Monday Mornings with Madison

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Social Media

Making Content Contagious

In the medical world, a virus is an infective agent that cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and replicate. Most viruses are harmful. In the digital world, a virus is a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect. But in the marketing world, when a piece of content such as a video, image or ad goes ‘viral’ – circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another – that is cause for celebration. It is the most desired, but also most elusive, outcome for any marketing effort.
While many have tried creating content that goes viral, it is like baking the perfect soufflé, writing a hit song or painting a masterpiece. Many try but most fall far short of the mark. Yes, there are many videos that have gone viral, but that number is actually quite low in comparison to the amount of content that is created and posted daily. There is a continually growing stream of digital activity flowing through cables and airwaves across the world. Every minute, giant amounts of content are being generated from phones, websites and applications across the Internet. And the unspoken competition for content to “go viral” is fierce. What causes some pieces of content to go viral while so much other content is barely noticed? While many speculate and guess, there is current marketing research that examines what makes online content go viral. Just remember that what is true today may not necessarily be true next month and will likely not be true next year. Continue reading

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Turning Storytelling into Sales

Great storytelling – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace– is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. Storytelling has been important to every people in history. It is a cornerstone of human existence, enabling people to communicate and connect. It’s been a primary tool used in government, religion, education, and – of course — business. The world’s most persuasive, compelling, and successful communicators were all great storytellers. Socrates was a great storyteller. Ben Franklin was even better. Walt Disney was masterful.
Thanks to the Internet, mass media and social media, storytelling has become a quintessential part of sales and marketing strategies. So how does a company take good information and turn it into a great story? For stories to be impactful, they need to be easily recalled and they need to motivate people. They must have emotional resonance and relevancy — most of which comes out in the details. A good story holds the audience captive. It stretches the limits of the imagination and allows listeners to marvel or wonder at something. It touches them and leaves them vulnerable. That’s why stories are such an amazing communications tool. Here’s how to turn a product or service into a great story that enhances the bottom line.
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How Good is Your Company’s Storytelling?

Today’s sales and marketing efforts require good storytelling. But storytelling is nothing new. Even before people could write, they were telling each other engaging stories to share information. That’s because no one is – or has ever been — interested in absorbing dry information. Even with today’s technology, dry information is still unpalatable whether it is delivered in a print ad, a radio commercial or video. Information is simply more likely to be accepted if it comes gift-wrapped in a story. Storytelling has the power to transform drab business details into something interesting.

Why do people find stories more compelling than other information? It’s physiological. When we listen to a standard presentation presenting dry information or hear a boring lecture, the Broca’s area of the brain is stimulated. This is in the side of the brain that deals with language and logic. However, when we are told a story that is rich with meaning and visual cues, there is a dramatically different response in the brain. Both the right and left lobes of the brain are activated. In addition to engaging the left part of the brain that handles logic and language, a good story also engages and stimulates the right side of the brain– what is deemed as the creative part. Stories grip us and help us experience emotions.  It is those emotions that help us connect with a brand, service or product. Storytelling helps shape the narrative surrounding a product or service. The goal, then, should be for a business to wrap every effort within a compelling story. Here’s how to start.
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Under-Promising and Over-Delivering

It’s been said (many times) that companies should strive to under-promise and over-deliver. Under-promising and over-delivering is seen as a good philosophy to control customer expectations and ensure that every customer becomes a raving fan when they get more than they expected. On the other hand, there are those who would argue that this is a great way to drive a business into the ground. Some see this as a formula for failure because it lowers the bar internally so that what is considered “above and beyond” is really nothing more than what the competition does on a regular basis without breaking a sweat. It therefore encourages mediocrity. Which is true?
Should a company seek to under-promise what it is offering clients? And should a company try to over-deliver, going above and beyond what is standard? Or should they set the bar high and strive to go above and beyond that? This is the conundrum with which leaders have wrestled since companies first began competing for business. There is no easy answer. The truth is that it depends. In certain situations, it is helpful to under-promise and over-deliver, but there are also times when under-promising and over-delivering actually hurts business. Understanding when it is good to do this and when it isn’t is the key.
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Staying Top-of-Mind… For Better or Worse?

It is difficult to live life completely unaffected by what other people think or say. Like pollen, the attitudes and opinions of people blow into the lives of others, shaping their perspectives and influencing their decisions. This is especially true in the age of technology, with digital winds blowing every bit of information farther and faster than ever before. When those opinions and messages are positive, it can be a valuable thing. In business, arguably nothing is more valuable to a salesperson, exec or company than for a customer to share a positive review with others. Customer and vendor recommendations are like gold. They yield a harvest of opportunity and good will over time. But what happens when the opinions and attitudes are negative? What happens when people are talking but what they are saying is not good?

In a world obsessed with being remembered and staying top-of-mind, the goal is to be talked about, no matter what’s being said. In fact, some like to say that there is no such thing as bad publicity. But that is just not true. Not all publicity is good or beneficial and there are countless examples of how bad publicity can be really bad for business or careers. For professionals and businesses alike, bad publicity can hurt in a multitude of ways. Consider the cost.
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Staying Top-of-Mind… For Better or Worse?

