Myth: Quit advertising because it just doesn’t work

A lot of people enmeshed in the online world like to refer gruffly to other types of marketing as “interruption marketing.” Predominantly, they are talking about advertising. Advertising “interrupts” your reading experience. It can certain interrupt your television watching or your radio listening (do people still listen to the radio?). On social media platforms, advertising can fall into the downright annoying category. Yes, a lot of arguments are floating around about why you should stop advertising. As far back as 2009, Business Week noted, “The vast majority of ads don’t register with consumers.” In a recent post for Business2Community, Patrick McDaniel notes that many people go up to him and say, “Yeah, I tried advertising. It didn’t work.

In fact, a simple Google search for “advertising is dead” yields quite a few results:

Are all of these folks right? Is advertising dead? Does advertising just simply not work?

What does “work” mean?

Not to be glib, but exactly what were you expecting your advertising to do? False expectations can be a big problem for businesses and marketers. If you were expecting your advertising campaign to pull your company out of the recession, you probably found yourself disappointed. Similarly, if you thought advertising would make people like your product more, you were likely not satisfied with the results. As Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston note in Marketing in the Round, advertising is really best for direct marketing and building brands. If your objectives and measurement systems aren’t in alignment with those types of tactics, you’re going to run into trouble.

Why do people think advertising doesn’t work?

The most common reason advertising doesn’t “work,” I might hypothesize, is that people don’t really understand how to make advertising work. Advertising is more like a puppy, not like a cat. You can’t leave it alone and assume it will take care of itself. You need to plan your media placements carefully. You need to make sure you are hitting the right audience with the right kind of creative. And yes, you need to find ways to measure everything you’re doing.

When we recommend advertising programs to our clients, we present online ads as akin to billboards. People don’t click on banner ads much anymore, but they notice them, and if you are going to an industry website, seeing companies you want to learn more about can create an environment where clicks are more possible than in other places (like, say, CNN). We also recommend not using banner ads for sheer promotion anymore. Give people a REAL reason to click. Offer something that can answer a question or that can help your potential customers meet their objectives. If you are led to believe that an online banner ad will increase traffic to your website by leaps and bounds, you will probably end up believing that advertising doesn’t work. If you don’t capture click-throughs via a special landing page, you’ll end up on the same boat.

In print advertisements, it’s important to make sure your ad makes sense for your audience. Does your audience like copy-heavy ads that are more like advertorials or do they respond to graphic-heavy ads with very little copy? Do they like straightforward presentations or does their eye get caught by out-of-the-box creative? There are plenty of ways to test these kinds of approaches, whether it’s running two different ads in very similar publications or timing your ads for a Reader Study issue, where people can respond directly to your ad and say what they think about it.

Again, if you do not have a methodology for capturing leads from your print ad, you are likely going to believe that advertising doesn’t work. You need to find a way to attract readers to your website, and not just to your homepage. You need to drive traffic to a page where you can capture information. Incentivize this part of your program. Again, offer readers something that will entice them to click, whether it’s a free white paper, an e-book that answers a key question, or something else along those lines.

If you engage in a print advertising program with an expectation that you will immediately be inundated with sample requests and sales, you will again end up believing that advertising doesn’t work.

You can do social media and still advertise

Many people seem to draw a black-and-white contradictory picture between social media marketing and advertising. If you are on Twitter for your business, you clearly can’t also advertise. Right?

In fact, this kind of thinking is leading companies away from some really intriguing integrated marketing opportunities. Print ads could drive traffic to a Facebook page. A QR code on an ad could lead to a YouTube video. You could even invite people to answer a question they see in a print ad by contacting you on Twitter. The possibilities for translating interest in a print ad to engagement elsewhere could be almost endless, in fact. But the “this or that” mentality overshadowing marketers these days may cloud over all of that potential.

What do you think about advertising? Should people just give up on this type of marketing or is that crazy talk? What are your experiences with advertising? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

PS, this post is letter Q in the Alphabet of Marketing Myths series. You can catch up on the series here.

