Friday, January 31, 2014

Does Your Brand Tweet?

Image Credit: Twitter.

There is no denying that Twitter is an amazing communication tool, but is it a branding tool? To answer that question, all we have to do is recall that famous tweet by Oreo from last year’s Super Bowl game.

The lights may have gone out on the game, but the Twitterverse has never been brighter. Humor, creativity, and engagement filled everyone’s streams. We laughed with Oreo, Walgreens, Lowe’s, Audi, Tide, and PBS. It was clear that many big names in the worlds of food, pharmacy, home improvement, automotive, consumer products, and public television understood the impact of a few carefully chosen words in social media.

So, does your business think in 140 characters, or more like 110 or 120? Does your business respond to comments by others? Do you invite comments about your products or services by customers and prospective customers? How quickly do you respond to tweets? Do you thank members of the Twitterverse who engage with you? And what about tweeps who mention your brand on Follow Friday – how do you show your gratitude? And let’s not forget the use of hashtags – how often do you use them?

Here were my favorite tweets from last year’s Super Bowl:

Power out? No problem. [Photo: You can still dunk in the dark.]

Hey dome operators at the Big Game, there are a few Lowe’s nearby if you need some generators.

This might be a good time to think about alternative programing. #SuperBowlBlackOut

As you integrate Twitter into your overall marketing strategy, don’t ever forget why these tweets had impact and how they addressed the circumstances of the moment. Also consider how aligned these tweets’ messaging was to the brands’ overall messaging.

How should you spend your time on Twitter? Plan your time strategically:

[1] Develop a Twitter plan – include goals for engagement, a calendar for content, and a schedule for time commitments.

[2] Craft your brand’s and/or company’s official voice – depending on industry, this may be formal, informal, or conversational.

[3] Decide who will tweet on behalf of your company and use initials (if many people tweet) so that followers will know who is tweeting (the initials should clearly correspond to full names in the “About Section”).

[4] Engage your audience or followers – ask questions, offer coupons, use polls, etc. – and respond to each person individually if possible.

[5] Decide how you will handle customer complaints – and be consistent.

Above all, be true to your brand. Don’t tweet content that you wouldn’t include in your annual report or share on your company’s blog or website. Remember, your Twitter account may be part of the social media landscape, but it’s just as much a reflection of your brand as any other piece of the marketing pie.

But because Twitter exists in real time, your reach can be, and is, immediate – which sets this tool apart from all of your other marketing efforts. Use this difference to your advantage – and don’t ever forget Oreo’s tweet.

Do you have a favorite tweet to share?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Are You the Type of Manager Or Leader YOU Would Follow?

Leadership expert Erika Andersen (@ErikaAndersen on Twitter) writes often for Forbes and has shared her leadership lessons in several books, but one of her timeless lessons that has remained with me is this: Be the manager or leader you’d like to have.

How often do you wonder why your boss does the things he or she does? Why does the person show his or her anger and yell at employees? Why doesn’t the boss speak to employees in private when upset rather than in group situations? Why doesn’t the boss recognize employee accomplishments in public and show gratitude for everyone’s contributions?

Why doesn’t the boss advocate for team members when annual reviews take place? Why doesn’t the boss communicate all aspects of a project instead of just one aspect of the project?

Often, people become supervisors, managers, or leaders without proper training. As a result, they don’t have the tools to be effective. They may be amazing at specific types of jobs or excel at particular projects, but they don’t interact well with their employees, so they don’t create positive work environments. And then, they wonder why they have high turnover and low morale.

Thanks to Erika Andersen, here's the secret for new supervisors, managers, or leaders: Change your behavior immediately. Be the manager/leader you’d like to have.

If you normally check the clock to make sure your employees are seated at their desks at a specific time – but you would hate it if someone did that to you – then change your behavior. If you hold meetings that run too long without an agenda – but you hate that type of meeting – then change your behavior and create agendas and set time limits for meetings. If you have favorite employees and constantly go to lunch with the same group – but you’d hate it if people left you out – then invite new people to lunch every day.

You can make a difference immediately. What behavior can you change to create more engaged employees? Give it a try – you have nothing to lose but, instead, much to gain!


Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Customer vs. Strategy vs. Sales

I’d like to welcome Adrian Reed to my blog. We met as a result of our work as bloggers for the IBM Midsize Insider Program. Adrian is Principal Consultant and Director at Blackmetric Business Solutions based in Portsmouth, England about 70 miles from London. Hes passionate about helping organizations do business better. Connect with Adrian on Twitter ( and LinkedIn (, and check out his blog ( We recently discussed the importance of the customers voice and strategies in business, and this collaborative post is the result.

