What’s your social media strategy as a salesperson?


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.

Selling through social media

Selling through social media

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:

https://jorgesette.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/salespeople-need-to-become-marketers/

Please let me know your thoughts about this article. Use the comments section for your reaction.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

5 Myths About Sales & Marketing


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.

Sales & Marketing working together.

Sales & Marketing working together.

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.

5You 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.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

5 Intriguing Business Lessons from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos


If you haven’t had the chance to read Brad Stone’s THE EVERYTHING STORE: JEFF BEZOS AND THE AGE OF AMAZON, reach out for your Kindle and download it right now. It’s an exciting account of the creation and development of Amazon into one of the most unique companies in history and the life of his peculiar founder Jeff Bezos.

IJeff Bezos and the Everything Store

Jeff Bezos and the Everything Store

Amazon.com started as an online book retailer and grew to become a company where you can purchase virtually anything, from apparel, to art to web services. It originated the concept of cloud computing service and was the first company, through the Kindle,  to turn online reading into a reality for thousand of hundreds of people on the planet. In addition, it claims it will be launching rockets into outer space soon.

If Amazon puts the client first – and, as customers,  you and I can certainly attest to that – working for Bezos looks like it’s not a lot of fun. Amazon is supposed to have all the depressing and Orwellian political atmosphere and red tape of huge corporations combined with the lack of resources of a startup. Many of his ex-employees are said to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the ones who remain there live under constant pressure and fear of getting fired before the end of the day. Bezo’s explosive personality is not very different from that of another difficult boss – Steve Jobs. It is kind of sad to think Nature tends to offset their kind of genius and creativity with a terrifying temperament and underdeveloped interpersonal skills.

Despite these drawbacks, you may find below a number of interesting lessons and facts about Jeff Bezos and his company. They are all based on info I got from the book. You may either try to apply them in your own business or, at least,  enjoy these points as mere trivia:

1. Monitor your clients more than your competition. Of course Amazon has always kept a close eye on Walmart, Apple, Barnes and Noble,  and Google – their main competitors. But he has always been much more likely to create or optimize processes that, rather than simply emulate these companies breakthroughs in terms of profitability, would actually benefit the client. For him, the client experience has always come first. Short term profit has always been an afterthought.

2. Frugality. Bezos is obsessed with simplicity and adept of an ascetic life style (in this he was not very different from Jobs either, by the way). He has always kept his staff on a very tight budget, cutting all kinds of extra costs with the aim of investing in the clients’ experience. His mantra was low prices everyday (just like Walmart’s), and he would go out of his way to make this happen, keeping his margins to a minimum or even giving them up altogether, such was his confidence in a business model that, if trusted by the client, would payoff in the future. Bezos would carefully  consider the need of every extra expense or cost and try to connect it directly to a benefit to the client. Lack of resources, according to him, would spur creativity and imagination from his staff.

3. You may learn more from fiction than non-fictional books. His favorite novel is Kazuo Ishiguro’s  The Remains of the Day. I was very happy to hear about this, as I love reading novels and this is certainly one of my all-time favorites. However, I don’t really think you can learn the hard facts about being an entrepreneur from the likes of Philip Roth or Machado de Assis. Fiction in my opinion will help you deal with the human side of business, and will probably keep you from having to resort to antidepressants when you struggle to work under bosses like Bezos, get sabotaged by coworkers or even fired.  But,  in my humble opinion, only the actual experience and the study of technical reading material will help you grow in your career. The most interesting thing about this aspect of Bezos’s personality  is  that his love for books boosted the launch of the Kindle, whereas Steve Job’s passion for music  – especially Bob Dylan’s and the Beatles’s – was a strong inspiration in his creation of iTunes. Do what you love and you are more likely to succeed.

4. Think very long term. Entrepreneurs need to persist in seeding. The payoff never comes immediately. Especially now, in this fast-paced, ever-changing technological landscape. Appreciate the little victories you achieve every day and fight on. Celebrate every little step towards a moving target you don’t even know if you will ever reach.

