insights quickly?

How about a market research firm that does both quantitative and qualitative data gathering and analysis at the same time, in the same place, with the same audience – dynamically iterating the message and interfacing with both client and agency throughout the process?

If that’s what you’re looking for (CPG, or Pharma) send a note to Steve Woodruff (swoodruff at impactiviti.com), the ConnectionAgent. I can refer you to just the outfit you need.

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Networked Communications (part 1): The New Normal

When trying to make the case for using social networking approaches in business, advocates often make a fundamental mistake.

We talk about social media.

Social media/social networking is often presented in isolation. In fact, to properly evaluate these approaches, it all needs to be seen in a much broader context:

You can debate the utility of using this or that social media approach for a given objective or audience. But you cannot debate the inexorable nature of a tidal wave. And when having these discussions, we need to move away from “social media” or “Twitter” or “Facebook” and put a spotlight on much bigger issues. Tidal wave issues.

Remember when people debated about whether or not we’d use personal computers (let alone the distant dream of “smartphones”)? We don’t have that discussion anymore, do we? The INEXORABLE movement of computing power into smaller and cheaper packages made it inevitable that the argument would eventually end with one, and only one, outcome.

Social media – social networking – networked communications – is like that. Except, any debate will end faster!

So, it’s time to look at the bigger trends shaping society, where the real case is made for using these new tools and approaches.

What are these bigger trends?

Social media is actually part of a larger category (Networked Communications), which is itself  being shaped by large scale cultural and technical trends. Let’s call it the Trend Current – whereas “current trends” has the connotation of temporary shallowness, the Trend Current is deep, broad, and inexorable.

Trend Currents make the case for us that this “social media” thing is not some fad, and is definitely not some add-on to a marketing plan. In fact, there are at least 5 Trend Currents that demonstrate how social networking already does, and increasingly will, pervade the landscape of business and life.

We will look at each of these trends in separate posts this week. Here’s the bullet point overview:

  1. Networked Communications: The New Normal is the Old Normal
  2. Self-Expression: The Microphone is Mine Now
  3. Disintermediation: The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman
  4. Peer-to-Peer Engagement: Someone Took Down the Fences
  5. Communities: The New Digital Neighborhoods

That’s a lot of words, but here’s the point: when business stakeholders realize that the river is flowing downhill and will only get wider and faster, that makes the argument for using a boat much easier. If you think that social media is a fad, or may dry up, or isn’t woven into the fabric of unstoppable Trend Currents, then the battle to get engaged is an uphill one. Which is why we have to focus more on the river than on the boat.

Make sense? Tune in this week as we open up each of these trends. Perhaps by Friday it’ll be easier to make the case for networked communications!

[This post is part of a series of posts, each covering a certain aspect of the topic: see part 1, The New Normal; part 2, The New Normal is the Old Normal; part 3, The Microphone is Mine Now; part 4, The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman; part 5, Someone Took Down the Fences, part 6, The New Digital Neighborhood; and the summary post - Social Media: Start Here]

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Blog-worthy Boothies

I enjoy creative booth giveaways. The run-of-the-mill tchotchke is typically forgettable, but sometimes, you run into something outstanding – something worthy of a blog post.

This week, at two different conferences, I picked up three. Here they are:

1. The Epocrates leather-covered notebook is simply delightful. I’d been looking for something in which I could more systematically order my written thoughts (yes, though I do now use Evernote on-line, I’m still a bit old-fashioned) – and this high-quality personal notebook is gorgeous. You don’t have to go high-tech to achieve an “enduring” remembrance – this paper-based goodie won’t get thrown away anytime soon.

2. Also from Epocrates, the Lego-ish USB memory stick. You’ve picked up three dozen memory sticks in the last few years, right? But this is just plain cute. Too cute not to share. Yes, I popped the doctor’s head off so you can see that it’s a memory stick…

3. Eagle Productivity had these pens that didn’t look all that different – until I pulled out the rolled-up sell sheet, which unrolls and retracts from the barrel. Brilliant. I won’t use it for writing. I’ll just show it off. And that’s kinda the point, isn’t it?

I have a hundred other boothies banging around that I’ll never show you. They’re not blog-worthy. But these are. It’s worth the investment to be outstanding, to be remarkable.

