40 in 14: A Commitment to Solitude

40 in 14

Time spent in quiet contemplation and reflection is critical to personal growth, life balance, and mental health.  It forces us to slow down from the fast pace of American business culture, stops multi-tasking, and sharpens our focus.  This time can spur creativity, introspection, innovation, improve decision making and problem solving, and reduce task related errors.  A commitment to daily solitude will help fortify our quiet strength and make us more well rounded individuals.

Reading is just one of many ways to focus within yourself, and is often times found to be a priority among the most successful individuals (as defined by career advancement).  Did you know the avg. CEO reads 60 books/year?  Well, 60 may be a bit ambitious.  Rather, I’ve dedicated myself to reading 40 in 14 and will document them in the 40 in 14 page of my site.  I’d love to hear your book suggestions!

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7 steps to digital content distribution that would make FedEx proud

Whether you’re delivering medical goods, fresh seafood, or digital content, your distribution network and system is critical to your success.

In the 1970’s FedEx broke into airfreight shipping by developing an ingenious distribution model; the hub and spoke.  All distribution points (spokes) were organized into a network strategically located around a central hub.  All shipments were routed through the hub, sorted, and distributed to the various spokes.  If you shipped 1 package, to 1 destination, this was highly inefficient.  It meant you were adding an additional stop (the hub).  Let’s say for example you wanted to connect 50 spokes from point to point.  That would take almost 5,000 connections.  However, mail distribution to the same 50 spokes routed and sorted through a central hub becomes 100x more efficient with at most, 50 connections.  Wouldn’t you like to improve your operations by 100x?!

This same distribution model can and should be used to distribute your digital content.  How?  I recommend these 7 steps.

  1. Develop a central Hub for your content.  This will likely be your blog or website.
  2. Identify and establish a system of spokes for content distribution.  i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pintrest, Reddit, Google +, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, other blogs, email lists, etc.
  3. Find out who your customers are and where they are naturally congregating online.
  4. Assign these customer personas to the spokes they are most active in or are most influenced by.
  5. Develop a 3 month content marketing calendar outlining draft due dates, distribution plan, target audience, SEO keywords, and type of media.
  6. Execute the content distribution plan to the right consumers at the right time using a marketing automation tool when available.
  7. Monitor key performance indicators and tweak the hub and spoke network as necessary.

The point I cannot overemphasize is the importance of understanding both the “what” and the “who” of your content distribution network.  Taking the time to understand your current and potential customers will allow you to establish online credibility for your brand.  Hitting consumers with content they care about, in places they look, when they are most likely to be looking is critical to the ROI of your efforts and the strengthening of your online brand equity.  With the proliferation of “digital litter” being produced and distributed online, without a targeted effort, your brand reputation is at risk.

“I thought you might say that!” The Power of confirmation bias in marketing.

Marketing is largely about understanding desires and motivations and using that information to help people make the best decisions possible, or in many cases, make the decisions you want them to make.

Confirmation bias is generally defined as a tendency to seek information and to interpret ambiguous or contradictory information so that it confirms one’s existing beliefs.

In business, you can set your prospects’ beliefs for them, and supply them with evidence to support these beliefs.  Take Fiji water for example.  You think you could pick Fiji water out of a blind taste test with Dasani and tap water?  I’ve actually conducted this test and found most people cannot.  However, Fiji has told you through their marketing that it comes from the purist of pure water springs.  When you take that first sip, you immediately look for confirmation that you were right to believe what they told you!  “mmmm, that’s some pure water!”

6 ways to apply confirmation bias to marketing:

  1. People give preference to early info. The first items in a list, the first images in an ad, the first communication they receive: this is what people best remember. Even in a situation where no single item is of more importance than another, people still give positive bias to the first item. Your communications and advertising should all take advantage of this fact.
  2. People focus on favored beliefs. Consumers who want to like a particular company, brand, or product will generally fail to seek and apply information that is counter to their beliefs.  You have to find creative ways to identify these consumers that don’t like your brand, or really like your competition.  Once located, you must decide how much money you spend to reshape their beliefs.  (Social media is a great place for these tactics).
  3. People give preference to existing beliefs. New information is hard to incorporate into existing beliefs. If your company has built a reputation as a high quality, high priced product, consumers will not be receptive when you tell them about a more affordable line available within your company.  This is where spinoffs or subsidiaries begin to make sense.   
  4. People overweight positive confirmation. When consumers begin to give you information about them, or you purchase that data, keep this in mind.  I call it the “mind reader principle”.  People look for information that validates their beliefs about themselves.  A mind reader says nothing unique during a reading: all the predictions and “insights” would apply to any person in any situation.  As a marketer, you must do the same.  Give your customers information that positively confirms their self-identification and makes them feel good about themselves.  “You’re right company ABC, I am feeling a little tired this week because I have kids at home and a husband at work, but I’m a great mom and will do whatever it takes to stay on top of it all…How did you know?  I think I would like to buy your 5 hour energy drink.” 
  5. People actively look for positive examples. Simply put, use testimonials.  A testimonial won’t sway people one way or the other; a testimonial will solidify their belief that they were right to begin with. 
  6. People see what they expect. When introducing a new product, always shape the experience!  Build expectations that align with what you want people to believe.  Don’t be surprised when those beliefs become “reality”.  An example; if you are starting a landscaping company, prior to your sales calls, send a flier with 20 things homeowners should look for in a reputable and trustworthy landscaping company.  Low and behold…when you follow up…your company will offer everything on that list! 

Tough Mudder Marketing – Shareable Products

Tough Mudder Marketing - Shareable Products

I recently signed up for the “toughest event on the planet”; the Tough Mudder. The Tough Mudder is a 12 mile obstacle course designed with 25 extreme, military style obstacles. Sounds awful right? Then why did I shell out $160 of my discretionary dollars for what will undoubtedly be the most grueling, physically challenging day of my life?