5. Be ruthless in the negotiation with your competition. For Jeff Bezos “win-win” was an unamazon way of thinking. You need to score an advantage over your opponents. Think football during these times of World Cup.  A draw is not acceptable. Do not even be afraid of disrupting your own business model in your pursuit to win. Do everything to destroy it and create something new instead. If you don’t do it, others will. Cannibalization is OK.

You may not agree with every tip Bezos has to offer, but remember where he got to by using them. Of course, you should always take successful entrepreneurs’s  and  gurus’ advice with a grain of salt, for, as Malcolm Gladwell explains in his brilliant book OUTLIERS, there is always a lot more to success than meets the eye. A set of special conditions not available to all is always present in the these Cinderella’s stories of ash to riches, so look out for them.

What is your formula for success? Please share it with us (if we are not competing with you).

NOTE: If you are interested in TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, you might want to check out our successful series of eBooks available from AMAZON.COM (KINDLE STORE). Just click here: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Teaching English with art

Teaching English with art

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

Salespeople need to become marketers


I’ve had the chance to be directly involved in sales, and, eventually, train salespeople at different stages of my long career as a marketer. I was a consultant/rep for many years at Pearson at the beginning of my publishing days, so I experienced firsthand what it’s like to spend the whole day visiting clients and presenting products. I covered the whole country. At McGraw-Hill, years later, I was lucky to work alongside reps (salespeople) in many countries of Latin America and the Middle East. Not only did I train them on the sales methodology of the company, but also learned a lot from good, intuitive reps, or natural salespeople, as we like to call them. These are very charismatic people that build close relationships with their customers, and, therefore, would be the ones that most benefited from formal training, as they already had the right kind of personality.

The Young Apple Salesman by Brown, John George

The Young Apple Salesman by Brown, John George

Formal sales training

Of course you can train anyone to be a rep as far as techniques go, even if they lack the natural charisma typical of great salespeople. The sales process methodology used by different companies may vary in terminology, but they are basically the same: asking the customer the right questions; selecting which features of the product to present, based on their answers; giving a skillful presentation with emphasis on benefits; and closing the deal. It all comes down to structuring a sales call, finding out what the customers’ problems are, and finally offering a solution that fixes it. However, if one can do without layers of natural charm, not many people have what it takes to soldier on in this hard line of work, where you get NO for an answer as the norm when you try to close a deal, despite all the work you put in following carefully the phases of the sales process.

Salespeople need to have a very high level of self-esteem to be able to manage all this rejection, understand that it’s not personal (in most cases), and start the process all over again the following day. For those who have the drive and persistency to carry on and keep honing their skills through (self-)training and practice, the rewards to reap can be more than worth it.

Marketing skills 

However, in these days of inbound marketing and social media, where we expect the client to come looking for the product as they need it, it takes more than excelling at the sales process for reps to succeed. The client is in control more than ever and that changes everything. Reps need to learn to emulate the charisma some people naturally have by building an online relationship with prospects and clients. They need to incorporate marketing skills to their sales tool kit and start promoting their own personal brand.

The marketing department of the company they work for should be able to provide them with the necessary leads. But we all know that is not enough. Successful salespeople will never rely solely on the leads provided by Marketing to do their job. They must create a professional persona and promote it  heavily, using the same tactics available to Marketing. The objective is to get closer to a client, initiate and keep the conversation with them, before finally closing the deal.

Salespeople as marketers of their own personal brand

Salespeople can replicate the proven tactics of content marketing and the use of social media channels to promote themselves as a brand to reach customers they may not have the chance to meet otherwise. Therefore, salespeople had better start thinking and acting like marketers. Get closer to the marketing team in your company and, with their authorization, start personalizing the content already made available to generate leads (one simple way to do this would be just to share this kind of communication on the real state of your own Facebook profile, for example, rather than the company’s). Salespeople will also need to begin building their own community and fans on the Internet. Remember, though, that content marketing needs to be subtle. You will need to genuinely engage with your audience by providing a lot of useful free content (invitation to webinars, how-to videos, explanations about the product, relevant articles to their business, ebooks etc.) and dutifully interact with them (by answering their queries, for example) before you gain the right to sell anything.