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Myth: People who like you will buy from you

During what I call my “summer of chats,” I, as you might guess, participated in a lot of Twitter chats. So many, in fact, that I now call that time period my “summer of chats.” Ehem. I was participating in chats because #blogchat had introduced me to the fact that Twitter chats are great ways to meet people with similar interests, share ideas, learn, and network. So, I participated in #blogchat on Sunday, #mmChat (Marketing Monday) on Monday, #leadershipchat and #Custserv on Tuesday, #imcchat on Wednesday, and #b2bChat on Thursday.

It was a lot of chats.

In terms of my social media presence (or “stuff” as I like to call it) all of these chats were great. But there was one little flaw with my great plan, and I bet you may be falling into the same trap.

You see, by participating in chats with “people like me” I was actually networking with peers or even competitors. I was not participating in chats where potential customers were likely to be hanging out.

That whole community and being human thing

A lot of emphasis has always been given to the power of community in the online world, and with good reason. When you find yourself participating with a specific group of people in lots of conversations and chats, it’s pretty nice and it can even be pretty powerful. The online world is a great place to meet great people, to share ideas, to learn how to expand your business, and more. But the shiny factor in this part of the online world can really take your eye off your ultimate purpose if you are using social media for business. You need to be looking for people who will buy from you.

Now, in my own online community, I can count as friends many great people. Some of them are PR experts. Others are marketing or SEO experts. Others are social media wizards. I wouldn’t trade any of these folks for the world, but do you think it’s likely that a full service agency person is going to contact me, a woman from a full service agency, to do some work? It’s possible, but not highly probable. They might like me a lot, but our services simply are not what they are going to need.

The Serendipity Factor

A lot of people, when talk about online communities comes up, notes that you never know who one person may know. Any person you meet could end up referring a person they know to you. That’s true to a certain extent, but if you are networking solely with people who are in the same business as you, is it likely they are going to send that person to you when they could just as easily earn that person’s business? People are good, but not usually that good, especially during these trying times, right?

This logic applies regardless of the business you’re in. If you’re a lawn and garden person who has networked with other lawn and garden people, you’re not likely to get a lot of new customers. If you’re a jewelry maker who has networked with a lot of other jewelry makers…well you see where this is going. Yes, a person might give you a referral if a person would benefit from local or person-to-person attention, but beyond that, your sales will probably not see a bump.

So what should you do?

You don’t have to ditch the idea of networking with peers (or competitors). It’s still fun to meet people who might share similar life experiences. Just make sure that you balance that part of your online presence with what will pay your bills. Try to find some chats that might be of interest to existing or potential customers and get yourself known in that crowd. Do searches to try to network with people who are asking the kinds of questions you can answer. Focus some of your content on the stuff that would be of interest to existing and potential customers, not just to your colleagues and competitors.

Now it’s your turn

What has your experience been with building sales in the online world? Have you kept that as a priority or have you found yourself networking more with people in the same business as you? How have you balanced your goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Myth: Opens are the best way to measure email marketing success

You’d heard all of the rumors. Marketing is dead. B2B is dead. Computers are dead. Email is dead. Pretty much everything has been declared dead. Despite all of this, however, you did the unthinkable and started an email marketing campaign for your company. Today was the big day. The email was proofread and checked in every other way, loaded up into your program, and sent out. Now, 12 hours later, the boss calls and wants to know how the stats are looking (because yes, this does tend to happen in the business world). You might well scramble for your stats report and announce the first thing that is reported. “Well, our open rate was 19.2% which is *just* below what’s considered the industry ideal for open rate.”

There’s just one problem with this swift and exciting report.

It doesn’t really answer your boss’s question.

Opens are slippery

There are a few things you need to know about “opens” when you begin email marketing, and perhaps the most important thing is that the word “open” can be pretty misleading. For example, let’s say you check your email on one of those clients that has a preview pane. Whenever you get a new email it pops *open* in your preview pane. Some email programs will track this as an open even though the person may not ever actually look at it. This is why some programs now also track “click to open,” which means the person actually clicked open the email to read it. This might be a little more encouraging, but it still doesn’t answer that question about how the email performed.

