Does anyone remember the old EF Hutton TV commercials? Dead silence. People watch attentively as someone mutters, “EF Hutton thinks…”. The tag line was “When EF Hutton talks, people listen”.
Well, those were the good old days of TV and trusted investment advisors. It’s a different world now for more than a few 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 subject of how to get “people to listen” on the web beyond all the noise has recently become the subject of many questions I have received. So, here is my answer in as much brevity as I can muster (considering the question is like trying to put cliff notes around “War & Peace” while trying to keep all the nuances and meaning)…
So, how should you establish your business on the Internet without being intrusive or adding to the growing clutter and noise of increasing data dump?
It starts with a foundation – the clear understanding that this is a connected market. It is a two-way conversation – a delivery of messages where conversational communication drives the market.
There are an increasing multitude of communication engines that are evolving. We know these as search engines, social networks, blogs, email, text messaging, RSS feeds, audio, and video. Many of the most popular tools are known by brand names that break down like this:
Brand Consolidators and/or Tools
Search Engine. Make their revenue through pay-per-click advertising. Deliver their product through natural search engine algorithms (SEO) – a popular way to capture the “organic” presence.
Microsoft and Yahoo have partnered to try to add a new twist to search.
A business-to-business person social network.
Mini-Blog feed – quasi social network.
Really Simple Syndication – more a tool than a brand.
One of the largest Blog consolidators.
Still the leader in e-mail tools – incorporates BBM (Black Berry Messenger) – a kind of instant, free text messaging tool between BlackBerry users.
The iPhone is a computer with a phone attached – it is a device that can be set up to use and do many things with all of the above.
E-mail can evolve if one has the tools to us it properly. Think of e-mail as the standard way to engage and interact – it works marvelously if you’re not generic or intrusive. That is the trick.
SMS – Text Messaging – MMS
Text, Pictures, Video sent to mobile devices.
Video consolidator (owned by Google) – quite under fire at the moment for theft of copyrighted material.
Audio news and information delivered via the iTunes store.
Of course there are dozens of others in each category beyond this cursory list. The first thing to recognize is there is no one place, brand, or method that is considered the “best”. These are all important to your business message and model (which is the first level of complexity).
To further define the relevance of each model to your particular marketing, you must define how to begin the conversation. A worthwhile objective is to establish an “inbound” connection. Far too much communication today on the Net follows the “outbound” model. Newspapers, magazines, TV, radio never had the need to consider an instant response.
A model that begins with an inbound query from a user is the correct approach and is the only approach worth pursuing in this web of cluttered information.
How do we begin to do this? 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 that is for your enterprise to go reflect back on the old adage of “word-of-mouth is the best advertising”. We call this word-of-mouth on the web – a conversation that talks about your company instead of telling the world about yourself. This is the sort of PR marketing that is most valuable.
A true conversation is bound to engage and emerge when what your business offers is the topic of conversation. Is it difficult to do? In a cluttered world of search data, yes. In a targeted market of like-minded conversations? It’s very effective! Thus, the era of vertical connected market spaces, focused on a particular subject, is the emerging key. Are you a part of the right conversation?
How you begin this conversation can be blurred. For example, if I’m walking down the street and accidentally bump into someone while trying to avoid a puddle and I say “sorry” or “excuse me”, an exchange occurs. Where did the conversation, interaction begin? Where could it lead?
The Internet conversation works much like this. Search has conditioned people to “bump into” thoughts and information, things they may or may not have been thinking about – seemingly random puddles of information. This is what I call the ‘self-discovery’ market of information delivery. Where will your information show up? Are you playing in the right puddle?
How do you ensure that you are in the right place where a machine – a search engine – delivers your message where it is relevant, important, and becomes a part of the conversation? A good way to start is to first “listen” before you begin; this happens through analytics about the conversation surrounding your market.
Of course now we are looking at the true challenge for businesses in today’s world of the Internet. There are trillions of bites of information, emails, data, and texts that are filling up 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, at Times Square at noon on a Monday and shouting your message about how solid your financial planning model is. How many people will take you up on your advice and become your client? You may turn some heads. More likely, you’ll be politely asked to calm down or take a trip down to the NYPD precinct!
Now, imagine the financial firm that starts sponsoring some entertainment and with a loud speaker from the stage, announces that their firm is sponsoring this noon concert to bring attention to the disaster in Haiti. They don’t talk about their financial strategies as wealth planners. They simply announce their intentions and provide a well thought out message adding 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 client base from the exact same crowd?
The first company wanted to deliver a message by shouting. They wanted a quick win. They wanted it to be “free” or inexpensive. Too many businesses have and continue to treat the web the same way.
The second firm hired an events coordinator, found an attraction and sponsored a great band. They paid for a permit from the City of New York and kept their commitment. They took proceeds and sent them to the organizations aiding Haiti. It was an investment of time through branding and organization.
The first firm was shouting, adding clutter 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 out random text messages to be heard! This was disconcerting, as it’s this kind of thinking that was behind e-mail SPAM in the first place! It simply won’t work. And in the world of “black lists”, it could really damage your business.
The problem and challenge with the Internet is that companies want quick answers amidst perhaps the most crowded and noisy of all streets ever created by humanity. 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 that people can hear and discover your message of interest, as well as many to ignore.
What are the steps to succeeding? Here is a list of Do’s and Don’ts that well-organized, well-respected businesses should follow:
Understand your market – where are they looking, what is your region or specific area, model of client / customer you are seeking and that is seeking your product.
Splash your message to the world using Google AdWords, generic email newsletters about what you want to tell the world or talk about or your views.
Find the medium most effective to deliver your message – you will have to invest in the tools to use.
Just spend your money on pay-per-click advertising – you’ll waste it.
Create a conversation “puddle” about why people should be interested in what you have to offer or say. Tell them how the world is within your market and how you can help.
State all of the reasons why your firm is so great on a web site – 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”.
Do hire a professional firm that specializes in creating connections based on your objectives – and helps measure your Return On Investment.
Don’t hire a webmaster, designer, or Flash graphics firm that will build you a fancy or flashy “better” website.
Finally, do create a bound connection between your business that you deliver offline and how you can create better service and connections online. Improve your enterprises process with technology. I call this BIPED®.
Don’t just try to bring people in on the “front stage” and forget that the reason they are there is to have a fresh new perspective from what you do “back stage”.
So, to summarize all the Do’s to reach 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 firm can help you uncover this message.
2) Find the best communication medium you can commit to managing or having managed (e.g. Search, Social, E-mail, RSS, Podcast, Video, etc.). Again, this is not a quick, easy thing. But getting the right tools on the front end will allow you to deliver and sustain your objectives. Your marketing becomes better and easier, and your prospective customer base grows.
3) Plan to invest your money wisely in the expertise, not just in the ads that are easy to buy from Google and the like – that won’t work.
4) Design your company around this medium – and you will have designed a long-lasting market and loyal customer base.
Do these and get heard. Begin the conversation. Don’t waste your time or marketing budget on more noise!