HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE.
Please find below some official stats sent by wordpress.com on the blog LINGUAGEM. We’ve had a great first year. Thanks for the support and we will back stronger than ever in 2015.
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Au revoir Jorge Sette
“Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.” Pablo Picasso
Matisse and Picasso, two of the greatest masters of the 20th century visual arts, were introduced to each other by Gertrude Stein, an American intellectual and writer whose family moved to Paris. Her family became also one of the main patrons of both artists, although, as time went by, Gertrude seemed to favor Picasso’s work over Matisse’s.
From the beginning, both men always had a competitive relationship with each other. This competitiveness, however, proved very productive, as their work, at each stage, was often a response to the other’s more recent painting or change in style. The exposure to the competitor’s latest work usually goaded each of them not only to incorporate some new and intriguing element just discovered by his opponent but to surpass it or give it a more personal angle.
In a grossly simplified way, we can say that Matisse’s paintings were more cerebral, carefully planned, based on a representation of living models, despite all the distortions and changes to which this model may be subjected on the canvas, whereas Picasso’s work was more visceral, entirely produced from his imagination alone, without the need of a reference in the real world. Matisse painted in daytime, he had a family and was a quiet and sensible man. Picasso, on the other hand, was the stereotypical passionate bohemian artist, living in poor and disheveled quarters with his mistress of the moment. He painted at night. Matisse was French; Picasso, Spanish.
Matisse was the master of vibrant colors, ornament and light. His lifeline was the arabesque. His art style was part of Fauvism (from the word fauve, which means wild beast in French), a movement considered the natural continuation of Impressionism, with a direct influence from the painter Cezanne. Picasso was the master of fragmentation, radical abstraction and the use of varied and intersecting geometric planes slicing the image on the canvas. His paintings were a lot darker and more aggressive than his colleague’s. These features were the essence of Cubism, a movement that consisted of deconstructing the human form in the painting by replacing it with geometric ones, mainly cubes, assembled together in a way that barely resembled the original idea when finalized. Cubism also had no problem incorporating in the same painting the vocabulary and technique of other styles, composing a complex and mesmerizing whole. This was probably a reflex of Picasso’s personal life, a foreign in France, who could never express himself fluently in the language of his adopted country, therefore becoming very aware of the arbitrariness of the different codes of representation, language and painting included.
Neither Matisse or Picasso thought that the aim of art was to represent a naturalistic view of the external world. Photograph could do that. The important thing was to apply the “Instagram” filter of emotion and personal experience to it. Hence the progressive abstraction of their works.
Matisse was 12 years older than Picasso, but, as their parallel artistic lives developed, they became the closest friends. Each understood the richness and breakthrough quality of the other’s new paintings and variations in style long before anyone else. Their respect and influence was mutual: their conversation lasted a lifetime.
After Matisse’s death, Picasso missed his friend’s feedback and, sometimes provocative reaction to his own paintings, so deeply that he incorporated obvious references to Matisse’s art into his own work, so the dialogue could carry on intrinsically, within the painting itself.
For me the works of these two artists can only be described as breathtaking. Matisse’s paintings have a soothing and relaxing effect on my life. I revert to Picasso’s whenever I feel the need to nurture my darker side and infuse my days with a boost of passion.
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As I have been stating in a number of previous posts in this blog, the barriers between Sales, Marketing and Customer Service need to come down fast, if companies are to become more effective. The upper hand of the relationship between customers and companies has shifted significantly towards the former in today’s market place. Salespeople must focus on the client as an individual and cater for her specific needs at every stage of the buying process. Therefore companies need to adapt and be way more attentive and responsive to be able to move the client along the sales funnel (the steps towards the purchase) and close the deal. Companies need to train their staff to develop sophisticated social media skills if they want to succeed.
Sales, Marketing and Customer Service have to work closer than ever to provide a seamless experience to the client, regardless of the different touch points (email campaign, sales call, the various social media channel communications, print ads, etc) she is exposed to and chooses to use on the path to a purchase.