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Steal This Idea

Just went to Wal-Mart to buy some replacement ink for my printer.

I hate the prices, and I hate the thought that 90% of the price is the packaging. Thief-proofing, I know – but wasteful and environmentally unsound.

Here’s what I’d love to find – a really high-quality third-party ink replacement company that would let me “subscribe” to having ink sent at regular intervals (or on-demand). In simple packages without the retail garbage surrounding it. I just enter in the printer(s) I have, make my first order, specify auto-ship or auto-remind intervals, and never run out of ink again.

I’ve used third-party ink replacement companies before, but the interval between orders is so long, I often don’t even remember who I used. And, the quality can be spotty. I hate paying manufacturer’s ink pricing – give me reliability and cross the threshold of easy; you’d have all my business immediately. Game over. Plus, the simple principle could then be extended to other supplies.

Anybody you know have something like this in place??

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

The 90-Minute e-book

This was one of those mornings where I issued myself a weird creative challenge.

“Take the primary business lessons you’ve learned and turn them into a brief e-book. You have 90 minutes.”

Ninety minutes to distill years of experience and thought.

As you might expect, it’s rough around the edges. But hopefully these seven lessons learned (painfully) may be guideposts to spare you some wasted effort and professional discouragement.

Or not. You’ve undoubtedly learned a few nuggets along the way – what would you add?

It’ll only take you a few minutes to read. Maybe a bit longer to digest and apply!

Seven Profound Business Lessons (that you want to know sooner rather than later!)

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

What Are We Doing…Really?

Relationship marketing. E-mail marketing. Web promotion. eCommerce. Social Media. CRM. WOM/Viral marketing. Add your own set of blah-blahs and a few etc.’s, plus mix in a healthy dose of all the TRADITIONAL marketing terms.

What are we doing, really? When you boil all that stuff down to its essence, aren’t we, at core, building beneficial connections? Or perhaps more broadly – building beneficial relationships to serve customers and grow business. Isn’t every company worth its salt supposed to be doing just that?

Maybe that’s the business we’re all in. These terms are all the threads. Building connections and relationships is the tapestry.

And maybe businesses will be quicker to adopt all this stuff if we present it as essence first, and all the details as holistic means to the end.

Just a thought.

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Each and Recently

The old marketing model emphasized “reach and frequency.”

Try to expose your message to as many as possible, as often as possible. A certain percentage will respond.

It’s a numbers game. And, it de-personalizes your audience. They’re a target. A demographic. Occupiers of a business funnel.

Been there. Done that.

Instead, let’s think in terms of “each and recently.” There is a growing pool of people who rely on you for information, connections, and services. They become customers, friends, collaborators, and, in a wonderful way, the most effective sales force you could possibly have.

Touch each of them. Make sure, as their names come to mind, that you’ve somehow touched them recently. And don’t worry a whole lot about the reach and frequency numbers game.

They’ll do that for you.

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

The Voice behind the Avatar

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Matthew Ray Scott for his Marketing Story Podcast series.

Matthew is an excellent interviewer. I, however, have ordered a new USB microphone/headset after listening to the audio. My current setup is not totally up to par (ooops!).

Much of the interview focuses on small business use of social media. However, somewhat unexpectedly, I kinda spilled the beans on some of my long-term dreams, and my growing vision about how I want to see us use social networking in order to fundamentally change how we approach business.

So – what’s the voice (and heart and soul) behind the avatar? Give a listen and discuss your perspectives (also available for free via iTunes under “Marketing Stories”). And see how our dreams match up!

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Steve Jobs to Unveil Apple’s new iPants

All the hullabaloo about a new tablet has been a carefully orchestrated hoax, according to a source inside Apple who leaked plans for the elaborate announcement of a brand new platform from the stylish technology company – iPants.

Reportedly, Steve Jobs was behind an elaborately planned launch that included a 7-figure payoff to American Idol to feature General Larry Platt singing what will be the theme song for the new product, “Pants on the Ground.” This YouTube meme went viral just before the big Apple unveiling in order to generate awareness of a major cultural problem in the inner city, that of ill-fitting pants.

“We plan to conquer the ‘denim divide’” Jobs told insiders in a leaked e-mail. “For too long, Apple has been known to produce high-priced products for elitists. Now, with iPants, we’ll use our technology and fashion sense to reach a whole new demographic – jeans-wearers who are not designers or techies, but regular folks who are simply not aware that jeans should be on the waistline.”

