Monday, August 30, 2010

and now I leave my cozy blogger home

I've finally given in.

I've imported my blog to WordPress. You can find me there at

Looking forward to seeing you over there!

Beware of the Buckeyes: An interview with Stanford Smith (

One of the weirdest things happened about a month ago. I was on Twitter chatting with my good buddy Stanford Smith (@pushingsocial). Somehow, we got to talking about his hometown. As it happens, we grew up probably no more than 10 minutes apart. Even though Mr. Smith no longer resides in our forlorn Buckeye state, I still count him as ahometown hero. In addition to being native Akronites, we share a lot of the same views when it comes to Social Media (except, as you will see, when it comes to blogrolls). So, I asked the always gracious Mr. Pushing (as I like to call him) if I could interview him. Here are the results.

The Mad Man: At, you write a lot about authenticity. There seems to be a lot of buzz these days that authenticity in Social Media is at a premium. Do you agree? How do you define when someone is being inauthentic?

SS: I believe someone is being inauthentic when they are not speaking from a place of passion and experience. For me, blogging is about introducing yourself to the world. I think that many of the problems we grapple with spring from poor communication. Social Media excites me because we can finally create and respond TO EACH OTHER in ways that make a real difference.

The Mad Man: You've already made a lot of waves with people listing you as an important resource and a blog to keep an eye on. What are you hoping to accomplish in 2011?

SS: I'm really focusing on creating deeper experiences for my readers. I feel in my gut that reading a blog should be an ACTIVE experience where you get inspired, get equipped, and get whipped into action. So I'm working on an ebook that will be ready in the next month or so and actively helping people to get their passions and blogs noticed. I'm also taking a serious look at how we can revolutionize cause related social marketing. Cool stuff.

The Mad Man: As a fellow Akronite, it must pain you, like it pains me, that the major hubs for Social Media activity are Boston, Chicago, and then the whole West Coast. Do you think we can make the Midwest a respectable player?

SS: Absolutely, I'm proud of the growing SM community we have in Southeast Michigan. I would love for you to organize and get Akron/Cleveland pushing the boundaries...Although Social isn't confined by geography you definitely can see its impact locally when people take what they learn and apply it to their businesses and organizations.

The Mad Man: What do you think is the biggest mistake people are making in their Social Media marketing right now?

SS: Following so-called Social Media Rules. I can't stand hearing people parrot the latest "formula." As you know, I feel strongly that your rules are set by your audience. I'm 110% dedicated to my readers. If they only need to hear from me once a month then I'll put my heart and soul into it. If my audience hates Facebook - I won't be there. Simple.

The Mad Man: Just for the record, tell me what think about blogrolls again... :)

SS: I swear...blogrolls represent everything that is wrong with the world.

You can learn a lot from Mr. Smith. I'd direct you to link to him from my blogroll, but out of respect, I don't have his blog listed there :)

Thanks, Stanford, for the time!

How can my company use Social Media?

A lot of people agree now that Social Media has become an integral part of marketing. A lot of people know what Facebook is. Fewer people might know about Foursquare or Gowalla right now, but it's all catching on. In perusing what's out there in Social Media, it's easy to find a lot of information about Social Media. Whether you believe there are "experts" or not, there is a lot of content that tells you how to succeed using Social Media. There is even some content that tells you how to fail.

If you are new to this world of Social Media, or if you are new to marketing in general, what you are probably not seeing a lot of is how all of this information can be adapted by you and/or your company. There isn't a post or an e-book that speaks directly to you. I can't promise that this blog will be all that different. After all, without talking to you I can't really give you customized information. But what I can tell you is how to go about answering some of the questions that can help you get started.

Go where the customers are.

One thing you can learn a lot about is the importance of relationship building in Social Media. You see a lot of sites that help you learn how to nuance your blog posts away from language that sells. You read a lot about how important it is to be yourself. But there's one really important thing you need to do first. You need to go where your existing and potential customers are. There's nothing wrong with networking with people who are interested in fishing when  you manufacture CNC machines, but it's probably not going to generate the levels of success that you've been hearing about.

