Going Viral

These days, every marketer's goal is to have their campaign "go viral". The concept of viral marketing essentially refers to word-of-mouth buzz that reaches a tipping point, creating a wave of attention for a company. Word-of-mouth marketing is not new, but it has become much more measurable in the days of social media and thus a more attainable goal.


The Curse of Knowledge

One of the toughest obstacles to effective communication, whether writing or speaking, is connecting to your audience. Many experts will tell you that the key to this connection is to place yourself in the mindset of the audience. The problem with this solution is that once you've become an expert at something, it's hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn't have your knowledge. To put it simply, when you know something, it becomes difficult to imagine not knowing it. Coined the "curse of knowledge" in a 1989 paper in The Journal of Political Economy, this concept is essential to those in the business world, especially marketing professionals, since it directly influences the way you convey your product, service or idea to the masses. Basically, it is a lot more difficult to put things in "layman's terms" than one might think.


Guy Kawasaki's "Rules for Revolutionaries" - Key Takeaways

I just finished Guy Kawasaki's book "Rules for Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services" and thought I would share some of the key takeaways with you here. Kawasaki is the former "Chief Evangelist" at Apple and is also the co-founder of Alltop.com and founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures, so he has plenty of real world experience from which to draw his insights.


Become An Expert

Trust is a central factor when considering where to buy a product or service, especially with large purchase decisions. When you are in need of a product or service, you first think of anyone you know who offers the service, then you probably ask your friends or family for recommendations. A referral from a friend gives instant credibility to a product or service and the trust inherent in this credibility is what makes a referral so powerful. However, in many cases, your circle of friends might not have a suggestion for you. In these instances, you probably target the first brand that comes to mind. Most likely, you give added weight to any service providers or sales reps who you view as experts in their field since this label of "expert" brings with it a level of trust.


Social Responsibility - Doing good is good for business

Most of us strive to improve the world around us. Whatever our means, it is always satisfying to make a positive impact in some small way. Whether through a charitable donation, volunteering with a non-profit, picking up a piece of litter, or just helping a neighbor, it feels good to give something back. It is much the same for businesses. And thanks to their scale, the impact can be that much greater. Although the pursuit of profit is the primary goal of most companies, this objective isn't necessarily exclusive of other, more altruistic goals. In fact, doing good can be good for business too.


The "Zero Moment of Truth"

Your company's online presence is no longer just your website. When someone searches for your business online, they are still likely to peruse your corporate site, but now they are also most likely going to check out your social media profiles, reviews of your products on third-party sites, blogs that mention your company and countless other relevant resources across the web. While you can dictate what's printed on your company website, you have very little control over the rest of the Internet. By joining the conversation in the social media sphere, you can at least influence what is said and how your company is perceived. Although you will never have complete control of your online image, you can help shape it in a positive way by remaining actively involved. You can address complaints on third-party review sites, reach out to bloggers who mention your brand and monitor the rest of the web for other opportunities. The reason why this is all so important is because of the way consumers now make their purchasing decisions.


Content is King

Think about the websites you visit on a daily basis. Most likely, a large percentage of them are sites that revolve around useful and/or entertaining content: YouTube, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN.com, Yahoo News, TechCrunch, TMZ, Huffington Post, etc. Even sites such as Facebook and Twitter fall into this category. Although these sites are the ones that you check every day and represent the majority of your time spent online, these types of sites make up a small percentage of the Internet overall. Most sites are sales oriented, either serving as an online presence for a physical business or trying to sell items directly online. If you're in marketing, you most likely manage one of these types of websites. As such, your primary goal is to get more people to your site and to get them to spend more time there. The statements above should provide an obvious path to help you achieve this goal: add more content to your website!


Everything is Marketing - Leverage Your "Peripheral Marketing"

Your company's marketing efforts are not confined to your marketing department. Any interaction with consumers should be considered part of your marketing, whether that's your customer service, product packaging or even your order forms. Marketing is anything that affects a consumer's perception of you.
When you think of "marketing collateral" you shouldn't just be thinking of your flyers and brochures; you should be thinking of your employees, your operations, and most importantly, your overall customer experience. Most companies tend to treat operations and sales/marketing as two separate entities, often causing a rift between the two or at least a different set of priorities. This is a serious mistake. A marketing campaign may attract a ton of new business, but it doesn't do much good if operations can't keep up with demand, or if the product falls apart when the customer receives it, or if the instructions are too confusing to understand, or if the customer is put on hold for a half hour when they call with a question. Each of these aspects of your business contribute to your customers' perception of you, thus making each one part of your overall marketing message. Let's call these non-traditional factors "peripheral marketing". Even aspects of your business that are primarily behind-the-scenes, such as supply chain management or your internal processes, may indirectly impact your customers' experience and therefore be part of your peripheral marketing.


