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Archive for June, 2009

Brandgroovin’

Photo by Matt A.

If brands start with people, great brands start with great people. Not great in the sense that they are wealthy or successful or influential (yet), but great in the sense that ego, self-righteousness and self-serving agendas aren’t part of the equation.

Instead, these people are devoted to a cause. Infected with an idea. Motivated by success measured in other people’s smiles and excitement and ownership of the things they do for them.

Need help getting into that kind of groove? Check out John Moore’s awesome post on Dan Sullivan’s Laws Of Lifetime Growth here. Not super recent, but timely.

I’m serious. Go check it out now. (No, not later, right now.) It’s that good. (Well… it’s really the ten laws that are good, but… same difference.)

What… you’re still here? Tsssk.

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bos11bos10

Thanks to the awesome folks at Radian6 for inviting me to tag along Wednesday for their “Rock Stars of Social CRM” event held in Boston, Mass – which coincided perfectly with the #e2conf. Watching how Radian6 now integrates seamlessly with SalesForce.com, effectively merging Social Media monitoring and CRM, was kind of a strategic “wow” moment for a Marketing and Social Media geek like me. (Actually, I think my exact words were “Holy $#%&!!!! You can do that?!?!?”)

Having been on the client side of the Marketing and Business Development world for years, this stuff to me is the Holy Grail of apps.

Literally, people: Mind. Blowing. (Not only the fact that you can plug one of the best CRM platforms on the market and Radian6 into each other now, but also how smoothly and seamlessly it all works for the user/manager. Chris Newton is a genius, pure and simple. I’ve been saying it for months now: 1. If you aren’t already using R6 and 2. if you aren’t driving this thing like Speed Racer behind the wheel of a Mach 5, you are seriously missing the boat when it comes to properly managing your Social Media program(s).  - By the way, I am not being paid to say this. I am not affiliated with Radian6 in any way. Just stating the obvious about the tool’s impressive, ever evolving capabilities and the super smooth U.I., for starters.)

Okay, so anyway, there’s a lot I didn’t film while in Boston (as much as I love to play with cameras, there’s something a little unsettling about shoving a camera in people’s faces every time you have a conversation with them), but what I did film ended up here. So no, you won’t get to see my very first handshake with Chris Brogan, my first hug with Amber Naslund and Anne Handley, my first laugh with David Armano or any of the really fascinating conversations I had with two dozen super interesting tweeps who also happened to be wicked smart. (Yes, I was in Boston. I mentioned that, right?) But you will see me aimlessly walking through airports, talking to my toothpaste, laughing at snoring travelers, getting lost in parking garages and even goofing off with some of my favorite bloggers on the planet. That should be worth something, right? Today’s is not exactly a business video, but hey, behind the scenes stuff can be pretty cool too. (If it doesn’t work or launch properly, go watch it here.)

I need to start going to more of these conferences. The face-to-face interractions are just phenomenal. How often do you get a chance to have breakfast with Comcast’s Frank Eliason, lunch with Chris Newton and Chris Ramsey, coffee with David Armano and drinks with so many others whose ideas, insights, questions and experiences send your brain into a hundred new directions? Seriously priceless.

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Back in Greenville.

I just flew in. Downloading video from my shenanigans in Boston. Posts on the way. :)

Good grief… I just wrote a blog post like a Tweet. I’ve hit a new low.

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… BUT I am shooting video and taking notes, so I have some great stuff brewing for you when I get back to the brandcave.

Meanwhile, if you’re in Boston, Mass. today and want to come hang out, this is where I will be later today:

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Go here for details. (Be sure to register RIGHT NOW or you won’t get in. The event is capped and you have to be on the guest list to get past the velvet rope.)

Back Laterz.

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“The person who says it can’t be done is always interrupted by the one who just did it.”

- From the movie “Daylight,” with Sly “Rocky/Rambo” Stallone

To every Social Media pundit or measurement “guru” out there who claims that calculating the ROI of Social Media is either impossible, too imprecise or even irrelevant, I have an ice-cold bottle of reality waiting for you: You’re wrong and you don’t know what you’re talking about.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Just because you don’t know how doesn’t mean it’s impossible. :D

Fact: R.O.I. calculation isn’t rocket science. I can teach a 10-year-old the basics of R.O.I. calculation in 30 minutes.