The old system of departmentalization between Sales, Marketing and Customer Service is becoming obsolete: in the past, sales leads were generated by Marketing, which would qualify them and pass them on to Sales, which, in turn, would hand post-sales issues to Customer Service for support and help. This process does not work so neatly anymore. It has become a lot more complex, not to say messy. Customers are probably exposed to your product through a number of sources and the communication and the responsibility for the process of following up on their requests must be handled together, as a team, by your employees. Software is available to make all the history of this interaction clear to whoever deals with that client.
For starters the client is bound to already know a lot about the product even before she first contacts you. She has a number of ways to research and get precise info on what she needs to purchase. The idea is to be fast and prompt in your response, adding to what is already known, whether it be: passing on more specific info on the benefits, clarification on functionality, scheduling a live demonstration, an invitation to a webinar with a specialist, drawing the terms of a contract, the negotiation of a discount, etc.
Let’s focus in this post on how specifically the sales force could use social media more proactively to meet the customer’s needs and move them along the sales funnel towards a successful goal. They can use any or all of the following tools as a supplement to what they already do (such as personal sales calls or phone calls). In many cases, however, you will notice that if they use these online tools properly, parts of the more traditional in person face-to-face sales process might be replaced smoothly by digital communication – which, not rarely, are more likely to yield results.
1. LinkedIn: this is your personal online ID card. Chances are customers will check out your profile immediately after you schedule an appointment to see them. Make sure you live up or surpass their expectations. Choose your profile picture carefully. Only you can decide on the level of formality or informality expected from professionals in your industry. Play by the rules. Fill in as much relevant info about your career as possible, and do not hesitate to ask coworkers, bosses and senior management for recommendations and endorsements. You can always return the favor. Publish only work-related posts on this platform. Avoid jokes and cat photos (you can use other social networks for that, don’t worry). Think twice before you post an update here. Remember that slips may jeopardize your chances of a future job. Nurture and grow your contacts daily. Be courteous and answer communications sent to you as quickly as possible.
2. Facebook: if you are uncomfortable using your personal profile professionally, create a specific professional one (I’ve confronted that dilemma of separating private and public life myself for a couple of years, so I’m totally sympathetic to whoever has the same problem). However, I gave up the on the struggle and unified my profiles. In this day and age, customers expect to deal with genuine human beings, so developing skills to be able to post the right content to the right group of people through a single profile will surely make your life easier and boost your career. If you wish to post photos of your family barbecue, do create a little private group for the only people who would care about this. Besides, as you probably know, you have the option to post to your whole audience of “friends”, to a few chosen people, or to the public in general, by adjusting the platform settings for every post. Just exercise some common sense in your content publishing strategy and you should be OK. This works better than keeping separate profiles. What you can’t do is avoid creating a digital presence for the development of your personal brand on the Internet. Gather as many clients and prospects as your “friends” as possible, and start posting relevant and useful content (not annoying and interrupting ads) on your newsfeed. You will be building what they call “thought leadership”, presenting yourself as an expert in a specific subject, and, naturally, prospects will grow to depend on you when they have a problem that needs the kind of solution you have been discussing or blogging about.
3. Instagram: develop a similar a strategy. Of course, the focus here, however, is on visuals: photos and videos. Publish a balanced mix of personal and work-related content. The personal stuff will make it easy for the customers to relate to you as a person (so the occasional cat pictures are fine, don’t worry), whereas the work-related publications will hopefully help you build a friendly and caring image for your company and for yourself as a professional. You could, for example, post photos of your products and services (a dynamic teacher in action using the latest technology in the classroom, if you sell edtech products, for example). Try not to use fashion models – this is not an ad after all (lose the glitter and fake glamour) – but real life photos of actual happy users of your product instead. Show people you work with. Post pictures of the offices of your company, to make it more relatable to customers. The main thing to keep in mind is you should be providing valuable or fun information, educating your prospects, training your users, not interrupting your audience with a sales pitch. In the meantime, Marketing should be working on building a bank of images, video clips, ebooks, blog posts, white papers and other useful pieces of content to help you pass them on in a more personalized way to your prospects, but there’s nothing wrong in your creating your own content, if you have the skills and the authorization of your boss. Do not rely solely on the Marketing Department’s support for your success, it doesn’t work like that.
