#SMM: Stop Talking, Start Learning

Stop TalkingThe chorus to the Lifehouse song, “Nobody Listen,” describes many marketer’s approach to Content and Social Media Marketing these days…“Everybody talk, but nobody listen.”

The amount of content produced is staggering. According to Gary Vaynerchuk, New York Times best-selling author, he cites that there is more content produced in 48 hours than what has been produced from the beginning of time to 2003.

The strategy of just ‘being present’ in content and on social media has not worked, and will not work.

Change Your Social Media Strategy

If you are finding your engagement to be low in social channels with the content you are sharing, it’s time for a different approach.

As Marketers, we are all susceptible to becoming enamored with our own point of view, and as a result, we end up doing all the talking. When people don’t listen, we talk louder. In marketing, “talking louder” takes many forms, such as email blasts, Facebook posts, Tweets. This even shows up in our retargeting efforts.

These approaches are what I refer to as Bumper-Sticker Marketing. The premise of  the ‘bumper-sticker marketer’ is that it is one way communication that shouts a point of view, but fails to engage others in meaningful ways, and certainly fails to persuade.

One of the common struggles I hear relative to producing content is lack of ideas for what content to produce next. If you find yourself struggling with what to talk about, you may not be as close to your customers as you think you are.

If that’s the case, time for a change in your social media strategy, which will benefit you in your content strategy as well.

Listen to Learn

Assuming you know where your customers are spending their time on Social Media, pay attention to what they are talking about. Listen for the key words and phrases they use to describe their problems, concerns, and struggles.

We are listening and learning so that we can speak their language, rather than trying to get them to understand our own language.

One strategy I use, that may be helpful to others is to do the following. Use your favorite social monitoring tool(s) to identify the keywords your customers use to search your competitors sites.

Additionally, I look at large, non-industry sites like Reddit or Mashable, then filter down to the category in my field/industry to see what people are searching for and talking about.

For example, if I filter by Internet and Telecom, I find the top trending words in their keyword cloud are ‘web2.0,’ ‘blog,’ and ‘social networking.’ (See below).

Word Cloud

This 60-second process gave me three different topics from which I can produce content about that will be relevant to my audience. When content is relevant and valuable, your audience is more likely to engage. What’s more is I now know the specific words to build my SEO strategies around with HREF, H1 tags, etc.

Looking for keywords is one thing, but remember, we want to understand our customer’s concerns and speak their language. Therefore, I take the keywords of interest listed above and search conversations in Twitter and Facebook to try to ascertain what their intent is behind their searches.

In searching #web2.0 this morning, for example, I quickly learn that areas of interest to multiple groups is measurement, collaboration and applicability to SMB.

Take the time to listen and learn for a better content and social media strategy. As my mom used to say…”Talk less, listen more!”


Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Guilty of Bumper Sticker Marketing?

Bumper Sticker Marketing

I was speaking with a CFO this week about his organization’s content marketing strategies and the role of social media, as his impressions of Social Media in marketing was that it has little to no business impact.

He cited some Gallup statistics from a recent Wall Street Journal article as proof points for his belief that it’s not all that it is cracked up to be:

    • 94% use Social Media to connect with friends and family Tweet: 94% of people use Social Media to connect with friends and family | http://ctt.ec/3t0F5+ | #marketing #socialmedia #content
    • 62% say Social Media had no influence on their buying decisions Tweet: 62% say Social Media had no influence on their buying decisions | http://ctt.ec/Vu4ca+ | #marketing #socialmedia #content
    • 30% say Social Media had some influence on their buying decisions Tweet: 30% say Social Media had some influence on their buying decisions | http://ctt.ec/ai4oc+ | #marketing #socialmedia #content
    • Brands reached only 6.5% of their fans with Facebook posts in March Tweet: Brands reach only 6.5% of their fans with Facebook posts | http://ctt.ec/3BUYt+ | #marketing #socialmedia #content

Are the numbers wrong? I don’t think so. At a glance, many might be quick to agree with this CFO, that Social Media is ineffective with regard to having direct business impact. Perhaps there is a different explanation for the numbers.

The Problem isn’t Social Media…

Simply looking at the first statistic cited above starts to hint at the problem when we consider why 94% of people [not consumers], use social media.

If 94% of people use Social Media to connect with family and friends, are marketers using Social consistent with people’s usage?

