Using social media effectively

Lethal Generosity comes out next week and you should read it.

...,if you see competitors using social platforms and technology making money while you are not; If you want to sell your business to someone for a good price in the next 10 years. READ THIS BOOK!

I was given the honor of reviewing Lethal Generosity, the latest book on communication and technology from Shel Israel, before it is released next week. I spent the time to read it through twice (and it is quite readable so that took little effort). I’ve come to the opinion that it might be the most important book a business person or professional communicator could read this year. But before I explain why, let’s weed the field a bit.


If you have no plans to sell your products of services to people under 30, ever, don’t read this book. 


If you plan to retire or shut your business down in 10 years, don’t read this book.


But if you are struggling to understand how to grow your business; if you see competitors using social platforms and technology making money while you are not; If you want to sell your business to someone for a good price in the next 10 years. READ THIS BOOK!


Israel has written several books on how to effectively communicate with today’s marketplace. This particular book is a sequel of sorts to his most recent, The Age of Context, that he co-wrote with Robert Scoble. I saw that book as a description of the kind of technology that was available to reach audiences and grow businesses. But it was a little light on the application. Lethal Generosity picks up from that point and talks about how some companies are using that technology effectively, why it is working and who is most influenced by it.


Here is a short description of those three areas:


 



  1. Very few companies are actually using the technology and even fewer are using it properly

  2. It works for those few companies because they understand it is no longer about reaching thousands of potential customers in hopes of attracting a few dozen, but reaching those few dozen who in turn will attract even more through electronic interaction.

  3. It is most effective at reaching the Millennial Generation than any other.


 


Starting with the audience, Israel describes a generation that is as visionary and energetic as the Baby Boomers, but is as pragmatic as the Greatest Generation that fought WW II (This is my description, not Israel’s). They relish collaboration and want to change the world, but see it as a process not a revolution. One step at a time rather than all at once. As a Boomer, I participated in the Civil Rights Movement, The anti-war movement, feminism and politics and like most of my compatriots I am pretty disappointed in what we accomplished. It was a revolution but the product is still kind of half-assed. 


The Millennials I watch today, and as Israel points out, look at fixing problems one at a time and in cooperation with other problem solvers. They personify  the story of the boy tossing starfish back into the ocean after a storm because while he might not be able to save all, but he can save some. They do this in groups, or as Seth Godin describes them, tribes. They are less competitive than my generation, more charitable and more community oriented. They listen to each other more than they listen to corporate messages. And they are more in tune with generosity as a social requirement. That brings me to the title of the book.


“Lethal generosity” is about doing things that seem counter productive to my generation. It’s about recommending a customer go to a competitor because they actually have what the customer needs. It includes unrestricted warranties on products and services. It gives back to the world as an automatic reaction to a sale. Most importantly it obliterates barriers to sales by facilitating them through technology.


In the “lethally generous” world Israel describes, a customer can find a store on a mobile device, find what they are looking for in the store, get instant feedback  from friends on the product and the company that makes it, and then make the purchase, all before the customer enters the store and picks up the product.


It’s not just about sales, though. It’s about building communities. Midway through the book, Israel tells the story of Summit, an entrepreneurial organization that provides mentoring, resources, funding and other forms of support to new businesses. It includes some of the most influential people of the 21st Century as well as thousands of members. But you probably don’t know anything about it because they operate exclusively through invitation by current members. The organization is highly connected through social media and electronic communication.


Some people, mostly my generation, think that this dependence on technology is actually fracturing the social contract between us; building barriers to communication that we have come to rely on. Yes and no.


Our current paradigm of communication is to talk at people until they give in and do what we tell them. It is minimally effective and actually more divisive. The new paradigm allows people to listen to a conversation before entering it. It allows them to vet potential relationships and thereby set appropriate expectations. Finally it builds relationships probably more effectively that any form of communication we have had since the oral tradition. Israel describes observing Millennials meeting people face to face for the first time, after they had known each other for years electronically. They are as close to each other as they would have been if they had grown up together.


