Monday, June 1, 2015

Excellence? I Bet You Don't Want It.

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Some people (and businesses) often strive for the mundane and average because it's safer and easier.

Before you ask for exemplary efforts from your employees, your team, your managers, your partner, first ask yourself: "Do I really want that?"
Everybody wants the best right? Wrong. We all have the ability to be great. And some of us for are willing to put in the work to get there and the additional work to stay there. But once we're there perhaps the most surprising thing is discovering that the rest of the world is perfectly content with being average.
Think about it. When most people talk about their favorite actor actress it's often not because under extraordinary talent. "I like that guy," they'll say. "He seems like a regular person." And read any dating profile online and most will state: "I'm just looking for someone normal."
We tend to do the same thing in business. We may want to be the best but often just okay is just fine.
"Don't take too long with this one. Just get it done."
"I think you'll be bored with this job. You seem overqualified."
"Who cares what we paid for it? We need to cut our losses."
As a society, we like the concept of being a superhero but really don't want to put in the work, put up with the dangers, or risk the chance of falling from grace. It may be fun being the Incredible Hulk but those mood swings and wardrobe costs must grow weary.
Perhaps one reason people do not give their all at the workplace is because their best is not wanted. Businesses expect to get the most out of employees but in truth they are not willing to respond in kind.
Really experienced employees will cost you more money. Really smart employees Will challenge the way you do business. And really hard working employees might aggravate the rest of the staff and will leave quickly when a better opportunity arises.
In business, as in life or love, we get back what we put out. Want to find the person of your dreams? Then be that person. The same goes for your business. Don't make idle promises that you know you will never keep. Don't downplay the importance of doing a good job. Don't expect A-level work from B-level players. And don't expect an exemplary staff, unless you're an exemplary leader.
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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Social Media Money Making is all in the Inception

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There is money to be made in social media. But it's not being made where you'd think -- or at least where I thought. The bulk of the money is being made by companies and individuals selling services to other companies and individuals with the hopes of making money in social media. Confused? Me too.

Thanks to social media, the days of the banner ads as revenue generators are behind us.  Pricing was based on traditional print advertising, but used visitors rather than subscribers as the benchmark. Then when tracking became available, advertisers charged by viewership or "eyeballs", And that morphed into click-throughs,  and later into conversions. To be honest, I don't think they were a good investment once the novelty wore off.

Today, I am never quicker with a click then to shut those pop in ads for newsletter subscriptions et al. You still see banner ads (mostly on mobile) but online ads were replaced with search engine ads and corresponding landing pages. Those work but require an offer: either giving something away, a contest to win something or at least a discount -- all at no cost.

Companies now use social media for primarily publicity reasons to drum up interest in their product or service. To extend offers or up sell opportunities. They use it to aid in customer service. Making sales off your Twitter and Facebook? Didn't think so. And if you are, I'm willing to bet it's less than last year despite the fact that 2015 seems to be better for everyone.

Simply put, the companies generating the most revenues through social media are the social media companies themselves. Facebook. Twitter. Pinterest. No surprise here. So are the companies aiding those companies. Social media posting, listening, monitoring software. The business of social media is selling social media. Still confused? You're supposed to be, as that's part of the plan.

Right now the place where people I know are making money in social media is Instagram. How are a collection of selfies with my BFF and what-I-had-for-lunch snaps generating revenue?  Uhm, well they're not but I have friends who are doing well on a variety of topics from yoga to interior design.  Early adopters to the medium, these friends have Instagram accounts that have amassed followers by the thousands (upwards of a million-plus in some cases). Their business plan? They'll charge you to post your photo (not an ad, but photo mind you) on their account. All in the hopes that some of their followers will see it, and like it enough and follow you. So they can do the same to others. It's the New World pyramid scheme - Ponzi minus the illegal part. There are companies that can tell you everything about the who what and where. What percentage of those million subscribers will actually check their Instagram doing the few hours you paid me to post your photo? Sssh! Don't ask such details. You're ruining the fun.

