• "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..."

As marketers, we usually don’t save lives and our work is often seen as secondary, but we can make a difference; actually, we usually do. Once in a while what we do, does end up having a very positive impact on businesses and people.

 

Not long ago I worked on a project called Les rois de la patate for our TV channel Historia. The gist of the project is this: To promote a short documentary on the history of fast-food in Quebec, we would hold a contest where Quebecers could nominate their favourite pataterie (greasy spoon I guess would be the best translation). From all these nominations, the one with the most votes would be nominated king. 

The contest had tremendous success and many of the places nominated were from smaller regions of the province. 

 

We received feedback from some of those restaurants and they’ve seen real positive impact from this initiative. In some places entire communities rallied to help their local greasy spoons win, local libraries set-up computers so that kids could vote – it became a matter of regional pride. What I found even greater is that some of these small places saw real positive financial results.

 

These are small restaurants and they’re seeing increases in revenue because of new customers and an increase in repeat customers. It’s not always easy to be a small business so I love that we could help them out in that way.

 

I think big businesses need to spend more time figuring out how they impact the lives of their customers and small businesses around them. If you’re a credit card company, how can you help out your customers that are under crushing dept? If you’re a grocery store, how are you impacting your community?

 

Big business has the power to positively affect people, not as a one-shot campaign, but on an ongoing basis. It’s time to look beyond your day-to-day; it will positively impact your bottom line as well.

What are your thoughts?

 

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Time for change is the title of a Mötley Crüe song. It’s about children, war and how adults need to change their ways. I’ve recently been reminded of this song, but for much less dramatic reasons.

I talk about change quite a bit. I know it’s hard, but I strongly believe that change is an important to success and it’s inevitable part of life. Big changes and small changes are an indication that you or your organization is moving along and it’s up to you to make the best of it.

Mitch Joel regularly mentions we are creatures of habit – no one wants their coffee maching to be in a different place ever morning. That’s true, however, the world moves along whether you like it or not.  The web and social media is changing the world at a faster and faster pace, so you’re going to HAVE TO CHANGE “not tomorrow, but today” as the song goes.

That being said, I have some pretty cool changes coming along in the coming weeks. I can’t talk about them yet – some are small and some are bigger, but I’m very excited by them.

Stay tuned…

(Photo credit: notsogoodphotography)

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Not long ago, I talked about Transferable skills, based on an interview with David Fairhurst the VP of Human Resources of McDonald’s Northern Europe. Although he was talking about HR, I think it applies to most fields. In the same interview, he mentioned something along the lines of – focus on engagement, not turnover.

Again, he wasn’t talking about engaging your customers but, you might be able to see how that thinking could work for customers as well. You don’t necessarily expect that to be something said at McDonald’s – the kings of fast food. It’s their philisophy however – they get more out of engaged employees than a high turn-over rate. If you’re thinking of your customers, you could say, don’t bribe them, engage them.

Think about how much more value you could get from your customer if your energy was on engaging them and not the quick sale? If every customer feels engaged by you and your competition is just focused on selling them, who do you think they might turn to when they need your product? This works with both potential and previous customers. Can you build relationships before the sale? Can you engage your existing customers at the same time?

Sales teams and reps are most definitely needed, but it’s the focus and approach that is different – are they bringing value to your customers or are they doing sales pitch presentations? We, as customers, are not always looking for promotions or contests. We want leaders and experts; someone that will make us feel comfortable and special. Customers want to feel special – we all do.

If the kings of fast-food can focus on engaging their employees, can you do the same with your customers?

Don’t bribe them, engage them.

(Photo credit: batega)

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“The more you give people transferable skills, the less likely they are to transfer.”

I was listening to David Fairhurst the VP of Human Resources of McDonald’s Northern Europe the other day and that phrase came up which I found particularly interesting. Although he was talking about the field of HR, take a moment and reflect how it can apply to your field…

To anyone that’s read Linchpin by Seth Godin (if you haven’t, I strongly recommend it – Affiliate link), this seems like a normal statement. The person that gives the most is the richest person, the one with the most expertise.

What David was saying is if you’re a manager and don’t want to give your employees the tools that will help them progress, you’re not doing your job as a manager. Similarly, if you’re a big brand and you’re afraid of giving your customers the tools they need to work, your tools may not be that good. If you’re a media company and you don’t want to promote great content on smaller sites or blogs for fear of losing visitors, your content may not be that great.