Leaked photos showed that iPants device, secured to any belt that has sufficient bling to generate a small electrical current, will deliver a mild but uncomfortable electric shock to the wearer whenever the pants droop over 6 inches from the ideal waistline location, determined via real-time sub-space transmission technology married to GPS triangulation. Wearers who have iPhones and Twitter accounts will also possess the option of a Foursquare auto message, such as, “I just got zapped by my iPants at Broadway and 33rd.”

It is anticipated that Jobs may actually drop his famous jeans during the product announcement ceremony to demonstrate the iPants shock, and rumors are swirling that the audience will then get a preview of the long-rumored iBriefs, currently under hush-hush development in the top-secret textile section of the Palo Alto campus.

For General Larry Platt, who recently signed a recording contract to belt out a series of operatic duets with Sarah Brightman, the announcement will come as a major lift to his once-floundering career as a zeppelin test engineer. “I thought that the Balloon Boy kerfuffle might help elevate my professional opportunities, but now, starting with iPants, I plan to evangelize Apple products in every city, or at least on YouTube.” When pressed for future plans, Mr. Platt would not comment on the stylish matching black hat and turtleneck he was wearing, only stating that the “iThreads wi-fi network you’re detecting has nothing to do with these wires in my clothes.”

————-

Prior StickyFigure spoofs

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Loveless in Nashville

You’ve probably seen the chick flick Sleepless in Seattle. Today, I want to talk about Loveless in Nashville. No, that’s not an on-line Lonely Hearts Club in Music City.

It’s a none-too-fancy restaurant that has been serving mouth-watering chicken, biscuits, and jam since, oh, the days of the Pony Express. Loveless Cafe.

Yes, the food is wonderful, in that fill-your-belly-to-bursting southern cooking kind of way. But I haven’t been there for, like 28 years. So why write about it now?

Because, a quick web search indicates that it’s still there. And I can tell you one 28-year old reason why.

Newlyweds, and fresh off of a move from Connecticut to Nashville, where we planned to take up residence, my bride and I walked into the famed Loveless Cafe for dinner. We were such newbies to the area, in fact, that we didn’t have a bank account set up yet. I think it was about our first week in town.

I remember the usual friendly Southern service. Very large quantities of wonderful food that I wish I could afford to eat in these days of more restricted caloric intake. The homey atmosphere. And, at the end, the travelers checks (remember those, anybody?), always advertised as “same as cash” – that’s all we had to pay for the meal. Like I said, no bank account yet, and no cash in our pockets.

Loveless’ didn’t take travelers checks. Ooops.

So how did they handle this embarrassing situation? I will paraphrase the waitress’ words: “Now, that’s all right honey, you just take this bill, and once you have your bank account set up, just send us a check for it.”

Huh?????

Needless to say, this native New England couple was blown away. Yes, we sent them a check. And yes, I never forgot. And somehow, almost three decades later, I’m simply not at all surprised to see that they’re still in business.

Treat people like that and it’s hard to lose.

(Apparently, CC Chapman has been there too! If you’ve been to Loveless, leave a comment with your impressions!)

————-

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Who’s Behind the Avatar?

My friend Toby Bloomberg is collaborating with John Cass to ask a question about transparency – namely, what sort of transparency needs to be in place if “outside” agents are feeding social media content for a client brand?

From Toby’s blog post:

Social media is a hungry beast that to succeed demands content…PR agencies, advertising agencies and social media consultants are seizing an opportunity to carve a service niche from their time pressed, staff starved clients. Yes, the agencies are stepping in and taking over the role and responsibilities of implementing social media initiatives….but unlike an ad campaign or dropping a media release where no one really cares what name you use, social media is supposed to be different. Tweets and posts are supposed to be from the real people who are working for the brand…However, since on Facebook and often on Twitter “no one knows your name” seems to be the acceptable norm, 2010 will see more. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it just fact of social media marketing life? Does it really matter?

I’ll toss in a few brief thoughts:

1. Since there is an expectation set currently in place with social media (real people interacting with real people), and since violating that expectation leads to a lot of unwanted on-line attention, it’s not wise for a brand to play “let’s pretend” in social media platforms – at least, currently.