Opens are like impressions

Opens in email world are kind of like impressions in web world. Impressions translates to how many people put their eyeballs on your site. Opens translates to how many people put their eyeballs on your email. Neither of these are really solid metrics for determining how these tactics actually performed, however. If you walk into a store and don’t buy anything, does the store really care how many things you looked at or “opened”? Probably not. They want you to buy stuff. If you’re in business, you probably want people to buy stuff too.

What are you asking people to do?

Email marketing, like any kind of marketing, needs to be thought through. What are you asking people to do? What are you guiding them towards? If you are preaching at them, even if they agree with everything you say, there isn’t really a reason for them to click anything. They might nod their heads at their screens. They might even hit reply and say, “Hey, thanks!” But that’s about it. Neither of these actions will really help you grow your business.

An e-newsletter or an e-blast, to be effective, should have a strong call to action just like any other marketing tactic. You should take your readers by the hand and say, “OK, looky here. Now I want you to go to this specific page on my website and request a sample.” Or whatever it is you want them to do. Counting the number of people who do THAT is a much better way to measure your success.

Of course, the most powerful way to report on the success of your email marketing program is to report on how it increased sales. There are countless ways to encourage people to go from an email to a page where they can purchase something. You can include a special discount code, for example, so that it’s super easy for your sales team to track where the sale is coming from. You can track how many people who requested a sample actually ended up buying, and that sample page can be set up on a special page that only the email linked to.

People will only do these things, however, if you ask them, or even guide them. If you don’t mention that you want people to buy something, they will assume you just want them to read the email. If you’re lucky, they’ll do it.

Email is easy

Because many people view “opens” as the Holy Grail of email stats, there is I think a misconception that email marketing is easy. With all of the websites out there to help you design your email, it’s easy to think that you can just toss something together, get people to open your emails, and be on your way. However, in order to truly measure the success of your email marketing, and in order to make it a valuable part of your marketing campaign, a little more finesse, a little more planning, a little more thought needs to be involved.

What experience do you have in measuring the success of your email marketing campaigns? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Myth: Nothing is off limits on a corporate blog

It’s a bright and sunshiny day and you’re on your way to meet a prospect. You have your company’s portfolio, you’ve dressed the best way you know how, and you even brushed your teeth and combed your hair. You have so many butterflies you’re thinking about donating all of them to an arboretum. Then suddenly you’re there in the office waiting to get your meeting. You’re called in. You shake hands and sit down, and then suddenly you say, “I have my colonoscopy results here. Would you like to see them?”

This probably is not super likely to happen in the “real world,” and yet I see a lot of professional/corporate blogs that seem to operate in just this kind of scenario. The blog looks great, there’s a lot of helpful content, so I decide to check it out. Then all of a sudden I’m reading something that kind of makes me want to poke my eyes out. I was visiting you for business and now I’m reading something I wouldn’t necessarily want to know about my best friend.

So what’s the scoop here?

Forget about “professional brand” and “personal brand”

Often this conversation gets us into the “brand” jungle. If you want to “build your personal brand” you need to be really, well, personal. I’ve never really bought this line of thinking when it comes to people who are in the blogosphere for business, however.

It’s my opinion that when you are out here in the social media world, you ARE being the face of your brand. When someone thinks of your company, they now can say, “Oh yeah, so and so works there.” That does not mean that that person needs to think, “Ah yes…that company is where so and so works. Did you know that that person had a wart problem for the first 30 years of her life and that sometimes she really enjoys picking her nose?”

If you are blogging for business, logic states that your ultimate goal is to use your blog to somehow build or strengthen your business. That means your corporate blog should not be about you. It can be written in a personable tonality and it can include stories that help bring your posts to life, but over-sharing is not always a great way to bring people in. In fact, sometimes over-sharing can be a good way to keep people out.