Both, Marketing and Sales have been guilty of looking at these huge pools of people in social arenas as prospects, and leading with their products and/or solutions in highly intrusive and interruptive ways. This problem isn’t limited just to Social Media.

Bumper Sticker Marketing

When we look at our content marketing strategy as a whole (inclusive of print, online, mobile, social, etc.), we have a specific ‘end’ in mind – drive a profitable customer action. But too often, we start with our own end in mind…“drive a profitable customer action”…rather than starting with your target audience’s end in mind.

I call this bumper sticker marketing. Similar to the picture above, we shout our own point of view, trying to call attention to ourselves, our products, solutions, etc., irrespective of what the end-user really wants or needs.

Furthermore, similar to bumper stickers, our marketing too often is a one way “push” message, that fails to truly engage with others. As a result, Marketers fall into the trap of heeding partial advice from content strategists, by delivering content more frequently and consistently. Frequency and consistency is the easy part.

The more difficult [but responsible] purpose of content marketing, according to Joe Pulizzi, is described as follows:

Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior.

A few key words to pay attention to in his description are, relevant, valuable,  and changing or enhancing…behavior.

Food for Thought…

When was the last time you read a bumper sticker and subsequently changed your behaviors or beliefs as a result of reading the sticker? For example, when you see the mini-van proclaiming, “My child is an Honor Student,” do you believe your child is inferior? Of course not. Similarly, do bumper-stickers change your:

      • Political affiliations or votes?
      • Religious beliefs?
      • Moral convictions?

Probably not. That said, how might this apply to your own marketing approach? Are you trying to change someone’s beliefs or behaviors through one-way marketing?

We ALL are susceptible to being a bumper sticker marketer, unless we are intentional in determining who we are bringing value to in our marketing. Change your aim to change your results.

For more articles on similar topics, feel free to follow me on Twitter 


Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

6 Causes for Marketing Misses

Marketing missed target marketing

Are you finding that hitting your target market is increasingly more difficult? Especially in the age where so many aspects of marketing are changing and evolving such as content management strategies, SEO and social media.

Marketing is playing an increasingly critical role in organizations these days for a variety of reasons, one of which, as Sirius Decisions describes is that “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.”

This puts even more pressure for marketers to be well-branded and ever-present in the places where prospects are looking, then the top choice when they click thru.

Now sales is even being encouraged, appropriately so, to engage in more top of funnel (ToFu) activities in the form of micro-marketing due to this very same phenomena with the buyer’s digital journey.

As if navigating these new times wasn’t difficult enough, CMOs must be also able to demonstrate tangible, positive returns on their marketing efforts. That alone is enough to send some CMOs over the edge.

While these challenges are certainly real and legitimate, there are some more basic areas of marketing that are falling short, perhaps due to the reasons aforementioned. It’s understandable for marketers with tight budgets to cut some corners while navigating new areas like Social Media…but it is certainly not acceptable. The consequences can be quite substantial.

Therefore, let’s look at six filters that marketing tends to overlook or ignore in its marketing efforts when pressures on their time and budget mount:

6 Overlooked Causes of Marketing Misses

Regardless of your marketing vehicle, whether direct mail, email, web or other, grab a recent campaign piece and evaluate according to the following six filters or litmus tests:

  1. Clarity Test. Your marketing piece should be clearly targeted at a specific segment or customer as time pressed marketers can fall into the trap of generalizing who the marketing is aimed at versus narrowing the focus (e.g., IT versus System Administrators). Test: Can any person readily identify the intended audience of your marketing?
  2. Resonance Test. Your marketing piece will resonate more with customers when it identifies their pain points and quantifies the risk of not solving the problem or pain points. Test: Will the customer know after reading your marketing piece, the risk or cost of their inaction?
  3. Differentiation Test. The marketing piece should tap into the customer’s felt pain points by focusing on benefits or outcomes, not product features, and lead uniquely to your own solution. Test: If your logo were removed from the marketing, would the solution still point distinctly to your organization?
  4. Insight Test. Engaging marketing should grab the reader’s attention with an insight about their industry, category or business. Test: Does the marketing piece provide an insight and if so, is the insight one which could only be obtained by your experience working with many other customers like the target of your marketing?
  5. Teaching Test. Whether email, direct mail or other, the best marketing exposes or teaches the customer something about their business that they didn’t understand or had underestimated before, thus leading them to your solution. Test: Can you clearly identify the teaching point in your marketing piece? More importantly, can your customer?
  6. Advocate Test. Finally, one overlooked area of marketing is that in an era where more buying is done by committee or consensus, the marketing piece should easily enable the advocate to share internally. Test: Does your marketing evoke a desire to share with internal influencers and decision makers without explanation?