2. There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing expertise to “feed the beast.” Life is full of outsourcing. Just be honest about it.

3. I’d recommend that brands who outsource the maintenance of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. establish a “brand” identity on those platforms instead of trying to pretend that there is one person behind the account. I’m OK with, say, TiVo having a brand account – as long as it is positioned as a brand account. I’m also OK with the TiVo account being TiVo Shanan if Shanan is for real (she is, apparently – and very nice!). If the platform is going to provide info and interactions from a team, fine – let’s just have accurate expectations.

4. These platforms are communication channels and we all have to take a deep breath and have a reasonable view of how companies will use them. I happen to think that the companies who advance with real personality in their social media endeavors will likely do best, but not every company is prepared out of the gate to have designated in-house personnel to “feed the beast.” We don’t need to beat these folks with a purist club and accuse them of being inauthentic – unless they’re being inauthentic! Let people get their feet wet, and outsource as they must. We should encourage brands to use social media responsibly, realizing that those who abuse it by a lack of transparency will be outed in time, and the lesson will be learned!

My 2 cents – your thoughts?

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Enlightenment in 4 Slides

OK, I’m sure that headline is overstating it a bit…!

Nonetheless, those of use who believe that social networking is transforming business have an ongoing challenge: helping people who are most familiar with traditional business communications “get” what is happening with social media, and understand why it will touch all areas of business.

Here is my “first draft” attempt to distill it down to 4 slides (on Slideshare). How would you express it? Add comments or link to your own Slideshare/blog post!

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Building your Small Business

So, you have (or are starting) a small business. Now the big challenges are: How do I do this right? and, How do I get noticed?

Here’s a collection of posts I’ve put up over time, based on my experience. Since they are scattered over various venues, I decided to pull them together. Maybe they’ll be of some help:

Getting started

- 10 Lessons Learned Starting a Business

- How I Became a Consultant

Determining your focus

- What’s the Point?

- I’m Pursuing Niche Domination

- Who Needs You?

Personal Branding

- You – Projected

- Personal Branding: What’s your Value-Add?

Naming

- Don’t Make a Name for Yourself

- Product: Winner. Name: Loser

Branding/Marketing your business

- Do you Pass the T-shirt Test?

- Laundry List Marketing

- How to be Unremarkable

Using social networking

- Do you Have an Opportunity Network?

- Getting Started with Social Networking

- The Strategic Serendipity of Social Media

- Feed People

Storytelling

- Telling the Company Story

- What’s in a Name?

Core principles

- Ask the Right Questions

The right people

- Picking Bad Apples

- Hiring for Virtue

Customer Service

- Eat Mor Chikin

- A Boy and his Legos

- Greetings…Done Right

The ultimate goal

- A cult following

Wanting to start your own business, but still working toward the goal? This is for you: Time. Talent. And Magic.

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Pick a Steve

I’ve been at this digital social networking thing for 3 1/2 years or so now, and it’s been a great (and educational) journey!

But there is one question that keeps pecking away at my forehead, and maybe you can help me with it. In fact, ONLY you can help me with it, because it has to do with you.

Which Steve Woodruff do you want to follow?

Let me explain. While I don’t consider myself to be schizophrenic (yet – but there are still kids in the nest here!), I do possess a few different “personas” on-line. There’s the pharma guy (with a dedicated pharma blog, Impactiviti); there’s the general marketing/branding/social media fellow (Stickyfigure blog), and then there’s the more personal stuff on Steve’s Leaves. Every one of those blogs is its own info-stream.

All of these personas and infostreams meet on Twitter – plus photos, banter, occasional spoofs, and whatever else comes to mind. Twitter is the 360-degree view, and that’s where I have the nagging question.

Do you prefer to subscribe to a person on Twitter (holistically), or a topical info-stream? Are you looking for information (primarily), developing personal/professionals connections (primarily) – or is it a solid mix of the two?

In my case, a number of my followers are from the pharma world – what is your reaction when I start tweeting on general brands or social media ROI? Or if you originally linked up with me due to an interest in branding, is the string of tweets when I’m at a pharma conference useful or just noisy? I’m sure I’m not the only “social networker” wondering about this – and I want to make sure that I’m providing value that YOU want, in a way that works best.

