Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tweet? Blog? E-Mail? It's Still the Message That Motivates!

We are blessed with (beset by?) an amazing array of communications media in today’s modern world. You can deliver a message in traditional ways (newspaper, magazine, radio, television, billboard, direct mail), or through an assortment of web-based channels (web sites, e-mail, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).

But beware! It is easy to get caught up in how to make contact and lose sight of what you are saying. No matter how you deliver it, the content of your message is what makes things happen.

I recently met with a prospect about starting a social media program for his company. He was skeptical, saying that he had young people on staff who could easily set up Twitter and Facebook accounts without having to pay an outside agency. Perfectly true, as most social media is free and open to all.

“But what,” I asked, “will you say?” As adept as his young staffers are with web-based media, they do not have the experience or insight into what the message should be. Nor do they have the discipline to consistently develop and deliver compelling information to fans and followers who sign up.

If you are going to use social media for marketing purposes — and I think most businesses should — you must make sure your tweets, e-mails, posts and blog entries are:

1. Consistent with your brand image,
2. Contain information of value and interest,
3. Include a call to action,
4. Are compelling enough to elicit a measurable response.

Otherwise, you’ll be just another noisemaker on the web. Remember, just because the media is free does not mean you can afford to take it lightly. Rushing into a social media program without a plan and purpose-driven message is a waste of everybody’s time, and could actually backfire with web-savvy customers.

Go back to basics and remember my “Four I’s” of advertising. Every message should have impact in the form of a strong headline, subject line or tag. It should burnish your company’s image by being well-written and (when appropriate) having an attractive layout. The message must contain information that is interesting and not self-serving. And the message should be written so as to generate inquiries, which can be easily measured.

Keep these rules in mind every time you log on to tweet or post a blog entry. They will help you make the most of the amazing power of social media.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Have You Earned the Right to Speak to Customers and Prospects?

You may have heard that we recently held a special election to elect a new U.S. Senator here in my home state of Massachusetts. Because the race between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley was so tight, both sides unleashed a torrent of advertising over the final few weeks leading up to election day.

Among the most annoying of the ads (and there were plenty to be annoyed with) were the seemingly endless series of “robo-dial” automated phone calls. Over the final five days of the campaign I received at least 100 phone calls from the candidates, famous supporters, not-so-famous supporters and political action groups.

As someone who had already taken the time to become an informed voter, I did not want to waste my time with these calls. I hung up quickly on 99 of the calls.

But I patiently listened to one.

That call came from my state representative. His message was not surprising, offering his support for one of the candidates. But, why, you might wonder, did I take the time to listen to this single call out of the hundred I received?

Because it came from a source that I knew and trusted. Because my local representative had been in communication with me on a regular basis over the past several years, keeping me informed of issues that were important to my town, my business and my family.

By his accumulated efforts, he had earned the right to be heard.

Have you earned that right with customers and prospects? Have you put forth the effort to start a relationship? To establish your authority and expertise? To allow the customer or prospect to become familiar and comfortable with you?

It is foolish to believe that a single communication, no matter how powerful a blast it may be, will be sufficient to motivate people to action. It takes time and consistent effort to reach a point of understanding and acceptance. And the effort must continue to maintain that tenuous relationship.

If such an effort is required in an important arena like politics, you can imagine the necessity of regular communications in the world of commerce. What have you done today to earn the right to be heard?