Social Commentary in Authentic Brand Messaging

Should brands act, behave and communicate like people? Authenticity must be the measure. The content of any social commentary needs to be driven from the core principles of what the brand stands for — rather than from a cookie-cutter response at what competitors may be doing or saying.

Should brands act, behave, and communicate like people?

I’m sick and angry. It may seem like 1968 this past week — but folks, it’s 2020. Can’t we have a generation raised that eschews privilege based on race, and just respects each individual, all individuals, with love and merit as our default?

Obviously this is a personal perspective, and thank you for allowing me to indulge. So let me also ask again: Can and should brands make such statements of their own?

Content: Getting Past the Predictable to the Unique

This past week, I was fortunate to listen in on a Direct Marketing Club of New York “midweek recharge” teleconference on COVID-19 and brand loyalty, led by current DMCNY President Ginger Conlon and Deb Gabor, principal and founder of Sol Marketing (Austin, TX). How ironic that our inboxes are filled with “We’re all in this together” type messages from brands, while this past week we’re also very much reminded that, in reality, we really are not all in this together. People of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, just as they are with police brutality and a host of other societal aspects.

Gabor was insistent that brands very much act like people — and should. Authenticity must be the measure, however, in what they have to say, she reported. The content of such messages needs to be driven from the core principles of what the brand stands for, rather than from a cookie-cutter response at what competitors may be doing or saying.

With regard to COVID-19, one might think of ways brands could communicate to customers about how they are protected when doing business with the brand. But is this the best, first message?

Perhaps, a more important constituency might come first: how these messages are stronger when they focus on employee well-being and a thankfulness for first-responders and essential workers. I duly appreciate Wal-Mart and Amazon brands for emphasizing these aspects in their current advertising and marketing. Certainly, these brands are not without vulnerability. There’s much attention on such brands regarding living wages and labor participation in the management of their business strategies, even as they hire thousands of workers amid this employment crisis.

Unique Statements Anchored in Core Values and Empathy

We cannot forget about empathy, and how this must be part of any brand social commentary regarding race, gender, sexual identity, or housing and economic status. As Americans, we need to draw a line anywhere where discrimination and hate, ambivalence or indifference, rears its ugly head. Ben & Jerry clearly shows where it stands on Black Lives Matters, and minces no words:

Even in the world of ad tech, we’ve seen some powerful statements, such as this one from San Francisco-based TechSoup, a company which offers software solutions in the philanthropy community, and is putting its resources to work. In an email, CEO Rebecca Masisak and Chief Community Impact Officer Marnie Webb co-wrote:

We need more than the reallocation of resources; we need systems changed. We need to be a part of that, in our organization, in our communities, and in our country.

This is what we are doing right now to address a piece of the crisis in the U.S.:

• Continue to investigate our own privilege so that we can embed racial equity into our work.

• Make the reach of our platforms available for the voices that need to be heard. Right now, at this moment, that means:

• Active listening

• Amplifying the messages of Black-led community organizations, philanthropists, and journalists

• Inviting others who want to make use of our platform to use it to share their messages and engage others in communication

• Raise money to defray the costs and support the optimization of technology for Black-led organizations and community groups.

Brands and Support for Democracy

Among trade associations, cheers, too, for the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) for enabling its employees this week to dedicate paid time off each month to work for social change:

These brands are indeed acting like people — because they are composed of people (investors, owners, customers, employees) who are motivated to share their values in a powerful way. Not every brand may be in a position to speak on racial injustice, or COVID-19, with authenticity. But we — as members of the human race — might best stand for each other. What other choice do good folks, and good brands, have?

 

Can Marketers ID a Budding Customer Relationship?

Many marketing departments are shifting from sales conversion to a more balanced relationship focus as their primary objective. As a result, there is increased focus on customer experience and customer loyalty.

Many marketing departments are shifting from sales conversion to a more balanced relationship focus as their primary objective. As a result, there is increased focus on customer experience and customer loyalty.

When it comes to measuring those efforts and related KPIs, however, most marketers are still thinking from a sales conversion perspective. Obviously, this is a problem, because KPIs influence most business decisions.

