Archive for Marketing

Earning And Cultivating Attention On Top Of A Movement

The best marketing tactics I know of are 1. earning attention instead of buying it and 2. making stuff for your fans rather than finding fans for your stuff. Those tactics work even better when built on top of a movement. When the attention being earned is from people who identify themselves as part of that movement and want to be connected to other like-minded people. Then the brand works to become the connecting point.

My favorite part of this strategy is that it fits online perfectly, cost little and size of the business doesn’t matter.

Earning attention is about thinking of yourself as a publisher of helpful content related to a movement that people want rather than a marketer who is trying to interrupt. This content is then spread (if its good) throughout the group that identifies themselves as part of the movement and invites them to come back and sign up. Then the brand has the ability of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to the people who want to get them. Repeat.

I’m going to write more about the different tactics of this strategy in upcoming posts so stay tuned.

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What I Would Do If I Was In A Band And Wanted To Make Money

I love music. I was in a short lived band once and still have: being in a touring band at the top of my do-before-I-die lists. I saw this info graphic that shows how little musicians earn online and then I read this article about how last week had the fewest number of albums sold in one week since Soundscan began compiling data in 1994, and it started me thinking about how I would do it if I were in a band that people cared about. So this is what I would do.

Disclaimer: Musicians don’t want to think of themselves as marketers or entrepreneurs but I believe that’s exactly what small musicians need to see themselves as to make money in this new digital world. I say, Get over it.

First, I would like to describe my strategy and then below I’ll put the tactics. The main trust of my strategy is sumed up well with this quote by Cory Doctorow, “It’s very hard to monetize fame, but impossible to monetize obscurity.” You’ll never sell anything if no one listens to you, so how do you get as many people as possible to listen to you? Share your music and get others to do the same. A fact of the internet is that If the product you make becomes digital, expect that the product you make will be copied. Let your music be copied and shared as much as possible.

The second side to this strategy is that once you can distribute something digitally, for free, it will spread as long as it’s good. If it spreads, you can use it as a vehicle to allow people to come back to you and register, to sign up, to give you permission to interact and to keep them in the loop. The spread of your digital music in an effort to create a well maintained following is the core of being a successful self-published musician.

The bands that create communities, connect people and spread ideas are the ones that will win. Seth Godin defines permission as an asset to be earned. “The ability (not the right, but the privilege) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them,” is his definition of permission marketing and that is the biggest tool in the independant musicians tool belt. Most good bands have a message that their fans rally behind: anti-war, fun, unity – whatever. Your band needs to seek out those groups that agree with your message and want to be connected – and then the band works to become the connecting point.

Let me tell you what this strategy is not: You are not trying to get discovered by some self claimed gatekeeper who decides what the masses get to listen to. I would never try to join a label. What’s the point? All the tools necessary to self publish and distribute to the world are there already at your fingertips.

Onto the tactics:
1. Sell whats scarce. Music as a digital product is anything but scarce. And you don’t want it to be, you want everyone possible to listen to your music. Meanwhile, the one thing that you can’t digitize and distribute with full fidelity is a live show, limited edition t-shirts, special edition album covers and community. This is where you’ll make money.

2. To sell that stuff, you need to find your audience. I would make a band blog where I would write about what’s going on with the band as well as writing on the topics that the band is founded upon. Also there would be a music section for people to stream any song I had written. Next to each song I would put the Facebook Like button so people could Like individual songs which gets the song sent to their news feed in Facebook for all their friends to see. This would also allow me to message any of those people who Liked a song later on. Also next to each song would be a link to Tweet the song, email the song, embed the song on their own site or any other kind of sharing possible.

A downloadable high quality version of my music would be available if the person gave me their email address. Along with the download I would include album art, liner notes and stencils for printing out and spray painting the band name or image. I would also include a message to invite the downloader to share the music with their friends. Next to the download button would be a donate button to anyone who wanted to chip something in for getting the music.