4. Twitter: don’t waste time using your Twitter account only for personal interactions. Think of it, as of any other social media channel, as a powerful tool to create an Internet presence and carve a unique personal brand. This may advance your career in unexpected ways. Create or curate as much germane content to your customers as possible. Retweet, for example, your company’s invitations to webinars and events. Indicate and promote useful and complementary websites to the customers. Share relevant information about your industry. Educate the prospects on the benefits of a new product or service. I know you have only 140 characters to use, but you’d be amazed at how much can be accomplished with that. Don’t forget you can use links to more comprehensive information (such as a blog post, a landing page or a how-to video clip), although I wouldn’t recommend you overuse this technique. The recommended balance goes more or less like this: for each 15 new updates, think 10/4/1: 10 posts should be about content from other people you are curating and sharing; 4 posts should direct them to your latest blog post or video clip; 1 post should invite them to a special offer on your company’s landing page. Don’t use this ratio as a straightjacket, though.
The bottom line is nobody has a perfectly safe job in today’s corporate world. Companies will not give you all the support you wish you had to carry out the ideal sales performance everyone expects from you. You need to stand up for yourself and imagine you are an external consultant hired to do the best job you can for a limited period of time. Lay-offs are around the corner. I don’t mean to scare you, but this is the brutal reality of our times. Therefore, you have no choice. Dive into social media, develop a powerful personal brand on the Internet, nourish a healthy and trusting base of clients and feed them all the relevant content you can. The pay off will be the empowering of your personal brand and the resulting sale – when and only when the customers are ready for it. The good news is this method will yield a lot more closings than the more traditional approaches, in which you need to wrestle down the poor customer to the floor and drag her across the room by the hair to force the purchase of the latest edition of your Manual for Reluctant Customers.
For more on the same topic, please refer to my previous post:
Please let me know your thoughts about this article. Use the comments section for your reaction.
You must have heard about Alex from Target, if you have accessed any social media in the past few days. This is the story of a 16-year-old boy from Dallas, with Justin Bieber kind of looks, who became an overnight celebrity after a teenage customer – a girl called Abbie – fell in love with him at first sight and posted his photo bagging groceries at a Target – the second-largest retailer in the US – where he works as a cashier. The good-looking boy saw his account on Twitter surge from a little more than a 100 followers to more than half a million in less than 48 hours! Messages of eternal love, passion and admiration, with the hashtag #alexfromtarget, came from all corners. Some girls offered to mother his kids.
Next thing, Alex Laboeuf is invited to take part in the Ellen Degeneres’s talk show, becoming even more popular. When asked by Ellen how he planned to tap into this sudden exposure, and if he could dance or sing, he simply answered he was good at bagging groceries. Poor thing. The story has been reported by serious and important media outlets such as CNN and the New York Times.
A marketing agency rushed to take credit for the viral phenomenon, claiming they had orchestrated it, but Target and the boy denied they had anything to do with the agency and were as surprised as everyone else. The boy knew about his sudden wave of popularity through his manager, and, at first, thought he was kidding.
I find this both extraordinary and scary. If it’s really true that this was an organic and grassroots viral hysteria, it’s worrying that you can have your life instantly disrupted by a photo taken and posted without your consent by someone you don’t know or care about, while you are at work, and then getting retweeted thousands of times by pubescent girls who became your instant fans. Downright weird!
Also, these things tend to die out as fast as they start – remember the ice bucket thing?- which makes me wonder about the sense of frustration and emptiness the boy will feel when all this buzz comes to nothing in a couple of weeks, which is what probably will happen, if he does not show any special artistic talent soon enough.
As for the marketing implications of the story, we marketers know it’s very hard, if not impossible, to produce a viral campaign. The elements that make a video or a photo go viral are really intangible and unpredictable, and there’s always the danger that the campaign will backfire, if customers feel cheated. I wouldn’t recommend it as a promotional strategy to any company. A systematic approach to content marketing will yield a lot more results. Educating your customers on a regular basis by providing useful and interesting info is way more productive.