Fact: R.O.I. calculation is media-agnostic. (It isn’t an old media or new media discussion. Not even close. If you are talking about impression, CPMs, clickthroughs or other media metrics as R.O.I. values, check your map: You are hundreds of miles off course.)

Fact: R.O.I. matters to people who run businesses because it either validates or invalidates an investment (Social Media or otherwise). So you can’t skirt it, blow it off or make it up.

Fact: R.O.I. monitoring allows companies to fine-tune their marketing and business-development efforts on the fly and improve outcomes over time. (If you don’t understand R.O.I., you can’t measure the effectiveness of your activities, and if you can’t measure effectiveness, you can’t truly impact performance. It’s kind of like driving blind.)

Fact: If you don’t understand R.O.I. from a business (P&L) perspective, you just don’t understand R.O.I. Sorry. That’s just reality. Deal with it. (And fix it. For your own sake.)

Fact: Claiming that Social Media R.O.I. is difficult or impossible to measure is as ill-informed as saying that changes in transaction trends are difficult or impossible to measure.

Fact: Every time I turn my head to see who just used the word “impossible,” all I see is the ego of someone who thinks they have nothing new (or old, in this case) to learn.

Fact: The more specialized a measurement “expert” is (especially when it comes to media measurement), the less likely it is that they will be able to help you put all of the pieces of the Social Media R.O.I. question together. So beware the gurus. Their focus is likely too narrow to be of any use to you when it comes to calculating R.O.I.

The truth is, R.O.I. measurement takes work but is relatively simple to do. You just can’t get caught up in mistaking media metrics and “impact” measurement (like increased traffic to your site, social mentions or positive WOM) with actual R.O.I. analysis. (Apples and oranges.)  Those of us with practical business management experience (in which R.O.I. analysis and real business performance come in daily doses) AND  in community or brand management have been doing this sort of thing for years. We know how to measure what matters, and it’s simple.

So if you’re a business executive who feels frustrated by the lack of R.O.I. understanding in the Social Media “expert” community (or the media measurement community), relax. Don’t buy into the “it can’t be done” cop-out. That tired old line is about to be swept out the door for good.

Hang tight. We get into the “How” in just a few more days.

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Fearless

People are driven by emotions. By needs. By fear and courage. By love and hatred. By hope and despair. By a need to change things, or belong to something greater than themselves. At their core, drive and motivation come from the same inner place, whether you’re a G.I. storming a beach under a hail of bullets and mortar fire, an entrepreneur, a designer, an athlete, an artist, an emergency worker, or whatever it is you happen to be in your mind when you are considering certain types of purchases.

Many of things we do, we are driven to do because they define us as human beings. They help us articulate our identity: Soldier. Photographer. Designer. Triathlete. Chief Marketing Officer. Soccer mom. Surfer. Intellectual. Devout believer.

I’ve watched people drop $7,000 on a bicycle. $15,000 on a camera. $160,000 on a car. Their lives in exchange for one moment of glory or terror or pleasure.

At its core, the trigger that makes a soldier or fireman run toward danger isn’t so different from what makes us buy things that we are so passionate about that we can’t do without them, however unimportant… like a pink iPod, or a Birkin bag, or a vintage Jaguar. It isn’t so different from what leads some people to invest all of their life savings into an idea. It isn’t so different from what drives people to never compromise, to never cut corners, to never take the easy way out.

There’s this thing called courage, which is one of humanity’s greatest gifts. I’ve seen it in the military. I’ve seen it in sport. I’ve seen it during elections. I’ve seen it in art and design studios. And believe it or not, I’ve seen a whole lot more of it in the business world than you would think. That makes me feel good.

Courage didn’t die with “The Great Generation.” Courage is alive and well in this somewhat bloated, disjointed, self-centered and dysfunctional little society we live in. Courage is all over the front page of your newspaper. It’s in the gay marriage debate. In the Iraq war debate. In the war on global warming. In the fight against AIDS, disease and famine. It is alive and well in every word spoken against domestic violence, child abuse, prejudice, and corporate fraud. To a much lesser extent, at least seemingly, it is also alive and well in the worlds of marketing, product design, advertising and business in general.

Sure, there’s a whole lot of noise out there. A whole lot of boring, “also-in,” vanilla stuff. A whole lot of snake oil and BS. But the heroes, the innovators, the enlightened souls on a mission, the courageous renegades, they’re out there as well. I seem to keep meeting them. They are real, and they are everywhere. Seek them out. Make them part of your lives. Make their brands and products part of your purchasing habits. Support them. Protect them. Encourage them. Endorse them.