I would also make a Facebook fan page, twitter account and YouTube channel for my band where the content from the band blog would be syndicated. All of these different avenues allows people to consume my music in their preferred place. If they want to listen to my music on Facebook but hate Twitter, or vice versa, I would make it possible.

I would make a YouTube channel and make music videos for every song I record. They don’t need to be high production cost videos just whatever speaks to the fans.

I would make a flicker group for fans to upload images from shows or themselves being a part of the music.

3. Once you find your audience, turn them into family. Kevin Kelly says you really only need 1,000 true fans to make a living. Making music for your fans instead of finding fans for your music. All sharing tactics above have the same goal in mind – get as many people as possible to listen and then capture their email to create your fan database. The fans in the database are your biggest asset. I would turn my music into a subscription service. They are the ones you send anticipated, personal and relevant messages to. They get first dibs on listening to new music. They get alternate tracks. They get asked for their feedback and see that their feedback gets put into practice. They get to talk to each other on the blog. They get exclusive fan club stickers and patches. They also can buy tickets to shows before eveyone else, buy the limited-run t-shirts before everyone else and get first dibs on buying special edition delux albums.

The internet is the best thing to ever happen to music. In an age when it’s cheaper and easier than ever to design something, to make something, to bring something to market, bands win.

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Job Recruiting Online Using Internet Marketing Tools

There are two types of job seekers: active and passive. An active job seeker is someone who is unemployed and is actively searching for a job, posting their resume on internet job boards, responding to available positions on Craigslist and networking with friends to find a job. A passive job seeker is currently employed. They aren’t actively looking for a job by posting their resume where ever they can, but if the right opportunity came up, they might consider a change. If you’re only recruiting from active job seekers, you are limiting your potential to find great talent.

Passive job seekers are much more sought after by recruiters and head-hunters than active job seekers. Active job seekers are riskier since they are currently unemployed (and may be that way for a reason), potentially desperate which could make them over-eager to the point of exaggerating their skills and unproven that their skills are adequate to do the job.

Internet marketing tools lend themselves perfectly to attracting passive job seekers since recruiting is in itself marketing:

The recruiter doesn’t solve an urgent problem for the person being recruited, in fact, they create one. That person already has a job (hence no problem). The problem being created is that until they change over to your job, they’ll be unhappy. (Seth Godin, The Difference Between Hiring & Recruiting)

Passive job seekers are out there online reading blogs and consuming content just like everyone else. Using Google’s AdPlanner and AdWords tools, you can select your demographic, get targeted ads in front of those passive job seekers within that demographic, send them to engaging landing pages after they click that invite them to submit a resume and use cost per resumes submitted (CRS) as your driving metric and then accurately measure your cost per hire. I won’t go into full detail on all the strategies that could be used to do this (because there are many), instead I’ll hopefully open your eyes to how effective and affordable recruiting for passive job seekers online can be.

Lets say you need to recruit a web designer to work for your business in Denver. Using Google Adplanner, you can create a detailed media plan based on the demographic of that person. In the “Research Tab” of AdPlanner you can search by site if you know of particular sites that you think your passive job seekers are going to, or you can search by audience.  Whenever you search by site you can see stats for that site to see if it aligns with the kind of candidate you’re looking for. I choose the site SmashingMagazine.com for this example so you can see the kind of detail it gives.

Adplanner stats

Click for larger image

The other option is to use the “Search by Audience” tab. You can filter by Geography and either target the whole state or click the plus box and choose a region within the state. I also recommend using the Ad Specs button to choose “In Google Content Network” so that only sites that allow ads from Google show up and also the “Ad Specs” button to filter the kind of advertising you’re going to do, there’s no sense at looking at sites that don’t support image ads if that’s what you’ll be using.

You can also filter by demographic to build your targeted list. For targeting a web designer I would choose the “Sites Visited” button and enter a few sites that have to do with web design and then I would click on keywords searched and choose words like “web design blog”, “MYSQL update” or “photoshop brushes”. Sites meeting your criteria get listed and you can ad them to your plan. If you sort by “Comp Index” it will sort by the sites that closest meet your requirements. Once you have your Media Plan made you can export it to excel for uploading into Adwords.

