The Marketing Factor That Gets People To Buy What You Do

The idea for this post came from a video recording of Simon Sinek speaking on how great leaders (and products/companies) inspire action. In his talk, he emphasizes this quote: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” The reason that quote stood out to me was because I recently finished reading the book Contagious (and before that, Made to Stick) which are both about how storytelling sells, not products or features. It’s why Apple has such an insanely dedicated customer base, and on the flip side, it’s why IBM feels like a big, untouchable corporation.

A little backstory…

A few weeks back I was vacationing in Cape Cod and made my yearly stop at the Truro Vineyards, one of my favorite places on the Cape aside from the beach. I’ve been nearly ten times so far, but every time I go back I always remember my first visit. My mom and I sat down for a wine tasting and they started to tell us how the vineyard got started, issues they ran into along the way, happy stories about their employees, and even details about the grapes themselves. They even told us how they named each wine. After the tasting, we went on a tour of the vineyard. We heard an even more detailed story from the tour guide on their grape selection (and why some grapes do have to be imported from California still), the hours they work, and a little more about the owners. That day, I left with four bottles of wine in hand (to give to others as well, of course) and feeling like I just met a new friend. I felt like I knew who Truro Vineyards was. I’ve since gone to many other vineyards (and breweries) but few have stood up to Truro Vineyard’s storytelling power.

In everyday life…

Whenever I’m watching a TV ad, walking into a store, reading a company’s latest blog post, or visiting their Facebook page, I’m always searching for that “sticky” story. Sadly, 95% of them don’t have it. No wonder brands envy companies like Apple for their loyal customer base! Storytelling is super hard — so getting loyal customers is that much harder. But if that’s the critical part of a company’s success, it’s important to learn how to craft those stories and where to tell them.

Why stories are interesting

If you read the first chapter of Made to Stick, you’ll instantly be sucked in. Why? Stories! I can still remember them, and it’s probably been 2+ years since I last read it (and I don’t even like books that much). Stories feel real. They feel memorable. Facts and product features — meh, not so much. People remember other people, emotions, and visuals, not facts and figures that they cannot relate to. When you tell a story your target audience can relate to, they will remember it.

Why products and features are boring

Would you rather buy from:

  • ABC Company whose messaging conveys the fact that they sell the most durable, ergonomic recliner with 100% of the best fabric, and at a competitive price, or
  • from XYZ Company whose messaging tells the story of how the founder’s grandfather had chronic back pain so he sought out to create a chair to make his grandfather more comfortable, and everyone else with chronic back pain at ease, and has since been recognized by medical foundations across the world for the innovative design?

Unless you’re solely a facts person (and if that’s the case, this blog post may not be for you) you’d probably enjoy and trust the XYZ Company, right? Now think of one of your last purchases — perhaps a computer, piece of clothing or an iTunes song. What drew you to that purchase? Chances are there is some attachment you have to that brand, type of product, company story, etc.

How to do it

  •  Find out why your company was started (or if you started it, what was the compelling factor for you?)
    • This can be anything from a family backstory to a personal reason, a touching moment with a stranger, passion project, or even an obvious gap in the market that just had to be met.
  • Pick out what is absolutely the most unique “wow” factor about your product and tell a story around that.
    • i.e. if you are building the fastest online backup application, what is a great way you can tell that story? Using an analogy to “fast” could be a good starting point, but I challenge you to dig deeper.
  • Is there an early customer who is the perfect fit for what you’re building and would be a great person to profile?
    • Latch onto their story, as that will put a face to the problem you solve and excite others like them!
  • Identify the 2-3 top themes you want to be known for. So many brands today try to be everything to everyone, but that is setting yourself up for failure.
    • Once you decide on the top few things you want to be known for, consumers will be able to easily say, “oh yeah, THAT company solves just this, I’m going to use them!”
  • What is unique about your company culture and employees?
    • Are they all passionate about the same cause?
    • Do they have a backstory that relates tightly to what problem you’re solving?
    • Highlight them and show how excited and passionate they are for working on your product. This will translate excitement to your customers.

This list could go on and on, but this should be a great starting point for you, especially if you are an early stage startup. And the earlier you choose your compelling story, the easier it will be to tell that story again and again as it’ll be embedded in your entire messaging from the start. And since you have no time to lose as a startup, nailing your unique messaging earlier than later can be a huge win.

Let me know if your company is using a great story in place (or as a supplement) to pure product features & facts and what the traction has been! 

