Archive for marketing

From “mass” to “micro”: When to take online offline

Posted in social media, wisdom with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2010 by wisdomlondon

So, by now we’re all becoming pretty adept at building relationships online through smart leverage of social media channels, embracing communities and participating in online conversations, en masse. But is online engagement enough?  And, if we’re honest, are we sometimes hiding behind it just a little bit?

It’s an interesting dichotomy.  On one hand, a lot of people are still unconvinced that the conversations taking place online could ever take the place of traditional face-to-face interactions and lead, somehow, to increased value for their business. On the other hand, we have plenty of believers who genuinely embrace the conversation and participate in the communities driving it, but who are not harnessing this energy to move their business forward.

Mass to micro

Failing to recognise the right moment to take the online conversation offline – to take mass communication micro, or one-to-one – is a major factor behind the lack of traction many businesses experience in their often carefully-cultivated social relationships. It’s here that we risk missing out on the opportunity to forge closer relationships, delve deeper into areas of mutual interest (and find out some incredibly interesting stuff in the process), have great conversations that are not limited to online formats – and ultimately, extend our sphere of influence.

It’s a matter of judgement …and of seizing the initiative.

Look around…

To start, we need to take a realistic look around.  Some connections are better off remaining online, or as part of the wider conversation. For example, when engagement is limited to passing and acknowledging information, the benefits of taking it offline can be hard to identify. But there are some factors which are tantamount to a flashing neon sign, signalling when the time is right for going offline, and for taking our communication from “mass” to “micro”:

When 140 doesn’t cut it anymore: Is someone commenting regularly on your blog or engaging in discussion with you on Twitter? If you sense a meeting of minds, let it flow. Whether or not the other party is a potential client is irrelevant at this point.  You have the opportunity to expand ideas and concepts further…and you’d be a fool to ignore that.  Hint: go for coffee, arrange to get together at a mutually-interesting event or meet-up, ask them personally (email/phone) for their take on a blog post you’ve drafted.

When you see a client engaging as a fan or ambassador for your product or service online: Online thank yous and positive comments on Twitter / Facebook, along with external blog mentions, should not be ignored. This person has an opinion about you and your service. They doubtless have plenty more thoughts to share on specific aspects of it, or would probably happily serve as a valued sounding board for new concepts…and of course, that will likely lead to greater engagement with your brand and enhanced word-of-mouth possibilities.

When it would be coy not to: You’ve engaged with someone for months or even years and view them as a true online buddy.  Don’t be coy – your relationship can go from strength to strength on the back of some occasional one-on-one debate and banter.

The great thing about all this social conversation is that there is a spirit of openness and community which provides endless potential for value to be gleaned. And it’s OK to tell someone you don’t know personally, or whom you consider to be ‘out of reach’ (an industry leader, for example) that you appreciate them, or that you have an opinion on what they are saying.  We don’t need to wait for introductions anymore. So don’t be shy (or lazy) about it.  There are brilliant people in your online who should become real-life contacts, with whom you regularly engage both online and offline, at a mass and micro level.

Kate Spiers is Director at Wisdom London and can vouch for the value of taking mass to micro.

Follow Kate on Twitter ..but feel free to mail me, call me or buy me a coffee too 😉

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The Story of Wisdom

Posted in brand, creativity, wisdom with tags , , , , on June 21, 2010 by wisdomlondon

We have been asked plenty of times why Wisdom London is called Wisdom London.  Good question.  So here’s the story…

I was scooting home one day in December 2009 when a careless minicab driver drove into me.  All very dramatic – ambulances, police  and A&E, but fortunately nothing broken. That was my epiphany moment – I was going to do what I loved doing: communicate.

So the idea for a communications consultancy was born but I needed a name.  I started to write down the words that meant most to me, and Wisdom was the first one. I thought about what Wisdom meant to me and to my fledgling business.  It was this:

  • In business, we are all selling wisdom.  Whether it’s the know-how to do something, the insight to solve problems or the foresight to see what will be big…it’s all some form of wisdom
  • Wisdom London is about helping businesses tap into, harness and share their individual and collective wisdom through brilliantly thought-out marketing communications
  • Wisdom is an amazingly powerful asset and businesses often don’t recognise it in themselves, or are somehow unwilling to use it
  • Everyone’s wisdom is different...and therein lies the beauty of it. It’s all relevant
  • Wisdom London is passionate about connecting with people through communications, and often wisdom is the gift that we offer to make that connection – from tweets to sharing ideas over coffee to advice
  • Hence, wisdom is – to me – the best of thinking: being wise, thoughtful, well-judged, analytical, pragmatic and honest

Wisdom wouldn’t go away – it was absolutely my first and instinctive choice, and I loved it more when Drew Creative Branding helped bring it to life through their beautiful brand treatments. The ‘London’ bit was partially practical (trademark reasons) and partially emotional (the city about which I am beyond passionate).