For example, let’s say you decide to write a post, as a CEO, about how poor your health has been. You’ve been in and out of the hospital for the last 3 years, you’ve missed a ton of work, and it’s just wearing you down. As a blog post, this will probably drive a lot of traffic to your site and you’ll probably get a lot of comments, too. But what message does this send to a person considering doing business with you? No matter how hard we try to think otherwise, the message being sent here is, “Maybe I shouldn’t start building a business relationship with you right now.” That person may even leave a wonderful comment for you. But so far as your business is concerned, you may not be doing yourself any favors.

“I know who I want to attract”

A common argument in support of blogging about whatever you want to blog about is, “Well, I know what kinds of people I want to work with. If you’re offended by what I write, we probably wouldn’t have gotten along anyway.” That can most certainly work for some people, but during these trying economic times not everyone can afford to pick and choose. Money looks the same and spends the same no matter who you get it from, and I’d even go so far as to argue that part of the fun of business is learning how to get along with people who might be different from you. If you’re strongly religious, it might be good, as a business person, to learn how to function with those darned pagan types. If you’re a “liberal lefty” it might do you some good to learn how to operate efficiently with a far right Republican.

Why limit yourself to “who I like to work with”? This has never seemed entirely realistic to me. In fact, I might even go so far as to call it unrealistic or even bad advice.

Of course, I’m always open to hearing other opinions. I expect to in this case as this tends to be a hot button issue in bloggy world. So – voice away!

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Myth: Marketing consists of just talking to people (or what is Social Media Marketing)

When I first started tweeting and blogging, the big thing everybody was talking about was, “You need to network and really engage with people.” That seemed to be the end-all and be-all of most social media advice you got. This advice was offered regardless of your business. If you were a marketer – you needed to engage. A lawyer? You’d better engage. A salesman for cans of dried soybeans? Yep. You’d better engage.

The problem I’ve had with this is that just talking to people makes marketing (or selling) kind of difficult. If I ask you how your ill family member is doing, you might like me better as a person, but will that make you buy from me? Not necessarily. In fact, in that kind of scenario, what I do for business is probably the last thing on your mind.

Now, the tide is turning and we are trying to talk about social media as just another marketing channel. However, I fear that there are some big steps missing in this transition. How can we go from just “talking” to actually using social media as a marketing platform?

What is marketing?

Initially, I was going to make this post primarily about the dichotomy between “talking to people” and marketing. I asked my Facebook crew how they defined marketing. I got a wide diversity of answers, only a few of which were the results of me knowing some very smartypants people (i.e. marketing is lying, marketing is a myth). I lead a hard life. Anyway, here are some of the answers I got:

“Building a structured awareness of a product or service to a targeted buyer.” ~Bob Reed

“Marketing is basically everything behind the process of creating lifelong customers.” ~Olivier Blanchard

“For me, marketing encompasses everything from POP, packaging, media to the person the company hires to deliver their widget to the masses, but I’m pervasive that way.” Molly Cantrell-Kraig

“Marketing is the art and science of communicating the value of your product or service to prospective and current customers.” ~Sean McGinnis

“Influencing (positively and/or negatively) consumer behavior through targeted messaging.” ~Andree Cojocariu

I also remembered that while back Heidi Cohen had gathered insight into how people defined marketing. Heidi notes that the American Marketing Association defines marketing thusly:

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

I guess they should know.

So, I had my definitions of marketing. But then my friend Nic Wirtz threw me a little curveball. He said, “I’m stuck. Social media is mainly ‘talking/engaging with people’.” If that’s true, I began to wonder if social media “marketing” is really an appropriate phrase to use.

The catch with marketing on social media

Here’s the big problem. With so much emphasis early on focusing on “engagement” and “the conversation,” marketing got framed as bad, as did selling. If by sheer chance you talked to someone who needed a car and you sold cars, then you were the beneficiary of social media serendipity, but I’m not 100% sure that’s marketing, at least based on traditional definitions. If you talk to people a lot and they know who you work for but you never talk about business, you might be sharing value with potential customers, but it’s a value that does not always tie directly back to your business.

