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Recently I posted an article somewhere else about a recent survey by the American Association of National Advertisers. I would like to share it here as well since I find it more important than ever to think about emotional aspects of communication, marketing and businesses in a world where people, what they say and how they share stories and create word-of-mouth is key in social media marketing and other forms of marketing.
The survey by the American Association of National Advertisers (ANA) points out that few companies pay attention to the emotional aspects of their products and services in their brand-related messages and how these products and services could meet people’s emotional needs.
The conclusion from the ANA was a remarkable one, since most marketers realize the importance of connecting with people on an emotional level, according to the same survey.
But there is more. How is it possible that, knowing that the buying process is a combination of so-called rational decisions and mostly emotional decisions, marketers neglect the emotional aspects of what they communicate and share (if they share at all)?
On top of that: there is no strict border between rationality and objectivity on one hand and sentiment, emotions and thus subjectivity on the other. They are connected and the same (it’s our cultural heritage to separate these two).
Rationality still rules
EVERYTHING we do is inspired by emotions and is subjective, even if we don’t realize it. If there was such a thing as the “rational and objective truth”, people would not argue.
That’s one thing I wanted to say.
A second thing that I’d like to stress (again) is that a brand is a matter of people (the people in the company, the people around the company, and the people with potential influence on the company), and engaging people in an emotional, useful, participative, and “humane” way is crucial.
Still, 62% of the questioned marketers say, their brand messages are more based on rational and functional aspects. Only 38% say, they focus on the emotional benefits.
At the same time, marketers think that there should be a better balance between rational/functional benefits on the one hand, and emotional benefits on the other (48 and 52%, respectively).
According to Bob Liodice, CEO at the ANA, the survey’s conclusions are understandable.
Love your customers, they pay the bills
He says that during the recession, “consumers” have been focusing a lot on the price and just how much they can get for their money. He expects people to focus more on emotional benefits from now on.
Sure, price seems like a “rational” thing but it’s very emotional as well. Ask those that have been struck hard by the recession and those don’t have the money to buy all the fancy goods businesses want us to believe we need!
Marketing is about business and business is simple: get your stuff bought. But marketing is increasingly realizing the importance of people in the interaction process and thus by definition of emotional connections. So get some emotion in your brand messages and do it now.
If you love your brand, then love your customers as well, they pay the bills.
So start listening and appealing to their emotions. Of course we can talk about “hidden persuaders” and stuff now but I mean really caring. If you don’t they will not care either.
Anyway, you can read more - probably more interesting data and stuff than I just covered - about the survey here.
Earlier this month I posted an article on The eMail Guide, as the name says a site about email marketing and run by a few extremely nice people.
As I write a lot about social media marketing and email marketing I wrote a post called "Why email marketers understand social media best (even if they don’t know it)". But there was some irony in it. Since I talked about "good" email marketers, hoping to convince email marketers to embrace social media.
At the same time, it is true that people who specialize in social media marketing can learn a lot from email marketers. In fact, all kinds of marketers could learn a lot from each other and from sales people as well (also look at the article about the "silos" I just posted).
A lot of email marketers are still hesitant about using social media. It’s often said that this is because email marketers have a broadcasting mentality and don’t know what ‘conversations’ and ‘customer relationships’ are.
I don’t agree with that. On the contrary: I believe that email marketers could be the best social media marketers. Do I hear some protest among social media marketers? Let me explain before you declare me nuts.
First of all, an email marketer is not a broadcaster. Because someone that broadcasts bulk messages is not an email marketer (maybe an extremely bad one).
But there's more.
What are some typical characteristics of social media marketing?
1. It is based on relationships
Social media marketing is based upon the way you move from connections to relationships by being a valuable partner and respecting people. Email marketing is about relationships as well. When someone signs up for a newsletter he says “I want your stuff in my inbox, here I am, add me to your list”. A good email marketer understands that. Just as he or she knows that you should respect your subscribers by taking their needs into account.
2. It is about the value and content you provide
In order to receive value, you have to provide it. Smart email marketers know how important it is to offer good content and other valuable items to their subscribers. Content, value and relevancy are key in email marketing. They are key in social media marketing as well.
3. It’s the people, stupid
Brands are people, customers are people, the whole social web is about people. Chatting, tweeting, liking, blogging, commenting, caring and sharing. Every good email marketer knows that there are real people behind the email addresses that sit in his databases and that they should be treated as such.
4. It’s about sharing
One of the most popular activities on social networks is sharing. Thoughts, posts, video’s, images, you name it. Social media marketing thrives on sharing, buzz, viral effects, etc. Email marketer have known that since ages. Who invented “send-to-a-friend”? Who understands that email has a strong viral potential if the message is relevant and share-worthy?
5. It is based on listening
Social media marketers know how important it is to listen to what people are saying about their brands, their competitors, market trends, etc. and to act upon it. That’s why they use all these social media management tools. But what’s new? All email marketing professionals listen to their recipients: they ask them what they want, run satisfaction surveys, they even ask people who unsubscribe why they do so and provide them an alternative, so they listen and act as well!