I still have that scribbled page in my battered Moleskine notebook.  I never fail to smile when I look at it.  And I do, especially when I need to make a big decision – instincts are rarely wrong.

Kate Spiers is the proud founder and CEO of Wisdom London, a creative communications consultancy.  She is more in love with wisdom now than ever.

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How to…speculatively build B2B relationships

Posted in brand, creativity, marketing strategy, social media, wisdom with tags , , , , , , on June 13, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Speculative B2B Rel Building

My business is relatively new and until six months ago I hadn’t sold anything before (unless you count the success of a short-lived jam-making empire when I was 15*), so it’s interesting when people ask me how I get new clients, and how we identify who we want to work with.

*I blame rural living unreservedly.

Well the answer is, there’s no point in working for businesses or people you don’t believe in – so why not start by seeking out the ones you really love? Business development is, of course, a mixture of reactive and proactive activity but when it comes to pro-active, I think Wisdom London is pretty good. But we can all be a little reticent about building a new relationship from scratch.   We say speculative does not have to be scary.  Approach it as an exciting adventure. Here’s how:

1. Start with the ‘ideal world’ scenario

Which organisations, institutions, brand, people would you like to work for? Why them?  What is it about them that makes them so attractive to you? Note – this is nothing to do with what you think they will spend!  This is all about passion for what they do, and spotting where you fit into that. Which leads us to…

2. Seek out the common ground (round 1)

Comparing notes. The most basic of techniques used by kids and adults globally – business is no exception.  Common ground is our best friend here.  At a corporate or cultural level, what does your business and the other (let’s call them “the speculee”) have in common? From the banal (same street) to the ethical (support the same charitable cause) it all counts.

3. Do your research

Now find out some more about them – and challenge all that you think you know. Laziness shows. Use different information sources, be current: What is happening to that organization, right now? Talk to people, see what they know about your chosen one, and if they don’t know much, that’s information too (maybe in time, you can help the speculee with that).  Ask what people think of the organization in question. Ask why that is. Because before you make your approach you need to…

4. Have some bright ideas

There’s very little point in making a speculative approach to the client of your dreams and simply giving them a shopping list of what you can do.  It will not fire their imagination.  But to approach them and bring with you an idea, hypothetical or otherwise, of what you could do for them and how it could work is value-adding.  And you need to start adding value from the go-get.  Don’t be shy (or mean) with your creativity – even the most far-fetched of ideas can have legs – because it’s simply showing what you have to offer in the best possible way: Creativity, energy, passion, a grasp of the concept of possibility. All wrapped up in an idea.

Now, here comes Groundhog Day…

5. Seek out the common ground (round 2)

So you know what you have in common organizationally.  What about the actual people you could connect with? Think some more about common ground, on a personal level.  Do you know anyone in the organization, past or present? Do you have clients, suppliers or collaborators in common? Here’s where social media comes into its own: The beauty of social media is that we can access a ready stream of data on a given organization or individual, that’s generally on a pretty human level (and if it’s not, they’re not doing it right!  another area you may be able to help with…) so should give you – over time – a feel for how they work, what they are passionate about and what’s important in their lives (and by that I mean their human lives).

And then tailor your approach meaningfully, based on what you now know.

6. Connect!

There are a million and one ways that you can make the first move, but as with dating, one maxim applies: Be yourself.

If you are excited by the speculee’s business or product – say so. If you liked (or didn’t like) they way they did something – say so. If you don’t understand why they are not in a particular market – ask. You get the idea…be interested, curious, involved. The idea here is to connect, exchange ideas, interact, draw them into your world, respond, make them aware that you exist.  A few ways to do it (that work!):

  • Comment on their blog, ask questions
  • Blog about them – use them as an example to illustrate a point, or even as an open letter
  • If you do that, make them aware of it through other channels too
  • Connect via Twitter / FB – follow, comment, direct relevant information to them
  • Strike up a debate, ascertain commonalities (or otherwise) in your viewpoints
  • Bring them good ideas, suggestions, information that may interest them….in other words, value

Most of all, be brave. Don’t just aspire to work with a brand, do your most to put the right conditions in place for it to happen. Accept that it will be a slow burn, that the relationship must grow first, and that your services may not be right at this exact time. And also know when to give up – a few places you don’t want to be are flogging the proverbial dead horse or erm, cyberstalking.

