The Right Strategy.
It doesn’t matter how big your company is. You’re going to need Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) if you want to succeed in advertising your business.
Like in fashion, chic trends for transmitting messages come and go, but only a solid IMC strategy can guarantee you are communicating the same and coherent message to the right target, independently of the platform you’re choosing for doing it. That’s because IMC tailors your messages and makes sure you are displaying your competitive advantage and building a real and lasting relationship with your client.
To get such a strategy, you need a starting point.
There are many different ways to approach this challenge, but in our experience, these are the most effective, for they lead you to the essential knowledge on the nature of the task.
Aim at your landing point
What are your goals for this campaign? That’s the first question you need to be able to answer and in the most specific way. Are you after the loyalty of your existing clients, or do you want new potential customers to learn about you? At this point, also ask yourself what resources you have to reach that specific goal.
Know your audience (and what they think about you)
Defining your audience means everything. Big is not always better: sometimes, instead of trying to convince an uninterested crowd, we get more of having lunch with a tight party which is completely amazed by our idea. Insight into what your target consumer thinks about your offer is also key: you can gain perspective on this matter with a good old SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
Keep an eye on your competitor
It is also important to know who are the other runners in the race and what they have to offer. Again, a SWOT analysis, though from the customers perspective, will help you to see the cracks where you can project your own light through.
Catch the sparks
Once you have gathered input, you will be ready to create. The more you learn about your business, consumers, and competitors, the more exciting it gets, because ideas start to appear, like sparks of inspiration, here, there and everywhere. Take notes, no matter how crazy a thought might look, review them consciously and get ready to celebrate your “Eureka!” moment.
Finish the body, dress up for the occasion
When it’s time to communicate, remember to adapt your great idea to all the different channels you are employing. The body of your original message must stay the same, but every platform will demand its own way of dressing it. And be sure that you (and your employees and collaborators) are always on the same page.
Memes are more popular than anyone.
At least in terms of searching, and according to Google Trends. While you’re reading this, people around the world are sharing memes instead of long texts, especially millennials and Gen Zers, during the more than 200 minutes that they spend online every day.
However, memes are not a recent cultural phenomenon. On the contrary, they have been with us for a long time. The word “meme” itself is rooted in ancient Greece, and it means “that which is imitated”. The term was coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976, to define any shareable cultural artifact that spread through the culture like wildfire, since he argued that virality didn’t just apply to infectious diseases, but also in anthropological settings.
Today, it’s hard to imagine our digital lives without sharing memes. You’d probably have already look at a solid image in real life and thought “that could be a meme”.
As memes have a specific connotation in our online environment, it’s crucial that brands learn about how to use them to their favor. Memes are great to communicate feelings, attitudes or situations, and to reinforce statements.
Please, make me a meme
One of the downsides of marketing on social media is that it has low engagement. People don’t want to see branded content on their feed. Gen Z, in particular, is very averse to promotion in any form, and they can smell it from a mile away.
Marketers making memes must be cautious on their ways to do the trick: it will be critical to introduce branded content through gags that seem catchy and not over-promotional, and to provide value entertainment that people want to share.
When done correctly, meme marketing can be very successful.
Memes work great for brands because they are specifically designed for social platforms and make people laugh while making a casual reference to your brand. They are way more shareable than a blog post or a traditional visual ad, because they go for entertainment over information, and that is what your audience is doing right now online.
Just keep in mind that memes aren’t only for college kids or procrastinating workers. They can play a golden role in your marketing strategy and put your brand in everyone feed.
Use memes wisely and endear yourself in the hearts of your followers.
The Great Business Idea.
It’s happening right now: somewhere, someone is having a great business idea. Probably it happened to you many times. But, how do you transform that moment of inspiration into something people would wait in a line to get first?
Magazines, blogs, and websites are full of stories like this one: they had an Eureka moment, they started working in the garage and now they’re on every cover. It all started with an idea, the kind that we all stumble upon while walking the dog or washing the dishes.
However, we know that not every “great” idea can actually make it to the cover of Wired or Forbes. There’s a path that every thought will have to walk, and most of the times even climb, to get there. And it all begins with the fact that your idea has to solve a real existing problem for people that have the money to pay for it.
There are many filters you can use to learn if that great idea that keeps you awake is an actual and sustainable business opportunity or not.
These questions would save you a lot of time (and money) on the way:
What do you want to do?
The first thing you’ll need here is an existing problem: your idea will be the solution to it. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem you have yourself. It’s important to be as objective as possible and try to think like the people that actually have that problem, on how they’re currently dealing with it and why they would prefer to pay for what you have to offer instead.