Building a community and working on promoting your personal brand is the best guarantee that you will keep your a job in these unstable and changing times.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

Is Marketing Art?


According to the site http://www.oxforddictionaries.com, Art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”. Marketing, on the other hand, is responding to people’s needs and desires with a unique offer that will sweep them off their feet. Is it only me or is there a parallel here? How is marketing close to art? Let me give you four reasons.

The  KThe King's Sadness, Matisse.1952

The King’s Sadness, Matisse.1952

1. Visual:  today’s promotion relies on images more than anything else. Text is powerful, but images are processed much faster by the human brain. So to grab the client’s attention and really engage with them at the deep level marketers need to do to break through the clutter, only compelling images and the right combination of colors and shapes will do the job. The marketing tools for reaching the client today are basically what can be channeled through social media, and social media is mainly about visual communication: Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to name just the most popular. It may not be long before Pinterest Search, for example, beats Google, as sometimes you might not even know how to express in words what you are looking for. SEO and keywords will need to readapt to the new reality.

2. Design: Both the product and its promotion will rely heavily on design. Shape, colors, texture, coordination: products need to look and feel awesome, especially if they are to be worn by clients. Very soon fashion trends will dictate how wearables are supposed to look for the right season, I would imagine. Marketers should be ready for the catwalk. Dazzling is what we are all looking for.

3. Emotions: it’s hard to explain how some paintings and sculptures resonate so deeply with us. They just strike the right chord. Human beings will prioritize and choose based on emotion and then rationalize their choices. Marketers need to work based on this premise. Just like artists, their communication must draw people to them. Marketers need to churn out compelling content that will get customers to come for more again and again.

4. Skill: good art may seem spontaneous and natural, but I’m sure you know the amount of technique that needs to be put into it. You can only break academic norms and achieve effective and revolutionary results in Art after understanding deeply how the traditional rules work. In the same way, marketers need a lot of training to get to the top of their craft. And they need to test and measure the effectiveness of their communication endlessly to be able to keep refining it. Again, all this science is art.

As a marketer, it feels very exciting to know that more art and technique will be expected from me in the near future. Creativity and craft make us even more human, which, in a way, allows us to communicate with customers in a truly genuine voice.

NOTE: If you are into art, you may consider checking out our eBook series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART:

Click on the links below to go to AMAZON.COM and buy your ebooks:

1. Teaching English with Art: Matisse  http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1kP

 (30 speaking and writing activities based on famous works by Henri Matisse)

2. Teaching English with Art: Picasso  http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lA

(30 speaking and writing activities based on famous works by Pablo Picasso)

3. Teaching English with Art: Caravaggio  http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1mL

(30 speaking and writing activities based on famous works by Caravaggio)

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

4 Elements to Consider to Strengthen your Brand


In a scene of MAD MEN (6th season), Don Draper (the protagonist) and his business partners are sitting around a dinner table socializing with clients from General Motors. Libations and jokes are going around, drunken laughter and merry faces are all we see. Then, Don, unexpectedly, brings up the story of the son of one of his friends (whose wife he has been sleeping with, in typical Draper fashion) who has been drafted to Vietnam. Don is hoping GM will volunteer to help get the boy off the hook, through one of the many contacts the huge corporation must have in Washington. The mood at the table changes immediately to gloom and doom. Don’s partners look at him in disbelief: how dare he introduce a note of sadness and discomfort, when the only goal of this meeting is to entertain the clients and keep them happy? Is he trying to jeopardize the future of the account?

foto

Don Draper, Mad Men

This is how business was done in the late 1960s. And today.  In a previous post, I mentioned that the campaigns conducted by Madison Avenue marketers as shown in this brilliant TV series would not have much change of succeeding in today’s digital environment. However, one thing remains the same and is not likely to change any time soon: clients are emotional beings and their choices rely much more on feeling and intuition than on reason. Of course, after the choice is made, they will work hard to rationalize it and will possibly come up with a lot of “objective” reasons to justify their decisions. So, the lesson is let’s keep the customer happy.