In Adwords you can create a campaign for your Web Designer candidate and choose to have your ads show only on the sites that you chose. You can also set the location that your ads will be seen, in my example case this would be Denver, schedule the ads to only be shown during work hours (for catching those passive job seekers while they are browsing the net while at work) and set a daily budget for how much you are willing to spend a day.

After the ads get going you can start to optimize your ads by testing different ad variations, excluding sites that aren’t performing well and use Google’s Website Optimizer to do A/B testing on your landing pages to get the most resumes submitted as possible.

Utilizing these tools for recruiting passive job seekers is a must for any organization looking to find good talent without spending large amounts on head hunter finder fees and job placement companies. Let me know any questions that you have in the comments!

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Rocket Ship Marketing

Space ShuttleI think the correct way to do marketing, or the way the current landscape demands, can be explained using a metaphor having to do with comparing advertising to a rocket ship:

Whats Wrong With Big Rocket Ships (AKA Traditional Advertising):
1. Traditional rocket ships are big, complex and are explicitly designed to be controlled. These design requirements result in a huge increase in their cost and complexity, and decrease dramatically the probability of the success for the mission. Likewise, a traditional marketing plan is made to be as big and encompassing as possible. Since there is so much riding on it, the marketing must be controlled. With rocket ships and traditional marketing plans, it’s make it or break it.

2. A Rocket ship uses 80% of its fuel in lift off. Once it gets past the lift off stage its pretty much on its way. Likewise, it takes 80% of the marketing budget to launch a new campaign before it has a chance at catching on. What if the idea is a dud and you can’t tell until  after spending 80% of the budget?

3.With the rocket ship costing so much money and taking so much time, it needs to be successful. Traditionally we are continually looking for a “hit” in advertising, something that will spread and become part of pop culture. While trying to predict the likely success of a chosen brand message being a hit, inordinate amounts of money and energy are spent, often, all in vain. Who knows what will be a “hit”? Nobody.

The Solution To The Traditional Rocket Ship Is Replacing It With Hundreds Or More Mini-Rockets:
1. Mini-rockets are cheap to make and launch. And since you don’t have to rely on only one to succeed dramatically well, they don’t need to be built in with fail-proof security and reliability (the reason why traditional rockets cost so much and take so long to build.)

2. Continually measuring the mini-rockets as they go, you can build on the ones that are working and cut back on the ones that aren’t in real-time. Having a budget split up this way allows you to not waste more money than is needed before cutting back on ideas that aren’t working. By relinquishing control, the mini-rockets would be on their own, only bothering to send back whatever they discover.

3. No one knows what is going to be a hit. It’s also hard to tell which demographic will best respond to any particular media. But you stand a better chance at finding a hit with a hundred estimated guesses at a dozen different demographics than one big idea. Then, after launching the multiple mini rockets, you  can let the data tell you which one is the best and continue to fund that one.

This strategy requires the brand to forgo the single-minded brand proposition and embrace long tail thinking. Every brand has more than one potentially ideal consumer. But the big rocket ship’s only option is to target one demographic broadly to capture as many people in that demo as possible. This creates a bland campaign that doesn’t resonate perfectly with anyone since it’s trying to attract as many people as possible by being broad. Targeting the “edges” of the tail instead of the masses, or “head” of the tail, requires narrowing your list down to those most likely, most interested people and ignore everyone else.With mini-rockets you can target very specific demographics with a very specific message. Sure, the amount of people you are reaching is less but your chance for success is higher. This is also much cheaper. Target a dozen different demos and try sending a rocket to them all. These smaller niches, in aggregate, can be composed of as many people as the “head” of the tail and stand a better chance of accepting and spreading your brand.

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The Big Idea Is Dead

The “Big Idea” in marketing made sense years ago when the internet wasn’t here. It was wise advice when it came to writing a newspaper ad for example. If an ad said, “we have the best location, best service, best prices and best products,” chances are the ad isn’t going to be effective because the ad is throwing too big of a net and no one is going to believe it – no one is that good. So brands would create a “big idea” to help customers understand and remember as fast as possible for example, “our brand is the cheapest.” Thats big, it resonates with the those who want the cheapest and it has the ability to chisel a spot into the audience’s mind. Simple. Big. Believable (maybe).

