One of my new favorite shows is HBO’s Silicon Valley. Why? Because I find the startup world – and particularly the startup scene in SV – to be fascinating. On a regular basis, I am blown away by some of the ideas and technology being produced by these super smart twenty- (and sometimes 30- or 40-) somethings. And being from the more traditional coast and of a “not 20-something” generation, I find the culture to be very interesting. But on a deeper level, I think there’s more to my fascination.
If you haven’t watched the show and/or don’t plan to, it’s intended to tell the story of Pied Piper, a company founded on an algorithm developed for highly advanced file compression. And the main character first explains it as a way to for companies to quickly locate music copyright information. It’s not until others see what he’s doing that the true value of the algorithm’s compression value comes to light. And quickly, a few investors come flocking. But the main character decides to take the seed money rather than the quick but financially lucrative buyout offer so that he can create and foster his company, Pied Piper. And then, it’s off to the races…which is what is most interesting. The continued episodes share his escapades in developing a business plan, dealing with company name challenges, and purchasing SWAG. And the humor is absolutely not lost on me and I’m sure it’s not lost on those who consider themselves entrepreneurs and marketers.
But at the core, I enjoy the show because it brings up topics that entrepreneurs face every single day: WHAT is this company – this thing that we’ve created – all about, really? Are we really selling an algorithm? That might be what’s behind your company but if this is what you try to sell to your prospects, you will probably not recognize a lot of revenue, especially in the B2B space.
The truth is that there will be 50 more ridiculously smart entrepreneurs right behind you who will create the next faster, better, easier solution next month. So you damn well better figure out WHY you exist and be able to articulate it simply and effectively.
So if you’re a startup or a small business that hasn’t really taken the time to think through these things, here are 4 key questions you need to ask and be prepared to answer. Do they sound simple? Yes. Are they easy questions to answer? Just ask every entrepreneur who has tried to answer them:
Always put yourself in the mind of your customer/potential customer. It’s not about what you call a product or service – it’s about what your customer calls it and how it relates to their pain points.
But my absolute favorite scene in the first episode of Silicon Valley is the part where the founder and his friend approach Hooli, a startup turned large company, and witness a group of people on a “shared bike” to which he exclaims:
“Oh God. The marketing team is having another bike meeting.”
Perfect. Remind me to get one of these shared bikes when Take Root Marketing makes it big.
There’s a lot of talk about big data these days. It’s very buzzy and, for those of you who know and work with me, you’ll understand that I have a healthy skepticism for shiny objects and marketing babble.
But don’t get me wrong – most of this chatter surrounds topics that we should care about and that can prove very meaningful to our marketing efforts. But not just because you can sound important when talking to your CMO.
This brings me to the topic of Big Data. These is so much input these days and the power of Big Data lies in our ability to put our arms around all of this data to truly inform and improve our marketing results by better understanding our prospects and customers. This is an important and challenging endeavor but one that needs to start in a place that is rooted by an inherent understanding of our audience and our objectives.
To provide a specific use case for what I’m referring to, I will use social media. One of my favorite analytics tools is Simply Measured. It is simply amazing and provides companies with a veritable treasure trove of data. And it’s incredibly tempting to pull down pretty reports that show things like what time a Facebook visitor from Ireland viewed a specific post and which browsers my Twitter followers use.
While all of this is very interesting and can make us look smart, are they really important in understanding how my company is performing in social media based upon the objectives we set out? Probably not. But there are some important data pieces that you can and should be reviewing. So how do you know what to look at?
Time and time again, I see marketers and marketing analytics teams reporting on this kind of detail when they don’t even understand whether they have strong and growing engagement with their followers. And I also see executives who scratch their heads as they look at these reports wondering if they should care about these metrics or not.
So put away the fancy terms, pull out that Powerpoint that details the marketing objectives (that are also hopefully aligned closely to corporate goals) and figure out how you’re going to measure your results in a way that you and your team can share. Big data is a cool topic but wrapping your arms around key insights that relate to your specific objectives is even cooler.
Looking to drive brand awareness, for example? Figure out how many times your company is mentioned in relationship to specific terms, i.e. your keywords. How does this compare with the mentions for these same terms amongst your competitors? These numbers will begin to show whether your brand recognition is on the rise or if it’s stagnant.