How do you know where your customers are? Well, you need to do some research, something that Clayman Advertising can help you with. And what do we help you research? There are two things you need to find out right away. First, are your customers actually out there using Social Media? Second, if they are out there, how are they conversing about your industry? A close third, of course, is, "are they talking about you."

One thing that concerns me about the current marketing environment is that the whole feel is like a college party, and Social Media is the drink of choice that everyone thinks you should have. You should, in fact, totally go bonkers for that drink, and if you don't, you're a bit of a party pooper.

The thing is, sometimes we conduct research and we find out that Facebook is not fertile ground in which a garden of great results can be planted. That's not to say that Facebook is bad or that it will never come in handy. It just means that existing and potential customers aren't there now. Sometimes there is only relevant activity on YouTube. Sometimes there just isn't much buzz at all (I talk about this conundrum in more detail in an earlier blogpost called "The Social Media Case Study You'll Never Hear About").

If you find that Social Media is not heavily populated by customers or potential customers, the next step is to find out if your competitors are out there.

Go where your competitors are.

There are two things you want to look at when researching the Social Media activity of your competitors. Again, this is something we can help you with, but generally, you want to a) see if your competitors are using Social Media and b) You want to see how they're doing. What do I mean by that? It means you want to look at that competitor's Facebook page. You can look at how many fans (I guess we should call them "likers" now) the page has. But more importantly, you want to look at the activity. It's relatively easy to get fans or followers, especially if you're a big company. If everyone at the company likes the page, you could end up with a commendable 500 fans right off the bat. What you really want to look for is the nature of the posts that are being made and what kind of reactions those posts are receiving. If the same person is posting a news release every Wednesday to a room of crickets, you can assume that the page is not successful. If people other than the page's host are posting to the page, if there is a lot of conversation, if there is a lot of liking going on, then that is something you want to make note of.

Same rules apply for YouTube and Twitter. A company could end up with 1,00 followers almost by accident. Are they conversing with those followers? Are they using the tool appropriately? Are they getting responses?

If you find that your competitors are having a fair amount of success even despite your research showing that the conversation rate is low, it adds more weight to your consideration. If your competitors are mostly talking to themselves, it's safe to assume that the time is not right for you to join the lonely crowd.

Go where you can shine.

The final consideration in the first round of identifying where in the Social Media world you should go is where you and your company can shine. Where can you provide the most value to your customers so that you can start to build that online following? What kind of content do you have already that could easily be used for other purposes? If you have a lot of white papers, for example, maybe a blog is a good place for you to start. If you have a vast video library that's getting dusty on your website, enter into YouTube and start letting people find your company that way. Play to your strengths. That is what ultimately will win you business and help you maintain business.

Go carefully.

These are all important things to consider, and they are just the beginning. Once you figure out where you want to be, you need to figure out what you're going to do there. Avoid the temptation of falling victim to the excitement or the peer pressure. Your customers will be there tomorrow if they're there today. Determine how you can integrate your new Social Media efforts with other existing marketing initiatives. Determine your corporate policy. All of those are part of the nitty gritty on how you and/or your company can actually set forth on the path to Social Media success.

Did this help? Do you have any questions? I'd be happy to answer them! Just leave a comment below.

1st image by ostillac callisto.
2nd Image by Gabriella Fabbri.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Do you follow through or do you ask for feedback?

Thanks to my status as a life-long Cleveland Indians fan, I've seen my share of announcers trying to explain why pitchers are so incredibly bad. I've seen pitchers literally dribble the ball towards homeplate. I've seen pitchers walk 6-7 people in a row. Inevitably, when the game gets too painful, the announcers start talking about the pitcher's delivery. Most often, they talk about the fact that his follow-through seems poor. His arm is in the wrong position. His foot is 5 inches off the mound instead of 3.

For a pitcher, "feedback" is what happens to his pitch once it's thrown. If it's a good pitch, the pitcher attains his goal. In the case of most Cleveland Indians pitchers, the feedback is bad.