One idea: would there be value in setting up different Twitter accounts that would emphasize different facets/info-streams (one for pharma, one for photos, etc.) or do you just prefer to subscribe to @swoodruff and take the punishment of the full spectrum? I can see benefits and drawbacks to either approach. Is subscribing to a choice of info-streams for/from the same person a good idea or just a pain? What say you?

(full disclosure – I enjoy seeing people 360-degrees on Twitter. I can find info in a thousand places – I like the mixture of info, links, personality, creative ideas, pix, banter, shared parental angst, etc. But that’s me. I want your thoughts!)

See also: The Social Media Isolation Chamber

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

The Social Media Isolation Chamber

One of the great things about being involved in social networking is the robust – even heated at times – discussions we get to have. There are very smart people wrestling with important issues, not in a top-down command-and-control fashion, but in a creative level-playing-field manner.

Two rather noisy issues of late have to do with social media certification (check this post by Jason Falls and follow the links if you want to get the entire backstory), and the ever-present discussion of ROI in social media (see Olivier Blanchard for this material).

These are very important issues. But along with the many other discussions about social media, I think we have too much of a tendency (still) to put Social Media in an isolation chamber.

Social Media tools and approaches are a means to an end – or, rightly understood, to multiple ends.

Think about it this way:

1. What am I/are we trying to accomplish? (what is our goal – in this case, let’s focus on business only)

- Let’s say that our goal is to increase sales of our software service by 35% in 2010.

2. How are we going to accomplish that goal?

- Let’s say that we are going to build relationships with key thought-leaders who will influence others; along with making use of inexpensive ways of PR/Marketing messaging to our potential target audience; plus we’re going to add 2 key new features that are being requested often.

3. What are the methods we are going to use to make this happen?

- Direct sales calls; articles/write-ups in industry magazines; cultivation of key thought leaders by regular communication and relationship-building; attendance at 3 trade shows and sponsorship of 1; monthly webinars; exploration of Facebook and Twitter to build an audience/fan base; free trial program; etc. etc.

OK, so we have a business goal and a holistic plan. Now, where’s “social media”? Answer – all over the place! If you look at the methods suggested above, social media can be/is woven into the whole thing, because it’s part of a broad communications and promotion strategy. And using these approaches will likely help you shape your strategies going forward.

Done rightly, social networking is baked into an entire approach, and you can no more separate out the ROI of SM than you can separate out the ROI of, say, “print” or “e-mail.” You might be able to isolate out specific SM tactics and approaches (what is happening with our Facebook fan page, and can we trace sales directly from it?), but you can’t treat networked communications as some carved-out, independent piece – it’s not designed to be. And, it should not be treated as a short-term bit, but part of a long-term holistic strategy.

Did we achieve the 35% increase in 2010? How much time/effort/resources did we expend on the whole plan? Now you can think intelligently about ROI. Holistically.

The same line of thought goes with social media “certification”. What IS this “social media” that we’re “certifying”? To provide training, and a certificate that acknowledges skill acquired on a specific type of social media application (for instance, Facebook for Community Marketing – where there is a clear curriculum, a focused goal, and a competent trainer) – that’s great! But to say someone is certified in social media? It’s simply too vaporous.

Now, backing away from any of the particulars of the ROI or certification debate – should we not begin to move our THINKING and SPEAKING and WRITING about social networking out of the isolation chamber, and embed it in real and tangible – even holistic – applications? I guess, to put it simply – social media is not stand-alone.

As Jay Baer put it recently on his blog Convince and Convert:

Sure, social media has made incredible progress in a short period of time. But to reach its full potential – especially from an ROI perspective – social media needs to be a component in a larger marketing program. Yes, I believe all companies will “be” social eventually. But that’s not a marketing strategy, that’s a cultural initiative. We need to treat social media as a marketing ingredient, not a marketing cure-all.

What do you think?

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Eat Mor Chikin

Last week, I had the opportunity to go down South (driving with family members from NJ to South Carolina) for a couple days, for my son David’s graduation from Marine boot camp.

Having spent 7 years of my life in the great state of Tennessee, I got used to Southern cooking, and fried chicken chains like Popeye’s, Bojangles, and others. I also got used to friendly Southern service, which seems to be sadly lacking here in the colder climes of the Northeast.