This book, Lethal Generosity, describes how technology makes that happen by greasing the skids, blowing up barriers, and building real communities for business, rather than just spreadsheets. It’s available on Amazon next week in both print and electronic forms.


Get it.

Marketing automation is a must for success, but you may need some help in figuring it out.

This will be the first of several posts on the value and application of third-party marketing automation software. We will cover several aspects of this to simplify your understanding including:



  • The difference between CRM and marketing automation software (surprisingly, most people are wrong)

  • How it helps your sales team (more than they might realize)

  • How does it affect content (a LOT!)

  • Where to find the ROI and prove it to the boss (easier than you might think)


But in this first part, we are going to address the two biggest questions: Who should you use? Can you afford it?


Who you should use


There are dozens of providers of this software and over the past two years, Footwasher Media has been checking out about 20 of the top rated. There are as many lists rating them as there are providers being rated so they don’t offer much help. Most of the rating is based on the number of customers using the service and their revenue. We decided on a different set of criteria: what customers say about them and whether their pricing is transparent.


That latter point is rather crucial. The market leaders (and we won’t name them but you probably know who they are) all appear to have relatively low prices published, but they don’t tell you, up front about the set up charges, the add-ons, the cost for additional services that you might think you get, etc. It’s quite annoying.  Then there is the issue of what customers say.  Marketing automation software is not easy to understand and use. There is always a three-month learning period at the least. But some of the offerings are harder than others. 


So over the past two years we’ve settled on three providers to recommend: Act-on, SALESmanago and SharpSpring. All three land in the top 10 or 20 of most ratings.


For the sake of transparency, Footwasher Media has partnership agreements with all three, but we also have partnership agreements with several others that we don’t recommend. We are agnostic regarding who you might choose, but we highly recommend that you pick one. 


You CAN afford it


Act-on is the most expensive and, in fact, is a bit higher in cost than most of the sales automation packages. The difference is that you what you see is what you will pay (here’s a link to their pricing). It gets rave reviews from customers for ease of use and that might have something to do with the 24/7 customer service they offer. The downside is that they don’t offer a CRM. Many of the big names not include a CRM and those that don’t have integrated the big CRM names, like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. Act-on is one of those. So in choosing Act-on, the cost is in addition to what you pay for your CRM.


SALESmanago from Benhauer Marketing Technologies in Poland comes at a significantly lower cost (here’s a link to their pricing), but it differs a bit from Act-on. SALESmanago charges a monthly fee based on the number of contacts you have in your database, while Act-on charges according to the number of leads you send emails to every month. So you might have a database of 30,000 customers, but if you only send out 1,000 emails you pay the base price, while with SALESmanago you pay for the number of names in the list. Even at that, SALESmanago is cheaper. The downside is that SALESmanago is still something of an unknown quantity. It has significant traction in Europe but is just getting introduced to the US so there is not a lot of data on customer feedback. Still they offer the same 24/7 customer service as Act-on.


Finally we have SharpSpring. We not only recommend it, we use if for Footwasher Media for a simple reason. It’s really cheap if you work through a partner agency like us SharpSpring works almost exclusively with agencies and allows them to resell the service to clients for whatever the market will bear. If you prefer to go it alone, it can be pricey (if you want to know specifics, contact me at lou @ footwashermedia.com) 


Another plus is it is the easiest marketing automation software to set up, has a remarkable ability to interface with multiple other marketing and social media services and, best of all, IT HAS ITS OWN CRM!


That CRM is not as powerful as Salesforce, but we have found that most companies with Salesforce are not using the capabilities to their maximum so they are wasting money. The SharpSpring CRM is quite sufficient. In fact, I’ve even run a 100,000 name list through it flawlessly, which brings me back to cost. There are no additional costs, no tiers, and no set-up fees other than paying three months in advance.  The downside is they have limited customer service, relying on the agency partners to handle most of the simple stuff. But the relationship works.


