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Attract customers with personality not information





Valentines day looms again in all its heart shaped madness.

According to a recent survey by the Retail and Marketing Association, 53% of American women would end their relationship if they didn't get something on Valentines Day.  Who are these people?! Would they really be so shallow as to dump their partners for not conforming to this marketing ruse?

Could it be that we're all getting so jaded by marketing overload, that we long for something to break the routine? The unexpected.  The marvellous. The extraordinary.

Perhaps it comes down to the element of surprise, after all, even those who argue that they hate surprises, would be hard pushed not to feel touched when they discover there's no charge for their coffee, or their company has catered lunch rather than leaving them to starve through their midday meeting.

Simple acts of kindness make great stories.  We share them.  They shape our brand perception. They make an emotional connection with us that remains long after the event.  Like the sweets that accompany the restaurant bill, every little unexpected joy makes us like your company more, turning us from happy customers into loyal fans.

It doesn't have to be hearts and flowers this month, but what could you be doing to surprise and delight?




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Are You Speaking Your Customers Language?

Knowing the "voice of the customer" is marketing speak for

a) understanding who buys your products
b) gathering, interpreting and using customer intelligence
c) talking benefits rather than features
d) all of the above

Unsurprisingly, the answer is d) all of the above, but the ad below shows that you could of course, just take the term literally.


Who cares?


A survey by MarketingProfs found that just over half (56%) of the companies who took part, thought they had a clear understanding of their customers tastes and needs, which means that almost the same number do not. It's this vague understanding of who to market to, that results in all those wasted marketing budgets.

One mouth and two ears


Despite the logic that we should be listening twice as much as we speak, hearing what customers have to say is often way down on the priority list, unless you're a completely customer centric organisation like Zappos.

The majority of companies ask their audiences for feedback via focus groups, surveys etc. Some are even clever enough to add customer service (a.k.a. complaints) to the mix, and while this is listening, it tends to be a rather misleading snapshot in time.

Make it social


Social media now gives everyone a constant, two way chance to speak, (or at least type) and be heard.  No matter what size your business is, it's easier than every before to know what your customer thinks, feels and cares about.

My favourite and free tools for this job are

  • SocialMention - monitoring over a hundred social media sites, Social Mention interprets how the world is feeling about a particular word, phrase, industry etc. in terms of strength, sentiment, passion and reach of those currently contributing. 
  • Twazzup - one for Twitter lovers, this little tool is a mine of information, including top influencers, retweets, link sharing and best associated keywords for your search. 
  • Addictomatic - similar to Twazzup but with a longer reach, since this monitors across platforms such as YouTube, Flickr and Delicious.
  • IceRocket - pulls in FaceBook, Twitter and blog coverage and has the nifty advantage of scanning across languages, so international rantings won't be missed.
  • Google Search By Image - image based, you can now start your search for what customers might associate with a particular photograph to help you rethink keywords, web links and overall communications.

You might not always like what you hear, but knowing what's being said, at least lets you join the conversation.  Today, there are no excuses for being a wallflower.



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Want more customers? Tools to make you more visual (in 10 minutes or less)


As the days get darker and our attention spans get shorter, more and more Marketers are relying on pictures to tell their stories.

Above it a photo of my lunch (blame it on no nutrition Friday), and although the packaging all looks very normal, it's the last lines, which made me share it. Somebody, somewhere has taken the time to add a bit of humour to the mundane, which in turn has prompted me to share the image. See how it works? A simple visual in an unexpected place was all it took to convey the personality of this fudge maker.

Today there are some great tools available to help you share your brand in words and pictures. Here are some of my favourites.


Canva

I have no tech or design skills which has made Canva my new best friend. The free version is packed with easy to follow tutorials, tips and tricks, to make you a legend in your lunch-hour. Upload your own photos or pay a minimal fee and browse the library of images available. You'll also find layout ideas and guidance on font families to make sure your message reaches your audience, loud and clear.


Flipboard


Equally easy to use, Flipboard lets you create a social magazine in moments. Curate interesting articles relevant to your audience and publish them online to provide instant value. Ipad, iphone and Android users can then view these links as a page turning book, full of glossy images, making it easy for readers to seek out and digest the articles that appeal to them. And since Flipboard users can save their favourites as they go along, there's no end to the long tail appeal.