Knowing that most companies need to make money in order to survive, some companies have tried to barge into social media communities with a strong “buy me” message. Note what happened, for example, when Toyota decided to message countless people with promotional messages around Super Bowl time. These kinds of ploys make people feel like marketers and marketing are yucky (professional term). Note, for example, how Dan Perez reacted when marketers started jumping onto the Pinterest bandwagon. Certainly those kinds of tactics aren’t positive either.

So, if talking to people is NOT marketing and marketing on social media sites is evil, what do we mean when we say “social media marketing?” Is this some sort of hybrid created by Dr.Xavier in his secret hideout?

Social Media Marketing

This is a case where, honestly, I really don’t have a 100% solid answer. Wikipedia defines social media marketing as: The process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites.” That could well be part of it, but the purpose of marketing is really to create sales, right? I mean, that’s what you’re hoping for. Maybe this is how people got so confused about ROI. If you are driving traffic to your website, it may look like your social media marketing campaign is a success. However, if all of those people are visiting and then leaving without buying (or maybe without even coming back) you’re in a bit of a pickle.

So, if we can agree that marketing is NOT talking to people, and if we can agree that marketing on a lot of social media sites is most definitely frowned upon, and if we can agree that social media marketing ultimately needs to drive sales, how are we defining social media marketing?

Or am I just crunching my brains over a peanut?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Myth: Logos and Brands Are The Same Things

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away (It was actually on Twitter) I was engaging in a chat about branding. I was having a ball. It was the highlight of my life.

Well, okay, maybe not. But still, I was having a lot of interesting little side conversations, only a few of which were about pixie dust. Suddenly a person tweeted to me that they thought their logo was just fine, or something along those lines. I said, “Well, that’s great. I’m sure your logo is very nice too. But we are talking about branding, which is a lot more than your logo.” The person responded with something along the lines of, “Oh, I didn’t realize that.”

I have seen other people with the same kind of misunderstanding about what branding is. Some people feel that a person can be a brand if they have a website in their own name (like I do). Some people feel that branding is the color scheme you use to represent yourself. All of these may be small pieces of the branding pie, but it’s not the whole story.

Branding Defined PSM (Pre Social Media)

A lot of marketing definitions have changed since people not as familiar with marketing began to engage heavily in social media marketing. To help balance this, I decided to look back to a resource from 2004 – a webinar by William Arruda for MarketingProfs from November of 2004. Twitter didn’t exist yet, Facebook didn’t exist yet, and blogging was still rather new. How did we define branding back then?

General Definition

Branding is essentially defined thusly: A Unique Promise of Value. This means that you know what you can expect from this brand. You will always have a consistent experience because the value being offered and the message that is being focused on will forever be the same. This is one reason why being a “personal brand” is sort of counter-intuitive. We’d get kind of creeped out if a person acted the same way every time we encountered them, right? Or if they said the same thing every time we talked to them (generally)? Yikes.

Brand Discovery

The first people that need to define your brand are the ones behind the brand. Discovering your brand encompasses all of the following:

• Knowing your competitors

• Knowing your peers

• Identifying your target audience AND knowing what they want

Once you define the boundaries of your brand, you need to determine your brand’s mission, your values, and your vision. You also need to be open to the fact that after defining these things, your audience, your competitors, and your peers can impact your brand. Your audience may alter their expectations or desires of you, for example, or your competition may offer a new product or change pricing.

Communicating your brand

Letting other people in on what your brand is about can only be done once you, well, know what your brand is about. Now, when you communicate your brand, things like your logo can help, especially in terms of helping people recall what you’re all about. But they aren’t (hopefully) just recalling that your logo has a bird in it. Hopefully they’re recalling that they’ve heard really good things about you or, “Oh yeah, that’s the company that always says they’ll honor pricing from any other store.” Your logo, your marketing, your communications always revolve around your mission, your vision, and what people can (or should) expect when they work with you.