Obviously there will be an enormous boost of awareness for Target during the next few days. But did they need that? Who doesn’t know them in the US already anyway? Besides, customers may feel manipulated and could avoid patronizing the company for some time. Danger.
However, with the power of the Internet to amplify everything and the hormones of the youth running awry, you can’t prevent these oddities to happen. I wish Alex all the luck in the future.
Writing is today more fashionable than it has been in a long time. Perhaps it’s at the peak of its importance ever, with all the blogs, messages, emails and tweets swamping our computer, tablet and smart phone screens every second of the day. Of course, most of the time it’s bad or unclear writing. But everyone is doing it one way or another, and job opportunities are opening up for those who do it well.
Content is the key word in the workplace today. Especially if you are in sales & marketing. The buyer has all the power today and they control when, how and where they will make their next purchase. In this context, writing can be a great asset in educating and persuading prospects, making them see you as the expert, or thought leader in your field. Writing great content and making it available will help you develop a relationship with your potential customers, who will definitely lean towards your offer when the time is right.
As a consequence of its importance, the Internet is full of advice about effective writing, how to put blogs together, the dos and don’ts and best practices of publishing anything. By all means, read all you can, as there is a lot of useful information online. Beware, however, of some of the most common misconceptions about writing: in general most of them were acquired or developed at school and academic settings rather than on the Internet. Here are five of the most common:
1. Writing is about inspiration and waiting for the muse to come down and sit on your keyboard. Well, I’m afraid there’s not enough room for the muse to relax and spread out on such a small space. Also, deadlines have a weird way of not accommodating the muse’s busy schedule, so do not wait to get started. Writing is not necessarily what Hemingway warned us against in his famous quote: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Make it more active: brainstorm ideas, do some research, check out what is trending online, use automatic topic generators on the Internet, and do not delay. Start the process as soon as you can,
2. Writing comes out as the masterpiece you usually read in the printed copy of good magazines, newspapers and books. Well, the final draft is not easy to get to. That’s what you see published. But anyone can get the process started and refine it until you achieve a satisfactory result. The saying writing is rewriting, or writing is more about transpiration than inspiration are indeed true. Once you spill out your first ideas and get them more or less outlined on the page, you will start the process of polishing them. And that is the hard part. This will take time, effort and immense patience.
3. You cannot self-edit. If we are not talking about your PhD thesis or your fiction masterpiece, do not believe you need a team of copyeditors, researchers and proofreaders ready to work for you. They are expensive and hardly available in enough numbers even for big publishing companies nowadays. So, unless you can count on close friends to help you out with it (remember you can always return the favor), you must learn tactics for self-editing. Do not hesitate to count on every piece of technology available to help you with the task: spell checkers, grammar checkers, dropdown thesaurus, online dictionaries, you name it. There are a lot of very useful tools out there. Read your drafts as many times as you can and carry on refining them. There will be a moment when you’ll get so fed up with reading your piece you will want to throw up. That’s when you take a serious break. I’m not talking about the proverbial coffee time (you have probably been drinking coffee nonstop throughout the whole process anyway). Just abandon your text for a couple of days (I hope you can afford to do that. Factor in those necessary breaks when you plan your timetable to meet the deadline). Next time you get back to the text, you will see it with fresh eyes, and give it the final touches as a Steven Pinker would.
4. Sophisticated writing is good writing. Write as you speak. Content that will help you sell is content that’s simple enough for the majority of readers to understand. So drop the long words and complex sentences. The golden rule of elegance is less is more. Apply this to your writing: precision and simplicity of vocabulary, clarity of ideas, avoidance of overuse of the passive voice, and keeping to what is essential are the tactics that will make you win the reader over. As you read and reread your text, try to leave out everything that is superfluous or redundant. Cut, cut, cut.
