What do you do?

doing-it-wrong-ballAs you may know, I’m a HUGE fan of Seth Godin.  The guy’s just plain brilliant, in a practical, no-nonsense, direct and to-the-point kind of way.  There are so many things that I’ve learned from Seth over the years, but the one that keeps coming up is the idea of Talking vs. Doing…Thinking vs. Planning.  Seth has a great blog post on the topic – and the best part of it is, the post is less than 100 words (98 to be exact).

Marketing is about ideas, creativity and finding ways to get people to listen to what you have to say.  But the point of the matter is that ultimately, you need to do something that makes people want to listen to you.  You can talk and talk and talk, but if what you have to say isn’t interesting, compelling or relevant, no one is going to listen.  If they don’t listen, then you have failed in your job as a marketer.  Our job as marketers is to convince people to buy more of our stuff – whatever that stuff is.  That’s it.  Now there are lots of ways to do that – that’s where the ideas, creativity and such come in.

Where I see entrepreneurs getting into trouble is that they talk, and plan and think…and never do anything.  What do you do?

Case Study: Athol Foden and Brighter Naming

BNLogoWRed2When I first met Athol Foden, we were at a typical networking event.  But Athol is anything but your typical Silicon Valley branding guy.  He is a creative, out of the box, idea generating machine.  I had the great fortune to work with him on a challenging naming project that proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Athol is the real deal when it comes to naming and branding.  Check him out at Brighter Naming.

Laura: What is your definition of a brand?
Athol: “A brand is a promise of an experience.”  You can make it more complex, but it all comes down to the experience.

Laura: How did your brand come to be?
Athol: When you have a funny name, use it to your advantage.  As you know, branding is often about telling stories to illustrate the brand promise.  In the case of small businesses, consultancies, etc. the story is often about the owner, founder or principal.  Rather than treating my name (that many mispronounce rudely at first in the USA) as a handicap, I play it up instead.  In my case I have achieved a lot of initial brand recall for my business by having first given them some stories about me personally…for example, I’m a white African American with funny name.

Laura: As a naming expert, how did you come up with the name for your company?
Athol: The name “Brighter Naming” didn’t take a lot of effort in fact.  It was supposed to be a temporary name because I wasn’t going to start another agency.  I had had a lot of success with client names that had the root word “bright”.  Steve Jobs named his company “Next” after he left Apple to imply leadership and positioning.  “Bright” also has a subtle double meaning – it implies smarter and/or more light – both of which are positive meanings.

Laura: What are the most important elements of a brand?
Athol: It isn’t the name per se…it is the experience.  The website, the marketing materials must be more personable and detailed.  But they don’t need to be fancy.  I get tons of comments and business from my web site.  Now there are not many small businesses with 150+ pages in their site.  We try and have many different entry points for different customers.  High tech, sports, consumer companies…hooks and experiences for all of them. Customer experiences are detailed through customer successes and testimonials of work we’ve done for other companies in specific industries, regions, languages.  Plus, we have tons of naming articles, research and information.

Gobbledygook Manifesto – the what?

The following is an excerpt from the Gobbledygook Manifesto, by David Meerman Scott.

Oh jeez, not another flexible, scalable, groundbreaking,  industry-standard, cutting-edge product from a market-leading, well positioned company! Ugh.  I think I’m gonna puke! Just like with a teenager’s use of catch phrases, I notice the same words cropping up again and again in Web sites and news releases—so much so that the gobbledygook grates against my nerves and many other people’s, too. Well, duh. Like, companies just totally  don’t communicate very well, you know?

So few marketing and PR people write well. Many of the thousands of Web sites I’ve analyzed over  the years and the hundred or so news releases I receive each week from well- meaning PR people are laden with these gobbledygook adjectives. So I wanted to see exactly how many of these words are being used, and created an analysis to do so.

First, I selected words and phrases that are overused in news releases by polling select PR people and journalists to get a list of gobbledygook phrases. Then I turned to Factiva from Dow Jones  for help with my analysis. The folks at the Factiva Reputation Lab used text mining tools to analyze news releases sent by companies in north America. Factiva analyzed each release in its database  that had been sent to one of the north American news release wires it distributes for the period from January 1, 2006, to September 30, 2006. The news release wires included in the analysis were Business Wire, Canada newsWire, CCnMatthews, Commweb.com, Market Wire, Moody’s, PR newswire, and Primezone Media network. The results were staggering. The news release wires collectively distributed just over 388,000 news releases in the nine-month period, and just over 74,000 of them mentioned at least one of the Gobbledygook phrases. the winner was “next generation,” with 9,895 uses. There were over 5,000 uses of each of the following words and phrases: “flexible,” “robust,” “world class,” “scalable,” and “easy to use.” Other notably overused phrases with between 2,000 and 5,000 uses included “cutting edge,” “mission critical,” “market leading,” “industry standard,” “turnkey,” and “groundbreaking.”  Oh and don’t forget “interoperable,” “best of breed,” and “user friendly,” each with over 1,000 uses  in news releases.