 

It’s Not Just a “Social Media Campaign” Anymore

Note: This post was originally published on MarketingOnTheRocks.com

Social media is no longer the new kid on the block — it’s pervasive, it’s intertwined, and it’s here to stay — in some shape or form. It is not an island off on its own as it once was a few years back. Anyone who is deeply embedded into the digital marketing scene understands this by now (…hopefully). And if you are in the weeds of digital marketing, this serves as a good refresher for other channels you can combine for maximum reach and results.

It’s integrated with landing pages. It incorporates content in the shape of blog posts, photos, slide decks, ads, and so on. It’s a part of everything we as marketers do today.

That is why it’s so important to consider social in ALL of your marketing and advertising efforts. It would be a failure NOT to.

Let’s evaluate a few marketing initiatives that weave in social media for multi-channel campaigns:

Company Announcements

It’s safe to say that a good number of your customers and broader audience follow you on Twitter, Like you on Facebook or have +1’ed you on Google+. But that is not reason to keep big company announcements such as a new product launch just on social. Many of your customers and total potential audience may not be on any one of those channels or paying attention at the exact moment you publish your announcement on social.

Channels to incorporate with social for announcements:

Blog posts, email blasts, online ads, landing pages.

How these combined channels boosts these announcements:

By spreading the word of what you’re announcing far and wide, you’re ensuring the largest amount of targeted people will see it. Never assume one channel accomplishes all (although there may be a few rare exceptions).

What I typically recommend to clients is to have a supporting landing page or blog post that accompanies the announcement and tells the whole story. You can then use that content to post on social media, email to your list, send advertising traffic to, etc. And several of those campaigns should be done at once, never just alone. Every marketing channel is meant to boost up another. For instance, if you email out your new product announcement and have share buttons at the end, you are encouraging people who are excited about it to share the news on their networks.

Customer Feedback

Many say that social media has replaced small-scale customer survey/feedback efforts. While that may be true in some cases, it doesn’t fully work. You can never get the in-depth, detailed feedback you can from surveys run through SurveyMonkey or the like. It will never beat an in-person or phone interview. So while asking quick questions to poll your audience on social media can be a good way to get some quick feedback on one particular area, you need to do more.

Channels to incorporate with social for feedback:

Use a survey tool like SurveyMonkey or an email blast to send out the survey.

Depending on how large of a study you’re doing, you may even incorporate paid ads to gather broader feedback. You may also want to create a landing page with the survey embedded right in it.

How these combined channels boost feedback:

A good strategy here would be to create the full survey using your tool of choice and then selectsome of those questions to ask candidly on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. across a period of time. Never just rely on social all of the feedback you need unless it’s just one small question here and there. Simply use social media to support the larger campaign here.

Lead Generation

I consider social media to be a lead nurturing and long-tail lead gen channel. It’s certainly not for immediate conversion purposes (although that may happen if you get veryvery lucky). I emphasize to every one of my clients that social media’s purpose isn’t just to make money — it’s for many purposes surrounding lead gen that are equally important and can eventually lead to making money.

Channels to incorporate with social for lead generation:

Lead gen should certainly be a multi channel effort. And depending on your budget, lead qualification capabilities and sales team bandwidth, it’s something you can expand very quickly. Lead gen can be done through online advertising, eBook/whitepaper/data sheet/etc. downloads, specific landing pages, paid lists (although I am morally against this), events (trade shows, conferences, meetups), and on and on.

How these combined channels boost lead generation:

As I mentioned, having several other stronger lead gen channels (such as a whitepaper download, and online advertising campaign(s)) running as well as constant social media activity is the ideal. Use social media to continue educating the market on what you do, what your company stands for, and why they should want to work with you. When your followers happen to stumble across an ad or piece of content you’ve published elsewhere on the web, and they’re now familiar with you, they’ll be much more likely to convert since you’re a known name to them.

In a wrap

Long story short: weave social media into every other activity you’re already doing. Whether it’s a product launch announcement, customer feedback initiative, lead gen goal, or other activities like hiring and branding, use social media in the mix and treat it equally to other channels you’re also using. A holistic approach like this will allow you to run the widest reaching, most successful marketing campaign.

3 Ways Marketers Maintain Focus In The Summer

It’s hot. It’s sticky. We’re in no mood to put up with projects that go astray or silly debates when we’d rather be poolside soaking up every last ray of sun this summer. But is that the problem? Do we get too excited for the summer weather (and I don’t blame you!) and lose focus and make sloppy decisions? Possibly.