Branding in the world of social media

One thing it’s important to remember – as you build your brand in the online world, you don’t want to send out messages that completely confuse people. For example, you don’t want to use your Twitter feed to talk about how great vegetarianism is and then pepper your Facebook wall with the delectable rack of lamb you served up for dinner (well, I don’t know what kind of brand would send out both of those messages, but you get the idea). Moreover, you want to make sure that your social media communications aren’t contradicting what you’re saying in other marketing channels. If you have a true grasp of your brand value, this should not be problematic, of course.

What did I miss?

How else would you define branding? In what other ways does the concept of branding expand beyond your logo? I’d love your input!

Don’t forget, this is part of a series called Alphabet of Marketing Myths (this is letter L). You can catch up on the whole series here.

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Myth: Killing anything that’s not social media is advisable

You’ve probably seen it before. You’re going along minding your own business when you read a book or a blog post that says something like,

“…some ways in which you can convince the management team to reduce traditional marketing.” from Hubspot

or maybe you read this post by Scott Stratten where he notes that before questioning the ROI of social media, the ROI of other more traditional aspects of marketing should be questioned.

Or maybe you read Likeable Media like I did and had a similar feeling that there was a set up dichotomy between Social Media and traditional marketing.

Whatever the case, you’ve almost certainly encountered the idea that with the onslaught of social media, you really don’t need to do anything else. Traditional media is either dead, too costly, out of touch with the 21st century, or any number of other colorful descriptions.

Of course, the problem is that killing off everything except social media can create rather huge problems for your company.

The message you stop sending

Let’s talk about advertising first. A lot of people who are social media evangelists have a field day attacking advertising. Take, for example, this infographic called “Stop Advertising, Stop Doing.” Lots of undercurrents to that message, huh? Then of course there are the arguments about how advertising is too expensive, it can’t be tracked, it doesn’t work, blah blah blah.

Factually, advertising can be pinned down rather accurately if you know what you’re doing. Using a publication that has an audited circulation can tell you what job positions and industries you’re reaching, how many people are actually requesting the publication, and more. An effective ad tracking device will assist you in filtering leads down even further. You just have to know what you’re doing.

But let’s talk about what happens when you stop advertising.

Let’s say you’ve been advertising six times a year in the same publication for years and years. Suddenly you pull the plug completely because you’re doing the Twitters now. Let’s say you’re doing this while the economy is shaky (like it has been for the last 5 years, say). What are your competitors and customers likely to think? Even if they notice you’re doing more in social media, it’s going to be easy to think that you have made that move because you’re short on cash. Is that a good message to send out? Couldn’t that cause your social media presence to be tinged with a bit of shade?

I think so.

By the way, one might note that this exact same logic applies to other traditional marketing tactics. What if you suddenly don’t show up at a trade show you’ve gone to for years? What if you suddenly stop producing the really high quality pieces of literature your company has committed itself to in the past? It doesn’t matter what you’re doing on social media if your audience is used to finding you in these channels. If you abandon them without warning, they can only assume that the tough times got to you.

That’s letting PR get out of control in a bad way.

The possibilities for integration are endless

The really sad thing, as I’ve mentioned many times here, is that the possibilities for how to integrate traditional media and social media are almost endless. We are just at the beginning of exploring the possibilities. Television ads are leading to Facebook pages. Print ads are promoting Twitter hashtags. QR codes are leading to YouTube channels which lead to a blog. All of these tactics can be braided in different and exciting ways to create really interesting new marketing campaigns for your company and/or brand.

If we keep painting a this/that, black/white choice between traditional marketing and social media marketing, and particularly if we continue to do so while maintaining that social media has no measurable ROI, companies are going to find themselves in really big trouble, and they may not have the first clue how they got there. That might sound severe, but I believe it 100%. Everything in marketing is measurable. Everything has an ROI. If nothing you are doing seems measurable or if nothing you are doing seems to have a good ROI, social media will not be the silver bullet you’re looking for.

Your thoughts?