Happy speculating – one of the joys of doing business.  You never know where you’ll end up.

Kate Spiers is the founder of Wisdom London. She is passionate about joining up the dots, meeting amazing people and building sustainable business relationships that are based on common ground and mutual value.  She is less passionate about jam these days, though.  Other fish to fry.

When #massivefail = opportunity

Posted in brand, marketing strategy, social media with tags , , , , , , , on April 19, 2010 by wisdomlondon

When disaster strikes, brands have an unprecedented opportunity to offer the customer service of a lifetime

The past week has shown quite unequivocally that the unexpected really can happen, in some cases turning our lives upside down, or at least giving them a good shake-up for a while. Who would’ve thought, this time last week, that European airspace would be all but shut down for a week and maybe longer?

It’s moments like this is when marketers and communicators are really tested – when the unexpected happens, how do we turn failure into opportunity?

The business of service

I’ve been amazed that some obvious players don’t seem to have embraced the opportunity fully. For example, after last December’s huge PR disaster in the wake of the channel tunnel disruption, Eurostar have a golden opportunity to show travellers that they can pull out all the stops when disaster happens and – vitally – start to reel positive perceptions back in again. True, they’ve done their job by transporting thousands of travellers to and from the continent with extra trains. But they’re not just in the business of travel, they are also in the business of service. So if they can’t transport people (and currently the message is, if you don’t have a ticket don’t even bother turning up) can they still serve them? With information, advice, the sense of going the extra mile when people most need them?

Phone operators – great for business that millions of your customers are stranded and hugely reliant on their phones to keep in touch with business and home. So when they most need you, what else can you offer your customers? Free SMS? Free data? Goodwill goes a long way.

Payback time for loyal customers?

It’s the brands that we rely on day-to-day, with which we feel most closely aligned, who are surely best placed to reinforce that intimacy right now – by saying to customers, you’re stuck wherever you are, but we can help you make contact, find information or a desk so you can keep working, we can entertain  you, even feed you or keep you stocked up with the essentials while you’re away from home.

Brands: these things may not be part of your core business, but surely service is?

As social media has shown clearly in the past week, online communities are a lifeline for sharing information, particularly when it can’t be found from official sources. It’s also where people are most likely to vent or praise – so service providers, take note. Or better still, take action.

Kate Spiers is CEO of Wisdom London

2010 is Year of the Agency

Posted in creativity with tags , , , , , , , on April 14, 2010 by wisdomlondon

After a dark and uncertain 2009 for the marketers and communicators of this world, it seems that 2010 is fast becoming  the year of the agency.

Why?

Lots  of reasons (not least that we are very, very busy), but perhaps for the most part it’s the sense of confidence and  renewal that is seeping back into business of late. Yes, it’s been tough, businesses have been kicked when they’re down, squeezed for results and margin but it’s time to reframe, reassess and get back to it.

It’s back to business, but not as we know it. It’s clear that clients have had to reassess their engagement of agencies in the past few years – not just for financial reasons, but in terms of accountability and changing business needs too.   And relationships between client and agency, I think it’s fair to say, are looking a little different these days. (That’s a good thing).

There’s less of the clunky, transactional retainer business. There’s more action, spontaneous activity, experimentation and collaboration. Business demands more of us agencies and right now, we’re in a great position to deliver.

Here’s why:

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto

The world (and therefore consumers and business) is changing pretty quickly – just look at the communications landscape.  We’re shifting to touch-screens, UGC, social conversations and a personalization. It’s hard for businesses to keep up with what that means in terms to how they market. They still have core business issues to address.  But it’s the job of the agencies to know it, follow it, shape it and use it.  And that’s what’s happening right now…

Bring back Pick ‘n’ Mix…

Pick ‘n’ Mix at Woolies was popular for a reason: You could decide, control, help yourself to what you wanted and when.  And you paid only for that.  Same with agencies.  There is an array of marketing and communications brilliance out there to choose from – in the shape of full-service players, niche agencies and some outstanding freelance experts.

Many organisations out there have had marketing resource cut, leaving generalist expertise and less of the specialist and technical stuff.  Agencies are still, in the main, the best way to get flexible, cost-effective expertise.

Talk costs nothing, but is worth a lot

Us agencies talk to each other.  We’re not afraid of competitors, they way that some businesses are.  We social network, ask questions, challenge, share ideas, meet up, introduce people and …yes, collaborate.  That’s why we’ve got our fingers firmly on the pulse of what’s happening, who’s doing what and what’s working.  That’s worth something.

Of course, I’m generalizing.  There are plenty of agencies out there who are not all of the above, who are cumbersome, insular and over-priced. But there is a whole load of brilliant talent out there… go take a look and see.