The Importance of Customer Service

Unhappy customers talk. All business owners know the pain that negative word of mouth can bring. But happy customers can talk too. Nothing is more valuable to a business owner than a solid referral. Consumers are used to condescending treatment, long hold times, mediocre resolutions, etc. It's easy to do the bare minimum to keep your customers satisfied, to keep them from complaining. But that behavior isn't going to do much for your customer loyalty, much less for positive word of mouth. Don't just satisfy customers; "wow" them and turn them into brand ambassadors.


Be Remarkable - Find the "Purple Cow" In Your Industry

I recently read "The Purple Cow", Seth Godin's insightful book on how to "transform your business by being remarkable." The general theme of the book was that the best way to succeed in generating attention for your company is to build buzz the old fashioned way: by offering something worth talking about. Basically, the idea is to create and offer a product or service so unique that it markets itself. The simplicity of this concept is what makes it so brilliant. 
There are very few, if any, industries where you can become the market leader by simply following the current leader. You'll always be a step behind. You can try to brand yourself differently in order to appear that you are offering something unique, but most consumers will see through this facade. Instead, create a product or service that solves a new problem that doesn't yet have a solution. Become the market leader from day one instead of chasing the top position.
Offer something different, something remarkable. It's easy to copy someone else's idea, but much more difficult to deliver a truly remarkable product. However, this doesn't need to be a daunting task. Consider the problems your company or you personally face on a regular basis. Then determine what could be done to solve these problems. This exercise should provide you with a wide range of product ideas. Not every one is going to be the next iPod or Facebook, but I guarantee that if you reflect long enough, you'll stumble upon an idea that could very well be the next craze.


Be A Rock Star - Market Your Brand Like Your Favorite Band

Musicians and bands embody the perfect brand. People feel an emotional connection to their music, thus empowering the musicians who produce it. These musicians command the loyalty and devotion that every company wishes they could attain. This is why celebrity endorsements are so popular; companies try to latch on to the sense of admiration that consumers feel towards famous musicians, athletes and other celebrities. However, instead of trying to leverage someone's interest in a particular celebrity, the brand should be trying to earn that loyalty and build that devotion on their own.
It's not a coincidence that Facebook uses the term "fans" for a page's supporters; that's exactly what every company wants: fans. Likewise, Twitter "followers" are analogous to a band's following. Maybe a company's fans won't rent a bus and follow their tour around the country, but they are interested enough in the brand to engage with it on a regular basis. Apple may be one of the best examples of a company creating true fans. Customers will wait in line for days to get the new iPhone or iPad. They watch Steve Jobs' product announcements with a religious fervor. They speculate on new products and new product features months if not years before they are released. The question is how to turn a customer into a fan, part of your following. It all comes down to relationship building. I've said it before and I'll say it again: invest the customer, not just financially but emotionally. You want the customer to feel a personal connection to your brand just like they do to their favorite bands.


Marketing 2.0

Consumers see so many countless advertisements in a given day, in a given hour, in a given minute, that they have tuned out. Traditional advertisements no longer hold the power that they once did. Advertising used to be a very simple process: create a television or radio spot or a print ad and run it as much as your budget would allow. These days that's a good way to waste your entire marketing budget without much return (at least in relation to the investment).
The effectiveness of these traditional media outlets has dwindled. Tivo and DVR have drastically reduced the value of television ads, satellite radio and iPods have decreased the number of people listening to radio, and the internet has significantly decreased magazine and newspaper readership. It is becoming increasingly easy for the general public to avoid traditional advertisements altogether. And other, more unavoidable ads such as billboards, product placement, etc. are often simply ignored by the tuned-out public. Even online banner ads, which briefly looked like the future of advertising, are generally seen as a nuisance and disregarded. If a consumer feels they are being sold, they will pay no attention to the proposition. "Salesperson" has become a dirty word. This has forced the marketing industry to develop new and more innovative methods of reaching potential customers.