Who are you helping here?
More specifically: who’s going to buy your product or service. The more you know about your market, the happier the ending of your success cover story. How much money they have? What do they do for a living? Have they children or not? Which level of education they have reached? How they spend their free time? How will they use your product? You’ll love to hear that there are two magic words for all these precious questions to be answered: Focus group.
Can you create a prototype?
When you become an entrepreneur, one of the first things that will come to your mind will be how to save money. Because you’ll have to invest a lot before you even have anything to sell. So instead of rushing, you must start by making a minimum viable product or prototype. You can make samples and go test them with your potential clients. Ask them how they feel about it and take good notes of their feedback. See what changes you can make to reach their needs. And if it doesn’t work at all, it will be better to know it in advance.
Are there enough people out there who want this?
Think about your audience in the most objective way you can. It’s true that you don’t want every single person to buy your stuff, but it is also right to ask yourself if you have a big enough market to make the whole trip worthwhile. Try to see what are the trends for this market and if it has good potential to grow within the next few years.
Who’s going to lend a hand?
Every business needs money to start up, and most of the times you’re going to need someone else to invest in it. Depending on the nature of your company, you can consider governments institutions, grants or funding. Researching is the key: there are several ways to find that capital you need, it’s not always obvious how to do it. Check on your local development offices, colleges, and universities and find out what they offer.
One of the bests aspects of being an entrepreneur is that you can learn all you need to know on the way. Ask yourself the right questions, do the homework and find the best information you can. And if it doesn’t work and you can see it on time, turn the page and go to the next great idea.
AKA engagement marketing
If you see a captivating ad of a product that could be useful to you, would you buy it? It could be. What if a friend tells you that this product is fantastic? You would most probably go for it. The closest the experience of a product or service is to you, the easiest the decision of trying it will be.
Now let’s see this same situation from the other side of the mirror: if you are trying to promote your product or service, which strategy would you like to follow? The one that gives you a great ad or the one that makes those two friends have a conversation about your brand? Which one you think would be more useful for you?
Yes, of course, you’d love to have that golden word-of-mouth with your brand on it. Moreover, getting there it’s possible if you use the right advertising strategy: the one that will focus on helping consumers experience your brand and then become their ambassadors. That’s experiential marketing in a nutshell.
Also known as engagement marketing, this series of strategies immerse the customers within the product, by engaging them in as many ways as possible. The goal is to allow people to form a memorable and emotional connection with a brand, which might kindle loyalty and improve customer lifetime value (CLV).
Experiential Marketing 101
It doesn’t matter how many samples you give away or how good are the promotions or offers you run. The magic ingredient in this recipe is to put the customers in an immersive branded experience. When the consumers feel the need to come back, you know you’re on your way of building that CLV.
As happens with many other strategies, the central element of this equation is the customer. You need to have a customer-centric approach, and put yourself in the mind of the consumer to establish that link you’re searching. It sounds tricky, but the results can be powerful. A brand ambassador (and sometimes even a warrior), will promote your brand even better than a salesperson, because as consumers we are more bound to listen to a friend than to a salesman/woman. So you’ll want to be in the client shoes to know what they need and provide it to them.
When it comes to the message or, more specifically, the way you spread it, you can always use the power of storytelling. When your customer identifies with the story you’re telling, he or she will feel a genuine connection to your brand and then have an emotional response. It is vital to have a compelling story, with characters, personalities and situations your audience will feel an immediate connection. As you’d do if you were writing a novel, you need a beginning, a middle, and an end. A happy one, of course.
Also, speaking of happy, that is precisely how you want your costumers to feel after experiencing your brand. When they’re feeling good, will want to talk about it, share it on every social media platform, and tell their friends and family to experience it as well.
In the end, the most valuable benefit your brand will receive is that word-of-mouth advertising, which is definitely (as it has been researched and concluded by Google, Ogilvy, and McKinsey) more influential than any other media you could use.
How to seduce your female clients?
Some say that you don’t have to understand women, just love them. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by very special women in my life: my loving mom who gave me the foundation to grow, my brilliant daughter who inspires me everyday, and my wife who supports me in every aspect of my life and is also my partner-in-crime. They are a constant part of my daily life, and I work hard because I want to make them happy, to show them that I love them. Isn’t it similar to the brand-consumer relationship? I was thinking about what is necessary to make women fall in love with your brand and how to grow along with them.
It’s not just about whether your product targets female consumers. When thinking about this demographic, one has to have in mind that women choose 85% of the family purchases and influence at least 80% of home expenses (Martha Barletta, author of Marketing to Women, 2006). That’s why you’re likely to hurt your sales if your message doesn’t reach women or excludes them.