2 Common Oversights Preventing Proper Customer Relationship Identification

  1. Taking Credit for a Sale and Not a Relationship. Most marketers don’t take credit for the full lifetime value of their new customers. Rather, they are primarily focused on the sales conversion for each campaign. While lifetime value can be multiples larger than the initial sale for subscription type business, it can still provide a 30 to 60 percent increase in ROI for most other businesses. Alternative long-term measures, such as retention or repeat visits, are also helpful — but lack the holistic perspective of LTV. This is because they bifurcate the relationship between new business and repeat business and leave little room to measure brand affinity or experience-driven loyalty among new customers. If your marketing is attuned to relationship building, you should be targeting the right customers who will derive long-term value from your brand, and LTV allows you to take full credit for attracting the right customer. More important than getting the full credit for a new customer, however, is the change in perspective that a focus on relationship value will drive. Making lifetime value a component of your KPIs forces employees to think more about the types of customers they want and makes terms like engagement, relevance and brand affinity more than aspirational concepts.
  2. Failing to Measure the Value of Engaging Content. Many companies generate good engagement content, such as brand messaging, product info, newsletters, free apps etc. However, many do not take proper credit for it. Often, marketers treat this content as the first stage in a line of interactions leading to an eventual sales conversion, and it becomes lost in a multitouch attribution model. While sales attribution is important, it is also important to understand if the content fulfilled its immediate purpose. Assume you are an online clothier and you create a style guide to help customers understand versatile ways to wear your product. You’re tracking who downloads the guide and who shares the guide on social media, and then the information is used to segment these customers from those who are potentially less engaged. While this content did not necessarily lead to a direct sale, it did have tremendous value in conveying buying intent, brand affinity or even product preferences. Not all content is designed to drive immediate sales, but it should be designed to drive a specific set of behaviors, which should be measured and valued.

Bear with me as I pontificate for a moment. I am not a believer in over-measuring, but I do believe in purposeful measurement. I believe what you measure reflects the ambition and objective of what you plan to achieve. While not all relationship-focused activities can be easily measured, such as a caring customer interaction, in a digital world the customer’s behavioral response often can. Merely measuring the final behavior of a good relationship — repeat sales — is just too late in the experience journey and that seems to be what most companies are still doing today, despite their desire to build better relationships with their customers.

A New Way to Net B-to-B Services Sales With Social Trust

Oh no … not another article on how important building trust is with social marketing. Please I can’t take it anymore! I admit we hear too much hype about the importance of trust but behind all the blather there’s a powerful new approach emerging in B-to-B services sales forces. This is the exact system you should be using to exploit social marketing programs that tap LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter, video, etc.

Oh no … not another article on how important building trust is with social marketing. Please, I can’t take it anymore! I admit we hear too much hype about the importance of trust, but behind all the blather there’s a powerful new approach emerging in B-to-B services sales forces.

This is the exact system you should be using to exploit social marketing programs that tap LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter, video, etc.

This foundational method has traditional roots. It’s based on what works—amplifying concepts that have always worked. It’s just re-tweaking them for our hyper-networked, always-on world.

A Buyer’s Decision Model
Selling B-to-B services in the past looked like this. It’s a selling process:

  1. Lead qualification
  2. Presentation
  3. Objection management
  4. Close
  5. Buyer’s remorse (sometimes!)

The new buyer-focused decision model (forced upon us by the Internet) looks like this:

  1. Cognitive thinking
  2. Information gathering
  3. Divergent thinking
  4. Convergent thinking
  5. Evaluation

For years now we’ve been hearing “it’s not about how we are selling, it’s about how customers go about buying.”

Well duh! Realizing this means nothing. Acting is everything. Building practical B-to-B social marketing strategies that create leads and sales is a must. That’s what this post is all about.

From Messenger to Trusted Advisor
A buying decision model is different than a selling process. Herein lies the emergence of an entirely new industry that hot new companies ranging from point-of-sale messaging firms like Corporate Visions to software-based lead generation companies like HubSpot are set to exploit.

So what’s in it for you and your brand?

In his book, “Putting the Win Back in Your Sales,” Samurai Business Group’s, Dan Kreutzer reveals this decision-making model and quickly elaborates on putting it to use.

“This model provides a framework for how buyers make decisions and, ultimately, how sales people can build trust by helping buyers make effective buying decisions,” says Kreutzer, a 25-year veteran of building winning sales organizations on an international scale.

Think about that for a minute. As social marketers, what if our job is actually less about messages and email “blasts” and more about guidance and education? In this context the buyer decision-making model comes into clear focus.

Social marketing suddenly makes more sense.

What If?
What if you could bring marketing and sales together by helping customers:

  • Engage in critical thinking and situational analysis—placing less strategic emphasis on qualifying leads and coming up with killer content marketing messaging?
  • Move toward or away from your services—gaining confidence in decisions they’re making thanks the trusted, needed advice we provide.
  • Determine ‘best fit’ by publishing powerful (“transparent”) and overtly honest truths—helping customers evaluate all options available to them through useful decision-making tools and education.

What if “the doing of” all these things resulted in creative, effective brand messaging, better quality leads and shorter sales cycles? Well they already are for some organizations.

In weeks ahead I’ll be profiling companies and diving deeper into the subject of using this B-to-B buyer-side model to make social media sell for you.

What do you think?