6. It’s integrated and cross-channel
Social media marketing is part of an overall marketing strategy. It’s about having a cross-channel and holistic view. Email marketers are experts in cross-channel strategies. They know that email marketing has an important role in the overall marketing strategy, including providing customer service, improving customer loyalty, acquiring and nurturing leads, CRM and much more.
7. It’s about content
What do people share most on social media? Content. What do people tweet about often? Content. What’s the reason why a blog post get’s shared, tweeted, liked or socially bookmarked? Content. Social media marketing and inbound marketing are about being found and noticed by good content. This content becomes a story that leads to word-of-mouth. Good social media marketers also highlight the content and stories of other people. Email marketers know all about good and relevant content. They know that content is what makes your email opened and clicked. They even test their content and look at what converts best and thus is most appreciated!
8. It’s about context and personalization
Social media marketers understand the importance of context. They know how to track the digital footprints of people, segment, choose channels and act upon “digital signals” by providing personalized content via appropriate channels or engaging in contextual dialogues. Email marketers are the kings of personalization, offering choice, segmentation and swiftly acting upon the digital signals of their recipients.
9. It’s about trust and respect
Brands and businesses that use social media know that they have to be authentic, real, transparent, participative and respectful. They know they are joining a global and continuing stream of conversations, and that they have to gain the trust of people by listening, answering, providing value and having a personal approach in times where people increasingly control communication and lose trust in businesses. Email marketers know that as well, from long before social media even existed. They understand you have to listen and talk to your recipients and they most of all understand that an email relationship is based upon trust, reliability and permission, starting from the subscription form.
10. It’s about engagement
Social media marketing is not only about listening and talking. It’s about acting, engaging people, sharing passions, involving “crowds” and communities and inviting people to participate in what you, as a business, do. All good email marketers know that they need to engage recipients and emotionally appeal to them. They also know that people act, buy, forward and click for sentimental reasons, more than for anything else.
You see: when looking at just ten typical aspects of what social media marketing is about, you notice that there is not much difference between email marketing and social media marketing.
So why not combine and integrate them to have a better reach, offer people more choice and provide them content and value in function of their needs? Because, ultimately that’s what both email marketing and social media marketing are about: customer-centricity and of course just…marketing.
As a good email marketer you know all this already. Many social media marketers don’t even know it.
The only question of course is if you’re a good email marketer. Of course you are. And, anyways, there is always room to improve.
I admit this post might be a bit simplistic and theoretical, although... Next time I'll look in detail how social media marketing can improve email marketing and your entire marketing strategy. You'll have to learn it anyway I'm afraid.
Because it's all about real-time now.
I'll go beyond the obvious stuff such as sharing tools but will also give you some examples of how listening on social media (and elsewhere) and doing something with the things you "hear" and even can predict opens new doors. As long as you think people.
During lots of conversations with people from the business world, I notice that there still exist a lot of misconceptions about corporate blogs and their importance. Sometimes, I even have to explain what blogs actually are.
I can tell them about all different kind of blogs, as Debbie Weil summarized in her book about corporate blogging, and what they can do for them.
Sometimes, I have to keep it even simpler and tell them that a blog is a type of website where people can post texts, updates, photos, links, videos, audios etc. about everything they want, which blog platforms exist, that you can allow comments and can do it being a company as well. Sometimes, I have to explain it in very simple words, before I can even think of explaining the benefits of a blog.
So, I will do it here as well before we go a bit further. I cannot cover all aspects of blogging in one post, nor can I cover all the benefits and tackle all misconceptions. But let me give a try.
Blogs are “personal” online platforms where everyone that so desires can tell whatever he likes. This can be about the unbearable lightness of being, the frivol adventures of a Saturday night, the favourite pet or heavier themes like the social-economic situation in China or the true meaning of the works of Nietzsche. Some blogs have a clearer theme and others don’t.
Corporate blogs are blogs that were set up by companies. Not by the companies themselves, of course, because businesses are nothing more than legal entities and I never saw a company write a text.
Companies are a collection of people, and corporate blogs are thus set up by PEOPLE within the companies such as the CEO, the R&D division, the guy that wrote a book, the in-house guru, the people that work within the company, marketing and PR folks, whatever. For the record: I am not covering internal blogs here.
Blogs are about people and, yes, excuse me, conversations
Sometimes, setting up a corporate blog (or several ones like one for the “business as a whole” and one for the in-house guru), happens from a top-down approach. Somebody says ‘we have to blog’. Sometimes, it happens within the frame of a specific action or campaign. And sometimes, it happens bottom-up: people from the company start to blog about the things they do and after a while it is picked up by more people from the company and recuperated by the management because they ‘see it going well’. Of course, this is a little simplistic and the start of every corporate blog is different, but nonetheless, it gives an idea.
The reasons why companies set up a blog are very diverse (I assume here that a blog is a conscious decision, as I was just telling that is not always the case).
Some do it to tell how wonderful they are. Others see it as a PR-activity. Still others do it because ‘the media’ never write about them. And there are some, who do it because it is in fashion. Here is the bad news for all those companies: that is not what blogging is about.