How often does your organization TRULY consider the customer before making a strategic decision? Many, if not most, organizations would answer that question with the response that they place the customer at the heart of what they do. Yet as companies grow and become more successful, it’s easy for the customer’s voice to get lost in day-to-day operations.

Companies may intend to represent and consider the customer’s viewpoint, but they rely on layers of management (many of whom may not have spoken to a genuine customer in years) to provide feedback on behalf of an increasingly complex and sophisticated customer base. In some scenarios, this may lead to new product launches that are initially considered successful (as they are on-time and on-budget) but are actually complete failures (since no one buys them).

What can be done to avoid these types of situations? The following tips can create better alignment between your business products/services/processes and your customers:

[1] Regularly ask: Who are our customers?: This simple question can be difficult to answer.  You might find that the recipient of your product/service is not the person who pays the bill. If you’re designing a new iteration of a parking meter, who is the customer? The user will be someone who parks a car. But the buyer will be a governmental entity, i.e., a city, that installs it. Each stakeholder may have different needs and different viewpoints. And those viewpoints will need to be balanced if the product/service is to be successful.

[2] Make sure those viewpoints are represented: Consider how the “voice of the customer” will be represented. Will you conduct focus groups? Will a particular team have the responsibility for surveying/interviewing customers and reporting back? How will you ensure that the views you get are both authentic and representative. Remember, people who volunteer for focus groups/interviews might not represent your TYPICAL or complete demographic.

[3] Balance Business Value and Customer Value: It’s crucial to create as much value as we can for our customers, but it’s vital not to lose sight of the fact that we’re in business to make a profit. Therefore, it’s important to keep sight of the business strategy, direction and profitability requirements. Ask any economy passenger on a transatlantic flight what he or she would like, and a common response may be “More leg room and endless glasses of champagne for no additional cost.” Yet, how can these additions be provided within the parameters of the existing airline business model?

[4] Innovate: Businesses and business models need to evolve. Keep track of your external business environment, know what is changing, and determine how to respond. Don’t get left behind!

If you learn from and apply these tips to your business, the insights you gain will lead to successful strategic planning. In today’s highly competitive market, so many businesses, in fact, too many businesses, are flying by the seat of their pants without the benefit of strategic plans.

Consider this recent experience: I (Debbie) visited an office supply store. At check-out, the employee rang up my purchases and made an error. She rang up two items at the same price, but they had different prices. When I pointed out the error politely, she ignored me as she went through the process for the price correction. How did that make me feel as a customer? First, there was no way that I was going to pay the incorrect higher price. Second, I did not receive a sincere apology. And third, my voice was not heard. Imagine how I would have felt if the employee had said, “Oh my, I apologize for not paying attention. We (at name of store) value your business. Let me see if my manager can give you a 10% coupon for a future visit.” It is abundantly clear that this office supply store has no understanding of the importance of either the customer experience or customer voice.

Or consider this recent experience: I (Debbie) visited a women’s clothing store. While the store has a retail and online presence, like many people who make online purchases on a regular basis, I like the in-person experience when possible. I entered the store and immediately noticed three employees standing off to the side. None of them acknowledged me with words or body language. None welcomed me. Nothing. I continued to walk around the store and found some items that I liked so I took them into the dressing room. Once I was about to enter the dressing room area, a fourth employee walked over to me and introduced herself. She told me that if I had any questions, I should ask her. When I was ready to leave the store and purchase one item, I walked over to the cash register/check out area. There was no one there. In fact, there was no one anywhere in the store. I didn’t even see the three employees who had ignored me when I entered the store. There is no surprise, then, that I dropped the sweater I had intended to purchase on the counter and left. Without a doubt, this visit was not the kind of customer experience I want to repeat. In fact, I just may write a letter to the CEO of the company. How else will this store remain in business?

So, memorize the title of this blog post (Customer vs. Strategy vs. Sales) because it can help your business to focus time and again on what’s important. If your leadership team places itself into the shoes of your customer or customers, and you re-evaluate your strategies on a regular basis, your sales will increase. And who doesn’t want that?

Image Credit: Stuart Miles from

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top 10 Brand Tips for 2014

With the dawn of another year, it’s time for brands to pull up their sleeves, so to speak, and plan and implement effective brand strategies to stand out among the competition. Here’s my list of ten tips for businesses of all sizes – small, medium, and large – to build strong brands for 2014 and beyond.

Brand Tip #1:
Consistency is the name of the game – all printed and online messaging must have the same look, script, and voice to create quick brand awareness.

Brand Tip #2:
Ask all employees to state your brand promise. If they cannot, then train them, and also add brand awareness as part of your new employee onboarding.