Since the newspaper has such big reach, hundreds  of thousands of people would see the ad but only 5%, or less of them would really care deeply about finding the cheapest brand. So a brand effectively wastes money advertising to 95% of the people who don’t use cheapest as their main filter for making buying decisions but instead care about best quality, reliability, customer service, no-hassle buying, convenience, brand image, and a whole host of who knows what. But that’s OK because usually that 5% or less was enough to make it worth it.

So back then you advertised to as many people as possible, pitching one idea that doesn’t apply to everyone but still bland enough to cast the biggest net possible, hoping that your message does reach the people that you are intending it for. Today people are much better at avoiding ads they don’t want to see and are less of a mass and more a mass of niches.

Had the ability to target and measure the effectiveness of your media in real time existed back then, I doubt the “big idea” would  have ever been created. Back then you couldn’t accurately or affordabley target males 18-21 with HHI of $80,000 +, who like japanimation and Nine Inch Nails. That audience would have been too hard and expensive to find and wouldn’t have been big enough give a return on investment to justify the effort.

Not anymore.

Want to target stay at home moms, age 30 – 45, HHI $100,000, who are green conscience and like scrapbooking? OK. Why not choose the 10 most ideal micro-demographics and tailor your media just for them? They will find it super relevant and have a much better chance of connecting with the brand and spreading it to others.

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Improving Grocery Stores With Data

groceryThe app Shopsavvy for the Android and Redlaser for the iPhone are pretty sweet. With the iPhone 3GS you can use its video camera to capture a barcode, then the app shows you price comparisons for that product online as well as comparing the price to other stores near you.

This makes me think of all the cool things grocery stores could do if they harnessed the internet’s data collection and social networking abilities. A few ideas:

1. Grocery stores already keep track of purchases with their loyalty cards when you check out, why not share that information with the consumer? Give the customer a personal page on their website that shows their shopping habits and make recommendations like Amazon does – 90% of people who purchase Cool Ranch Doritos also buy Cherry Coke.

2. Being able to see everything that you have purchased and the quantity of what you have purchased would help you plan your shopping better. Like what Mint does for personal finance, you would know more accurately how often you need to buy milk. You could see pie charts that show you how much of your food purchases are made up of candy.

3. With more data, grocery stores could give highly relevant and targeted coupons designed individually for the consumer. With enough time the grocery store will know which kind of offers – buy one get one or % off – and on which products incentivize customers to buy. They could figure out that my cookie of choice is Oreos and any discount below 20% off won’t make me buy, but as soon as an offer comes for 30% off Oreos, I’m there. The store could effectively maximize every purchasers buying ability.

9. Brands could set up loyalty products for each of their items. Your 10th Kraft purchase gives you 10% off your next purchase of cheese.

7. Or how about instead of going through a checkout line you put your cart through a conveyor track, like an x-ray machine at the airport, that scans all your items immediately and gives you the price.  No more paying price checkers and no more lines.

8. Or, what if your fridge had bar scanners on the side of it so that it knew everything that you had in the fridge. It could tell how often you take things out so it would alert you if some food was about to expire soon. If you needed to go grocery shopping, just push a button on the fridge and have it print out everything you have run out of, or better yet, send it to your handset.

5. What if every time you put an item in your cart, a digital read-out of the total price of everything in your cart was displayed on the cart handle; take something out of the cart and the price goes down. This would be awesome for customers to be sure they weren’t spending too much while picking out the groceries. Of course, grocery stores probably like that we don’t know how much everything costs until we get to the check out line. But think off all the cool stuff you could do:

6. Supercook is an online tool asks what’s in your kitchen and then uses that information to provide dozens, if not hundreds, of unique dishes that you probably would never have thought of on your own. What if the grocery store kept track of what you put in your cart and gave you ideas of what dishes you could make while in the grocery store  – add Country Crock butter and Pace Picante Salsa, and you have all the ingredients you need to make zesty enchiladas.

