When marketing is fun

Good #marketing – fun message

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Marketing the marketing

Marketing the marketing

Marketing is in the news.

With recent highlights on the social networks more or less started through a rant from Dave McClure on startups not knowing about marketing.

It has since become a hot topic in the startup world, summarized in one short bit : even if you have the best product, you need to market it in order to sell it.

But, back to basics, was it not about time someone question marketing ?

Or the image people do associate with marketing at least.

Once upon a time, marketing. 

Once upon a time, from corporate experience, marketing was the “sexy people’s job”. Those dinosaur ancestors to today’s hipsters. Wearing jeans, looking cool and paid to spend the money sales/technical/admin people were working their ass off to earn.

Spend the money in ads and fancy events like cocktails and parties.

Oh the good ol’ times.

Well that was also, more or less, the big picture drawn in schools as well.

I will hit back at schools later as some do seem to have not been updated since then.

The marketings. Corporations vs startups.

Opposing organizations which are obviously and fundamentally different is an easy move. Especially when building on the basic perceived image of both, I must admit.

Yet, they do provide a good picture of where “marketing” stands.

Corporations : still rely on various marketing departments, with specialized people, and an awful lot of steps, processes, say hurdles, to cope with.

The mindset does also seem not to evolve very quickly as the preferred channels for marketing a product feel like they are from the past (even from my past).

Newspapers, banners on websites, posters, etc … .

That is marketing – and communication overall – 0.0. Almost.

Startups, on the other hand, have, for most, embraced the web, the social tools and do offer a far more dynamic approach.

With a (good) website, propelled by some Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/blog engines, the reach and adaptability is amazing.

That is a Twitter DM campaign versus the old-fashioned emailing. So what ? Conversion rates are nowhere near each other.

What is marketing ? 

Finally coming down to the point. Certainly where I should have started this piece.

Marketing, is and has never been the action of buying advertising space. Nor is it to throw a party and spend money on drinks.

Marketing, basically, is not even the marketing people’s job.

Marketing is everybody’s job in a company. Be it a startup or a large corporation. Startup Collaboration.thisissamstown

From the sales department to the administrative department, from the CEO to the “coffee machine operating officer” (…), everybody is responsible for marketing.

Any employee speaking about his/her job, be it to friends, family or any random stranger, is marketing the company – and the products.

This person does provide an insight on the company, displays an image, positive or negative, may even sell the products by giving good feedback about them (or not). In the end, everybody markets the whole company.

Beyond that, and back to the marketing job role, it has to be put back in place.

Marketing is not a random department, on the sidelines.

Marketers should be the people with the most complete knowledge of the company, the products, the people and processes.

And even more in our current world where not only the usability of a product is key but also the design, the price, etc … .

Marketers have to be involved with technicians (when applicable) to make technology usable for a standard customer. They have to assist designers in creating the most appealing product for the target market. They have to be involved with the sales department to understand the targets, consult on the positioning, help define pricing and, then, create the most effective materials and campaigns to generate interest and leads.

Marketing the marketing ? 

I heard, some time ago, a CMO ( … Chief Marketing Officer), having been in business for a long time, speaking about something he had recently discovered regarding marketing : “marketing is at the centre of the company”.

The point is so true.

Yet, just discovering that is no bragging matter.

Anybody related to marketing should know that. Otherwise, they are just as useful as party-throwers.

Back to my item on schools (and to keep the rant alive), a recent discussion, with a student in “marketing” made me realise that even the top schools do still not abide by this kind of common sense.

They are still offering (very) specialized courses – and diploma.

In details, one student can graduate in marketing strategy. Another in marketing execution. And anything fancy that might come up in the future.

But, how can you build marketing strategy when not even having a clue about social media tools (not using Twitter, not knowing about WordPress, but the name … ) ?

You have to get the full picture in order to build something consistent.

But the approach of schools, who are actually intended to teach what marketing is and is about, is lacking this consistency. Illustrated by  the way they created marketing “specialties”.

Here marketing needs to be re-marketed.


The marketing “rock star”. 