What should you consider to attract female consumers with your marketing strategy?
Listen to them: Women want a product that will solve their needs or those of their loved ones, but we must understand what’s behind that. Build a connection by showing empathy or supporting charitable causes that are close to women and think deeply about how your product will make their lives simpler.
Surprise them: Offer an innovative product that’s made just for them, not based on a stereotype. Don’t limit your product development to adding a pink version for women, look for real attributes. Women in 2017 are not thinking about fairy tales, they want real things.
This is what happened to the Bic For Her pen, which received multiple negative reviews from women since the only attribute that made it a product for women was its pink color.
Respect their individuality: You must avoid generalizations if your brand is going to appeal to the feminine culture. Instead, try to be authentic and start a conversation with them. Be honest, especially with millennials, a generation that appreciates and recognizes honesty in brands.
If you make a mistake, your best move is to admit it. A famous case was IBM’s campaign, #HackAHairDryer, which was intended to motivate women to get involved in STEM fields. Instead, it caused indignation among female scientists who felt it was condescending to think hacking a beauty product would be the motivator for women to get involved.
Recognize them: Don’t focus on just one benefit, offer reasonable increments that encourages them to grow with you and show them you know the depth of their interest.
It’s not about simply describing the product. Dove demonstrated that with their Real Beauty Sketches campaign. It was a video about sketches of women that created a conversation about feminine beauty, a topic that is relevant and sensible anywhere in the world, and to any age. The campaign was a great way of connecting with their audience and showing interest, and because the conversation was between women and for women, it was real.
Your personal brand is also built on social media
I realized after talking to some of my friends and clients that people project themselves and their abilities to the world in order to differentiate themselves from the rest. I feel like this is something everyone should do, but it’s not something everyone knows how to do. Nowadays, the best way to know someone, besides the good old face-to-face method, is through social media. For instance, an article on Forbes about personal branding states that 75% of HR department Google searches their candidates during the hiring process.
Sooner or later Google is going to expose you. When someone performs a search of you by first and last name, generally the initial hits are going to be your presence on social media. That’s why I’ll share some tips that may help you improve your personal brand:
Stay active on social media. If you don’t publish anything or if you do it infrequently, it’s going to negatively affect your branding. Activate them or close them.
Think about the look and feel. Keep a design scheme for your networks. Think of a unique and interesting biography.
Share relevant content! Dedicate some time and develop a strategy of what you want to communicate, and then follow it.
Converse and connect. Interact with your community, get close to them by answering their messages and generate enriching debates.
Measure and analyze results. Don’t get down if it’s not what you expected at first. A brand is built with frequency and it is an investment of money and time.
Think 360. When you get any exposure in media, cross reference your target to your social networks. Invite them to connect with you.
What’s the best social network for my personal brand?
Not all social networks are the same. That’s why when you project your personality, your image and your abilities to the world, you must be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of the digital arena. First, you have to define your objective and your target audience. Then, you have to choose a social network or a mix that fits your strategy. If you don’t know how to do this, try to get in touch with an expert in the area.
A great example of personal branding is ex-president Barack Obama. His presence in the media has been very successful while breaking the traditional structures of communication of a country. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have been his primary platforms, to which he later added Snapchat and Instagram.
When Obama ran for re-election in 2012, his campaign manager, Jim Messina, explained that they were focused on two things: social media and data in order to achieve a more direct channel of communication with the voters. What did they do? The idea was breaching the gap between president Obama and the common citizens, and what better way to do it than social media for that matter.
Obama didn’t build his personal brand overnight, and obviously, his position as president was a key element. But without dedication and strategic work behind it, he would just be one of many politicians. He stood out and managed to maintain quality communications. Barack Obama reached 50 million followers on Facebook, more than 11 million on Twitter and more than 9 million on Instagram, with very high engagement. My question would be: Is it worth it to build your personal brand in social media? You tell me…
Emotions are Everything.
If you watched Inside Out, the movie from Pixar (2015), you’d probably remember those great characters: happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear. It’s not surprising to know that is them, and not the rational You, who rule the complex world of sharing ads.
Emotions are everything. Whether we like it or not, we’re driven by how we feel, and many times this occurs without us even knowing it. Most importantly, it’s how we feel deep inside about something – and not how much we really know about it – what makes us buy it or ignore it.
Studies confirm that people rely on emotions, rather than information, to choose a brand among the others. People are more likely to share (and, therefore, to make viral) an ad that makes them feel great than a very rational one, that provides a lot of information.
Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, mentioned in Fast Company that “the most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”.