Pinterest


If you're not using Pinterest yet - where have you been since 2009? Probably the most obvious visual communication tool, it's a feast for the eyes, letting you create virtual pinboards of images taken from anywhere on the internet. Each pin retains the link to its source so you can do more research on your own and image creators get the recognition they deserve. More and more retailers are using Pinterest to showcase their offerings and differentiate themselves from the competition and now that you can purchase directly from pins (at least if you live in the US), this tool can only grow in popularity.

Instagram


With more users than Twitter, Instagram has become the new visual hangout for individuals and businesses alike. The hashtags associated with your photos make your content more searchable and shareable than any other platform and the opportunities to connect and be noticed are huge. Instagram have recently introduced advertising to the mix and while the jury is still out on this one, there's no doubt that Instagram is currently the hottest place for your company to be found.


Visual.ly


Here it's all about infographics and data visualization (word clouds), to help you create something visually pleasing from the cold hard facts. Infogr.am is another infographic maker worth considering in this space. Rather than wrestle with an excel spreadsheet or a three page definition of what something means, make a picture - your readers will thank you by sharing your insights.


Quozio


Turn your quotes into works of art, via this simple but clever little tool. Inside you'll find a variety of templates, fonts and colour ways to help you express yourself. Just type in your words and see them take on a whole new look. Great for jazzing up your presentations.


PicMonkey


Easy photo editing to make you look like a Photoshop genius. From little touch up to transformations, unique visual content can be yours in no time. There are lots of similar photo manipulation tools out there, but PicMonkey and BeFunky are good, intuitive starting points. Try both and see which feels most natural to you, then go, create.


Unsplash


In the spirit of the collaborative economy, Unsplash provides regularly updated, free to download photos for every occasion. So much more interesting than standard stock imagery, it can instantly change the look and feel of your content, especially if you use it in conjunction with one of the photo manipulation tools.


With so many free or relatively cheap routes open to us, even those lacking in artistic flair can get themselves seen. Which tools would you recommend?



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5 Ways to Make your Customers Care, Share and Buy

Once upon a time .....

This line either brings your shoulders down from your ears as you prepare for the story, or makes your hackles rise, as you mentally urge the teller to skip to the end.  Either way, you want to know what comes next.

Storytelling is as old as mankind itself and yet a seemingly dying art, in our rush to adopt all things digital.

Smart marketers know that customers who are emotionally connected to brands, provide valuable feedback to the business, tell their friends and spend more money, than those who are not.  It therefore makes sense, to craft your marketing outreach, so that you take customers on a journey - building knowledge of your brand, not through facts, but through inspirational, educational or entertaining stories.

Done well, your brand marketing can take an audience from apathy to empathy.  Don't believe me? Watch this clever Chrysler video, aired during the Super Bowl (for maximum audience and impact).




Let's look at how this works, so that you can apply these elements to your own brand building content.

1. Context - orientate your customer


The opening 30 seconds set the scene, so that even those who've never visited Detroit can have their assumptions about the place confirmed. There's a full 20 seconds of reinforcing the stereotype before a fleeting glimpse of a cars rear view mirror, (the first hint of what this commercial is really about). What could you do to build trust, before you start selling your product?

The rugged, care worn voiceover man, reinforces the imagery and immediately asks for engagement “What does this city know about luxury?”  You're already waiting to hear more, even though you're not sure what this ad is about yet.  Anticipation is increasing.  Remember that marketing will have most impact when your customers are waiting to receive it.

2. Show and tell


By 40 seconds we've seen the product (Chrysler badge on the front of the car), but it's fleeting, almost subliminal, and surrounded by pictures which evoke the spirit of hard work and determination.  Could these be Chrysler's brand values?  Showcasing what your brand stands for, in pictures rather than words, has never been easier.

There's an American flag to make sure everyone feels included, the soundtrack builds with a baseline guitar.  Detroit, (the hero), is shown to be strong and full of resolve, having survived the recent economic blows (the villain).  The audience is drawn in, relating to the cities hardships from their own experiences. Voiceover man reinforces this “That's who we are. That's our story ....”  Be Authentic.  Reinforcing your customers problems, thoughts and assumptions, is a great way to draw them in and lets you pitch your product as the solution they need.