Of course, this is just how I see it. What’s your take on whether social media is all you need these days? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Myth: Just doing it yourself works best

One thing you run into quite often in the social media world is talk of entrepreneurship. A lot of it is advice – how to monitor your time, how to make the sale, how to deal with failure of your start-up stops up. A lot of the advice too is meant to be motivational. “Bring your website design in house. You can do it!” “Run your own social media campaign – here’s how!” And the list goes on and on.

Not coincidentally, another common thread of conversation has to do with a lack of time or time management or how to balance life and work. It’s as if the left hand isn’t telling the right hand, “Hey, you just decided you want to do everything having to do with your company all by yourself.” But in fact that is just what you have done. No wonder you’re short on time!

What do you need to do for your own company?

If you haven’t read Carol Roth’s The Entrepreneur Equation, you really need to buy it or get it out from the library and read that thing. I’d recommend buying it because if you’re interested in starting or maintaining a company, Carol outlines everything you need to worry about as the head of a business. A bit of a glimpse?

1. Actually running your company – making sure money is coming in and going out as it should

2. Managing your clients

3. Looking for new clients

4. Marketing your product/service

5. Coming up with new products/services

6. Managing employees if you have any

7. Worrying about things like new tax structures, new healthcare structures, retirement plans – whether just for you or for you and your employees

And of course each of these categories includes endless sub-categories of other stuff you need to do. If you think just about marketing, the list can be nearly endless. Website, SEO, content, PR, developing your brand, advertising, mailing, email, e-newsletters, social media (yes, social media is *just* a sub-category under marketing in this case)…phew.

When you look at that list, it sure seems like any entrepreneur has more than enough to do. And yet, many entrepreneurs insist that they can do every single thing on this list (and more) with no assistance whatsoever. Speaking as a person who has spent a career (so far) *just* working on the marketing aspect of a business for other companies, I have to say that this seems rather delusional and probably dangerous.

A lack of understanding about marketing (real marketing)

One of the reasons I started this series, as you might have guessed, is that I feel social media is diluting what marketing really entails. That’s too bad because one of the things I love about most marketing tactics is that there’s an art to it. There isn’t just a simple “Do this for dummies” approach that I would be happy with.

Take, for example, the much maligned art of media placement. This is how I started in the marketing world. You might thing (assuming that you haven’t been convinced advertising is stupid) that placing an ad is really pretty easy. You choose something like the Wall Street Journal, you buy an ad, done. Right? Well, if that is your approach in your effort to do everything, you are missing out on so many important considerations. For example, where are your competitors advertising? Are they advertising? What is the circulation of that publication like? Can you get a better deal or does the publication stick pretty close to the rate card? Is there an extra fee for good placement? Would an insert be a better investment than an ad? Is it worth it to run a quarter-page black-and-white ad?

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Most marketing tactics include a lot of details that I fear people are now glossing over. If you want a new brochure, are you making sure all of your brochures share the same general aesthetic so people know it’s you? If you’re sending a direct mail piece, are you aware of all of the strange postal rules, like how far down on the piece you are allowed to have content?

Since I’m an agency woman, it might be easy to dismiss my concerns as self-serving. Sure, I would love if every entrepreneur contacted us and said, “Ahhhhhhhhh!” Well, maybe not. But this is not about a sales pitch for our agency or agencies in general. My concern is that no one seems to be really concerned about this “do everything” mode of work in which people are engaged. Is it realistic to think you can continue to handle the SEO for the website you designed and wrote the copy for while managing your new product/service and also keeping a grip on the latest tax rules? To me, this seems like an unnecessary invitation to harm. Because on any facet of work you are doing yourself, whether it’s marketing or customer service or HR, a big mistake can literally spell doom for your business.

Whether you hire an agency to handle your broad spectrum of marketing, a freelance web designer, a person to help you with your HR, or any other sort of help for any other facet of your business, I don’t want you to feel like you are now a failure. Getting help in all of these areas is a sign of realism. It’s proof to me that you are fully aware of all of the minute details that can come back and bite you in the butt. So long as the general chant is, “You can do everything,” I feel like many don’t truly understand how business as a whole, or any part of it, really works.