What is it about then? It is about inbound, brands as publishers, value, relevancy, opinions, community and people. But most of all it's about giving your business a human and authentic face by letting the people within it converse.
I guess that, by now, some of you are tired of the word ‘conversations’. Well, don’t blame me. I didn’t invent it, it says what it is and it’s been used in marketing literature for years now.
You cannot open a book or read a post on “Marketing 2.0” without encountering the word.
Lots of books about blogs have it even incorporated in the title. Think of ‘Naked Conversations’, the corporate blogging book of Robert Scobble and Shel Israel. Or Joseph Jaffe’s, ‘Join the Conversation: How to Engage Marketing-Weary Customers With The Power of Community, Dialogue and Partnership’.
The key takeaway of The Cluetrain Manifesto
To understand the term ‘conversations’, I rather refer to a different and somewhat older book (published for the first time in 2000 to be precise), when the term’ blog’ didn’t even exist (or, at least on a larger scale): ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto’.
From that book you actually should remember just one sentence (it doesn’t take away the fact that I advise you to read it entirely, if you haven’t done it already): ‘markets are conversations’.
The authors refer to the original role of ‘the market’: a place where people come together, display their goods, talk about the weather and meanwhile, with a chat and a handshake, buy and sell all sorts of goods.
At first sight it is a simple and evident comparison. But, there does hide a very important marketing reality behind it. Understanding this is like immediately understanding what corporate blogging is really about.
Markets are conversations. Unfortunately companies and marketers had forgotten a little about it and they didn’t converse anymore (and they didn’t listen at all).
The decline of the conversation in the commercial process has been attributed to the mass production (and communication) model that has made its ascent since the industrial revolution.
It is a model that has alienated the companies and “consumers” from each other by a “we and they’ discourse. ‘We’ are the companies that manufacture products; ‘they’ are the ones who use them.
And between them lies marketing: PR, commercials, communication, market research: everything companies need to have to get known and to reach the estranged “consumer”. Or, in other words: the direct ‘conversation’ had disappeared.
Internet and social media force businesses to listen again
Still conversations about (and with) companies take place every day, as I often write and say.
When I tell a friend about a bad service I received, when I bought my new cell phone with company A. Or when I watch a commercial on the TV with my wife, where a company presents itself as ‘the specialist on the subject of x’ and we look at each other with a reaction of ‘yeah, right’.
Or when a consumer sends a reader’s letter to a newspaper telling about the scandalous sales practices of energy supplier B.
The truth is that conversations never really stopped.
However, a lot of companies have gone through a lot of trouble to stop those conversations with the help of marketing inventions such as ‘positioning’, bombardments of mass commercials and tutti quanti.
And suddenly the Internet came along; a medium without rules, where everybody can say what they want. At first, in phenomena such as news groups and the forums.
And since a couple of years on blogs, the first real platforms of what now is fashionably called social media.
With blogs the conversations went public. And they spread very fast. Word-of-mouth got a potential global dimension. The bad service I was just mentioning doesn’t get only one auditor but possibly thousands, through the WWW.
Thus, there are conversations in abundance.
Conversations of consumers tired of being lied to, to be bombed with meaningless ‘corporate speak’, to be regarded and addressed as consumers rather than as human beings, and to be addressed by companies rather than by the people of the company or badly served (“all our operators are busy and in fact we don’t really care, you will be served in 47 minutes but by all means go to our site and solve your bloody problem yourself”).
Blogs as a way to re-establish what we have lost
Exactly all this stuff is what corporate blogging is all about. Besides, blogs are only one of the many ways to re-establish a direct dialogue between people (instead of consumers)... and people (instead of companies).
Markets are conversations, and conversations are equal dialogues between equal partners, who dare to show themselves to each other as they are in all honesty and transparency.
Today’s companies daring to have these conversations via corporate blogs, amongst others, are even scarcer as you would think they are. But those who do it bear its fruits.
Corporate blogs are a way of getting the inter-human dialogue going. And those dialogues are precious.
You cannot talk and listen to ‘companies’ and ‘consumers’, only to people. Companies hire positioning specialists to make up an identity, often without regarding if the identity matches the perception of their customers or not.
Vice versa, they hire market researchers to get any idea of who those darn customers actually are.
Companies cannot speak, people can. As a matter of fact, blogs are still the most important part of any inbound and social media marketing strategy, if you ask me. There is less noise and more value.
Are there more conversations? If you look at comments as conversations, certainly not. But are tweets, retweets, social bookmarks and Facebook pages or groups conversations?
Watch the Twitter stream for a day, without doing anything. Markets are conversations. On many social media they are often less personal and authentic than we like to believe.
Blogs are social media hubs and voices and ears if you use them well: be real, offer value and be found in the vast social media space.
It's the value and authenticity that leads to...leads. From a content perspective, corporate blogs are key and they are overlooked in a world where we all look at often meaningless streams of noise. Does this mean I don't like social network sites? No. But I know their place, both from a personal and marketing perspective.
Blog and get found, it's the very first step in establishing a relationship in the online world. And the best relationships move beyond the online space.
Originally posted here.