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Stop Screaming at Your Market – Get Your Message Heard Instead
Anyone remember the old EF Hutton TV commercials? dead silence People watch intently as someone mutters, “EF Hutton thinks . . .” The tagline was “When EF Hutton speaks, people listen”.
Well, those were the good old days of television and trusted investment advisors. It’s a different world now for a number of reasons: the global meltdown, Bernie Madoff, and the Internet flooded with information, to name a few. A recent “Economist” article referred to our time as the “Data Deluge.”
The topic of how to get “people to hear” on the web above all the noise has recently become the subject of many questions I’ve received. So here’s my answer in as brief a manner as I can muster (bearing in mind that the question is how to try to put cliff notes around “War and Peace” while trying to retain all the nuance and meaning)…
So how should you establish your business on the Internet without being intrusive or adding to the growing clutter and noise of increased data dumping?
It starts with a foundation: the clear understanding that this is a connected market. It’s a two-way conversation – a message delivery where conversational communication drives the market.
There is a growing multitude of communication engines that are evolving. We know these as search engines, social networks, blogs, email, text messages, RSS feeds, audio and video. Many of the most popular tools are known by brands that break down like this:
Brand consolidators and/or tools
Medium of communication
search engine Earn your income through pay-per-click advertising. Deliver your product through natural search engine algorithms (SEO), a popular way to capture “organic” presence.
Microsoft and Yahoo have teamed up to try and add a new twist to search.
A business-to-business social network.
Mini-Blog feed – almost social network.
Really Simple Syndication – more of a tool than a brand.
One of the biggest blog consolidators.
Still the leader in email tools – it incorporates BBM (Black Berry Messenger) – a kind of free instant text messaging tool between BlackBerry users.
The iPhone is a computer with a phone attached: it’s a device that can be configured to use and do many things with all of the above.
Email can evolve if one has the right tools for us. Think of email as the standard way to engage and interact – it works wonderfully if you’re not generic or intrusive. That’s the trick.
SMS – Text messages – MMS
Text, images, video sent to mobile devices.
Video Consolidator (owned by Google) – quite under fire for stealing copyrighted material.
Audio news and information delivered through the iTunes Store.
Of course, there are dozens more in each category beyond this superficial list. The first thing to recognize is that there is no one place, brand, or method that is considered the “best.” All of these are important to your message and business model (which is the first level of complexity).
To further define the relevance of each model to your particular marketing, you need to define how to start the conversation. A worthwhile goal is to establish an “inbound” connection. Too much communication today on the Web follows the “outbound” model. Newspapers, magazines, television, radio have never had the need to consider an instant response.
A model that starts with an incoming query from a user is the right approach, and it’s the only approach worth pursuing in this messy web of information.
How do we get started? We need to add a second level of complexity – to create a conversation – which is difficult. How do you create a conversation with complete and “virtual” strangers? Perhaps the best way to understand this is for your company to rethink the old adage “word of mouth is the best advertising.” We call it this word of mouth on the web – a conversation that talks about your business instead of telling the world about you. This is the type of PR marketing that is most valuable.
A real conversation is bound to engage and emerge when what your company offers is the topic of conversation. Is it hard to do? In a messy world of search data, yes. In a niche market for related conversations? It is very effective! Thus, the era of vertical connected market spaces, focused on a certain theme, is the emerging key. Are you part of the right conversation?
The way you start this conversation can be blurry. For example, if I’m walking down the street and bump into someone by accident while trying to avoid a puddle and say “sorry” or “excuse me,” an exchange occurs. Where did the conversation, the interaction begin? Where could it lead?
Internet chat works like this. Search has conditioned people to “stumble upon” thoughts and information, things they may or may not be thinking about, seemingly random pools of information. This is what I call the “self-discovery” market of information delivery. Where will your information appear? Are you playing in the right pool?
How do you make sure you’re in the right place where a machine (a search engine) delivers your message where it’s relevant, important, and becomes part of the conversation? A good way to start is to first “listen” before you start; this happens through analytics on the conversation surrounding your market.
Of course we are now seeing the real challenge for businesses in today’s Internet world. There are trillions of pieces of information, emails, data and texts that are filling the space of these “conversations” – so much so that there is a lot of clutter and noise.
Imagine standing in the middle of New York, in Times Square at noon on a Monday and shouting your message about how solid your financial planning model is. How many people will follow your advice and become your customer? You might turn some heads. You will most likely be politely asked to calm down or take a trip to the NYPD precinct.
Now imagine the financial firm that starts sponsoring some entertainment and with a loudspeaker from the stage, announces that their firm is sponsoring this noon concert to draw attention to the disaster in Haiti. They don’t talk about their financial strategies like wealth planners. They simply announce their intentions and provide a thoughtful message that adds value to busy Times Square. Both are shouting, but which one will establish credibility? Which company is more likely to be heard and build a customer base from the exact same crowd?
The first company wanted to deliver a screaming message. They wanted a quick win. They wanted it to be “free” or cheap. Too many companies have and continue to treat the web the same way.
The second firm hired an event coordinator, found an attraction and sponsored a big band. They paid for a permit from New York City and fulfilled their commitment. They took the proceeds and sent them to organizations that help Haiti. It was an investment of time through the brand and the organization.
The first firm was screaming, adding disorder to the noise. This is what SPAM and traditional websites are.
I heard a recent suggestion from a business leader to simply use text messaging to send random text messages to be heard. This was puzzling, as it is this type of thinking that was behind email SPAM in the first place! It just won’t work. And in the world of “blacklists,” it could really hurt your business.
The problem and challenge of the Internet is that businesses want quick answers on perhaps the busiest and noisiest of all streets created by mankind. There are currently over 1.8 billion users on the Internet, all in this Conversation Market TM, all with something to say. There are numerous places and ways people can hear and discover your message of interest, as well as many to ignore.
What are the steps to success? Here is a list of dos and don’ts for well-organized and respected companies:
Understand your market: where they’re looking, what their specific region or area is, what customer/customer model they’re looking for, and who’s looking for your product.
Get your message out to the world using Google AdWords, generic email newsletters about what you want to tell the world or talk about your opinions.
Find the most effective means of delivering your message – you’ll need to invest in the tools to use.
Just spend your money on pay per click advertising – waste it.
Create a “puddle” of conversation about why people should be interested in what you have to offer or say. Tell them what the world is like in your market and how you can help.
List all the reasons why your business is so great on a website; that is not what the world is looking for. They want sincere help and understanding. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Hire a professional company that specializes in building connections based on your goals and help measure your return on investment.
Don’t hire a webmaster, designer, or Flash graphics company to make you a flashy or flashy “better” website.
Finally, create a cohesive connection between your business you offer offline and how you can create better service and connections online. Improve your business process with technology. I call this BIPED®.
Don’t just try to bring people to the “front stage” and forget that the reason they are there is to get a new perspective on what you do “back stage”.
So to summarize all the tasks to achieve your goals of using the Internet to market and run your business more effectively:
1) Clearly identify the meaning of your message to the market that is ready to receive what you are willing to offer. A professional technology-oriented marketing company can help you get this message across.
2) Find the best media you can commit to managing or managing (eg Search, Social Media, Email, RSS, Podcast, Video, etc.). Again, this is not something quick and easy. But getting the right tools on the front end will allow you to meet and maintain your goals. Your marketing becomes better and easier and your potential customer base grows.
3) Plan to invest your money wisely in the experience, not just the easy-to-buy ads on Google and the like, which won’t work.
4) Design your business around this medium and you will have a lasting market and a loyal customer base.
Do this and be heard. Start the conversation. Don’t waste your time or your marketing budget on more noise!
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