With this in mind, clever marketers will never stray away from the emotional channel to reach and start a conversation with their prospects, or keep a solid relationship with their loyal base going smoothly. And what are the main tools available to aid marketers reach clients on an emotional level?

1. Storytelling: this is the biggest umbrella word that encompasses the whole tool kit to engage the client, as it resonates strongly with humans on different emotional levels. Your brand needs to describe itself to the customer in a very simple and yet effective way. By using the typical elements of storytelling (which we have discussed in previous posts: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-F2, and http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-UK), make sure it’s easy for the customers to understand where you are coming from, your journey and quest. If they eventually become advocates of your brand (which is ultimately every marketer’s dream) make it easy for them be able to share your story with everyone in their network.

2. Coherence: this is fundamental to the success of your marketing strategy. The story needs to be coherent in every touch-point with the client. Every contact of the client with your brand should add or reinforce a piece to the bigger picture. Your story should make a solid promise, set up a strong positioning and create a relatable personality that needs to permeate all your communication with customers. This story is supposed to make the customers associate your brand with positive feelings and traits: family values (Disney), coolness (Apple), sophistication (Tiffany), efficiency and innovation (Amazon), usefulness and reliability (Google), high self-esteem and style (Rolex), vigor and energy (Nike), etc. Pick the emotion you want to emphasize through the use of your product/service and stick with it.

3. Colors: these are very important in communicating and generating the right emotion. There are many articles on the Internet that make suggestions and describe how different colors create and stress different moods. Based on the kind of story you choose to tell your customers, be careful matching the colors of your logo, for example, to the positive emotion you are willing to generate. Blue, for example, stands for depth and stability; red for excitement and passion; yellow for happiness and warmth; green for environment-friendly brands, peacefulness and health; black communicates tradition and sophistication.

4. Design: most products are becoming commodities in terms of their functionality and performance. Today it does not really matter, for example, what kind of TV set you buy, they are basically all the same, and equally reliable. That’s where look and feel play an essential part. Your brand needs to integrate the design that fitfully tells your story. This involves your logo, the format of your communication, the choice of your business card and the product itself. Of course, Apple is everyone’s benchmark in this department.  Also, keep consistency throughout your collateral, display banners, the layout of your office, your blog and website appearance.

I hope the reader understands that we are not endorsing ways of cheaply manipulating the customers by pressing their buttons. As long as your brand delivers on the promise made, marketers don’t need to feel guilty about trying to entice the client. That’s obviously their job. Besides, just like in a good movie or book – and in storytelling in general – the more subtly emotions are played out, the more effective they are in satisfying today’s increasingly sophisticated audience. Tell a powerful and genuine story, and deliver on your contract: that’s all.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

 

More storytelling tips for marketers


You may already know that the new buzz word in marketing is storytelling. You may also wonder why it took the marketing gurus so long to realize that stories resonate strongly with humans beings, and therefore, with clients. Brands must tell a story to the customers, and good marketers should, therefore, learn as much as possible about the craft of storytelling to be able to create and project a more impactful and relevant positioning in the minds of their audience.

We already started discussing the mythological structure of storytelling in a previous post (please refer to “The Power of Storytelling, the Mythological Structure”- http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-F2  – you may want to read it before you continue). Now we pick up where we left off, and begin to cover the kinds of characters we come across in muscular and enduring stories.

The renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung put forward the theory that the elements (themes, topics, characters, plot) commonly found in dreams are the same ones present in the mythologies of all peoples at different times. He called them archetypes.

Joseph Campbell, the famous American mythologist, went further to propose that all stories have basically the same structure. In his seminal book THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, he identifies and explains the phases that a typical hero or protagonist goes through.

Hollywood was quick to capitalize on Campbell’s powerful ideas and created a simplified memo for scriptwriters spelling out the stages of the hero’s journey and the typical characters found in mythological stories. When used with creativity and originality, these phases are hardly noticeable on the surface of a good movie, and the characters may take on many different forms, but the closer the deep structure of the plot remains to its mythological backbone the stronger it will resonate with the viewers.