Inspiration, friendship, warmth, and happiness have been the core of some of the most viral ads in recent years, in contrast to the humor and sarcasm that used to be more popular during the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
And this is something that we also must pay attention to. Because is not just emotion: is the right emotion at the right time.
Learning to use your emotional palette
According to the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, the distinction between four of our main emotions (happy, sad, afraid, and angry) are based on social interactions and constructs. Even kindergarten kids are taught nowadays to identify their core emotions and work with them (If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands… goes the tune).
If you pay close attention to the next ad you watch, you’d probably identify very quickly how this emotional palette has been used. In the end, the main objective remains the same: to drive connection and awareness of your brand in a unique way.
Remember: no matter how smart any of us might think he or she is, we are all ruled by emotions and feelings, more than by rational thought. Science has confirmed it. So don’t forget to add a little drop of emotion to every content you share. Or, even better, a good shot of a mix of them.
The moving benefits of video marketing
A decade ago, people would connect to their desktop or laptop computer to search the web and interact with content. Nowadays, they probably won’t. They will grab their mobile phone or tablet, practically at any time, in any place, because digital technology is cheaper than it’s ever been before, and there are virtually no limits for people when it comes to interacting with content.
On the other hand, content must have adapted itself to people’s needs too, giving them exactly what they want, at the right time.
This landscape has become an excellent opportunity for new formats, such as video marketing. Its benefits outgrow by large those from other forms of contents, like pictures or text posts, and it seems to be the most flexible, relevant and useful way to reach the on-the-go lifestyle consumers want.
Why? First of all, because video content is easy to recall. According to HubSpot, 80% of customers can remember a video they’ve watched in the last month. Videos are visual and auditory, which means they’re easier to remember than texts. Remembering your video means also remembering your brand. The result doesn’t limit to more sales, but also to users sharing your videos, which automatically expands your online reach.
Video marketing can boost your site’s SEO too. A high percentage of business decision-makers (65%) visit a website, and 39% of them will contact a vendor after viewing a branded video.
Another advantage lays in the way video content can strengthen your brand message. By adding voice and sounds, you can bring more personality to your message and make sure that your customers know who you are.
The more they like what they see, the more they will share your videos with other people. An estimated 92% of people who consume mobile videos share them. That is an astonishingly high rate of sharing. Simply Measured discovered that video is shared 1,200% more than both links and text combined.
You have listened more than a thousand times that an image worths a thousand words. Imagine what happens with a video, made of moving images. The stronger the connection your content can generate between your brand and your customers, the higher the possibilities of creating emotion driven sales.
Don’t walk alone. Get into business with the right partner.
We have always heard the saying that: “Two heads are better than one”, and it is so true! In a startup, we may need the support and the ideas of another person that will help us build the projects we have in mind. In fact, the results of a research performed by the MIT Technology Review show that 72% of folks team up with others to undertake a project.
Naturally, the decision to have a partner is a hard one. You shouldn’t take on a partner just by fear of not being able to face the day-by-day; if this is so, you better get ready to walk the path by yourself. To establish a partnership is a very valuable resource for your company, measured by the results generated by the work performed.
But what should a partner have? These are the main features that you must take into account when undertaking a partner.
Look for a partner that offers something you don’t have, not one that is just like you.
He or she must have a passion for the business you are proposing, this will keep them happy and motivated to propose new ideas
He/she must share the same vision or ideals, so work is not wasted on different goals and directions
The “chemistry” between partners is very important; choose someone you trust
Your partner’s reputation must be impeccable: make sure they are responsible, always on time and rich in values
Is there the perfect partner out there?
After going through the checklist to choose the ideal business partner, I’ve wonder if there is such a thing as the ideal partner. What is true, is that such relation will work as long as both assume the commitment, visualize opportunities and face the ups and downs of the company.
What is important in a relationship with a partner? To have skills that complement those of each other; that none shall impose its way or thoughts on top of the other. Support is fundamental to make decisions, and here is where you will be thankful if you choose wisely, and that person is someone you can trust and that gets along with you.
Call it a “Business Marriage”
Apart from the advises I shared on how to pick a good partner, I must say that to create a society is equivalent to marry someone, and if you go by stats, at least half of them don’t last forever.
What should you do? There are issues that must be addressed as a couple, like expenses, ego, stress, money in general; and even to define the terms in the case you or your partner decide to drop out from the relationship, the same way it happens in a marriage. By putting all these elements on the table, you will have an idea of what it means to keep a society alive.
That is how Bill Hewlett and David Packard, heads of the famous HP brand, who were classmates at Stanford University, did it. Their abilities teamed up when they designed an audio oscillator, a device used by sound engineers that they kept developing until they got into the pocket calculator business to later up submerge into the computer business and then into commercial informatics.