Read the rest of David’s manifesto here…

Just Say NO to Jargon

The following is an excerpt from “42 Rules of Marketing” by yours truly

NOTThis rule will empower you to leverage your thinking and step outside the box so that you can help customers find solutions to their problems. Huh?  In an effort to sound smart, different and credible,  the language of corporate marketing has taken a  turn for the worse. Complete websites,  brochures and datasheets are written that don’t mean a darn thing. We understand all the words, but when they are put together we don’t know what it means. What, for example does “we provide technical solutions for progressive companies” mean? How about; “technical innovation is the foundation of our best-in-class industry leading solutions that exceeds customers’ expectations.” What in the world does this actually mean?

This type of corporate gobbledygook is not helpful. In fact, it has just the opposite affect. Customers read your brochure (or website or white paper) and are left with more questions than answers. Since it would require effort on their part to figure out what you do, they move on to the next guy – and you’ve lost a potential customer.

It isn’t very often that a customer says to themselves, “I need an innovative solution to exceed my expectations.” They probably think “I’ve been trying really hard to solve this problem and I just can’t – maybe someone else can help.”

So what is a marketer to do? Well, some clever folks at Deloitte Consulting took it upon themselves to create “BullFighter” – a clever piece of software that looks at all your copy and identifies all the “bull words.”  The software plugs in to Microsoft Word and works much like spell-check or grammar-check. You select “Bullfighter” and it finds “bull words” and suggests alternatives. Just for fun, I did a before and after test of several phrases. This is what I got:

Stakeholder: Alternative words were vampire slayer, victim and forks.  “Overused to the point of pain by consultants.”

First-Mover: “Battle cry from the first Internet boom-bust, one with little remaining credibility.”

Empower: “A grandiose word…solidly enshrined in the Consulting Cliché Hall of Fame.”

Hatsize Learning Corporation took this lesson to heart when they revised their corporate positioning and messages. Initially their top three messages were: optimize resources & hardware; reduce delivery costs; and increase training revenue. After much discussion the team found the underlying benefits and got straight to the point. Their new message is: more revenue, higher margins through increased product knowledge. The impact was to get away from buzz-words that mean nothing and say what you really want to say.

The point is, make sure what you write actually means something. Make sure it means something to someone who doesn’t work for your company. Make sure it means something to your customers and potential customers. How do you know? Just ask them.

Book Excerpt: You don’t need a million friends

social_media_3dThe following is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Social Media for Small Business by Jennifer Jacobson.

Defining your goals is an important part of any business campaign, whether online or offline. It is important to define your social media goals and ask yourself if you want millions of online followers, or a select group of online friends who will gladly do business with you. While having millions of friends on your Facebook page or millions of followers on Twitter may sound appealing, it’s not always a realistic goal, and it may even be counterproductive to your business’s social media efforts.

Imagine you won the lottery and you could have any amount of cash you desired. How much money would you ask for? Chances are you’d want millions, possibly billions, of dollars. Considering the government bailouts that have recently been circulated, you might even ask for trillions. In reality, what we claim to want and what we would be comfortable with can be two very different things.

Let’s take a look at what can happen when we get what we wish for. An individual given millions of dollars suddenly has a new set of concerns and questions. Who will inherit the money when they die? How will they spend their money? Will they donate any of it to charity? How will they keep their money safe? Do people like them because they are rich or do they like them because of who they are? Sometimes, as many good stories teach, getting what you wish for isn’t
really in your best interest.

Social media is very much the same; while many people say they want
a million friends, it wouldn’t meet their business needs or goals. First of
all, if all of these friends decided to visit your company’s website, could
your servers handle a million hits? Second, real friendships are more
than a shout out. People who are the most valuable to your business’s
social media efforts are actively communicating, commenting, posting
pictures, and videos, and learning about your product with the intent of
doing business with you either now or in the future. Do you have the
capacity to communicate with a million people like this?

Take, for example, these thoughts on the importance of strategically
socializing, as opposed to the spray and pray spam method. Susan
Gunelis, President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. says, “Social
media is the key to brand-building these days. People are online and
it’s the perfect place to connect with them. More people are influenced
by blogs and online relationships than by traditional media.”
“My favorite social media story comes from Universal Studios in
Orlando, Florida,” Susan says. “In 2007, with a virtually limitless
budget, the marketing exec at Universal was tasked with announcing
and promoting the new Harry Potter theme park that would open in the
coming years. To spread the word, she didn’t turn to traditional advertising.

At the risk of being fired for her out-of-the-box approach, she
announced a webcast to just seven people who were also popular
Harry Potter bloggers. The webcast required a password that only
those seven people had. During the webcast, she revealed the news
of the upcoming Harry Potter theme park and, within twenty-four hours,
there were hundreds of thousands of Web searches for the Harry
Potter theme park. From zero to nearly one million people within !
twenty-four hours. Now that’s the power of social media!”

Your social media efforts will be much more effective if you set goals.
Unless you’re selling ad space on your social media page, it doesn’t
matter if you have a million friends. It just matters that you have the
right friends; friends who will promote your brand, and do business with
you. For most small businesses, it is better and more realistic to
maintain the friends they have and look for qualified potential social
media friends. Try to connect with businesses and companies that you
have done business with and let your network grow from there.