Failing in any one of these areas will have some level of impact to your marketing effectiveness. Failing across two or more of these areas will guarantee suboptimal returns.

Time and budget constraints are real for most marketers. What many fail to realize is that the shortcuts taken to get marketing out more quickly without applying these filters and tests to the piece first, has a compounding effect on marketer’s time and budgets. The ineffectiveness of any campaign requires more to be done to make up for what the last campaign failed to produce.

Conversely, putting these six filters to every one of your marketing campaigns will take major steps towards your marketing effectiveness. Greater effectiveness leads to less pressure on time and marketing spend.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Case Study: Is the Problem Marketing or the Marketer?

Lead Generation and Lead QualificationThe Phone Call…

“Am I going crazy?” Having just answered the phone, I had no idea who was calling and asking such a question of me. I responded with a courteous, but cautious chuckle saying, “Well…I think I’ll need a little more to go on. With whom am I speaking?”

She paused, told me who it was, laughed rather distractedly, then proceeded to dive right into describing her dilemma from today’s meeting with the Marketing Director from her “problem division.” She is the Sales Director of a firm in which I knew a bit about, particularly with the company’s background and this particular division’s struggle.

In summary, sales were strong across all of her other divisions and lines, each of which had their own marketing leader, while she led the Sales across all divisions. Things were great, that is for all but this one division. Sales continued to decline year over year and had high lead dependency from Marketing, thus her concerns.

The Rest of Her Story…

The sales model is B2B with an outbound sales team that sells consumer products ranging from $200 – $1,000. As described earlier, they are highly dependent upon Marketing to deliver leads.

The Division Head and Marketing Director were both new to this division in 2011 and had stepped in with a new, radical, $1M cost-reduction strategy for marketing. The new marketing mantra became for the next two years, “Less Quantity, More Quality!”

This strategy resulted in lead reduction of 60% in 2011 compared to 2010. In 2012, the leads dropped another 40% from 2011. Not surprisingly, sales had correspondingly declined steeply, more so than any other recent period. While sales did have a dramatic decline, it was nowhere near the rate of decline for the lead volume.

The Sales leader saw neither quantity nor quality from marketing, and as she describes it, the numbers supported her version of the story. Despite the numbers, the Marketing Leader and Division Head remained committed to defending their original strategy a year and a half into it with major revenue losses, and subsequently showed no openness to a different, or better strategy.

Towards the end of 2012, she managed to get a commitment from Marketing for substantially more qualified leads in 2013, although to the Marketer, ‘qualified’ apparently meant email, number and “Request for literature.”

Additionally, the Marketer’s commitment was simply to an aggregate number of leads on a monthly basis, but not by geography, firmographic, demographic, product type or other. His tactic? Email marketing….it’s part of the ‘cost-reduction’ plan.

Today, prior to the call and after her meeting with the marketing team, she made her plea for more qualified leads as the current lead quantity left her outbound team with capacity in excess of 60% going into their largest quarter of the year.

After her meeting, she shared that in addition to the quantity of leads being a third of what they needed, 80% of them were for two of  their 10 product lines. This meant that they had on average  a half-lead per rep to call on each day for the remaining products….not enough to meet the sales plan.

“A Lead is a Lead is a Lead!”

Through frustration, the Marketer responded to her plea for more balanced and qualified leads with saying, “A lead is a lead is a lead. We know that regardless of what product type we market, more than half of the prospects will want something different anyway. We could collect leads on just one of our products and it wouldn’t matter. All that matters is that you have leads of any type, then your team can determine what they really need.”

Again, the sales exec says to me…this time through tears…“Am I going crazy? Do I have my expectations set too high? Is it unreasonable to ask marketing to know the customer well enough to hit who they’re aiming at? Maybe I am the problem. I don’t feel like I am but it just seems like we need to change our approach to marketing.”

I responded, “Being crazy and unreasonable is not your problem, although your 2-year tolerance may be a part of the problem. It sounds to me like there is a much larger issue at play here…”

Change the Marketing, or the Marketer?