In business, we have often been framing things like a pitcher would. We make a pitch, we look for feedback. Hopefully in your case you are hoping for a homerun rather than a strike-out, but otherwise, it's the same general concept. If your feedback is bad, or begins to decrease in quality, you look everywhere, trying to find the core of the problem. Well, much like a pitcher, your problem may be your follow-through.

A symptom of the old days

One sign that companies, for the most part, still haven't adjusted to the Age of the Customer is that we are still asking for feedback. What do you think of this website? What do you think of our product? Did you like our pitch? Did you like me? Did you like my speech?

"What's wrong with that?" You may ask.

Well, in asking for feedback, we are putting the burden on our customers, or on our audience. We're saying, "We appreciate you buying our product, now tell us if you like it." Moreover, asking for feedback is still making the whole issue about us. It's kind of like the insecure person who always asks you how they look, even after you compliment them 2-3 times. After awhile, you start to wonder if you're missing something.

The art of follow-through

Instead of making it about you the company, the interest should really be in your customer. You should follow up with your customers. I'm not talking about automated surveys, either, although those are at least going in the right direction. We should emphasize to our customers and potential customers that we are sincerely interested in how they perceived their experience with us. Did your product or service meet their needs? Did it solve their problem? Are they satisfied? Do they need anything else? Imagine a real live person contacting you the way you said you wanted to be contacted, with the communique just saying, "Hey, saw that you bought xyz product or xyz service. Wanted to make sure everything is okay and that you don't need anything else."

What a wonder.

The thing is, it's not just customers that we should follow through with. In these days where integrated marketing is growing in importance, you should also follow through with other departments in your company, or if you work on your own, follow through yourself to make sure different initiatives are supporting each other. Instead of just asking for feedback on a marketing initiative, marketing should follow through with sales to make sure the ad or email campaign is indeed effective. Instead of asking for feedback on a PR campaign, PR people should talk to customer support to make sure that customers feel better about the company and the product.

Poor follow-through can yield poor feedback

Just like a pitcher who has a kink in his follow-through, your company will start to notice that your feedback will decline in positivity if you have poor follow-through. If you don't follow through with your customers, you might not get any feedback at all. If you don't follow through with other departments to make sure that everything is working as it should, things might not work, and no one would be the wiser.

On the other side of the coin, of course, is that really good follow-through can set the stage for extremely positive feedback which you won't have to ask for. Making sure that a customer is "good to go" can make a huge impression. They will rave about you and spread the word. Just like a surprise present for no apparent reason, positive feedback that is received without being requested is all the sweeter.

Are you following through or are you still asking for feedback? There are extremely positive and fun ways to follow through with customers, regardless of what you have offered them (product, service, webinar, trade show experience). Maybe Clayman Advertising could step in as pitching coach and help you with that follow-through mechanism.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Extend beyond your comfort zone

Every morning, I wake up and do the same things in the same order, pretty much without fail. I do this for a few reasons. First, my IQ is basically not present when I first wake up, so without a set plan I would very likely end up trying to walk to work with shoes that wouldn't match and with my PJ shirt on. You might think I'm exaggerating, but yesterday I woke up at 6:30 and couldn't figure out if I was late for work. We open at 8. I also do the same things in the same order because it's comfortable. I know that I will get everything done that I need to get done. I know how long each step takes me. I can do it with my eyes closed. Sometimes I *do* do it all with my eyes closed. Makes the drive to work exciting sometimes.

Comfort, I fear, has become both dangerous and an endangered species. If you become comfortable, it's easy to get in ruts. It's easy to think that the comfortable way is the only way. Our fear of changing things, of becoming uncomfortable, gets a hold of us. On the other hand, who among us feels comfortable these days? How many people do just 1 job and focus on that alone? How many people feel that their profession is going to survive this mad ride that the economy has us on (still)? Comfort is something we crave and avoid these days. No wonder we are all going crazy.