However, it’s not just this season that cause a lack of focus — it’s the lack of understanding for how to focus and where to focus that can be our real downfall. We’ve all been in those over-attended meetings where everyone throws in ideas, people get excited, and before you know it, the whole messaging platform and feature set of the product has expanded and shifted.

Wait… What?! So what happens when your team doesn’t know how to get out of that black hole?

Having experienced this happen time and again, here’s how to focus your marketing efforts and core feature sets, even during the hot and sticky summer months:

Always remember what you stand for

In June, I was visiting Cape Cod and observed a beachside restaurant demonstrating clear signs of a lack of focus. First, there was a massive line — and I mean 40+ people! I tried to figure out why. Then I saw it: the menu. 50+ options, spread across multiple whiteboards, on printed out pieces of paper, and posted all over the side of the building. How could customers ever make a decision? This small restaurant was trying far too hard to be everything to everyone — even offering calamari and Cod dishes — at the beach! Instead, they should have kept it simple with 1 easy-to-see menu with about a third of the options. That would have cut their line down significantly.

After observing this, I realized it applies to so many companies that try to be everything to everyone. They feel they need to add more and more features and functionalities that don’t match the core of what the company does, and in turn, that causes all facets of the company to suffer since they’re spread too far and wide. So in short, remember what you’re on a mission to do (and do well) and stay true to that. You will turn some people off, but perhaps they aren’t even your ideal customer.

Customer Needs/Wants/Desires First

You’ve probably been in those meetings where someone says “It’d be awesome if we had this in our app!”, and everyone nods and smiles at the idea. On occasion its fun to brainstorm all of the possibilities for what your product can do, but at the end of the day, it’s what your customers want and need that matters in your product. You and your team may not even be the target customer for your product, so as much as you’d love to see a feature added, do your users really want it?

Your customers may not be ‘wowed’ at all if they can’t even focus in on what to do with your product! Center back on your them and make sure that what you do is focused on the core set of features that makes them truly happy.

Realize your budgets, team capabilities and timeframes

It would be great if you could use every ad platform out there to accelerate lead gen and spread your messaging, but is that really affordable and manageable? Probably not. Anytime you’re planning for your next marketing campaign or activity, keep in mind how much money you realistically have to spend, how much time your team has to devote to it and when you need to realize results by. That will all be a big determinant of what you can do, and will keep you focused as well.

So whether it’s the summer heat making you tuned out and tired, or just the lack of organized decisions within your teams, use these above principles to bring back focus to the core of what you do. Have fun, dream of big plans, but always remember to focus in like the lens of a camera to make the right impact.

What other ways do you and your team maintain focus? Have things gone seriously awry, and how did you fix that? Leave your advice or experiences below!

The Unexpected Career Path

How did you get into the career path you’re in at this exact moment? Was it through an internship? A college mentor? A referral? A job posting online?

Sometimes its hard to remember exactly how you got to where you are in life now — at least for me can be. It seems like just yesterday I was walking to and from classes at Western New England College with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do post-college. In fact, I recently took a stroll down memory lane by walking around my old campus when I was last in the area.

I guess that’s when it hit me — how did I go from being a wandering freshman in college to owning my own business?

Life moves so fast that it’s hard to think about (and appreciate) all the events that have happened, and people that have come into your life that helped you get to where you are today. Now I’m the one speaking with soon-to-be college graduates or entry-level folks who are looking for advice on how to get into marketing, startups or how to even think about a career path. It’s so fun to give this advice, especially since I’ve learned so much of it from others who mentored me along the way.

My Quick Advice

  • Never be afraid to take risks. It’s scary, but it means you’re doing something that’s worth it and that you believe in. So follow that intuition and go hard after it!
  • Never settle. If you’re in a current career path you’re not satisfied with and not growing from, don’t stick it out just to stick it out. Explore what would truly make you grow in life (personally and professionally)
  • Get out there. Start talking to others who are doing what you’d love to do, research it, go to those industry events and even hop on social media and begin engaging with others in the field.
  • Learn. Aim to learn at least one new thing per day on what you truly want to do. So even if you’re not where you want to be now, you can frame what that job will look like the more you know about it.
  • Test it out. Pick up a side consulting gig or weekend project where you can actually work on some projects related to what you want to do. See if you truly enjoy doing it — and feel it can be a strong point of yours.

In short, it’s all about discovering what it is you really want to do and doing everything you can to get there.