Brand Tip #3:
Consider if an eBook would be an effective marketing tool for your brand to showcase your competitive advantage or to provide valuable assistance for your customers and prospects.

Brand Tip #4:

How connected is your brand to your customers? Does your brand have a digital footprint on social networking sites? Are specific sites more appropriate to your industry than others? And how does social marketing align with all other marketing initiatives?

Brand Tip #5:
Tell your brand’s story with customer-centric examples and success stories.

Brand Tip #6:
Identify KPIs (key performance indicators) so that you can measure the strength and reach of your branding campaigns.

Brand Tip #7:
Do you want brand advocates, influencers, or ambassadors? Start with your employees.

Brand Tip #8:
What does mobile mean to your brand, and how have you incorporated mobile into your marketing mix?

Brand Tip #9:
According to a recent survey, 83% of Americans want brands to support philanthropic causes. Does yours?

Brand Tip #10:
Re-evaluate your product/service, target audience or audiences, and competitive positioning on a regular basis.

What would you add to this list?


Image Credit:

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Social Media Primer for 2014

As 2014 begins, many C-level executives and marketing teams are evaluating their annual marketing plans. As part of most organizations’ marketing plans, social media has become front and center. But, no matter the size of your business – whether small, medium, or Fortune 100 – can you answer this question: How does social media fit into your overall marketing strategy?

Here are some ways that 10 key social sites can align with your overall marketing strategy:

[1] Twitter
Twitter is the modern day version of the office water cooler, but in morsels of 140 characters or less. Since conversations take place in real time, your team must be ready and eager to respond. Understand your brand promise, your competitive advantage, your unique selling proposition. And keep these in mind with each and every tweet. Naturally, every tweet cannot be a sales pitch – then you’d probably not have any followers. But, remember the value that you provide to your audience so that you create interest and engagement. If problems are solved in real time, your customers will become brand advocates for you via all social platforms. Above all, remember that Twitter is a hodgepodge of conversations, so many things might constitute your strategy. And if you create a hashtag that is unique for your brand or company, it will be a great way to monitor every time your brand is mentioned and talked about.

[2] Facebook
Facebook is where people congregate to connect, share opinions, learn from others, and meet. If a friend or family member visits a store, restaurant, or theme park – and has a great experience – the first place people tend to go to share details and photos is Facebook. People who were previously unaware of a business are now more likely to visit as a result of the recommendations – social media recommendations have become the modern version of positive word-of-mouth marketing. Create conversations, or in social media parlance, engagement. This can include asking questions, hosting contests or sweepstakes, highlighting contributions or comments from page visitors, creating a poll, etc. When people follow or “like” a brand or fan page on Facebook, they are endorsing it or recommending it. Despite the constantly changing Facebook lingo, the result is the same: a “like” translates into support for your brand. If managed correctly, people who “like” your brand will become brand advocates or brand ambassadors, the sought-after gold that every brand wants. These unpaid members of your support army tell their friends and family that your brand is the best. So it’s a good idea to thank these folks regularly and recognize them.

[3] LinkedIn
Over the years, LinkedIn has become the undisputed social networking site for professional career development purposes. An individual’s profile features his or her work history, published works, skills and expertise, education, and honors and awards. An individual’s perspective about networking is also visible: whether he or she has a large network of 500 plus connections or only a few. If accessible, you will be able to read reviews about the individual. And lastly, you will be able to learn a great deal about a person from the titles and details of the groups he or she has joined. So, while many social platforms may be useful tools to build corporate brands and interact with customers and prospects – whether with text, images, or videos – LinkedIn is the choice for individuals to build their personal brands.

[4] Google Plus
While similar to Facebook, there are some unique features of Google's social site, Google Plus, but the key result of its use is the increased opportunity for content to be included in Google's searches. Also, groups named as "circles" can be created consisting of specific people so that you can share content only with family or only with school pals or only with co-workers because in the words of Google CEO Larry Page, "in real life, we share different things with different people." On the main page named the "stream," posts can be viewed by everyone or only by members of the circles that have been created. Places where groups of ten or less people meet to chat are called "hangouts." And privacy settings are more user-friendly than other social sites.

[5] Pinterest
The words pin, pinning, and pinboard have taken on new meanings, just as Tweet, like, and follow did for Twitter and Facebook. Pinterest promotes itself as a way “to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.” The average time spent on the site by American users is 77 minutes per day vs. 36 minutes on Twitter. In the USA, the top interests include crafts, gifts, hobbies and leisure, interior design, and fashion designers/collections. In the United Kingdom, the top interests are different and include venture capital, blogging resources, crafts, web statistics/analytics, and SEO/marketing. But in order to build a brand presence on Pinterest, determine if your business is a match with Pinterest. Do you understand the nuances of Pinterest to generate repeat traffic? Perhaps, a daily theme or different news, tips, etc., should be featured on your page.