That's Marketing, Too

I've been writing a lot in this blog about the newly defined integrated marketing. The first step in adjusting your company's philosophy to one of accepting this revolution is stepping out of the comfort zone. I understand that this is complex. Talking about change in a blog is easy. Doing change is hard. Leaving your comfort zone means you are doing and trying new things. It means you are leaving yourself open to failure as well as success. It means things you used to be able to count on are now gambles.

When we talk about employees being asked to work in new ways, we are talking about real people. We are talking about your head of marketing who just adopted a child from China. We are talking about Suzie, who is very worried about her father. If you're in a company where you are being told that all of this new integrated marketing "stuff" is coming your way, everyone is going to have to leave their comfort zone to some extent, because all of this is new, or is being seen in new ways.

A little story

Let me tell you a little story about how leaving your comfort zone, while scary as all get out, can be worth the transition.

A few years ago, a lady went to Google to find out some more information about a television show she liked. In doing so, she found a bunch of results on a website, so she naturally went to check it out. What it turned out to be was a message board run and populated by fans of the show. The lady started posting to the board. She started talking to people.

After a few months, the lady became pretty involved in the board because she found a few kindred souls that she ended up talking to every day. But the lady always used a pseudonym, and she was so paranoid about putting her information out there on the web that she created a "real life" pseudonym, an email account tied to that pseudonym, and she made private every post that she had made to her blog. Even as it became clear that some of these people were becoming real-life friends, even after talking to some of them on the phone, giving information out over the internet did not become any easier. It was uncomfortable.

If you guessed that this story is about me, you are correct. There is still a lot about this online world that I find uncomfortable. Businesses go through similar palpitations. "What if I reveal too much?" "What if my competitors use information against me?" "What if a customer bad-mouths our company or our product?" Maybe you are having these doubts right now.

What have I received as the result of leaving my comfort zone online? Invaluable friendships. Growing networks. Vast amounts of knowledge that only increase every day. Potential for growth. Potential for new connections. Has it been worth it to leave my comfort zone? So far -- yes.

Marketing as it exists today is full of ways to leave your comfort zone. Take a look at new publications. Take a look at how to tie your advertising campaign to a direct mail campaign. Examine how sales and marketing could work better together at your company. It's true that there are risks. But what could you gain? A stronger brand. Happier customers. A better ROI. A winning story. A happy company. An evolved and happier you. Is that worth the risk?

Maybe it's time to get a little comfortable with being uncomfortable. What do you think?

Image by Andrea De Stefani.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Departmentalization and the Death of Discussion

When I say the word department to myself, after worrying about the fact that I am talking to myself, two things come to mind. First, of course, I think about departments in a company. Next, I think about department stores. The general definition of "department store" is a retail organization that offers customers a wide range of products. A department, however, generally brings to mind a piece of a greater whole that probably just specializes in one thing or a handful of things. Department stores have departments just like companies do. If you work in the women's clothing department, you are not also responsible for selling lamps. In the marketing world, at least up to this point, if you work in the PR department, you are responsible solely for PR. If you work in a marketing department, you are responsible for "just" marketing.

Departments in companies that are responsible for marketing are experiencing something that department store departments are not, and that is revolutionary change. One would never expect women's clothing to turn into bags of candy, but in the world of marketing, that's sort of what is happening. PR is finding that a lot of their shelves are getting filled with stuff they think of as "branding." And those marketing folks? They are finding that their little island is being invaded by everyone.

If you were told that you were responsible for a department in a store and someone suddenly started putting their inventory in your section to take care of, how would you respond? Most likely, you would resist this change. "How can I sell lamps? I sell dresses. I've sold dresses for 15 years. I know nothing about lamps, and more to the point, I don't want to know about lamps. Women's fashion is my "thing." And I want to stick to it."

Well, similar conversations are happening in the marketing world. The more things change, the more people want to grasp their specific department, their departmental titles, and their departmental ways of doing things. Eyes are shut. Ears are plugged.

Hello, good to meet you, please buy this hat.

The problem is that Social Media serves as a company's mirror as well as its magnifying glass. These little blemishes of departmental prima donas become much more noticeable in the Social Media world, and there's one simple explanation for that. When you only can speak from one point of view, your ability to fully engage with people, the key to success in Social Media, diminishes. Moreover, your desire and/or ability to engage as part of an integrated team on behalf of your company also falls by the wayside.