Giving advice like this and reflecting back on the steps I took to get to where I am today does make me stop and think for a humble moment why I made the decisions I did and how that brought me to where I am today. In short, here’s how it all came about:

My Story (in a nutshell)

If I were to narrow it down, my journey started with a work-study opportunity I had in my school’s Marketing department. A year later, it really took off when I landed an internship close to Boston that gave me access to new events to attend and opportunities to meet some pretty great people. After that internship and graduating college, I found myself consulting with several very early stage startups and agencies around Boston who needed content and social media help. This in part is how the founder of Backupify noticed me and brought on as their first marketing hire. I do remember Rob May, Backupify’s founder, telling me about a year into the job that by age thirty, he saw me starting my own business. I vividly remember laughing this off, as I certainly wasn’t ready to envision that at the time. Little did I know…

After three amazing years at Backupify, I decided to join Crashlytics (acquired by Twitter) to be their first marketing hire. My real turning point was after about nine months at Twitter (which, as you know, is a very large company — much different from the small startups I came from) when I started to really crave starting my own thing. I was ready, Rob.

I think that by being surrounded by entrepreneurs like Rob, the founders of Crashlytics, and many more across Boston, I caught the startup bug and started my own company — a marketing consultancy for early stage VC backed startups. I couldn’t be happier. It has been a wild ride so far, but worth every second of pain and glory. That’s the startup roller coaster, right?!

Your Story

Everyone has their own story of how they got from point A to point B, or even from A to B to C to F to Z. And it’s so inspiring to hear the stories others have, as they make me so excited to know that my story as of yet is only the beginning of an even more exciting journey to come — as is yours.

What is your story? Tweet it out, blog about it, or even leave it in the comments below! I’d love to do a follow up post here highlighting a few more stories — not just my own!

What Do All Marketers Do Wrong In The Summer?

Note: This post was first published on MarketingOnTheRocks.com. Click here to view the original post. It was also covered in VentureFizz

“We should hold this off until fall — no one does this in the summer so let’s start planning at the end of August instead,” said nearly every marketing and product team, ever.

While it’s not the greatest time to launch a product or get a lot of PR, it’s definitely a great time to start planning ahead. That impending product launch? Yup, that needs a lot of planning put into it. That inbound tool your engineer has been working on? That will need a PR plan behind it to give it some leverage.

I personally love summer because it gives us marketers (and anyone, really) time to (a) reflect on progress and (b) decide what you need to accomplish in the next several months. It would be a failure on our part to let these months pass by idle.

While the appeal of sun tans, sandy beaches, bonfires and Coronas may be calling your name (and I don’t blame you!), you can still muster up the energy during the day to set yourself up for success this summer.

Here are the top five marketing-related projects you should be focused on the next few (hot and sticky) months:

1. Review Progress and Metrics

Progress reviews and metrics reports are a living breathing thing that should be done regularly anyways. However, the summer months provide you the perfect opportunity to really hone in on some particular metrics and gather actionable insights and ideas from them.

For example, you should be reviewing:

  • How many users have you acquired? How does that stack up to your goals?
  • How many users are considered “active users”? What can be done to get more active users?
  • How have your blog posts been performing? Are they written around a few central themes related back to your company’s core messaging? Do they include strong CTAs? Are you converting as much from your blog as you had expected?
  • What is your PPC conversion rate per channel? Are there some channels that are underperforming and should be cut? Are there channels that are doing outstanding and should be ramped up?
  • Is your website bringing visitors on a desired path? Are there the right amount of strong CTAs?

You should also check out this fantastic SaaS KPI Metrics chart, put together by David Skok of Matrix Ventures to help you frame your metrics reports and understand what you should be measuring and reporting on.

2. Revise your editorial calendar

If you find that your blog posts are underperforming (in terms of traffic, conversions, etc.) or that more can be done to bring attention to them, it’s time to revisit your editorial calendar. I actually recommend that companies do this every 90 days or so, especially if things are changing fast with your company and product.

Evaluate the following during your editorial calendar revamp:

    • Core Themes:
      • Have you decided on 2-4 core themes that you want to be known for? If not, you should — ASAP. If so, have you related all your blog posts to those themes?
    • Headlines:
      • Take a quick look through the last 10 or so blog posts on your blog. Are your headlines actually compelling? If not, check out these surefire headline formulas to help you structure your next headlines.
    • Internal Blogging Program:
      • Does your team have the capacity to blog more? If so, it’s the perfect time to start an internal blogging program with at least a few contributing team members. And if any of the contributors (and yourself) have some extra bandwidth to blog now, why not begin creating a backlog of blog posts so you can fire them away throughout the year?