There is an added benefit to SharpSpring. It is owned by SMTP, one of the oldest and most respected email lists houses in the industry… and SharpSpring uses that database to help identify anonymous visitors. That’s huge.


That is not to say, however, that you should pick the cheapest one.


SharpSpring is an excellent choice if you are a startup company with a limited customer list and absolutely no marketing staff. It’s easy on the budget and has a lot of great features of more expensive packages and can make the job of marketing much easier. But because customer service is limited, when things go wrong it’s hard to get them fixed quickly. The team is quite good and responsive within working hours, however.


If you are a larger company with an established customer base but a limited marketing budget, SALESmanago is a solid choice and will make the most of that budget, plus there is no long term commitment. The relationship is month to month and customer service is excellent. 


Medium-sized to large companies might want to look at Act-on, especially because they’ve been around a while, they have an extensive worldwide service network and they can just take the worry out of the whole process.


If you would like to have a deeper discussion of the options we recommend, or want to talk about another provider and get an honest assessment, fill out the form at this link and we’ll give you a free 30 minutes.


Comeback next week and we will cover what the difference are between sales and marketing automation.

Uber is not an isolated issue. Every business is vulnerable to stupidity.

This thing about the Uber executive drunkenly suggesting digging up dirt on journalists is an interesting observation point in the evolution of journalism in the 21st century. But rather than get into the issue of ethics and gender issues in the Silicon Valley, I’d like to point out another issue that this brings up.


It is important that companies, now more than ever, get trained and effective communicators on staff. I’m not talking about marketing executives. I’m not talking about engineers who understand how to string a sentence together. I’m not talking about some sweet young publicist (be it male or female) that can charm people at industry events with their dazzling smiles and impeccable fashion sense. I’m talking about people who know how to tell the truth even when it isn’t pretty.


Uber-Exec-Suggests-Digging-Dirt-on-Journalists-Writing-Negatively-About-Company-465226-2
Emil Michael, why are you smiling?


 


 


In all this foofarah over Emil Michael’s sexist pseudo threat, and the on-going sexism of the Uber culture, I’m wondering where the chief communication officer is. The answer is: they don’t have one. I also note they have dozens of junior level job openings in which communicating with the public is a PART of what they are supposed to do. So there is no one at the company whose job it is to fix problems like this and none of the senior executives have a clue about how to do it right.


They invest in lobbyists to grease politicians. They invest in advertising. They invest in “community management.” But outside of that… nothing.


It would be completely understandable if Uber was an outlier, but the reality is that they are the norm, and this week, it’s their turn to demonstrate their incompetence in just having a conversation with the public.


Recently I met with a company outside of the "Silly Con Valley" who offers products and services for creating and distributing content over social media, a practice also known as content marketing.  But in meeting with the C-staff I learned that not a single member of the team believes in content marketing.  They believe their technology is so great that all they have to do is offer it and people will beat a path to their door. 


This is why 95 percent of companies are struggling to succeed.  They don’t know how to tell a story and when things go bad, they can’t figure out how to right the ship.


Get help before it goes bad.


Using technology to create a new generation of leaders

A couple of weeks ago I was tooting our horn about winning a Customer Experience Recognition Award (CERA) at Information Development World (IDW), but a new video interview popped up last week from the conference that I thought rated another blow of the horn.  


I'm being interviewed by Al Martine, Director of Operations & Business Development at TechWhirl and the manager of the awards program.  We talk about the unusual nature of the program at first, but then we get into why the project that won the award is important.


There is a serious impediment to growth across all organizations that comes from the legendary "but we've never done it that way" crowd, but also from the attitude of "this is how we've always done it" crowd. They aren't always the same group of people.  The team at the Cultivate the Call had to overcome both in bringing the program to life.  That took some guts.


Here's the interview.  Click on the interactive links below the vid for more information.


   

Information Development World: You need to be there.