[6] YouTube
With widespread video use, everyone has become a videographer. As a result, video has become an integral part of brand storytelling. This can be both good and bad for your business. Invite your customers to share product or service success stories through the use of video, and you may be surprised when a video goes viral.

[7] Instagram
Instagram is much more than an app to share photos with friends and family. It offers a way for brands to communicate with their fans and customers through visual communication, whether photographs, word art, or anything else imaginable. Some brands showcase company employees in action at tradeshows and other events. Some brands showcase brand appearances in ads and historical events. Some brands create contests to engage their followers and request photos with specific hashtags. Some brands introduce and feature new products.

[8] Flipboard
Flipboard is a useful branding tool for five key reasons. Flipboard is a clean interface; its screens are not cluttered with too much text and graphics. Users can easily turn the “pages” to read more articles. There is no charge for the app so users can access the app from smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Other apps are accessible via Flipboard (for example, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube, etc.). And users can easily add their comments to the "flipped" articles and also email the articles to others.

[9] Foursquare
Foursquare allows users to check in to places they visit, but this free app is much more. Foursquare also provides recommendations and deals based on previous places visited, so there is a customization component. With 45 million users, over 4.5 billion check-ins, and over 1.5 million businesses, "Consumers check in at local businesses to tell their friends where they like to go, and they also leave brief tips and photos at their favorite places."

[10] Blogs (WordPress, Google Blogspot, etc.)
A blog with fresh content will flourish and draw more interested eye balls than advertisements and direct mail. Over time, customers and prospective customers will become interested in the content, be expecting new content and continue to visit your site and blog, and will want to add their comments. Once there are comments on your blog, then the real fun begins. The interaction between you and your customers – and sometimes between customers and each other – can create an amazing opportunity for your business. Another benefit from blog activity can be that members of the media can learn more about you, and in the process, become interested in featuring your business online, in print, or on TV or radio. But best of all, a blog will cement your brand in your readers’ minds.

All of the key social sites are unique. They have different ways to engage users, different methods for responding, and different audiences. The secret for success on any social platform is to understand the differences and determine how they align with your overall marketing strategies.

What secrets have you learned? Please chime in.

Image Credit: Pixomar via

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Marketing Highlights from 2013

With 2013 now history, it’s time for my “Top 10” marketing highlights list. What campaigns were great? Which were duds? What stood out as marketing innovation, and what will anything go down in history that can rival Apple’s 1984 television commercial? What do you remember from the 2013 marketing reel?

With a quick nod to David Letterman for the format, here’s my list:

Number 10:
Super Bowl 47 pitted brother against brother in the coaching category, but the story that took center stage turned out to be a power outage at the beginning of the game’s third quarter. As fans and TV viewers turned to Twitter, some companies were listening. Oreo, Walgreens, Lowe’s, Audi, Tide, and PBS were brands that shared memorable Tweets that far overshadowed the lackluster ads on television during the game.

Number 9:
Throughout the year, the term SOLOMO for social, local, and mobile became more of a buzz term and aligned these three types of marketing.

Number 8:
The arrival of Baby Cambridge, now known as Prince George, third in line to the British Crown, captured the attention of the world. His birth produced a surge in British baby paraphernalia, and even Niagara Falls lit up the water with blue lights to announce his arrival.

Number 7:
Nike’s famous slogan “Just Do It” celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Number 6:
With more and more purchases made on mobile devices, the process of showrooming increased (examining products in retail stores but then making the purchases online for a cheaper price).

Number 5:
The new role of Chief Digital Officer evolved because the lines between Chief Technology Officers and Chief Marketing Officers are blurring.

Number 4:
Despite typical publicity leading up to new product launches, Apple launched the iPhone 5S and 5C, but for owners of the iPhone 5, there were no significant reasons to upgrade.

Number 3:
In a surprise move nearly causing whiplash, Newsweek magazine decided to return to print. This decision followed the decision in 2012 to be ONLY online after 75 years in print. Starting in 2014, Newsweek will be available in print.

Number 2:
Twitter went public during 2013 without any of the problems experienced by its social media cousin, Facebook.

And Number 1 on the 2013 Marketing Highlights List:
Thanksgivukkah took place in late November 2013. This celebration was the blending of Thanksgiving and Hanukah – this rare blending of holidays won’t happen again until 2070. Naturally, products with this amusing blended holiday sprung up on the Internet. And newscasters couldn’t stop talking about it.

What would you add to this list? Here’s to 2014 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via