Rock stars, gurus, ninjas, all inappropriate names to define someone’s expertise. Yet, I would use such a name to call what true marketers are about.

But I would rather call them swiss-knifes.

They have multiple skills, can assist in almost every part of the business and remain the person they are while embedding an amazing amount of knowledge and skills.

The best example of the true 2.0 marketing expert : a startup Chief Marketing Officer (or whatever name they would give to the job). Especially when the startup is still young and not big on staff.

From chats with startups’ CMOs, the very foundations of their job appear to be :

– Knowing the product/technical specifications

– Interacting with the team

– Brainstorming on design/message/packaging

– Managing the communication/ads/etc …

– Handling the website and every social network account for the company

– Finding partners, resellers, etc …

– Selling the product

– Ensuring everybody in the startup can push the right message out (to family, friends, anybody they come across and speak to about the startup and the product)

– Etc … (please feel free to add your own extra jobs)

Basically we speak multiple skills, multiple tasks, multiple jobs.

So very far from the “specialized” marketing segments like the sole “strategy”. Or “execution”.

This is where marketing should stand.

At the centre of the company, pulling information from all channels available (technical, business, …) and pushing information inside and outside the company through every available network.

Oh and it does also help pushing a consistent message by the way.

Welcome to the real world of marketing!

So, what is your take in the end ? Where does your marketing stands ? Party-throwers or company experts ?

(Images : Samuel Pavin and HubSpot free pack)

The good, the bad (and ugly) use of Twitter for customer service

Social media. The word is everywhere and corporations are getting there little by little, for marketing, for engaging customers, driving sales Good, bad, uglybut also to provide customer service or support via Twitter.

This is a “new” trend and large companies are actually setting up accounts – or using some current ones – in order to provide an additional contact option for their customers and offer an extra level of service.

The adoption of Twitter by brands has been quite good so far but mainly in order to do content marketing, not necessarily answer customers.

Yet, with Twitter allowing people to easily give shouts at these company accounts, it does seem that the market itself has pushed – and still pushes – towards this use for customer service.

However, regardless of being top of the crowd and officially offering support via Twitter, companies do have to get their act together with a proper structure and a clear understanding that the level of service expected is no different from what customers may expect when entering a shop or an agency and facing actual employees.

Some companies tend to do it right and offer good service.

How good are they ?

From recent experience, HSBC, for example proves to be quite responsive (usually one of the pain points as these company accounts do face crowded timelines) and the “operators” behind the account do post a tweet to introduce themselves when taking over.

Not much of a difference but it does give a sense of humanity to the (Twitter) handle.

Airlines also are in my “good” ones with Air France and Easyjet. Slightly different positioning for these two yet a level of customer service quite on par with each other.

The second might struggle a little bit more with responsiveness, as seen by some people tweeting again to ask for answers but I still do like the fact that both accounts tend to follow their customers in order to provide answers through private messages as soon as it is not an easy fix.

Not only does it save some (to a lot) of timeline space but it also shows a sense a privacy that is enjoyable from a customer point of view. Reminder : tweets are public and while people following my account may know about me reaching out to an airline about an issue, I would appreciate that not every single person, bot, alien or whatever else out there follows my dialog with the company.

One last bit on the good usage of Twitter. I did mention earlier the companies with no specific support account but which people can still touch through their standard Twitter account. Good handling of Twitter requests on these accounts may depend on the community manager(s) and/or the company’s policy but how enjoyable and rewarding is it when a “message in a bottle” sent with little hope to a brand’s handle ends up being answered in the right way (e.g. not by a “go f**k yourself!” but rather a “how may I help you?”), quickly and efficiently enough.

Enough with congratulating big companies here, that is what most startups do everyday and even if their good handling of Twitter requests may stem from a need to gain visibility, fix beta product used by early adopters or just make sure they set the foundations right with their first customers, the quality of service offered is definitely something every company out there should look up to.

Evil Twitter How bad can it get ?

Well, this is where it does get nasty. Twitter being yet another means of communication, some may think it can be handled in the same way as phone or email.