Also missing from much of the Northeast is Chick-Fil-A, a chain I admire for multiple reasons, including their brilliant marketing (Eat Mor Chickin), their moral/ethical business stance, and their really good food. So I made sure, on this trip, that we went a bit out of our way to grab lunch at a Chick-Fil-A.

That’s where something happened that I don’t recall ever experiencing at a fast-food chain before.

Of course, the lady behind the counter was warm, chatty, and helpful – quite refreshing in and of itself. But there were 6 of us, and the order was pretty involved. As the food came out in multiple trays, this lady actually offered to come out from behind the counter and carry one of the trays to our table. Then, later, she came over to verify that everything was OK, and then later came back to get drink refills for us! And to just chat.

Now, we were there a bit off-hour, so the place wasn’t packed, but still – personable, voluntary table service at a fast-food restaurant? What a concept!

Bravo, Chick-Fil-A. Now, will you PLEASE open a bunch of outlets in New Jersey? Because I want to Eat Mor Chickin.

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Shaking Things Up

<rant>

Over the years, I’ve attended many, many conferences – some awful, some forgettable, and a few outstanding.

I’m getting impatient.

    I’m impatient with thinly-veiled sales pitches from sponsoring companies during sessions. If you’re going to have sponsoring companies, set aside a specific time in the event when they can present their solutions openly to the audience.
    I’m impatient with speakers who think their role is to walk through a series of slides and do a verbal data dump. If you cannot spark interest, tell engaging stories, use helpful analogies, facilitate discussion, and (yes, this matters) speak with a reasonably pleasing voice, then don’t be a presenter.
    I’m impatient with attendees who are satisfied with passive information reception. We deserve and should demand better.
    I’m impatient with hotel setups where you cannot get some light on the speaker. Really – you CAN do this.
    I’m impatient with hearing the same old same old tired generalities, especially when it is dressed up in meaningless biz-jargon. If it’s not practical, real-life, and fresh, put it on a blog somewhere where it can be ignored. Because that’s what your audience is doing.
    I’m impatient with a lack of daring. Try new things. Shake things up. Get some creative thinkers in your advisory board and plan, from 9-12 months out, how you’re going to make things better.

As for me, like my friend Olivier Blanchard, I’m going to be a lot more selective about my conference attendance next year. I don’t want to spend time being bored and impatient in any aspect of my professional life. There are at least 237 ways to make conferences better. Let’s start doing them.

</rant>

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Telling the Company Story

I’m going to tell you a story about a company telling its story. It’s…well, quite a story about networking, serendipity, and marketing!

This spring, while attending the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, I had the good fortune of sitting next to a pleasant young lady with whom I quickly found two things in common: 1) she was working at a company in central CT, only a few miles from where I grew up; 2) this company provided supplies to the radiation oncology community, a field in which I had a 10-year history in a prior professional role.

Beekley2Mary told me about this box of historical “stuff” that she had inherited, which contained a lot of archival material from the company’s multi-decade past. We talked about ways to tell the company story, and how those materials could be used. And life went on…

Fast forward to last week, just before I was scheduled to leave for Connecticut, for a quick visit with Mom before gathering together with my brothers for a New Hampshire adventure. Out of the blue, I get an e-mail from Mary Lang of Beekley Corporation, Bristol, CT – she had seen my recent post about how Ben & Jerry’s told their story on the HQ walls. Well, now the story-telling panels were done in Beekley’s new offices, and would I like to come by “some day” and see the end result?

I love the serendipity of social networking. I had a couple hours open after a lunch in western CT – how about TODAY, Mary – like, say, 2:00pm??

So I included Bristol on my drive up. And I was not disappointed.

Beekley1Not only was the series of panels (mounted on walls throughout the office) extremely attractive and well-designed, but they had a great story to tell. The story of a company that had a distinctive culture right from the get-go, with a strong focus on employee development and excellence in execution. This culture could be seen through the statements, news clippings, and historical documents that now “told the story” to every employee in the office. And the culture could be palpably felt in interactions with Beekley employees.

A consistent graphical design was woven throughout all the various pieces and panels, and the business philosophy of the founding family was also a common thread. Maybe a lot of people throughout the business world have never heard of Beekley (the company or its founders/leaders). But now visitors and employees certainly get an eyeful!