You should also check out Janet Aronica’s eight recommendations for blog post topics that should be on your editorial calendar — it’s awesome, seriously.

3. Plan for Q3 & Q4 PR

While the summer certainly isn’t the perfect time to pitch to the media, you can instead start planning for PR-worthy stories.

  • What product announcements are coming up that deserve attention and traction?
  • What major hires are being made, or advisors brought on, that can be announced?
  • Is a round of funding expected to close?
  • Is a large customer going to close soon? Are they willing to team up with you on an official announcement?
  • Are there any major partnerships in the works that the world would be interested in?
  • Are you launching any tangential products, such as an inbound tool, that can be pitched as a story?
  • Have a ton of data? Bring it together into a report or infographic and tell a story with it.

I could go on, but in essence, create news whenever you can.

The summer is also a good time to revise your media list, pitch message, byline topics, etc.

4. Find new sources for content and ideas

Have your sources for social media content gone stale? Are your followers bored with the topics you’re sharing? When you don’t have blog posts and announcements of your own to share out, it’s always a good idea to share out third party blog posts that relate to your company’s mission and beliefs.

To refresh your social media content sources:

  • Subscribe to new blogs on Feedly (their search functionality is fairly good)
  • Regularly check out posts on LinkedIn Pulse and from LinkedIn Influencers
  • Refine your Google Alerts or Mention alerts
  • Subscribe to new newsletters to get targeted content delivered right to your inbox

If you’re looking for content to read that will inspire your own blog posts, or if you want to learn more about your industry:

  • Review what your competitors share
  • Search around for keywords and phrases related to your product and industry to find new blogs and media outlets
  • Ask colleagues and friends in the same (or similar) space what they read

I’m always looking for new content both to share out and learn from — both for my clients and for my own professional development, so I can’t emphasize enough how important this is.

5. Build an inbound tool (or two)

The summer could be just the perfect time to build something new, such as an inbound tool, and have it ready come fall.

A few popular ideas for tools are:

They’re a great way to (a) instantly provide value to your target audience in a way they’ll appreciate, (b) collect new leads to later convert to your main product, and ( c) leverage for additional PR (as described above).

While you’re at it, get creative with your tool. Start by answering questions such as:

  • What does your target audience want to solve immediately?
  • What will really hook them and wow them — so much so that they’ll be interested in speaking with you about your main product too?

I could go on and on about what you could do in these hot, sticky summer months. In short, don’t want until the fall to cram your schedule with 12 hour days to get done what you should be doing today. If you’re not spending the time actively promoting new products, announcements, tools, or answering influxes of customer emails and tweets, then shift your focus to metrics and planning to set you and your team up for success. And you just might impress your boss with all that you find — especially if they take a nice long vacation, giving you added quiet time to focus :)
What other marketing activities do you find effective to do during the calm of summer? I’d love to hear it — please share in the comments below!

It Takes One Hour to Revamp Your Marketing Strategy

This industry waits for no one.

Entrepreneurs, by nature, are crazy go-getters that, many times, think they can do it all. The same goes for the early founding team. I should know — I’ve been a part of many for nearly five years now. But sometimes there are those nagging questions you and your team just can’t answer or don’t have the time to figure out. Remember those grueling meetings over “What PPC channel will lead the best results for us?”, “How do we figure out what topics to write about on our blog that will drive leads?”, or “Can we make our emails more like-able — they’re so bland and boring!”

Through working both in-house at early stage startups and now off on my own, running KDMedia that works with almost primarily startups, I’ve seen teams that either want to truly learn marketing from me so they can do some or all of it themselves, or would rather I do it for them. I work on the latter day-to-day but also want to help those who really do want to learn to do it themselves.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that I’m now on Clarity.fm, a platform featuring subject matter experts ready to help you grow your business.

clarity.fm

I offer a variety of startup marketing sessions including:

  • Startup Marketing Strategy 101
  • How To Choose The Right Blogging Strategy
  • Creating An Effective, Customized Social Media Strategy
  • Discovering Early Loyal Customers
  • How To Create An Influencer Program

These sessions are intimate, knowledge-packed calls where the founders (or founding team members) brings their most pressing questions, problems, strategies, etc. to a call with me and I guide them on the best route based on their goals, industry, audience, etc.