Check out some of my favourite thinkers and collaborators:

www.wearesocial.com

www.drewlondon.co.uk

www.napoleoncreative.com

www.brightone.org.uk

www.uscreates.com

Kate Spiers is CEO and Founder of Wisdom London (NOT one of the rubbish agencies)

Time to drop the marketing/communications distinction?

Posted in marketing strategy with tags , , , on March 16, 2010 by wisdomlondon

After a conversation with a colleague last week, I was left thinking about the age-old debate of marketing vs. marketing communications and the distinction between the two.

The conversation we had lamented the fact that many of us work within a marketing team, or perhaps for a marketing provider, when in fact what we are delivering is tactical marketing communications – not the traditional definition of marketing.  It’s a fairly common scenario and the source of huge frustration for some marketers who find their time spent more on press releases and less on market segmentation or offer development.

But – as a communications professional with a strong marketing interest [treads carefully] – I wonder whether this endless argument over the distinction between the two disciplines is somehow de-valuing the role that marketing communications has to play? And perhaps the argument is defunct – is it time to redefine what marketing means anyway?

Part of the problem lies with the fact that ideally, marketing and communications are disciplines which should be recognised as being at the heart of the business strategy.  But often it sits further down the food-chain, so marketers are not involved in market-based decisions – rather, tasked with marketing communications once the strategic path has been set.  For me, marketing is unequivocally part of business strategy, and in its broadest sense communications is – or should be – too. I don’t think it’s marketers or communicators who have it wrong, necessarily – it’s a business-led culture tied up somewhere in hierarchy that has led to this.

But as marketers, communicators or both, we also need to be flexible – the whole landscape for interacting with our target audiences is changing fast and makes different demands on our roles.  Marketers must apply comms know-how in their ‘pure marketing’ activity since the online world defines so much in terms of buyer decision-making, just as comms without an eye to the business objectives  just isn’t marketing communications.  But more than that, the onus is perhaps on management strata to invite in views and ideas from the frontline at a strategic level – and for us marketers and communicators to continue to push for inclusion, whether by sharing unsolicited ideas, lobbying or simply asking outright.

Might sound simplistic, but we’re all in the business of persuasion, after all… aren’t we?

Share your views and experiences…is the definition of marketing changing?  Are marketing and communications getting closer, or further apart?

Kate Spiers is Founder and Director of Wisdom London

Thought Leadership: The Real Deal

Posted in thought leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Thought Leadership is a pretty well-used phrase these days and I fear its true meaning may be getting a little lost. Content alone does not equal thought leadership and many businesses would do well to remind themselves of what makes their content genuinely thought-leading.

I’m a big believer in the power of well-conceived and brilliantly orchestrated thought leadership. For the corporate world especially, it’s an excellent way of sharing collective wisdom, making superstars of their subject matter experts, and wrapping value and credibility around their brands.

But it’s no easy task. For an organisation to maintain a coherent message and gather momentum in the thought leadership stakes, they need a plan. What they want to say, when, by whom and how. And that should, of course, reflect the genuine wants, needs and interests of their target audience.

That’s not to say organisations should play lip-service: thought leadership should inform but also provoke and encourage debate. It’s fine to ask questions, even if you can’t give a definitive answer to them yet – the potential for dialogue is key. Great thought leadership inspires, generates ideas and develops a concept further.

What’s the difference? Thought Leadership v. Content

Thought Leadership IS:

  • A blend of knowledge, wisdom, ideas and interpretation
  • A different take on a subject – suggests new perspectives
  • An invitation for discussion
  • Attached to a person or people – it’s a human activity, not a ‘corporate’ one
  • Being curious, thought provoking and considered
  • Accessible, agile and current

Thought Leadership IS NOT:

  • …necessarily directed from the top
  • Unsynthesised facts and figures
  • A one-way street: it’s a basis for discussion and sharing
  • A sales pitch, disguised thinly or otherwise

I hope that the above might serve as a useful checklist for thought leadership development.  But that’s just the start.  Once you’ve got something thought-leading to say, make sure you say it!

Make the most of the channels available – thought leadership can and does exist on micro-blogging platforms as well as on the speaker podium and in print. Share the best of your thought-leading ideas with your clients by bringing them together in a roundtable debate. Integrate it in your media relations planning. Make sure you have passionate and articulate thought leaders ready and willing to enter into the debate.

Take your wisdom to a new level by applying about some thought leadership rigour – the business world will be a richer place for it.

Related link: http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=111853

Kate Spiers is founder and director of Wisdom London.  (And a thought leadership freak.)