As is best practice with most companies, let’s start with their brand story. The Tough Mudder isn’t a race; it’s a personal challenge. It isn’t a race; it’s a test of team work and camaraderie. It isn’t a race about boring running in a straight line; it’s about having a good time with your buddies. It isn’t just for marathon runners; it’s for anyone that wants to do something new and unique.

Armed with this story, an $8,000 budget for Facebook advertising, and a slap in the face at a Harvard Business School Business Competition, Co-Founder Will Dean set out to run his first event. He was hoping for 500 participants…..he got 5,000. Why was it successful? Because the advertising wasn’t about selling a product, it was about building a community of people towards action around common values. When you run the Tough Mudder, you are a Tough Mudder. You join a community of likeminded individuals that dare to be great. This core value of daring greatly permeates all the way to their corporate culture (but that will be saved for a future blog post).

Tough Mudder isn’t only the self-proclaimed “toughest event on the planet”; it is also the most shareable. If you signed up for this would you let your friends know? Would you post it on Facebook? Few people do this alone! If Tough Mudder sells 1 person, chances are they just sold 5 (the average team size is 5). Inherent to Tough Mudder’s marketing is its natural ability to be viral. The echo effect as I like to call it.

Sharing a photo, wearing a head cam to capture video for You Tube, or “liking” Tough Mudder leading up to the event is common practice. You can bet when I cross the finish line, I will be looking for a camera to snap a photo of my team’s accomplishment, and you can bet all my friends will hear about it!

Marketing Considerations:

1. Is your product easily shareable?

2. Is it marketed behind a relatable story?

3. Does your business allow customers to engage with you in an authentic and transparent way?

4. What are the shared values of your target demographic and how does your marketing and advertising perpetuate that?

MIMA Summit 2013

Because of its convergence with technology, the world of digital marketing is fast paced, and ever changing.  To stay afloat in the sea of digital marketing, you must take the time to read, discover, ask questions, and listen.  The MIMA Summit 2013, was an excellent opportunity to do just that.   With that in mind, I wanted to take time to document my takeaways from this event, and share them with you.

The morning started with a morning keynote by Sarah Lacy.  Between my tall cup of coffee and the 4 F bombs she dropped before 9:30, she had my attention.  Sarah talked about how her company was born out of the recognition that “old media” i.e. Washington Post, New York Times, Etc. are not lean enough to operate in today’s world.  She echoed the lessons of my MBA strategy class when she argued that every large company should fund a small, nimble, innovative spin-off company whose only mission is to compete with and ultimately surpass the larger parent company.  New ideas often times get stuck in old companies.  I couldn’t agree more!  Some might say old media companies have no choice but to change.  However, they do have another choice…they can go bankrupt.

Some other takeaways included her discussion around content creation.  When creating content for your brand, there is no place for mediocrity.  If you have to spend 10k to create something really unique and special, do it or don’t do it.  The last thing you want to do is spend 2k and put your name on something that doesn’t separate you and your content from a noisy digital environment.   This really hit home for me as an entrepreneur.   Even when dealing with tight budgets, start-ups must maintain extremely high standards or risk irreversible damage to the legitimacy of your brand.

When asked about her start-up funding, and why she needed 3-5 million, she said, “I want to pay really talented people, competitive salaries, to do extraordinary, amazing work.”   My takeaway; In a start-up, it’s easy to get wrapped up in a product, and forget the importance of investing in human resources to grow your companies equity.

My first breakout session was with Allyson Hugley @HugleyA from Weber Shandwick.  Her topic was using analytics as a creative force.  She talked at length about the importance of managing a team that includes analysts and creatives.  It is important to remember these two groups often think very differently (left brain vs. right brain).  Knowing the distinctions and bridging the divide is critical to a quality content team.

Other takeaways included the importance of data visualization.  Presentation is everything when it comes to big data, and far too often we forget the people behind the data.  Data is more powerful when you include the human narrative behind the numbers.  Allyson believes analytics is an iterative process.  It is important to create a culture of testing/experimenting. Lastly, she reminds us to use data to discover instead of only validate.

Soon it was time for lunch and my opportunity to listen to my man crush Nate Silver from fivethirtyeight.com.  Simply put, the man is on another level when it comes to understanding the complexity and proliferation of data.  His book “The Signal and the Noise” is genius.  I highly recommend it.  He has shown a unique ability to breakdown environments, pull the real driving forces behind entire systems, and assess risk/variance.  He understands the human bias associated with predictive analytics and emphasizes that ignoring these human elements can result in a poor assessment of risk leading to dangerous bets.

Lunch was followed by an OK breakout session on mobile marketing, but mostly resulted in self-promotion by one of the panel experts.  Before closing the day out, I attended a session titled, “The influence revival” presented by Cory Edwards @coryedwards, the head of Adobe’s Social Business Center of Excellence and former social director at Dell.  He hammered home execution strategies around content and inbound marketing.  He stressed the importance of getting influencers (ranters & ravers) involved and active in any social campaign.  He finished with the importance of tying business objectives and KPI’s to your digital efforts.  This sentiment was nicely buttoned up when he shared the YouTube video, “Click, Baby, Click.”  You can see it coming, but it’s still funny and reaffirms his point.

Events that bring together hundreds of bright minds together around a similar passion always leave me equally overwhelmed and motivated.  I left with a burning feeling in my stomach (No, not a result of the conference happy hour).  You all know the feeling.  The realization that there is so much to learn, so many interesting people to connect with, and so many new ideas to discover. After a brief hyperventilation, you take a deep breath, and remind yourself that the commitment to lifelong learning is a day-to-day battle.  My journey continues!