I speak with people in Sales and Marketing roles from all over the country. From executives to analysts to reps. Lead generation and qualification is by far, one of the most common frustrations I hear.

No matter who I am working with or from what field, I am pretty quick to keep the responsibility and accountability with each respective group I am working with. Most companies needing my help typically don’t have their respective ‘houses in order.’ Therefore, I keep Sales concentrated on their own responsibilities and Marketing, theirs so I don’t create an all out Game of Thrones. I work with the executive leadership on cross-departmental improvements before circling back to the departments.

For these reasons, offering up an anecdotal recommendation to this Sales executive to “change the Marketer” after merely an hour-long conversation would be ill-advised, no matter how apropos that may seem. There is always more to the story, especially when it comes to Sales and Marketing alignment.

What Advise Would You Give?

Given the very limited facts we all have here, what advice would you give and to whom would you target your comments? The Marketing Director? The Sales Director? The Division Head? Who would you love to spend 15 minutes with and what would you tell them?

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Marketing Benchmarks: Has marketing missed the mark?

What makes a great Marketer?

The best marketers are thought-leaders. Not only are they acutely aware of the drivers of their results, but they have a deep understanding of consumer behaviors and point the organization forward to be prepared for trends and shifts in their behavior.

Hubspot Marketing BenchmarksThey love [useful] metrics, as this guides their efforts to show better returns over time, not the same or worse.

Great marketers are aware of these consumer behavior shifts before they are even perceptible to most in the organization.

As a result, you see this most quickly reflected in the marketing in ways that connects deeply with consumers and resonates more so than the common marketing in the marketplace.

Good marketing takes work, but what does it take to be best-in-class? Furthermore, how do you compare against your industry?

Find out with HubSpot’s latest study, Marketing Benchmarks from 7,000 Businesses.

Download the Marketing Benchmarks Report

This brand new report dives into how you can increase your traffic and leads by improving a variety of marketing assets, including:

- Web Pages
– Blogging
– Landing Pages
– Twitter
– and more!

Get a clear idea of how much more you need to do to see the results your organization needs. Download the report to see if your marketing is hitting the mark.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

LinkedIn: Are you in the Top 1%? If so, bummer!

LinkedIn Top 1%LinkedIn recently reached out to 10 million of its members with a ‘Congratulations’ for having one of the Top 1% [or Top 5%] most viewed profiles in 2012. This was their way of ‘thanking’ those that contributed to its 200 million member milestone.

Great news, right? Not so fast. That all depends on why people are seeking you out. For many, I suspect they are down right proud of such an accomplishment…one in which they had no idea they were shooting for until LinkedIn said, “Congratulations.”

As for me, I am a bit more cynical on why people are looking at my profile that often. Is it because I am special? Can’t be. I know me. So what, then?

With social selling becoming a much more significant way to prospect, what LinkedIn may actually be calling out is that those in this elite group are getting the top 1-5% of the solicitations from hungry sales people. So my special notification from LinkedIn would have been more appropriate, had it said…

“Jeff, congratulations! You are in the Top 1% that is most likely to get solicited!”

Of course, I am over-generalizing in terms of how this is used and I certainly realize the many benefits of being found where people are searching, but it is interesting seeing the different perspectives on the topic.

For instance, the other day I read a post of one SEO Consultant on his achievement of the Top 1%. I was surprised to see Mr. SEO quickly cite his top reason to how many first-level connections he had. He went on to share that he receives 15-20 connection requests from strangers per day. His subsequent reasons then pointed to Keywords and frequent Updates to his LinkedIn status.

One of his readers commented on his post that they too made the top 1%, but have less than 10% of the connections he has, and spends little to no time at all on their LinkedIn profile. He responded by saying, “I believe if you had more connections you would definitely do even better.” Hmm?!

So what gives? How do two people with completely opposite profiles and far different behaviors in their dedication to their LinkedIn profiles end up with the same result of a top viewed profile?

Turns out that keywords are pretty important, after all. Even more so than number of connections, Mr. SEO.

So, if you are looking to increase solicitations from prospectors, make sure to research trending keywords that relate to you and include them in your profile. Do this, and YOU TOO can join the ranks of 10 million other members to balance the load of solicitations you are sure to receive.