4. Looking at the data you could tell in what order most purchases happen in. So they find out that statistically, after people buy meat, the next thing they buy is beer. Up-sell by placing selected items next to, or in-between the meat and the beer for that purchaser to see like barbecue sauces or beer coasters.

10. Let customers connect with other customers who buy similar things. Looks like you buy a lot of spices and ingredients, would you like to join a recipe community in your area? You BBQ a lot, compete in your local community cook-off.

Maybe some of this stuff seems a little too much big brother, but I would let companies know my purchasing habits in exchange for relevant coupons, food suggestions and insights to my food buying habits.

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Feedback

Saw another article on Freakonomics called the Downside of Feedback that brings up an important question: feedback is important to engage an audience but at what point does the author need to stop listening and do his job as the one creating the story? All this talk about crowd-sourcing and being social and transparent to create buzz for your product needs to end at some point and you, the creator, need to do your job and create it right? From the article:

Has our quibbling worked? Yes, if you believe in the collective force of fans and the “wiki” social ideal — that group input only improves the result, guiding by peer pressure if nothing else. No, if you think filmmakers are too beholden to fans. Quibbling does not produce a Heath Ledger-style Joker; that is the result of an actor and a writer and a director coming unhinged from the original material. Quibbling produces a Watchmen movie, which tenderly reproduced the 1988 graphic novel panel-for-panel and still failed — pleasing fans, perhaps, but excluding newcomers.

There’s a quote I like that I read in the Long Tail that goes something like, “the more compromises taken to make you product good for everyone, the less its perfect for anyone.” Could it mean that more feedback dilutes your message and makes it vanilla to everyone instead of great for a few people? 

Initially, I think creating is the creator’s job. Its disturbing when a band changes their sound to better fit what the marketing department says will sell more albums. Allowing others the ability to socialize and spread your idea online works for marketing but you as the creator should be slow to take too much advice from the masses. This obviously depends on what your idea is. A product like baby strollers would take feedback in a different way than a movie. Listening to your customers should be your number one priority but how can you tell when you’re listening to too much feedback and therefore diluting your main message? I’m a little torn…

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Earning Media Instead of Buying Media

Whatever your business is you need to figure out a way to create content around it. No matter what the product is there has to be at least a million things around that product that people could be interested in. Blogs, flickr, twitter, and other social media serve as a medium for publishing this content for others to engage in. I see this as the direction marking is going. Creating content that people can relate to and connect with and spread around themselves instead of buying air time that forces your message on too many people who don’t care.

Fred Wilson explains:

Earned media is media you don’t buy but earn the hard way. PR is an example of earned media. Word of mouth is another. Earned media has been around forever. But it has now gotten a lot easier, thanks to the Internet and social media, to earn media for your brand, product, or self.

Fred gives the example of a taco truck in LA that is using Twitter to inform customers where the truck will be located to dish out its Korean barbecue tacos. Nearly 14,000 people follow the truck’s Twitter updates and many are willing to wait more than an hour for the upscale urban street food. KogiBBQ maintains buzz at almost no cost and creates an engaged community around its product.

This could be dublicated with most businesses. Its simple but its not easy. It takes creativity, dilligence to keep posting when nothing has happened after the first week and a product that is worth spreading.

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Little Guy Marketing

I like Seth Godin’s post on making commercials for the web where he says:

The biggest shift is going to be that organizations that could never have afforded a national campaign will suddenly have one. The same way that there’s very little correlation between popular websites and big companies, we’ll see that the most popular commercials get done by little shops that have nothing to lose.

This again reinforces what I love about the web. You don’t need anyone’s permission, there are no barriers to entry and no gate keepers. If you have an idea that you think is good than you have the ability to publish it for the world to see at close to zero cost. If it’s actually good people will care and it will spread. People will talk about it, link to it and it will grow. If its stupid, then it won’t and you’ll have to try and force people to look at it.

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