Let's say, for example, that you work for a manufacturer of chicken coops. You've only ever worked in customer support. You feel pretty competent and you feel comfortable with how you've been doing things. Now, all of a sudden, your boss tells you that you, like everyone else in the company, need to start building the company's presence in the world of Social Media. You go to Twitter, start your account, and one day someone tweets you about an offer they saw in one of your ads. You have no idea about that. Advertising is a different department. You tell them to go to that person. A month later, someone tweets you about a new product announcement they saw. You saw the announcement too, but can't offer any more information. That's PR's job. You direct them to that person.

As time goes on, the number of tweets you receive continues to decrease. Now why would that be? Isn't it good to direct people to the person at your company would know the answer? Well, the problem is that in this new world of marketing, if you are out there representing your company, you lose credibility, you lose trust, and you look incompetent if you can't answer questions about what your company does or doesn't do. Customers no longer care about departments. They care about the fact that you list in your profile that you work for Smith Chicken Coops. They care about the fact that they need a new coop or that their coop needs to be repaired.

It's often easy to tell in the world of Social Media who is still operating from a departmental point of view. If you are a sales person who has failed to integrate with other departments, you may simply go out into the brave new world and tweet your wares. If you're a PR person who refused to learn the ways of other marketing channels, you may feel inclined to simply upload all of your press releases to your blog. Individuals who are failing to integrate are afraid to converse because they can't be sure what the company line is. Are you allowed to talk about your personal life? Are you allowed to mention the competitor? It seems safer to squawk at people rather than talk with people.

Signpost, Engagement, Discussion

Mitch Joel recently wrote a post he titled "The end of conversation in Social Media." I ended up conversing about it with two of my Twitter friends, Paul Konrardy (@PaulKonrardy) and Andrea Townsend (@AndreeaC_T). In particular, we discussed the fact that we were conversing (yay), but also that we were not conversing in the comment section of the blog that had inspired us to talk. The author was not involved in the discussion. We were also not engaging with the numerous other people who had commented on the blog.

This raises a lot of questions in my mind. I'd be interested in your input.

First, as Mitch Joel asks, has there ever really been conversation in Social Media? Is a trading of tweets a conversation or is it swapping semi-related sound bytes? For people who do not know how to integrate and engage, the folks whom I refer to as signposts, conversation is not what they use Social Media for. Are they winning the game?

Second, even if we are succeeding in dissolving our company departments, are we now departmentalizing our Social Media presence at our own peril? We are outputting. We are sharing. We are building bigger and bigger networks. As Eddie Izzard asks when he talks about reading food labels, "Is that good?"

Third, who is the more successful Social Media user, the person who receives a ton of comments on a blog post, resulting in a great conversation, or the person who receives a few comments on Twitter, a few on the blog, a few here, a few there, creating lots of molecular (departmentalized) discussions?

Departmentalization Versus Integrated Marketing

That's right. These are two diametrically opposed concepts. If you work in a company where departments are about territories, competition, ownership, and resistance to change, there is no point in learning any more about integrated marketing. You will not be able to do it. The Social Media example above, hypothetical though it may be, is just the beginning of why such a company will not come to a happy integrated ending. Integrated marketing is about integrated thinking, integrated planning, integrated systems, and integrated actions. All of the millions of parts in a car work together to get you where you need to go, but a key is required. If you are fortunate, all of the millions of body parts you have work together, but the key is a brain that orchestrates everything.

In a company, integrated marketing means that everyone must work together, and there must be some over-arching force that ensures that the cooperation lasts and grows. A philosophy of departmentalization is removing the key from the ignition. It is paralysis. It is a loss of functionality in the new world in which we live.

The existence of departments is not inherently evil. The philosophy of departments, however, will be one of the obstacles that separates companies who succeed and companies who fail.

1st Image by Jyn Meyer.
2nd Image Credit:
3rd Image by ilker .
4th Image by Gabriella Fabbri.