3. Make sure you've got a hero - ideally the underdog


A minute in and we're told “when it comes to luxury, it's as much about where it's from as who it's for”, challenging all the bad news stories about Detroit and helping you to root for the underdog. You want to know more. Your interest is peaked and you're enjoying the journey with the driver of the car, beginning to see yourself as that character, bringing your own knowledge to this crafted vision. How could you help your customer to imagine themselves using your product?

The imagery is of determination, ordinary people, challenging themselves.  The voiceover acknowledges that while all the attention is given to the best know American cities, it's our hero that represents the vast majority of the population and we should share that pride. Chrysler the brand is firmly pitched as the hero's assistant - Robin to Batman.  Be customer rather than company centric so your marketing supports what your customers value in their terms.

4. Include the element of surprise


One minute 20 seconds in and we recognize the driver - home grown talent, Eminem, reminding the viewer of Detroits glory days as Motown. The soundtrack builds to a climax, not just of instruments, but of human voices, via a choir, reinforcing the personal nature of this product.  We now know this is a car ad, but that's almost forgotten because we're so entrenched in what will happen next.  What could you do to make your product part of a bigger picture or wider community?

5. Give them a happy ending


Final 30 seconds - cue Fox theatre, far removed from the industrial landscape we've all come to associate with this Michigan state. Eminem turns to camera and addresses us, telling us that it's about the city and not the product.

In our minds Chrysler now stands for guts, courage and resolve and we want to be associated with that.  By now, American hearts are swelled with pride at their resilience as a nation and customers are already giving consideration to Chrysler as their next purchase.

In 2 minutes, Chrysler have told us a story which leaves us feeling like they're the good guys. They've given their brand human traits and we feel warm to them because they connect with how we see the world. Do your customers share an emotional connection with your brand?



As with every youtube video, the comments section is the most telling. This stream is overwhelmingly positive, showing just how well the story has been told.  One viewer summarised this ad in just one sentence - makes me wish I was from Detroit.

What's the story behind your brand?  How will you tell it?  It doesn't take a high budget video to communicate, but you will need to use your imagination.




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3 Simple Ways to Build Your Brand


Miscommunication, communication, couple thinking different things




Our world is very noisy. Thousands of pieces of marketing content are hurled at us every day and yet our ability to consume these communications remains unchanged.  What has changed is the attention we're willing to give any one thing, so much so, that it's even got it's own term - continuous partial attention.

Our brains are finely tuned to respond to messages which touch our hearts, teach us something new and, or present content in an unforgettable way.  In other words, nobody is interested in information anymore - entertain us, educate us and leave a lasting impression by all means, but don't expect a response if all you serve are the facts.

So how could your business take advantage of this human condition? Think like a publisher.


1. Make an emotional connection



Who is most likely to buy your product or service?. How are you going to convince them to choose your brand over the alternatives available? Answer -  make them feel something. Since hearts often rule heads, those brands which challenge us to become emotionally involved, often pique our interest and therefore get the sale. They don't call it retail therapy for nothing.
e.g. Hyundai message from space commercial 






2. Add the novelty factor



Using the very prim lady in the advert below, to talk about the delicate subject of poo, is both unexpected and funny. It's often the novelty of a companies approach which grabs our attention in the first instance. We like the new and the surprising, but be sure to tailor this to the audience you're trying to attract. Humour is a delicate balancing act.
e.g.  Poo pourri





3.  Be memorable



Making your brand a household name, is every marketers dream and yet much of the content on offer is full of well worn stereotypes and pat phrases (see this is a generic brand video).  We see the same things so often that they become invisible to us, losing their magic.

The mad men of yesteryear made products memorable by adding jingles and bold images.  Some things never change - Apple think different commercial or Nike Just do it 





Think of what you've liked, shared and talked about today and remember that your marketing has to resonate with real people in disguise as consumers, audiences and personas.

In the words of Viggo Mortensen “There's no excuse to be bored.  Sad, yes.  Angry, yes. Depressed, yes.  Crazy, yes.  But there's no excuse for boredom, ever”.