Last week I had a brief but productive conversation with Jill Rowley about content and social selling and she said something very profound.  She pointed out that her driving force, social selling, is still in its “1.0 stage” and remains largely undefined and that content marketing, which should be entering the 2.0 stage still remains largely undefined.  that is problematic for her because sharing good content is crucial to success in social selling.


That’s why I was extremely excited when I received an invitation to be an official participant, as an Information-development-worldinfluencer, at Information Development World coming to San Jose, October 22-24, organized by Content Rules and the Content Wrangler.  This is the first big step toward making content development a serious profession.


I have an ongoing battle with both marketers and journalists about what constitutes content development.  Both consider it to be just another arm of marketing.  In truth, that is what much of it has been.  That is the problem with it.  If content is seen as an offshoot of marketing in todays media-rich culture, it fails.  And as Richard Edelman points out, that practice is backward.  Content and the strategy that creates it should drive marketing, not the other way around.  From the description given me of “InfoDevWorld,” making content the horse that pulls the cart is the intent of the event.


“Information Development World is the first—and only—conference dedicated to helping organizations create exceptional customer experiences centered around content,” said Adam Helweh, principal at Secret Sushi and one of the event team. “Our goal is to bring together the brightest minds in the content arena—content strategists, technical communicators, content marketers, product managers, customer assistance specialists, translators, localizers, taxonomists, and user experience professionals—to demystify the methods, standards, tools and technologies needed to deliver exceptional omni-channel customer experiences.”


Note that marketers are only a part of the process.


I changed my career path to content strategy 10 years ago, about 6 years before the phrase content marketing became popular.  I’ve got a good idea what it actually means and what needs doing, but I always need input. So I’m going to this thing, even though trade shows and conferences are my least enjoyable experience and I will be there every day, tweeting, blogging, taking video and generally making myself a nuisance asking very hard questions.


If you are involved in the development of content or using content, either as a corporate lackey or a media hack, I urge you to check this event out.  It’s time to define this thing and this event is step one.


Friending Facebook for Fun and Profit!

...if your content is crap it doesn't matter how much you spend on social media, unless people find your content amusing, useful or thought provoking, NO ONE WANTS TO READ IT!

With all the negative feelings about Facebook in the marketing communications industry, I gotta say: Facebook has been doing great by me.


The big meme blasting the social network recently has been the video purporting that if you pay to boost likes they are probably fake. Then came the fashion magazine magnate who spent tens of thousands of dollars on Facebook advertising and got zero return.  Finally, marketers are pissed that Facebook is downgrading organic feeds. Facebook slashes


The problem with all of these complaints is the fact that if your content is crap it doesn't matter how much you spend on social media, unless people find your content amusing, useful or thought provoking, NO ONE WANTS TO READ IT! 


What marketers forget is, before all this failure of their social efforts, was an uprising of users who said they were tired off getting spammed by all the crappy content marketers were forcing on them. Facebook, realizes that their bread and butter is based on positive user experience, and changed their algorithm to bring only the content the users showed interest in. But the marketers figured out how to game that change and the flood of crap content continued.  Marketers didn't learn the lesson and, in fact, refuse to change.


 So Facebook decided to tell them, "If you insist on filling feeds with crap, you are going to have to pay for the right."  What's more, they gave users new filter tools to make sure that those who refused to pay the toll got cut out of the herd.


There is a very easy fix for marketers and corporations who refuse to invest in real marketing: Make better content.  The problem, content is neither easy, nor free to create.  Someone who has spent decades honing the ability to crank out repetitive, self-serving content can't suddenly switch styles and become interesting and engaging.  That's why marketers, politicians (especially politicians), CEOs and venture capitalists need to swallow their pride and hire someone who can teach them how to communicate in the 21st Century, or do it or them.


And that's why Facebook has been doing Footwasher Media a solid.


Footwasher Media helps companies communicate effectively. What we do comes before marketing communications, public relations, advertising and sales collateral and makes it ALL more effective. We find the story that makes you unique and interesting. Find out more here.