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Duane Bailey is a regular contributor to The Chief Storyteller® online conversation. He has helped organizations of all sizes drive growth in revenues and market share through the development and delivery of key business messages that resonate with target audiences. He holds an MBA in International Business and a BS in Marketing. He brings 28 years of experience in marketing communications and high technology sales.
You've been tasked with drafting a social media strategy for your brand. Initially, your goals are to build your company's reputation and raise brand awareness. As the brand takes hold in the market, your goals will include increases in customer engagement, conversions (a.k.a. sales) and loyalty.
Public relations? Marketing? Or both? Is there a difference?
Too often, these terms are used interchangeably – without a real understanding of the role each brings to your brand. One, public relations, is about building reputations and raising awareness among members of your target audience. The other, marketing, is about converting that audience into paying customers. As best-selling author and marketing consultant Al Ries sees it, public relations lights the fire and marketing fans the flames.
The purpose of public relations is to educate and build relations with all stakeholders – investors, community members, lawmakers and regulators, industry thought leaders, current and potential customers, etc. Marketing's role is to educate and influence current and potential customers. Public relations supports marketing by creating a favorable climate in which to operate and, the reality is, you need both to accomplish your goals.
Public relations, while different from marketing, is an integral part of your brand's overall marketing strategy.
For other insights on social media and content marketing, see:
• Absent Context, Your Content Is Meaningless
• You Are What You Tweet
• How Content Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships with Your Brand
An organization's vision statement proclaims its desire to be the very best. Its top leaders are the personification of excellence in everything they do.
Yet, many of its employees are content with mediocrity and the lackluster performance that invariably follows. It can be a frustrating experience for the movers and the shakers in any organization – who must confront a wall of indifference, a lack of engagement and an omnipresent sense of laziness at the office on a daily basis.
Why is this?
It all starts with attitude. Some years back, I wrote a post on the importance of attitude. When my youngest son, who is now a first-year student at the University of Virginia (UVa), was playing basketball in junior high, I noticed a poster on the wall of the gym that read, "Attitudes Are Contagious. Are Yours Worth Catching?" He took that idea to heart that day and let it guide him as he pursued his dream of gaining admission to Virginia's flagship university over the high school years that followed.
Attitude cannot be taught. I suppose that's the reason the Walt Disney Company is known for its practice of hiring more for attitude and less for experience. So, yes, a culture of excellence begins with attitude...at hiring time.
Beyond the initial hire, however, attitude can be cultivated. It takes a commitment from management to set measurable performance objectives, to be engaged and to hold people accountable – "inspect what you expect," if you will. It takes a realization that there are consequences – both positive and negative – to how employees perform or fail to deliver. Even my college-aged son knew early on in his high school career that unless he built sufficient rigor into his schedule, worked hard to earn a competitive grade point average and achieved an SAT score in the top percentile, gaining admission to UVa wasn't going to happen.
If you're a senior manager, my challenge to you is this: take stock of your organization as you begin the new year. Are the attitudes of your employees contributing to the culture of excellence you aspire to? Or, are they holding your organization back?
Remember, a culture of excellence begins with attitude.
If your event managers are spending the bulk of their time on event logistics – shipping, delivery, set-up, staffing and tear-down of your exhibit booth and promoting it on social media – you may be missing the bigger picture. In the world of event marketing, booths are table stakes. While exhibit booths play a role in promoting your brand and engaging customers, event management requires a more holistic approach.
Achieving business outcomes involves other stakeholders in your organization, and requires a commitment to measuring and reporting on quantifiable results beyond the softer metrics of brand awareness and engagement.
Your customers want to know how your products and services speak to their needs and interests. Your sales managers want to know how your participation at an event is helping their teams turn qualified leads into closed sales. And your executive management team wants to know how your presence at a show or event is contributing to business outcomes, like revenue and return on investment (ROI) goals.
To ensure your event marketing program is meeting the needs of your stakeholders and achieving your desired business outcomes, develop and implement a scorecard for evaluating the success of each show or event. As a starting point, consider adding the following quantifiable metrics to your scorecard:
• Number of visitors
• Most and least popular discussion topics
• Number and type of social media mentions of your brand, key messages and event hashtag(s)
• Number of qualified leads
• Number of closed sales
• Average revenue per closed sale
• Cost of participating in the show or event
Follow each event with a post-event assessment, inviting candid feedback from the various stakeholders within your organization. Review and report on your results. Develop and implement corrective actions, when necessary, to improve performance. Use the output of each assessment to quantify your ROI and to inform your participation in future shows or events.
The content we produce – spoken and written words, PowerPoint decks, images, videos, memes, charts, infographics, etc. – tells a story about the importance of establishing a relationship between us and our target audience. The story we tell should be a compelling one that accelerates our success at driving sales and revenue.
After all, we're all selling something and our goal is top-line growth.
An effective content marketing strategy, then, should be laser-focused on the needs of your target audience – identifying those needs, aligning with them and providing evidence that what you're selling can address those needs in a unique and measurable way.
Focusing on the needs of your target audience is especially important when developing marketing collateral for vertical markets. The companies who do this well instinctively tap into the knowledge and experiences of industry experts – people with a history of success in the field, industry analysts and consultants, influential academics and even students who are pursuing a college major or conducting research in the field.
Understanding the industry you're selling to, and how your customers (i.e., decision-makers) are measured and compensated, are the keys to developing content that is relevant to your target audience and providing them with a compelling call to action. In my experience, people tend to buy when one of three opportunities arise: they have a problem, they see a problem coming or they see a chance to shine.
A content marketer's job is to develop the story that shows potential buyers how you and your brand are best positioned to address these opportunities.
For more on the intersection of sales and marketing, please see:
• Why Every Marketer Should Have Sales Experience
• The Purpose of Marketing Collateral Is to Drive Sales
• The Role of Marketing Is to Drive Sales
If you've ever been to a live show at Radio City Music Hall, a performance on Broadway or an improv performance at a local comedy club, you've undoubtedly seen the different ways performers use their stage presence to connect with their audiences.
Great performers are masters at making each and every audience member feel special and appreciated. They do this by reading their audience – watching, listening and taking their cues from the feedback they receive. Some acknowledge the audience members for coming out to see them, interact with them by asking questions or simply thanking them for their applause. Others work the stage, using movement and gestures to engage their audience. All of this is possible because the performers are spending time on stage before live audiences.
Like great performers, brands that offer extraordinary customer experiences are masters at making each and every customer feel special and appreciated. I recently attended a customer experience forum in New York City where one of the recurring themes was the importance of talking with customers.
Focus groups and surveys are two common market research tools that are used to understand customer needs, preferences and motivations. However, they often fall short as predictors of customer behavior since participants and respondents do not always follow through on their stated intentions. As one presenter explained, the only way to really know what your customers are thinking is to spend time talking with them.
In short, spending time with your customers and talking with them is like performing before a live audience – not watching a scripted performance from behind a two-way mirror. Executives from the best brands are not afraid to engage customers (and their employees, for that matter) in an interactive setting and, as a result, will often uncover innovative ways to differentiate their brands with a superior customer experience.
For more insights on customer experience, please see:
• Customer Experience: This Is What It's All About
• How One Brand Is Growing Sales In a Weak Economy
• Apple's Genius Bar: Where the Extraordinary Happens