Jeff MichaelsJeff Michaels | Repeatable Success is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Challenger Marketing Increases Sales 91%

Challenger Marketing Success StoryThere has been a lot of talk about Challenger selling, with repeated points made that The Challenger Sale has equally as much to do with Marketing as it does with Sales.

Following is an example from Group after trying the Challenger approach in its marketing messaging on a direct mail piece.

Challenging the Status Quo

In interviewing the marketing team, they shared that the aim was to disrupt the status quo for women’s ministry directors doing retreats the same old way that they have done for years. To be more specific the status quo for directors was to hire an inspirational keynote speaker for the weekend in order to help enable more women to connect with one another and carry on in weekly women’s bible studies and groups. The problem was that women would come away from the retreats inspired, but still not connected to a larger body of women in their church.

Group Publishing recognized that while their customer’s (Women’s Ministry Directors) chief aim was to create connections between multi-generational women, the churches current method of doing a ‘speaker-based’ retreat actually created the problem, instead of solving the problem of women connecting.

Why? Consider the room setup when you go to hear a keynote speaker. Which way are the chairs facing? They are all facing forward, of course…towards the speaker, not towards each other. Therefore, at best, one could hope to relate to what the speaker was talking about, but no real connections were formed with one another.

Women’s Ministry Directors continued to see lack of connections between the attendees and subsequently felt that they needed to hire a more expensive, ‘inspirational speaker’ next year in order to get women to connect with one another. But that wasn’t their problem. The true problem is they are using the wrong format to make that happen.

Group’s solution was to provide a retreat kit that not only saved the expense of a costly speaker, but more importantly was designed to create intentional interactions between women by focusing on the dialogue between women, not on the speaker. Group understood that even a perfect product would not do anything unless they started ‘unteaching’ what women had learned and thought for years about how retreats should be done.

Group Reframes the Problem

Following is one of the initial marketing pieces designed to get women thinking differently about the retreats they have been doing for years.

Challenger Marketing Example

Challenger Marketing Example

The Results

Not only did the marketing team see a 94% improvement in response rates, but the Group Sales Consultants were inundated with immediate responses and repeated references to the marketing pieces themselves. This led to a 91% sales increase over prior year.

One of the sales consultants commented…

“Thanks to the marketing team, they have provoked customer’s thinking about what is wrong with the way women have been doing retreats. This allows sales to get deeper in conversations with customers more quickly to teach them a different way of thinking about the problem they are trying to solve.”

In fact, Women’s Ministry Directors were even calling Group to get more copies of the direct mail piece to use as invitations after they purchased the Group Retreat Kit.

The campaign was followed up by matching the website to the style and messaging of the direct mail piece. Is it a perfect Challenger marketing piece? Probably not, but it challenged the status quo in a way that women in ministry could relate to, so I would call that a success.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Sales Questions: Stop Asking Prospects Why!

Why QuestionsGetting deeper in conversations is a problem many people deal with. If you are struggling with this in your conversations, then perhaps you need to consider HOW you are asking your questions, not WHY. Huh?

It is very natural for us to ask a person a ‘Why’ question when asking about something that isn’t working or is broken. That said, I would encourage you to think back to your childhood when you were asked a ‘Why’ question by a parent (e.g., Why did you do that?). I don’t know about you, but for me, I immediately mounted a defense every time that kind of question was asked. After all, who wants to be treated as if you did something wrong?

When you ask questions that begin with ‘Why,’ you almost guarantee the first word of their response will start with ‘Because.’ How often have responses starting with ‘Because’ won the deal? You see, ‘Why’ often times puts a customer in a position to defend or justify ‘why’ they made a decision, a change, etc. Consider the difference a question beginning with ‘How’ can make when asking about a decision or a choice made versus ‘Why.’

  • Why did you choose that particular solution? Asking why they did this can imply that you think they have made a bad decision and often leads to the prospect spending the rest of the conversation on making sure you know they had good reasons to change to whatever they are using now. In fact, your intended proposal would require them to make another change to your product. If they did feel like you were questioning their reasoning, how might that predispose them to respond to your proposal?
  • How did you decide on this solution? Asking how lends itself to more of an explanation of the process they used, which can surface very useful information.

For clarity, I am not at all advocating the banishment of asking ‘Why.’ It can, in fact, be very effective when used in the right context and circumstances. As with all things’ use your judgment. Then next time you get a defensive response from a customer, perhaps consider ‘why’ that happened.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.