I’ve already done this for over two dozen very early stage companies, many of them from TechStars, and I’ve found time and again that these sessions go miles for them.

So for those go-getters that want to do marketing themselves but just need to jumpstart their knowledge in particular areas, I’m now available for sessions on Clarity.fm (and by the way, we can have multiple of these) to dive into startup marketing.

You can view the full details of each session here: https://clarity.fm/kristindziadul. I’ll work with you to help define the questions or topics we can discuss so we can jump right into things when the call begins.

I’ve had an incredible time working long-term with past and current clients and can’t wait to work with many more of you one-on-one on your most pressing topics.

Now, let’s get talking!

 

Redefining a Marketing Consultant

Image courtesy of brainstuck.com

Consultants have a bad rep. They do, let’s be honest with each other here. So needless to say, when I first took the leap and actually quit my full time job to do this, people didn’t get it. I received comments and inquires like “so why are you consulting?” or “so what’s next?” or “you should ultimately go back to a full time role for more job security and advancement” and stuff like that. People didn’t get it.

Consulting is usually viewed as either done by money-hungry people who spit out the same advice to different companies and get away with it, or it’s what you do when you part ways with a company and simply need an interim solution (or can’t find anywhere else to go). When I myself worked internally at a company, I did not have the best experience with or view of outside consultants. I viewed them just as many others do, which is why I was (and continue to be) on a strong mission to redefine consulting. Do a quick Google Images search for “consulting”, for example, and you’ll see what I mean about consulting being wrongly defined and stifled.

chose to do this and still could not be more excited about my move to go off on my own. The entrepreneurial drive I felt to take the risk and start my own thing is certainly thanks to many people I’ve worked with in the past (you know who you all are!). Through my journey so far, I’ve connected with many other incredible consultants who are doing awesome work in design, marketing, development, you name it.

The Advantage

Consultants have the unique advantage to view industry trends and “best practices” from a bird’s eye view. Through working with various clients, I see trends come and go, new marketing channels pop up that grow in popularity, and am even able to transfer knowledge from what I’m learning working with one client to another. By seeing what’s going on at a greater scale, I’m more easily able to tell clients early on about something new to do, or not do, and transfer valuable knowledge across projects when applicable.

This isn’t something an in-house marketer typically has the luxury of doing. They’re embedded in one industry for one product for an extended period of time, so naturally their scope and creativity can become narrowed and too defined. I, too, have felt this way while in-house before, and it wasn’t the best feeling.

The Startup Sea Change

Since I was focused on working with early stage startups, I saw a unique opportunity to get involved at a critical point through consulting. I love startups and I hope to never leave the startup world. I joined it when I moved to Boston over four years ago and although I’m out on my own, I plan to stay in the startup ecosystem for as long as I can foresee. Startups don’t necessarily need (nor can afford) high-level strategists that just come in, spit out the same lines they used on the past five clients, and send over a bill for $20,000. They need someone who can both think high level and then dig in and do the dirty work. They also need someone who can work closely with the team to draw out ideas and also be available at odd hours on occasion (you know, for those 11pm website launches and such). I find that diving in to actually execute on the strategies I put together helps me even better understand the audience and industry of each client so much better, allowing me to constantly provide recommendations for marketing projects across the board based on what I’m seeing and experiencing.

For example, I was recently managing a client’s social media accounts while also developing their blog content strategy. I quickly learned through observing and listening on social media that there were a few key topics their audience did (and did not) want to read about. I was able to translate that knowledge into the blog content plan, and when it came time to write those posts, I knew exactly how to position them and share them.

What does it all mean?

This might be me rambling, this might be something many others feel, but regardless, I felt very strongly that it needed to be said. This topic/issue has actually been on my mind for several months now, but I just now decided to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, if you will) on it as I wanted to fully understand my stance on it, the consulting + startup ecosystem, and gather more experience and lessons learned on my end.

I do hope the general opinion about consulting will change for the better, and I’m already pumped to see so many amazing people taking the leap themselves and going into consulting full force — a great friend of mine included. Independent consulting (or starting your own marketing consultancy yourself as I did with KDMedia) gives you both the autonomy to be your own boss AND to decide your career direction at any point in time. In turn, it allows you to become even more valuable across the board in an area you truly care about.

I’m always looking to talk to awesome consultants to find new ways to work together, so please reach out if you’d like to chat! Or if you’d like to discuss a marketing project you have up your sleeve, I’d love to hear more! Simply email me directly at kristin@kdmedianow.com.