If you give away what people need to move forwards, be it knowledge, entertainment or tools, they’ll repay you by giving you more business and time.  And the ones that don’t? You probably wouldn’t have done business with them in the first place. A while back, I heard a software exec – I think it was Microsoft about its Office Suite – saying he would rather have more people pirate his software and use it than a few people buy it. The more people use it, the more people will buy it. So give your customers, employees, suppliers what they need to move forwards or develop and you’ll end-up richer in the end.

What do you say?

(Photo credit: theotherway)

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I recently spoke about silos in organizations.  I wanted to follow-up on that to give you some ideas on how to tear past them.

Walls between and within departments are detrimental and everyone can play their role in breaking them down.  A “them vs. us” mentality simply causes fear, incomprehension and lack of understanding. Change is already hard enough without these barriers. Keep in mind, however, that divisions will always exist to some extent, so patience will always be required.

 Here are a few things you can do right now to help breakdown silos:

  • Don’t use email as a communication tool
    • In other words, use email as a support to your communications with colleagues. If it’s really important, go talk to them in person (send an email afterwards to summarize what’s been said). Unless you’re a great writer, email is not good at conveying emotions and a lot of what you write will be “lost in translation.”  Face-to-face meetings are unbeatable. On the flip-side, go talk to your colleagues in person when the information you’re looking for isn’t rush at all (come on, admit it, not all the stuff you send needs to be answered right there and then). People receive tons of email and they’ll filter it out based on what they feel is important – just ask Chris Brogan. If it isn’t, it won’t get done. Even worst, they might see you as being lazy and annoying.
  • Be open and courteous
    • Along the lines of the previous point, don’t simply fire off without thinking or pretend you’re something your not. You all work for the same company, so be open and courteous.  If you need a colleague’s input, schedule some face-time and do the task with their help.
  • Listen and ask why
    • Don’t take what others are saying for granted or assume they don’t know what they’re talking about. For example, don’t assume that someone “just doesn’t get it”. If you feel someone else’s idea doesn’t match with your field of expertise, delve deeper and find a middle ground. Their idea can end up leading to a better solution that you would have found on your own. Contrarily, if you’re not sure why someone is proposing an idea, ask why. Chances are you can find an interesting solution.
  • Don’t take “it’s not done like that” as an answer
    • It’s not because something is new that it won’t work – plain and simple. That being said, try to understand why you’ve been put in front of this roadblock – is it fear of something new, or is it a legitimate barrier such as a legal constraint. Take the idea as far as it goes and try to find alternatives.
  • Embrace change
    • Last, but not least – never, and I mean never, say no to something because you don’t understand it. Change is hard, but it’s a necessary part of life.

In other words, reduce barriers as much as possible. Intergroup relations theories show that people instinctively draw lines between groups.  One of the ways to break down barriers is to create common goals, so try to get in as much face time with people of different backgrounds as possible so as to reduce that natural instinct and to create those goals. To read more on intergroup relations, check out Theories of Intergroup Relations: International Social Psychological Perspectives Second Edition by Donald M. Taylor and Fathali M. Moghaddam (Affiliate link).

What do you think? Any other advice?

(Photo Credit: Roanish)

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The corporate silo – the Sales department, the Marketing department, the HR department, the R&D department, the Customer Service department, etc – is in every enterprise… big, medium end even small. Yet, the more you look around, the more people seem to be arguing that we need to tear them down for the company to be more effective.

 

When I worked in an advertising agency I heard it all the time – the direct marketing people have to work closer with the web people who have to work closer with the traditional people and so on.  Social Media pundits say it and even HR people say it.  So why is this not happening?

 

It seems natural to keep the people with a specific specialty together – as a team they’ll turn out the best sales proposal or web campaign or recruit the right people or learn the best programming tricks.  It’s also easier to optimize, define and manage that structure.  It’s also an easy way to integrate a developing field without disturbing the current business model – in other words, escape the reality of the changing world.

 

Let me expand on that last point. When the web came along, we built web divisions because programmers worked better together and the traditional divisions didn’t have to pay attention to it – out of sight, out of mind if you will. So the web team did what they had to do and the others did what they had to do and business moved on.  That’s until we were forced to come to terms with the fact that the web was part of life and it complemented the business.  So then the web team was brought to the table.  The same thing is happening with social media today as I’ve talked about here.

 

So what are we left with? We have companies with different departments operating independently from each other and relatively ill-equipped to respond quickly to a world that is changing faster and faster. While slow change might have been sufficient before, this is arguably no longer the case…consumers are given more and more opportunities and we need to be able to provide integrated offers at a faster pace.

 

Is your company moving towards a more integrated approach?