5. Not everyone can write. You are write (sorry: right) to think so, if you are using Oscar Wilde or Hemingway as your standard. Artistic and creative writing are not for everyone. It does not need to be for you. But most people can learn to develop and communicate clear, authoritative and persuasive ideas in writing. It takes practice, though. All the content marketing gurus agree on this single point: you need to write everyday if you are in the business. The blog post you will write as soon as you finish reading this text will sound a hundred times better than the one you wrote around the same time last year. They will be both there on the Internet: just read and compare them. You will have improved. So keep working at it and surprise yourself month after month at how much better you are becoming. Good luck!
Would you like to share with us any advice on writing? Please do not hesitate to do so on the comments section of this blog. You might as well rate us so we can improve.
All of us who work in sales & marketing have seen the radical changes the field has undergone in the past few years. Many, however, are still living in the past and somehow do not believe the changes apply to their particular kind of industry. B2B companies especially are resistant to the new forms of promotion the Internet and the social media channels have brought about and insist on doing things the old way. Of course they are not succeeding as before, and more and more senior management are missing their sales targets and losing their jobs. If you are in sales and marketing, make sure you rethink your ideas if you still believe in the following myths:
1. Marketing is about hype. If you think that by promoting the features and benefits of your products as loud as you can, the customers will believe they need you, you will be in for a nasty surprise. Customers are a lot more skeptical today. They’ve been yelled at for far too long. They will just shut you off as soon as you start blabbering about your product, skip your ads, block your emails, and close your pop-up banners in a rage. Hype won’t bring you sales. Educate and inform your public, produce useful content (blog posts, video clips, white papers, infographics, e-books) and let them find out about you. Make yourself available on search engines and wait. The customers will indicate when they are ready to buy from you.
2. Salespeople need to talk the customers into buying. You still need to be very proactive in sales, but not as the typical pushy car salesman of yesteryear. Do not try to take advantage of your customers. You need to work more closely than ever to the marketing team in the process of passing as much information and useful content as possible to your prospects before you close. You need to be more of a consultant. The customer probably already knows a lot about the product when he is ready to buy, and he didn’t get the info necessarily from you. There are hundreds of sources of information available online, so make sure you are prepared to pass on very sophisticated and updated info to your customers when and if they finally get to you, as they will very likely already know the basics.
3. Marketing and Sales are very different departments. The former’s job is to pass on qualified leads to the latter. Not anymore! The basic difference now between the two departments in the number of people they address and communicate with. Marketing will still have to segment the market into very specific buying personas (a refined stereotype of the typical customer for a certain product), but they will be talking to a number of people in that segment at a time. Sales, on the other hand, will carry on the marketing process (which is mainly giving the customer as much useful content as possible) when he identifies a specific customer that needs a more personal approach, a one-to-one kind of conversation with a real human being to ask the final questions or understand the finer points of your offer. Many customers will totally skip salespeople and go straight to purchasing through the self-service websites. You need to be better than ever as a salesperson to be needed and relevant in today’s marketplace.
4. Promotion is the heart of success. Embellish the communication about your product and you can get away with anything. Wrong. The product itself is the most important part of marketing today. You should be offering purple cows (as the marketing guru Seth Godin calls them): products and services that are so exciting and awesome that can self-promote and inspire the buyers to purchase them. Think Apple and design. Think Amazon and its obsession with customer service. That’s the new marketing.
5. You sell to customers. Another common mistake companies make today. They still think they are selling their products to customers. It’s the other way around: customers buy products from you. The difference is less subtle than you may think. It means that the customers are in total control of the purchasing process. They will somehow identify their needs (through friends and contacts in social media, through blogs, through well-designed and content packed websites) and get as much info as possible about solutions before getting ready to buy. Your job is to be available on every step of the way (we tend to call the stages towards a purchase the sales funnel; we should be calling it the purchase funnel, though). Therefore, you need to provide content to match the stage the customer is at: from more general and comprehensive to more specific and product-based.