How to Gain Marketing Inspiration from Unusual Places

(Note: This post was originally written for marketingontherocks.com here)

Great marketing is much more than just using “best practices” or copying someone else’s successful tactics. It’s about being creative and trying new things that would be best suited for your audience and exact product or service.

Through running KDMedia, I work with a variety of clients that each need a tailored, innovative marketing solution. That requires having a deep set of tactics for different industry verticals and audiences while also being open to completely new ideas. Each day I’m working with my clients on new creative ways to spread the word and obtain customers, so I find it extremely helpful to be on the lookout for new ideas everywhere I go.

Where to Begin

Would you ever think that a trip to CVS or reading a mall brochure could provide fresh ideas? Me either — until I really opened my eyes. Stores can be really interesting places to observe product placement, display stands, store flow, in-store promotions, etc. Although a place like CVS may be far different from your SaaS product, you can still observe high level ideas that you can then tweak and customize to your own product. For example, a brand such as M&Ms may be running an in-store promotion that sparks an idea for a promotion your audience may appreciate. Or, you may discover interesting insights on how products are placed together (or not placed together) which can draw out ideas on your product placement (i.e. should you be in an online marketplace? Partner with a tangential company?).

Keep your eyes open the next time you’re out running errands or on a leisurely stroll down the road or in the mall. Be observant of everything around you and how things are done to gain inspiration in unthought-of ways.

Pay Attention to Emails

You know those inbox-cluttering email promotions and newsletters that you soon delete or unsubscribe from? Before putting them in your digital trash, check out the email. Is the design well done? Does it have clever copy? Is it offering or announcing something enticing?

I have a folder in my inbox called Marketing Examples and every time I receive an email with a piece of inspiration, I save it. Then, when I’m developing a new email marketing campaign, I sift through the ideas I’ve collected and take bits and pieces out of each to create a fresh, new idea.

Listen

When was the last time you actually digested what your mom said recently about her reaction to a new product? Or jotted down notes after having a discussion with friends about their thoughts on the latest Geico commercial. No matter who it is (well, usually) I pay close attention to how people talk about marketing campaigns and products to see how people react. It’s only half the job to figure out what you’re going to do — the other half is to understand how people will perceive it. Will you perhaps offend the wrong people with some of your copy? Does the color of your website not resonate with your audience? Does your deal seem too good to be true? Even if the person giving their two cents isn’t anything like your target audience, it’s never a bad idea to listen to what they say to at least understand that everyone is going to have a reaction to things and take into consideration what people will react like to your campaign.

In a Wrap

Always keep your eyes and ears open for inspiration everywhere you go. No matter where you are, what you’re looking at or whom you’re talking to, take note. You never know: your next genius idea could come from the oddest place or most unexpected conversation.

Now it’s your turn: Where have you gained unusual inspiration for marketing programs? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

The Art of Startup Marketing: Defining Channels and Strategies

(Note: This post originally appeared in Marketing on the Rocks where I regularly contribute. You can read the full post here.) 

Signing up for classes each semester back in college was a boring task to say the least. Accompanied by your school counselor, you drudgingly went through your major’s curriculum to pick out which of the more-than-unexciting math, science and liberal arts classes you *had* to take. But then came the more exciting part — electives. Which 1 or 2 courses could you take each semester that were completely chosen by you? What I loved about electives was choosing them allowed you to find a topic you really felt matched what you wanted to do or learn about. After all, it would probably have a more personal and direct impact on you now and in the future (at least that’s how I viewed them — most of the time).

Wait a second. Why am I talking about college course selection when this blog post is about social media channels and your brand? Well, the selection process has a lot in common. When you’re first deciding on your online marketing strategy, an undertaking I help a lot of my clients with, there are channels you decide to have a presence on because you just have to be there (i.e. you really need a blog and to be on Twitter) and then there are “elective” channels (i.e. Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, etc.)

Simply put, there isn’t a set playbook for which channels your specific brand should and should not be on — it’s all a matter of customized selection based on what your product/service does and where the audience for it hangs out.

Deciding this is not an easy process — but figuring out where to spend your precious time, especially in the crazy busy early days, needs to be strategic. I think about this exact undertaking day-in and day-out for my clients, so I’m going to try to break it down for you in a straightforward way:

Define Your Brand’s Goals

You should never go into a marketing program or channel without first knowing your goals. That’s like going up to the podium to speak on an important topic in front of a captive audience and having no script and no understanding of who is listening. It just won’t work — or at least 99% of the time it won’t, and right now you can’t risk that 1%.