 

(Photo credit: mattwi1s0n)

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Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Frédéric Harper for his relatively new project – Portrait de blogueurs.  It’s a great little initiative where he interviews a whole bunch of bloggers from the province of Quebec.  It’s a win/win situation for him: he gets to meet a whole bunch of new people every week and bloggers get another platform to promote their blog…

Here is what it looks like, what do you think (it’s in French)? If you can’t see the video below, click here.

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Numbers

Social media rhetoric is all about quality over quantity when you talk about the number of followers and members.  While I strongly believe that, I think numbers are equally as important.  It’s the reality of our business world…numbers are impressive.  If you have 1,000 followers it’s less impressive than 10,000 and so on.  I think it was Gary Vaynerchuk that said something along the lines of eye-balls attract ad dollars.

More than that, however, increasing your numbers is interesting because the more people you have hanging out with you, the easier it is to test out new things.  Higher numbers will get you faster and stronger responses.

Also, your customers are hanging out on Facebook more than they’re hanging out on your site – sad but true. The higher number of customers you can attract to your page, the more you’ll be able to interact with them.

Numbers and influence two different things. Darren Rowse over at Problogger.net recently have two great definitions in his post Influence vs. Fame (here’s the complete post)

Influence – it’s not just about the size of your network or how many people hear what you say – it’s about your capacity to impact the actions and opinions of others.

Fame – the state of being widely known or recognized; renown; celebrity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying numbers are everything – quality relationships remains incredibly important, if not THE most important. While your brand shouldn’t necessarily try to achieve numbers (or fame), what they should strive to achieve is a large a base as possible with a high interaction rate (or influence).

Does it make sense?

(Photo credit: Mykl Roventine)

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Peas

If you’re trying to get someone to change their behaviour or their way of doing things, you’ve probably come to realize how hard it can be to get someone to change. Trying to get them to change on your terms is probably the hardest thing.  What if you try framing it in a way that will make sense to them? You might have a much easier time.

If you’re trying to get your company to fully embrace social media, repeatedly talking about “engagement”, “community” and “conversation” might fall on deaf ears.  However, if you tell them that you can increase site traffic or sales using social media, there’s a much bigger chance that they’ll listen to you.

The next step is to actually do it.  Take your company’s Facebook presence or their Twitter presence or whatever the case may be and start using the platforms in a way that will fulfill your company’s objectives. For example, here at work, although I do talk about “engagement”, “community” and “conversation” – I’ve also helped develop some of their Facebook pages and we’re now starting to see real results… and that’s convincing them more than anything else. It’s now easier to get the ball moving further.

So make sure you frame what you’re trying to do in a way that will ring true to your bosses and coworkers.  Talk more about “increased web traffic” and less about “building a community” or more about “more repeat customers” and less about “engagement” and you’ll see that you get more people listening to you.  How you get it done will matter less to them…

What’s your take on this?

(Photo credit: Andrew Michaels)

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In a recent post I suggested that budding bloggers do have a chance to stand out – it all really starts with passion for the blog’s topic. This also holds true of corporate blogs, even if corporate blogs are not immediately synonymous with passion. How are companies ever going to get heard you ask?

In a recent TED Talk, Peter Tyack looks at the intriguing sound of marine mammals. Check out the talk if you have some time, it’s very interesting.

Because sound travels many hundreds of miles under water, whales use sound to explore their world and connect with each other. Commercial boats are a big problem – they too can also be heard hundreds of miles away and the noise of the motors is drowning out (no pun intended) whales’ sounds. They can’t hear each other.

So what have these whales done to get heard? They’ve adapted. They shift their calls’ frequency outside of the existing boats’ range, they call out louder and they wait for silence.

So what does this mean for your blog? How will you get heard?

  1. Will you increase your post frequency, while keeping relevant content?
  2. Will you call out louder by connecting with your audience on places such as Facebook and Twitter?
  3. Will you wait for your competition to silence?

The problem is, much like for the whales, none of these solutions are perfect. For the whales the first two options are physically straining and the third results in many missed opportunities. Similarly, for corporations, the first two can be taxing on your resources and the third is pretty much guaranteed never to happen.

So what do you do? You need to find creative solutions. For example,

  • Get all employees involved. Don’t leave it in the hands of a few. Not only will you benefit from increased creativity from your employees, but you’ll benefit from their extended social network.
  • Instead of turning up the frequency, turn it down, but pump out absolutely exceptional content. Something people MUST consume.
  • Get your customers in on the act – crowd-sourcing if you will. Get them on video, interview them.

In the end it will depend on your business objectives, but one thing is for sure you’ll need to think outside the box if you want to be heard!

What do you think? What interesting examples have you done or seen?

(Photo credit: Richard Fisher)

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