Image-1

Antonio Canova’s Theseus and the Centaur

We covered the stages of the story in a previous post. Now, who are the usual characters in powerful stories? Here’s the list, and its implications for marketing:

The hero: this is the protagonist or the representation of  your customer. He will have to overcome problems and bypass obstacles to get to his goal. He has a strong need that must be met – by your solution or product.

The shadow: this usually represents the hero’s opponent or dark side. In marketing, we may think of it as our competition, or any flaws our products may have that must be corrected or features that need to be enhanced.

The mentor: in stories, they appear as older and wiser men or women, whose job is to guide and aid the hero along the path to accomplishing his goal. Marketers may use this concept in their messages and positioning. Think of the communications with your customers as ways of mentoring them.

The herald: this is the character that announces to the hero that he will need to act upon his needs and desires to have them sorted out. He pushed the hero forward. What better metaphor for a CALL TO ACTION? Your “call to action” needs to be included in all the communications with the client, your hero. It’s your job to tell them what to do next. Clarify the path.

The threshold guardians: these are people who hinder the hero’s progress at different plot points. They are not necessarily evil, but they will be obstacles to overcome. Think of them metaphorically as any obstruction on the client’s path to the micro or macro conversions you set up: faulty or unhelpful landing pages, redirect errors, unclear info about the product, interruptions or problems on the shopping cart path, etc. Be an ally to the hero and help him overcome these difficulties.

The trickster: that is a character that provides comic relief in stories. Also, these pranksters may provide useful information through their jokes. As a marketer, keep in mind that what people need, through your messages (you blog posts, for example), is to have info, develop their knowledge or to have fun. Don’t underestimate the power of comedy. This is a powerful way to win the customers’ hearts and minds.

The shapeshifter: usually someone who keeps changing their form or intentions. We never know if he’s an ally or an enemy. Or he may start off as an enemy and become an ally eventually. As a marketer, I think it’s very useful to see testimonials and comments on social media sites as typical shapeshifters.  They will sometimes align with your intentions in helping the hero get to his (and your) goal, but they can also badmouth you to the point of putting the whole journey in jeopardy. Shapeshifters need to me monitored closely on the Internet and responded to immediately. This is a huge part of your job as a marketer.

We hope this analysis of the main archetypes will help you structure the story of your brand more effectively. In future posts, we will carry on imparting more tips to help you hone your skills as a storyteller and marketer.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

 

 

 

 

Six influential Marketing Books you should read


Everyone needs marketing. We are all marketers one way or another.

Most people seem to think that marketing is something done by a restricted group of people in a specific department of big companies, whose job consists mainly of shouting silly slogans at you, hoping they will stick, and perhaps make you stop on your tracks to buy something you don’t really need.

Marketing as a strategy, however, is something much deeper, scientific and even artistic, I should say. It’s sad that many companies and professionals fail to understand this concept. Marketing is needed to create, grow and maintain clients not only for companies but also for you as a professional. We are all selling something to someone: the product of the company we work for or our professional value, our time and dedication.

Nevertheless, let’s keep in mind that marketing has undergone a radical change in the last decade. Digital marketing completely changed the landscape. I would say that it leveled the playing field for small companies and autonomous professionals, allowing both to compete worldwide with bigger corporations for an audience on the Internet. Since I have worked in this area for most of my professional life, and really love the subject,  I thought I could use this post to make a humble contribution, sharing with you the best marketing books I have ever read.

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1. Marketing Management, by Philip Kotler. This is considered the bible of the field. If you take any marketing course, you will surely be referred to it. It covers the basics, and it’s an essential tool for anyone interested in the subject. It will dedicate specific chapters to each of the four traditional Ps of marketing (product, price, promotion and place), analyze consumer markets and buyer behavior, will give you tips on how to deal with the competition, discuss segmentation, etc. It is a lot of information, and some readers will complain that the topics are not explored in depth. The text will, however, give you a general, if a bit superficial, overview of marketing as a whole.