And always remember your attribution. It’s tempting to say that a goal of social media is to drive sales. But if your product is one with a long, complex sales cycle, then it’s shortsighted to say that one interaction drove a sale. More likely, this is just one piece of the marketing and sales pie that helped to drive the sale. So think about the attribution of your marketing activities, as they are not all created equal.
In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss how you can begin to think about lead scoring. While you may think that you need a fancy marketing automation system – and it does help but is not a requirement – you can start to develop a simple scoring model that will help you to better report on marketing results.
If you love building social connections and engaging with audiences on social networks the way I do, then you probably spend lots of time looking at content – Tweets, posts, blogs, images, videos, etc. It’s amazing but let’s also admit that there is a ton to sift through. Our social tools, like Sprout Social and Hootsuite, really help a lot. BUT it’s still wickedly time consuming. Yes, I said wicked…I live outside of Boston.
And it is never lost on me when one person out of the hundreds of people and brands I follow inserts a bit of humor and personality into their content; a fun image, an interesting metaphor, a personal story. Here’s a fun and very simple example. Wistia, an awesome video hosting company here in the Boston area, always injects a bit of humor into their content – always! They obviously produce a ton of their own videos that are always natural (vs. posed), include multiple employees and are not only offering valuable content but always make you laugh at least a little. So I always watch them! Yes, for the great content but also because they make me laugh.
I was just looking at Wistia’s Twitter page and saw this – a great photo + a fun addition to the bio description.
Let me ask you this question: can we not be both professional and show a bit of humor and personality at the same time? Why does everyone think that things have to be formal and serious? If you had the choice, what would you rather read?
So, my friends, it’s time to lighten up. For companies, that means…
On behalf of the company
Think about common themes that run through your office. Is there a group that goes running at lunch or plays softball in the spring? Think about how you can bring some of these themes into your content.
Come up with a fun campaign. This is especially helpful for companies whose products tend to be very technical or traditional. A great example is the Approva Corporation, an audit software company, who created the campaign, “I love a good audit.” They created a website, a greeting card app, videos, etc. But even if you don’t want to take it this far, think about how you can have a bit of fun with your brand or product. It may be a Facebook contest, an email campaign theme or a video and it could be as simple as a fun graphic that you carry through your marketing channels in various ways.
Posting on your personal accounts
What are you passionate about? What are things that you contemplate that you’re curious about? You likely have full networks of people that might share these interests but also might be curious about some of the same things! So take the opportunity to connect and engage with them. Below are a few examples.
So many of us travel for business and sometimes more often than we would like. I have seen executives post stories about their business travel, including how they passed the time and suggestions for frequent travelers, that have garnered more views and comments than anything they ever posted about their products or company. What about posting a “travel log” when visiting interesting locations? Add photos, unique experiences, people who you met, etc. These stories can be valuable because they make people “relatable” through common experiences.
Conduct a quick poll. Chances are you are connected to people within your industry and areas of expertise. So utilize these networks to ask questions of your peers and to gain new insights. For example, I have been seeing other social media consultants using titles like Social Media Advisor and Social Media Coach. So I created a quick little poll to see if I can find out what people prefer. I’m hoping to get thoughts from clients, prospects and other consultants. It’s like my own focus group that I have access to 24x7!
These are just a few ideas to bring your content down to earth and hopefully add some personality and humor to the mix. If you’re looking to get down to specifics or for more ideas like these, please reach out. I would be happy to explore them with you.
While I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day and believe it to really be a way for the card stores, candy companies and jewelry shops to make money, I certainly do believe in celebrating love.
Of course, I love my kids, my husband, my family, my dog and cat, I also want to take a few minutes to talk about my other love – for marketing and social media. Here are my top three:
I know that none of these points is earth-shattering but really a reflection of why I do what I do. Why do you love marketing and/or social media? Share!
Renay M. Picard
The Take Root Marketing Blog is intended as a vehicle to assist and engage with marketers and social media addicts like myself - please share your thoughts, good, bad or otherwise. I'd love to hear from you!