At times, social media reminds me of the plot to the movie Inception. You understand it (enough) to follow what's going on (sort of), and are happy with the ending that makes sense (some what).  Part of our confusion though is our own making. Social media hasn't changed us; we've changed it.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Half-Baked Rules are Killing B2B Email

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Over the years, I've conducted every online and traditional method of business to business (B2B) marketing available, from social media to broadcast media, from telemarketing to network marketing, from to print ads, trade shows and direct mail. But the most effective revenue generating method I have used by far has been email marketing. Nothing comes in a close second. Nothing. Unfortunately, bulk B2B email blasts are nearly impossible to do anymore.

You can thank the scammers and spammers for that. There are so many canned SPAM laws that exist restricting and banning bulk emails. The regulations are so stringent that email marketing companies require more clearance than hitching a ride onto Air Force One.  These laws were created primarily  to stop all those male dysfunction, mortgage refinance, Russian bride and the like emails that wanted to scam and or harass the consumer. But those SPAM laws to protect also hurt the B2B landscape irrevocably.

Take this typical business-helping-other-business scenario. Let's say you're a baker, and I sell baking supplies and ingredients. And I can sell you the same supplies at half the cost that you are paying now. Sounds interesting right? I can legally use the following methods to contact you:
  1. Have a team of telemarketers hound you mercilessly - I mean -  call you several times a day.
  2. Send you flyers, brochures, coupons, and whatever junk I can find that I can stuff in an envelope. 
  3. Subject you to annoying jingles that you (as well as every non-baker) has to listen to on the radio and/or television.
  4. Leave fliers in your door and on your car that will likely end up as litter.
  5. Corner you at a trade show.
There's even remarketing - your web browser tracks what websites you've visited and search terms you've used to serve you "targeted" ads. All legal. What I can't do is send you (and other bakers just like you) an email in bulk without your permission.  An email that could save you thousands and increase your profitability. An email if you didn't want could be removed from your inbox forever with one-click. Try doing that with those other methods I mentioned.

It's all about permission say the email companies. All the person need to do is opt in. And all you need to is provide precise opt-in, or preferably double opt-in information. How many small to medium businesses do you know that can provide that? Now remember we are not talking about business to consumers. Well how do I get your permission if you don't know that my discount sugar company exists? That's right, see Methods 1-5.

Imagine if solicitors needed your permission before playing a commercial on your TV. Or giving your postman a list of accepted senders. Or having callers opt-in to your calling list. (Yes, it sounds like Heaven to me as well but that's not the point.) It's that email has been singled out because it can be.

I know what you're thinking. If you were a baker and you did want to reduce your supply costs you'd just go Google baker suppliers.  But now we enter a new territory: search engine marketing (SEM). SEM can drain a modest advertising budget in weeks with little ROI. And I'll have to pay top dollar each time someone does click on my ad. And I'll pay whether or not they are baker. Or they were really looking for flower and not flour.   Now rather than selling you those supplies at 50% of what you are paying I can only afford to sell it at 90%.  The rules are half-baked and really should be changed.

Even if your email list is pristine there's no guarantee your message will make it to recipient's inbox. Gone are the days of buckshot approach to B2B business. The individual (or one-off) emails are certainly the best way to go now.  As crazy as it may sound, you'll achieve better results by hiring a temp to address and send them out one by one like Christmas cards. Manageable for a few hundred names. More than that, well...

The silver lining to the B2B email downfall, if there is one, is inbound marketing. It allows companies to "seed" the internet with tweets, facebook posts, and blogs, to get noticed. And coupons, free offers and eBooks on landing pages in exchange for a valid email.

I'm not faulting the email marketing companies. They have no choice but to comply or get blacklisted, and no recourse but to shut you down or its their neck. So they always have the same answer when asked for a solution:"newsletter subscription." Really? No business decision maker today reads them anymore in this fast paced digital age. You're lucky if they check Twitter and Facebook. The one thing they'll likely an email.

Follow Frank Bocchino, a digital marketing consultant who helps brands exceed their business goals using the latest tools for marketing automation, SEO, and social media.

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