The secret to the success of this pair was perseverance, they didn’t stick with the first thing they created; they went further and gradually added new products to the brand, generating a successful company that today is a reference in the world of informatics.
Currently, they are two public companies listed on the stock exchange: HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard.
Another example can be found in a family business, such as the one like brothers Dan and Frank Carney who, by the end of 1950, opened a pizza parlor that we know today as Pizza Hut. Their first place was so successful that they had their first franchise the same year they opened for business. At this point, they realized the business could go far and they took on expanding it throughout the American territory. Their commitment and teamwork were the flags of this duo.
One final case I would like to share is the story of how the founders of Netflix – Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings – first met because it’s the perfect example of how to choose the ideal partner.
These two met in the early 90’s, at the time they worked for different companies and the one Reed worked for, bought a startup from Marc. They had the opportunity to know each other on a professional level but at the same time, a friendship arose, not only for professional reasons but because they both lived in the same city.
Sharing working hours and eventually building up a relationship was crucial to this twosome that would later father what we know today as Netflix. In an interview, Marc Randolph mentioned that his first impression of Reed Hastings was that he was an intense and brilliant individual. Hastings also had that same feeling with Randolph and proposed him to create something new. They complemented each other; the first one had the big ideas and the second was a person that could understand these approaches and present them.
My final advice for you is to ask these questions yourself before teaming up: What do you need from this person? What is his or her financial situation? What is the level of commitment of this person in regards to your own? How would this person handle a tough situation? What is their reputation inside the circle they interact? Does this person have the disposition to put everything in writing? And mainly, do you really need a partner? When you have the answers to these questions, it will be a lot easier to follow the path of your business with the right person, aligned under the same vision and teamwork.
Genuine conversations to establish relationships with users
The net is flooded with content. Brands are in constant movement, innovating, creating and sharing information to attract or keep their customers using their human side. According to the study “Digital in 2016” from “wearesocial”, 31% of the world population is active on Social Media but, what keeps the interest of these 2.3 billion people in Social Media? The conversations and interactions generated by these platforms are leading.
From this starting point, I recall Cluetrain’s Manifesto; I take a glance at it and the first point reads “Markets are conversations”, but it is also about relationships. The following 5 theses from the Manifesto show us the importance of the human voice on behalf of companies: it is simple, consumers of your product are human beings and as such you must talk to them. From now on, we will speak only about the first thesis.
Why should brands talk to their users?
If the conversation is an important part of the connection process between brand and client, we have to check the way we do it. It is not the same to dedicate all efforts to speak to users than to make ourselves part of their conversations.
Users already have friends to talk to; they are not looking to brands for that. They expect their problems to be solved, looking for useful and interesting information or to simply have their needs taken care of. So, how can we make this relationship more effective? I want to share these suggestions that will give a more real feel to conversations that you establish with your crowd:
Your messages as a brand should include an emotional component that allows for a good relationship with your audience.
Speaking with honesty and humbleness gets you closer to your users.
Instead of thinking in brand awareness, think about building trust.
Focus on being part of your crowd’s inner circle and not the other way around.
How to put this to work? It is important to ask questions, offer useful suggestions, let them speak about their experiences with your products or services, share success stories and thank them but, most of all, listen to them and you will have the tools to speak in a more natural way each time. They will keep their brand loyalty and the relationship will be a lot more solid.
What are the brands currently doing?
At this point, I want to show you how the best is being made out of conversations, largely because there are numerous platforms for doing this and here I want to make a pause for a special mention to Snapchat. They recently changed their name to Snap Corp, with a series of improvements that include the sale of glasses for 10-second video filming, which would be their version of the Google Glass.
The so-called “millennial net” already tops Twitter in users, as it already has some 150 million. Brands like McDonald’s, General Electric, HBO, among others, are using it not only to show their content but also as a way to establish a connection with users in the issue of customer service. The advantage is that you can go from offering exclusive content to provide personalized information to followers.
Amazon is an example of this, with a customer service-based campaign for Black Friday. What was the novelty? Its followers were able to see the promotions a day before the rest of users outside Snapchat while at the same time, responded to all inquiries about their offers, purchases, returns and more: the brand added useful information, cleared all doubts and generated trust among its buyers.
So, do you believe it is worth speaking to your users? Of course, it is! And it is important to develop a relationship with them, speaking of the value of sincerity and showing reciprocity: they give you their money, you give them a good product, service and you are useful to meet their needs.
Who doesn’t engage in something like that?