2. Positioning,  the Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout. One of the most seminal books in the area. It explains the fundamental concept of differentiation. How to plant your brand in the clients’ mind, making them see you in a specific and unique way. As a marketer, you need to look for a space that has not been occupied yet and fill it. It is necessary to make your brand mean something special for your target audience. As a private teacher of English in Brazil, for example, how do you want to position yourself? As a cool native speaker  Australian who would appeal to a young and sportif audience (You need to be Australian to pull that off, remember.)?  As an experienced Brazilian who had to learn the second language fluently yourself and therefore will understand the needs of your students better? Do you want to be seen as the best business English teacher available in São Paulo? These are options. Work to your strenghts and pick a suitable, convincing positioning and a niche to explore.

3. Permission Marketing, by Seth Godin. This book will forever change your views on how to promote your product. If you are a fan of Mad Men, the TV show featuring these clever guys from Madison Avenue, you will understand that the way they conducted a marketing campaign back in the 60s would have very little chance to succeed today. For at least 40 years, from the time the show is set, marketing was all about interrupting people to make them listen to your call (ads broadcast through TV and radio, billboards, flashy ads in magazines…) With today’s noise, when clients are bombarded with thousands of promo messages every minute, it would be impossible to break through the clutter with traditional marketing. Ideally, customers will now come looking for you instead, if you apply the strategy suggested in the book (which is also known as inbound marketing). You will still interrupt them once, probably (maybe by luring them with a display ad on the website they’re browsing), but, then, the conversation will need to continue with their permission (or opt-in), and most certainly they will be the ones in charge.

4. The New Rules of Marketing & PR, by David Meerman Scott. This book summarizes in a very simple and direct way all the contemporary trends in marketing. It will show you the spectrum of tactics you can use to reach your client in this digital age: how to keep the conversation going with your target audience;  how to position yourself a “thought leader” (expert) in your industry, through blogging, podcasting, video-blogging and social media interaction; it also covers tactics on search engine marketing.  D. M. Scott explains the useful concept of buying personas, which is a method of breaking down the different segments of  your market to create a clear personality for each one, so you can have a more relevant conversation with the customer, through the messages you send out and the feedback you get in response.

5. Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics, by Brian Clifton. One of the most remarkable changes in marketing is the shift towards more accountability expected from practitioners. Metrics is the key word in today’s marketing. If you don’t measure and demonstrate objectively that you can improve the ROI (return on investment) of your campaigns,  you won’t keep your job for very long. Not every company has changed yet, though, and some still seem to value marketers who are famed only for their creativity, even if they do not show proven results for their interesting ideas. I firmly believe their days are numbered. Clifton’s book will teach you in a very thorough way how to operate and benefit from Google Anayltics, one of the most widely used services on the Web. The book offers invaluable insights on how to crunch the numbers and improve your marketing efforts.

6. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. Since the visionary depicted in this biography is one of the most inspiring people ever in my humble opinion, I must admit to being partial including this book on the list, as it’s not really a marketing book but a book about an extremely effective and successful marketer. The main lesson here is the product is the marketing. In the words of Seth Godin, who also preached this approach, you need a PURPLE COW – a very special and original product – to win in the ultra competitive market place of today. All promotional tactics will feel gimmicky and deceitful if you can’t deliver the iPhone or iPad of your industry. Another lesson is the importance that design has acquired in the making of any product in recent years. It goes without saying that function has not lost any of its importance, but if not integrated seamlessly with extraordinary design, your product will be in trouble.

Remember that new tactics, apps and a great variety of tools are being created every moment in the marketing landscape.  Therefore, to keep up with this dynamic environment, besides reading the basic and seminal books of the field, you are advised to sign up and follow a number of blogs on the subject. It can feel a bit overwhelming at first, but, eventually, you will learn to filter the information and focus on a couple of the best blogs in the field. I strongly recommend, for example, Occam’s Razor by metrics evangelist Avinash Kaushik and the Hubspot blog on inbound marketing.

Now it’s your turn. Could you please recommend any good marketing books to me?

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.