Beekley4This was a company that had evolved over time, starting with a printing business and moving, as customer needs manifested themselves, into medical supplies and other areas. However, with each change in direction, the company distinctives remained.

Beekley believes in exceeding expectations, in having the right people on the bus and developing them (10-15% of employee time is spend on professional development), and in creating an environment that is pleasant, professional, and supportive. Right down to the design of maximum window space to contribute to a cheerful feel in the office.

Beekley3

I walked out of there impressed by the internal marketing storytelling, but even more by the story itself. A little company, doing its thing in its niche, practicing excellence and growing steadily, hiring smart and telling its story.

May such companies increase in numbers and influence!

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Google’s Sidewiki and Pharma – Uh Oh.

Take a look at the screen shot below, from Pfizer’s homepage. Believe it or not, I, or anyone else, can now leave comments “on” any website (such as Pfizer.com) using a new tool (currently in beta) from Google, called Sidewiki.

PfizerSidewiki2

Game-changer? You bet.

While the use of Google’s Sidewiki has ramifications across the entire web, for every type of site or industry, I’m going to focus here on the pharma industry. Because in pharma, it’s all about controlled messaging via corporate sites, and by and large, the idea of people being able to freely comment on (just about) anything is anathema.

The locus of control has just shifted. You can turn off comments on websites and blogs, but now, people can have their say, and the comments are accessible right there via Sidewiki when people come to your site.

How does this work? Google is not the first to try to allow user-generated commentary on any site, but they are certainly the biggest and most sophisticated. All you have to do is have a Google account, download the Google toolbar for your browser (currently IE and Firefox), and activate the Sidewiki capability. That’s it. More detailed explanations of how it works and how to get started are here and here.

MackSidewiki2

I decided to go to fellow pharma blogger John Mack’s site and leave a Sidewiki comment there (above). Now John allows (and welcomes) comments, of course, but with Sidewiki, that is irrelevant. And even for those sites where comments are reviewed before approval, Sidewiki allows commentary completely apart from the intervention or approval of the site owner.

How will this change the game with regulatory issues? Well, it’s a big monkey wrench. A pharmaceutical company already cannot control what people say about it, or its products, on various sites. But now people can express themselves with annotations that are, in essence, sidebarred on company sites! Can a company be held liable for, say, off-label discussions that happen on Sidewiki in association with a product site?

It’s a good thing that the FDA will hold hearings in November about the use of social media/Web 2.0 in pharma communications, because we now have a new issue to put on the table. How does industry and its regulatory bodies view user-generated content that cannot be controlled, yet exists in conjunction with company-sponsored sites?

Some question whether the adoption rate of Sidewiki will be significant enough to make a huge difference. It’s a fair question, but I don’t believe that’s the point. The really important thing is: the wall has been breached. I’m not sure there’s going to be any going back as this kind of (pretty much inevitable) approach evolves.

The rules of the game just changed again.

UPDATE: Fellow industry blogger Phil Baumann was thinking about the same theme today! Read his valuable thoughts.

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Plodding

One of the appeals of social networking is the “instantness” (is that a word? should it be??) of it all. You can create a blog in minutes, open a Twitter account painlessly, set up a profile on Facebook or Linked in and start connecting – all free, and all (pretty much) immediate.

So why do so many people start with a burst of energy, and fall by the wayside?

ploddingBecause like so many other ventures in life, real success comes through plodding.

Those who truly succeed in building strong networks and positive reputations do so, not by quick-fix schemes, but by the steady, day-to-day drip of plodding forward. Adding value with regular posts. Exchanging messages over time with quality people. Encouraging and helping people getting started, with no expectation of return. Being there and showing up.

Yes, these platforms are tools, and yes, there can be business strategy behind it all. But what else is behind it? Dare I say love for others?

The love of couples with strong marriages, and the love of parents for kids, also contains a major element of plodding. Day-to-day displays of warmth, kindness, and selflessness. Noticing the little things. Making the small and important gestures. Showing up.

Social networking is really not all that different from so many other ways that we create and maintain relationships. Yes, it’s easier to get started. But at the end of the day, it’s plodding that makes things happen. Just like in business. Just like our physical neighborhoods. Just like everything.

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 151 other followers