That means sitting some people in front of the screen and providing them with recommendations on how to deal with customers (scripts … ) : expanding the call center to social media.

From personal experience, French telecom company SFR is now on my list of sworn enemies after I spent a week running through all their departments before trying to end the pain by making use of their Twitter handle (dedicated to customer support).

The sad bit here (apart from the fact that most of the other contact means are pretty unresponsive) is that this was a good example of call center Twitter.

The responsiveness while not being that bad showed that handling a busy timeline requires tools and/or added staff.

Yet, the understanding of requests definitely was nowhere near what people would expect. And that is a fact, any issue or request can only be a 140 characters one. Meaning customers have to ensure they can summarize the question but, also, that people doing the support on the other side must, at least, be able to understand the request and, further than that, be able to ask for clarifications if needed.

Which, when done in public, while facing a crowded timeline, does get nowhere but close to a mess.

This is where DMs are a must-use.

Another recent example shows how understanding (e.g. being able to not only understand the written sentence but also the context and who the customer is – or is not) is Bank of America’s handling of some rants in which their handle was used.

How is it even possible for the operator behind BofA’s Twitter to offer assistance with their account to the twitter of OccupyLa whose wording was rather about telling them how much they suck better than asking for details on savings accounts.

Customer service through Twitter is something truly new. It bears a new concept as this is basically a public square where everybody can shout at each other while wearing a mask.

The handling of that does not require call center skills (people at OccupyLA would surely not spend ten minutes on an expensive-as-hell support phone number, listening to brain-melting messages just to get a chance to hit at the company. On Twitter, it takes seconds and a few words) but a very different set of skills and mindset as well.

Twitter, a necessary tool at the moment ?

A dedicated user myself, I can only say yes, definitely. However, looking at the good and bad points, it does require some thinking and structuring before jumping in; whatever the use.

But as soon as a company does make the decision to make use of Twitter (and social media in general) for actual customer service and support (I leave aside marketing being slightly less crucial), they need to ensure getting things right and not consider it as part of their basic usual customer support framework.

That is basically the same as hiring a skilled social media marketer when it comes to developing online presence and content marketing.

I love Twitter as a tool, as a media and I definitely like customer support being handled through this means but companies have to ensure they have the right skill and mindset to make it successful.

It is not marketing as people see it but, as a reminder, any message getting out to customers is marketing.

Any bad message or usage is, in the end, bad marketing.

Customer service is marketing too. Make sure to use Twitter (and all social media) in the good way to deliver a good marketing message.

Everything corporate is marketing

Everything corporate is marketing

Dead to the world (of WordPress)

Heartbeat sams town wordpress

Heartbeat – no heartbeat – heartbeat – heartbeat … back to life. Social Media life.

A short post to signal my being back from the darkest corners of life (hell ?) … or not. That is depending on the reading of activity and workload associated with not taking the time to finalize the dozen of draft articles I have in here.

Quite the worst example of social media practice.

While keeping a good Twitter activity, a fair one while curating topics (Entrepreneurship in the World, on Scoop.it), my blog dedication has been so low I can but be ashamed of my very poor social media management.

Because as part of the tools set I am using, the blog is the place where my very own content can be shared and not only in a limited 140-characters style.

As part of a social media strategy, any company/individual shall have a place where ideas can be developed.

Indeed communication – the real-life one when people speak to each other – is mainly based on the tone of the voice and the attitude of the person speaking. The actual content (words said) account for roughly a third of communication.

Hence, written-only communication can easily be misunderstood. And when it comes to summarizing it in 140 characters then the misreading might skyrocket.

A blog or a website are not THE solution but they still are a solution, being a place where a sentence, an idea can be developed and explained precisely to an audience. And this is crucial.

As a test, look into summarizing the content of this piece in a Twitter-sized chapter while ensuring not losing the ideas and the context.

Content is crucial (that is definitely what inbound marketing is about) but, as part of a digital and/or social media strategy, clear content is crucial.

Back to life. Back to social media life. New content to come.