These are some of the most common sales & marketing myths still held by many professionals today. They need to change fast if they want to keep their jobs.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway
As we all bloggers know, Hemingway did nail the writing process in his quote above. Yes, it’s hard; yes, it’s time-consuming; no, it’s never right the first time around. Writing is rewriting. For a 1000-word blog post, I would say the average blogger would write at least 10 drafts before he is reasonably satisfied with the result. He is lucky if he has an editor to help with the polishing, but that is not usually the case.
However, in this day and age of content marketing, you would be crazy as a marketer if you did not sit down at least once a week to create or repurpose some written content to post on the Internet. Let me highlight in this post the features of good blog posts and how your business could benefit from them.
1. Search engine optimization: provided you offer useful and original content, employing the relevant key words, blogging will help your business show up on the SERPs (search engine results pages) of your prospective clients. I don’t know many people today who will not go to Google at some point during the buying cycle to do a search before actually purchasing a product or service. So, to be available, to show up, it will help to have a carefully SEOed (search engine optimized) blog to pop up on the first page.
2. Answer your customers questions: the buying process – the cycle your prospects go through before committing to a purchase – consists of the the following phases: first, the prospect needs to identify a need or problem; second, they will try to learn about possible solutions; third, they will start shopping for the ideal solution; afterwards, when they are ready, they will look for directions to actually buy it (online or offline); finally, when they start using the product, they might have problems or questions about it, so you need to offer them prompt customer service. Your blog needs to account for each one of these phases and provide the appropriate answers to help them at the stage they are, moving them along the sales funnel. It takes close communication between Marketing, Sales and Customer Service to identify the customers most frequently asked questions and issues, and try to solve them through your blog content. So it’s time to cooperate (there’s no need to tell me how hard this can be, but it’s worth trying): salespeople and customer service professionals need to develop their marketing skills, while marketers should learn more about the customers from sales and customer service so they can provide qualified leads.
3. Thought leadership: by covering content that speaks to the different needs of your customers at the different stages of the buying process you will soon develop a reputation of an expert in the field. Even if you don’t get conversions in terms of sales at the first moment, your customers will grow to trust your opinions and respect your points of view. When the time comes for them to make a buying decision, who do you think they will turn to?
4. Style: your blog is not supposed to be a work of art if you are a marketer. So write as simply and elegantly as possible, as if you were actually “talking” to the prospect. A marketer’s blog is not a piece of literature, so tone down your message, and be objective and direct. Of course it would help to be aware of the reading level of your audience, but “according to many reports (including the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics’ 1992 Adult Literacy survey), the average reading level is the 7th or 8th grade. Combine that with reports of increasingly low-attention spans of Internet users who require even milder language and you’re looking at a reading level of the 6th or 7th grade” (http://blog.ezinearticles.com/2013/10/ezinearticles-asks-what-reading-level-should-you-target.html) . If you really wish to fine tune your text’s level of difficulty, there are some tools on the Internet (try the Readability Test Tool, for example, http://read-able.com) that will allow you to measure it.
5. The title: the importance of a catchy title to crown your blog post cannot be underestimated. This is the first impression you will make on the reader, and you only have a couple of seconds to entice them. So think carefully about it. Putting yourself in the shoes of a journalist may help, after all, this is your headline. Research says that questions are a good way to go, as they tease the reader into looking for the answer in the text.
6. Promoting and Repurposing: to make the most of all the effort you put into writing your piece, promoting your blog is a must. Use your social media channels with this objective. Putting links to your blog post repeatedly, however, may not be the solution (although you’ll have to do it occasionally). Be careful not to make your audience feel spammed. Another solution is to repurpose your content and distribute it in different formats to suit the different social media channels: write a summary of the content as an image (for Instagram); use the photos you put in your blog post with a link to it (Instagram, Facebook); write a headline for your blog with a link to it (Twitter); turn it into an infographics poster (Pinterest); use the main points for a slide presentation (slideshare), etc.
As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. Some people say they blog everyday so they can improve. Research indicates that to be excellent at a skill you need to have spent at least 10,000 hours at it (read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” for a deeper explanation on this). Maybe you don’t have that amount of time available anymore, but I would say it’s never too late to get started. What you can’t afford to do as a marketer is NOT to have a blog. How about starting today?