Make a choice to support something great, whether it’s a cause, a product, a design or even something as vague as an idea.

Align yourself with the fearless visionaries whose work will make your world better. Cleaner. More interesting. More beautiful. More enjoyable. Their circumstances aren’t the same as those of those thousands of men who charged German positions on June 6th, 1944, but in some way, even if it is small, they share a similar spirit. Honor it. Cherish it. Embrace it. Make it your own.

I swear to you that you won’t be sorry. ;)

In honor of the sacrifice made by so many on June 6, 1944.

Army troops brought to the beach by a Coast Guard manned LCVP wade ashore on “Omaha” Beach during the “D-Day” landings, 6 June 1944.

Photograph from the U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

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This is what your day really looks like.

Brilliant, cool, and so well done. If the video doesn’t work, watch it here.

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Time for your weekly BrandBuilder reality check.

There are only two types of businesses: The ones you know are the best in their category, and… everyone else.

Advertising and marketing are nice, but too many “also in” businesses waste money on marketing and advertising when they should instead revamp one or two elements of their business that would help them actually gain market share. (The most pleasant and efficient customer service experience in your industry, a perfectly designed user interface, a 100% uptime guarantee, stunning design, impeccable ergonomics, remarkable flavor, etc.)

Advertising is basically a load of bulls**t unless you have something worth advertising to begin with. (Otherwise, what are you advertising: Hey, come buy from us! We’re the thirteenth best shoe store in the 29601!) You’re either the best at something, or you’re just another voice in the crowd getting fleeced by just another run-of-the-mill ad agency or “marketing firm.”

Before you start spending money on advertising, ask yourself what your super-special value to your users/customers/clients truly is. Maybe you have the best prices. Maybe you have the most comfortable meeting rooms. Maybe you have the most square footage of any gym in your area, or the freshest produce, or the most knowledgeable staff, or the fastest check-out. It doesn’t matter what that something is as long as it is something concrete (as opposed to another lame marketing spinfest). Is that one thing truly hitting the mark? Are you really delivering on it as well as you could? As well as you should?

Whatever your value differentiator is, whatever your brand’s value advantage is (or should be), this is what you need to invest in FIRST. Once you have that aspect of your business nailed down, THEN and only then should you even bother with advertising.

About a year ago, Seth Godin posted some great advice to college grads on his blog: Only borrow money to pay for things that increase in value. A pair of shoes or cool clothes never increase in value. An education or professional experience, however do. Great advice, especially in the crux of our current economic/credit crunch. The same applies to businesses, which is why Seth’s advice is so damn relevant to the discussion today.

Perhaps more relevant to today’s topic is a slightly tweaked version of Seth’s advice: “only invest in things that increase in value.”

Like shoes and clothes, advertising never increases in value. With advertising, you are at best buying a small percentage of the public’s attention across a very narrow sliver of space and time (and paying a premium price for it.) Before you know it, your advertising budget is gone, and so is that very expensive bubble of attention.

Investing in better products/services, better people and better processes, however, makes a whole lot more sense as these things never lose value. Great employees, great products, great customer experiences and fostering a unique relationship with your fan base are the types of things worth investing in. These are the true foundations of a great brand. These are the types of things that will help strengthen your brand equity.

Advertising rarely translates into brand equity unless these foundations exist to support it. Even so, the more solid the brand’s foundation, the less relevant advertising becomes.

Starbucks doesn’t advertise much and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Whole Foods ad anywhere, yet millions of people drop solid stacks of greenbacks there every year. I don’t shop at Target, wear Rudy Project sunglasses, drive a VW or crave a BMW because of advertising. Other than creating awareness for a product that hasn’t managed to capture anyone’s attention yet (red flag), advertising does little to impact most companies’ growth. Do they create spikes in interest, eyeballs and sales? Sure. When executed well. But growth? Over time? Nope. Growth is a completely different animal, and advertising alone, boys and girls, won’t get you there.

Building a strong reputation by developing great products, buzz-worthy experiences and generally delighting customers/users is a much stronger strategy than paying loads of cash for advertising.

Something to think about as you prioritize items on your budget for H2.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone. :)

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