There’s a saying that goes: “Talk good about me; talk bad about me; just as long as you’re talking about me!” It is also kiddingly said that the only thing worse than death is to be forgotten.  This may seem extreme, but it is emblematic of the pressing need to be known and remembered; an epidemic that has spread to all industries. Overwhelmed by constant digital noise, companies and business people struggle to be remembered and stay connected with contacts. It’s referred to as “staying top-of-mind.”

Staying top-of-mind is the great challenge in business today. Companies search for ways — from the legitimate to the trivial — to keep in touch with all of the customers and potential customers possible. Webinars. Blogs. E-mails. Advertising. Junk mail. Billboards. Sky writing. Commercials. The messages scream “Know me! Remember me!” All of this effort to stay top-of-mind is contributing to the white noise that, in turn, is making it ever harder to stay top-of-mind. It is the quintessential vicious cycle. So, is all of this effort really necessary? Or worth it? Most would argue “Yes!” Not only is it worth it, but it is absolutely necessary. So what strategies can a company or business person use to stay top-of-mind?
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When “Company Policy” Creates Lifelong Customers… for the Competition

There are three little words that help businesses create lifelong customers more effectively than practically any other phrase: “It’s company policy.” The problem is that those words create lifelong customers for the competition of the company saying that to its customers. For businesses that want to drive their customers to the competition, have at it. Use that phrase to your heart’s content. Better yet, just close your doors now and save yourself the time and slow agony of going out of business the old fashioned way… failure to make money.
Let’s face it. Saying “It’s company policy” to a customer is just a nicer way of saying “We don’t want your business.” That is what a customer hears when an employee blames “company policy” for an unwillingness or inability to solve a problem or accommodate a request. And when a manager says “It’s company policy” to an employee, he is saying “If you don’t like it, go work somewhere else.” As technology and innovation continues to disrupt industry after industry, leaders and managers will be forced to decide whether they are going to stick-to-their-guns and cling to outdated company policies that kill business and alienate employees, or whether they are going to innovate and evolve with the times. Continue reading

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Content Marketing: Quality vs. Quantity

By now, most everyone has probably heard someone harping about the need for businesses to “tell their story” or “engage consumers with content” or “connect with customers on a personal level”. For over a decade, the mantra among marketers has been that Content Is King. Content is meant to attract and keep the attention of customers and potential customers. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for; you might just get it.” Everyone jumped on the content bandwagon. Ad agencies, marketing firms, public relations firms, SEO firms and media vendors all rushed in to help. They all touted the need for “MORE CONTENT.” The goal was quantity. Tell stories. Share information.
Today, consumers are saturated – actually overwhelmed – by content. Social media has enabled and encouraged everyone to share information and tell stories. Methods of storytelling abound. Businesses are sharing more information. Experts are writing white papers. Industry leaders are putting out Forecasts. Charities are telling stories. Teenagers are chatting and tweeting and sharing pictures, videos and stories. Even religious leaders – who used to be confined to telling their stories from the pulpit – have joined the digital storytelling revolution. And the media — the original reporters of the world’s stories — now find themselves vying to be heard above the storytelling din. People are experiencing an onslaught of ‘content’ the likes of which has never before been experienced. The whole of humanity is busy creating content. It is a growing ocean of noise. Now what?
This is where the law of supply and demand kicks in. When there is a glut of supply in the market, then the value goes down. Whereas once upon a time quantity was the name of the game with content, going forward the focus is shifting toward quality over quantity. Welcome to the age of quality content. Continue reading

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How to Become an Industry Insider or Influencer

In general, an “insider” is a member of any group that is limited in number and generally restricted in access. The person – by virtue of being a member of this group – has access to secret, privileged, hidden or otherwise obscure or complex information or knowledge. The insider is a member of the “gang” and hence knows things outsiders don’t, including insider jargon.
The term “Industry Insider” has various meanings. For example, in the world of securities trading, the term “Industry Insider” is generally used to describe someone who works for a publicly-traded company, or trusted advisor to that company, and possesses key information (often non-public information) about that company. They know things because they are on the “inside.” That information, if shared and/or used to influence stock trades, is illegal. The Securities and Exchange Commission considers that a form of illegal insider trading.
However, with the rise of social media, the term Industry Insider has taken on a totally different meaning. In our complicated and information-rich world, the concept of insider knowledge has grown in importance as a source of direct and useful guidance. Today, being an Industry Insider is considered a badge of honor, earning that person considerable respect and influence. So how does one become an Industry Insider, and isn’t this just a new way of saying expert or guru? Continue reading

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Industry Insiders and Influencer Marketing

Reaching customers during their decision-making process is one of the most coveted goals of sales and marketing professionals. Reaching someone at just the right time with just the right information can have a profound effect in influencing a purchase, especially if it is coming from a person of trust. Say, for instance, a man is looking to invest money. There will be many steps that go into the decision-making process of what to invest in. He might read some recent articles about the stock market in reputable investment magazines. He might get some advice from blogs written by investment gurus about investing in real estate. He might hear a radio commercial featuring a celebrity recommending investing in bonds. And he might get advice from friends and family members who have successfully managed their own investments. Some of this advice will be considered and some will be discarded. The man is more likely to listen to someone who is a trusted advisor, friend or colleague, especially if he is in the midst of the decision-making process.
Indeed, this is known as Influencer Marketing. Influencer Marketing is one of the best strategies for successfully infiltrating and influencing the decision-making process. Hence the name. Just how does Influencer Marketing work? And how effective is it? Continue reading

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