Go, create.



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Are you working with the Adams family or the Brady Bunch?


I've had a bit of a revelation at work this week.  It seems that social media is driven by nepotism. Doh!

Though we tend to think about the various social media platforms as individuals, we should actually be viewing them as families.  Dig just below the surface and they are all interrelated, which means that social media optimisation (SMO), the term used for all the activities you do to ensure visibility of your brand, is now more important than ever.

Knowing how the platforms link, lets you decide where to focus your efforts and the content to produce to increase engagement and build your reputation.  In other words, consider how each social media tool encourages sharing and whether they are trusted by the audiences you're trying to reach, before you rush to create a Facebook page or a Youtube channel.

Choose tactics that play to your strengths as a company and attract your customers, but remember that imagery, video and high quality content need to be part of your plan no matter which platform you use. They may be different families, but they're all run by humans.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list it's worth remembering that

Google owns Google+ and Youtube

Yahoo owns Tumblr and Flickr

LinkedIn owns Slideshare, Pulse and Bizo

Facebook owns Instagram and Whatsup

Twitter owns Vine and Periscope

Just as families favour their own, the biggest social media sites aim to maximise visibility across their channels, so make sure you create content in the most shareworthy format for each group.  Hubspot recently did a great blog piece if you need inspiration.

Which do you favour?





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Storytelling - Invented authentic content?


This week, the UK celebrated Bonfire night (also known as Guy Fawkes). It's an excuse to party and set off fireworks in remembrance of a foiled plot to blow up parliament in 1605. Who knew that such a rebellious act, could result in a reason to celebrate? Maybe there were switched on content marketing folks even in ye olden days...

Consumers today still love a good story.  If you can make your audience care about your product, you're half way to the sale. Trouble is, we need to forge that emotional connection faster than most corporates can get their content through management, accounting and legal.

Guy Fawkes was a real person and the gunpowder plot an actual plan, but what if you don't have an event to write about? Could you make one up?  Inventing an authentic piece of content is all the rage.

Movember


National Boss Day


Take your children to work


National Grandparents Day



In each case above, the creators have manufactured a situation, to raise the visibility of their product or cause.  Their next task is to ensure the public engage, by showing them how to get involved while imprinting their message into the mindset at the same time. Think of it like a mass call to action.

As Kickstarter has shown time and again, involving your customers in content creation is the best form of engagement a company can hope for. That sense of personal responsibility drives word of mouth and builds a loyal following.  Rallying behind an event gives us a purpose, makes us part of the crowd and now through the wonder of social media, lets us share our efforts with the wider world, for extra credit. Win, win.

Be warned though, invented content will only work if it's true to your company values and brand.

By all means, capture imagination, but to be believed, your idea has to match the expectations your customers already have about your company. It should reinforce what they assume to be true, rewarding their decision to spend their hard earned money with you, rather than the competition.

Stories in keeping with your company values and your customers understanding of why you do what you do, have a way of ingraining themselves on public perception for generations to come.

Now, stop reading and go create!


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Marketing tips from unlikely sources - children




How do you pick up a swan?

Do you remember that wiggly thing that you jump over at school, can we get one?

Can a blackbird kill you?  No.  Even if it had a drill?

Oh the random questions my children ask.

Contemplating this mornings round of curiosity, I was struck by how visually descriptive children often are.  They want you to ‘see’ what they're talking about, using language which helps you build a picture in your mind.

As a marketer I often advise my clients to write in pictures as a way of drawing the reader into the story that's unfolding.

Why tell, when you could announce, shout, whisper, confess, leak or reveal.

Instead of encouraging your customers to get something, why not offer the chance to seize, pluck, grab, earn or land.

Analogies are another great way of adding imagery to your communications, helping you to explain and position your brand in an easily recognisable way.  In the UK, people regularly use phrases such as ‘fish out of water’ and ‘quiet as a mouse’, but every country will have it's own variations on this theme.

So, next time you're writing copy, challenge yourself to use language which helps your reader to immediately identify with you, or should I say, publish a blueprint your readers can easily follow.

Be seen as well as heard.



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Surprise! How to delight your customers.