For example, if your goals are to build a massive and engaged audience around your brand, then you need to identify the social channels (and perhaps even the sub-channels in them) that have the most active conversations and engaged users. Perhaps that’s LinkedIn groups or Google+ groups or even Reddit.

If your goals are to achieve a large number of signups off the bat, you should be looking at channels where you can use a model to predict what amount of effort and/or dollars you need to put in that can almost guarantee users (and a profit). For example, if you put $1,000/day into AdWords, you can expect X signups/day. (Note: this number all depends on your audience size and the competitiveness of search terms within your industry).

Whatever your top goals are, start from there and then identify where it makes sense to start achieving them. I recommend no more than 2-4 top goals, since the fewer but more targeted you have, the better likelihood each will be reached.

What channels are your customers on?

Now, it’s great that you know your goals, but we’re not done with goal identification yet. Your customers (and/or potential customers) have their own goals. And their goals are reflected in what channels they choose to spend their own time on.

Do the Research

A fairly quick way to discover where your users are “hanging out” online is through some simple searches. Identify some keywords related to what you do, job titles of target customers, your product category, etc. Basically, find top words and phrases that relate to your business and the problems you solve, and search for those on:

  • Google to see what type of content results from your search terms, whether it’s online forums, blogs, events, etc. Whichever channels appear in the search results from the past year is a great indicator for where people are talking in the industry
  • Twitter to realize the search volume for those words and phrases (and also who is talking about it? Influencers? Prospects?)
  • Search for LinkedIn groups using keywords and phrases to see what groups comes up. Are there some with tens of thousands of users who are actively discussing relevant topics? And what sources are the links they’re sharing coming from? Or, is there a slim list of groups that are comprised of 300 people who update once a month?
    • If LinkedIn seems inactive, check other channels such as Reddit, Quora, Spiceworks, etc. (who is on those channels depends on your industry)

This should give you a great starting point at understanding where people are talking, how often, and what they talk about. There are many other ways to go about doing this (and if you’re lucky enough to have someone on your team who is the target audience, they can give you a bunch of quick tips to speed up the process, so don’t forget to tap their knowledge!) but searches are a good way to get an initial understanding.

Once you understand both your internal goals and then where your customers are spending their time, you’re ready to move on to how to speak about what you do.

What do you want to be known for?

Now, determine what you want to be known for. (Note: Do this before taking much of any action on these channels) This is typically decided upon during initial brand positioningdiscussions.

You’ll need to answer these top questions, among others:

  • What is your core value proposition?
  • How is it unique from all others who compete in your space?
  • What are the benefits you offer to users (Note: don’t talk in terms of your features — people only care about what’s in it for them)

Once you narrow down the top benefits and have decided on the value prop, you’ll have a fantastic starting point for the core ideas and themes that your brand should be known for.

Typically when I work with clients on their blog strategy, for example, we whittle down the top 3-5 themes that each blog post will be based around. These themes come from what the core value prop is and the benefits, as it all needs to tie together. So for example, one benefit you could be known for is team efficiency. You can then write blog posts around this theme, share content across social media reiterating this theme, speak at events on it, etc.

Now What?

In the end, companies shouldn’t just join a social channel or start a marketing program “just because it sounds good”. Even if it’s a “free” channel like Facebook, it doesn’t mean it makes sense to be there. I always encourage people to start from the top with their goals, then put a strong focus on their customer and break the strategy down by themessaging those people will appreciate on those channels.

Now enough from me, I’d love to hear your stories on you went about finding the right channels and what the successes were after doing so. Please tell me in the comments below!

Also be sure to subscribe to new posts on Marketing on the Rocks where me and three super smart marketers contribute on honest, impactful marketing topics. See you over there! 

3 Ways To Break Into The Boston Marketing Scene

boston

Breaking into a new industry is certainly not an easy task — doing it in an entirely new city is another feat, but an exciting one at that!

Just about four years ago, I approached this exact opportunity. I had just graduated college, was living in Connecticut at the time, and was looking to move to and start a career in Boston. But I had one problem: I hardly knew anyone there and I only had marketing internship experience.

What did I do? The short answer is: network, network, network! There was much more to it than that, though, and certain types of networking that I found much more successful than others.

Here are the top three ways to break into the Boston marketing scene…

Read the rest of this article on MarketingontheRocks.com

I originally posted this on MarketingOnTheRocks where I regularly contribute. Please continue on to read the article and check out the new site!