What do you think? Should an entrepreneur do everything, or is that just crazy talk?

Image Credit: via Creative Commons

Myth: Integrated Marketing Means Using Facebook AND Twitter

Here we are on letter I of the marketing myth series, and we’re going to talk about what integrated marketing means. Now, often times you’ll see folks talking on social media sites about how it’s important to make sure your different social media efforts are “integrated.” They’ll note that it’s important to integrate your blog with your Facebook page. They might note that it’s important to integrate your Twitter presence with your blog and your Facebook page. This advice isn’t wrong, although I think it might be behind a lot of efforts to automatically import tweets into Facebook and the like. But this is actually NOT what integrated marketing is all about.

First, let’s take a look at how our good friend Wikipedia defines integrated marketing:

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is defined as customer centric, data driven method of communicating with the customers. IMC is the coordination and integration of all marketing communication tools, avenues, functions and sources within a company into a seamless program that maximizes the impact on consumers and other end users at a minimal cost.[1] This management concept is designed to make all aspects of marketing communication such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing work together as a unified force, rather than permitting each to work in isolation.

Now, the concept of “customer-centric” is one that you don’t see bandied about much in the world of social media, so let’s talk a bit about that too. The awesome Beth Harte, whom I was fortunate to meet on Twitter early on in my social media career, offers this excellent definition:

Integrated marketing communications is about connecting with, listening to, understanding, and analyzing (communications) customers and delivering (marketing, product development, operations) on their needs and wants, hopefully in a meaningful way that serves both the customer and organizational goals. Perhaps that seems overly simple, but really, it should be that simple.

You should really read her full post from where I pulled that quote.

So what does this all mean? Well, it’s hard to narrow it all down into nice Twitterable lingo. But the bottom line is that the current buzzword – “Social Business,” is not too far off from what Integrated Marketing Communications has always been about. Your communications across the board, from advertising to booth graphics to social media to the balloons you send up at your party should all give the same line of thinking, it should all be about your customer, and there absolutely should not be any silos.

Why are we not talking about this?

If Social Business as a concept is getting a lot of attention, how come we still see so much ignorance or mythological thinking surrounding Integrated Marketing? Well, one potential answer is that the social media world has really painted itself into a corner. Take, for example, Dave Kerpen’s Likeable Media, which I recently read and reviewed. It’s a great book so far as its social media guidance is concerned, but throughout the book, a very black-and-white scenario is established. You can do social media. You can do traditional marketing. There is no real evaluation on how you could make all of it work for you.

This is pretty typical wherever you travel in the world of social media. Traditional marketing, be it email marketing, direct mail, print advertising, radio, television – all of that is sort of scoffed at in the face of all of this new “social media stuff.”

That’s a real shame.

The other problem may be that a lot of people became “marketers” (the new way we sort of define this word) with the onslaught of social media. They did not have a lot of marketing experience before Twitter started to catch fire. Therefore, they do not have a lot of experience with other forms of marketing, and hence they can’t really properly talk about it. So, as humans do, they focus on what they are good at and exclude the stuff they’re kind of weak on.

Or maybe there is another explanation I’m unaware of (I’m open to suggestions).

The sad thing

Here’s the really sad part about this increasingly common new “definition” of integrated marketing – it’s preventing companies/marketers from trying some pretty cool things. There are now entirely new ways to eliminate silos in your company, learn from your customers, and carry your message from platform to platform. You can develop products based on what your customers are actually saying and then speak to them through different mediums based on how you KNOW they want to be talked to. A press release can now link you to a YouTube video. An ad can suggest that input can be offered on the Facebook page. The possibilities are limitless. But we are missing opportunities to expand marketing as we force people to choose between “old” and “new.”

Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Image Credit: via Creative Commons

Myth: Having a plan is lame

When I first started at our family’s agency, it was July, which is about the time that we start revving up for something called planning season. I took a pretty steep crash course in what that meant. It meant contacting publications, looking back over what had happened in the last year, and creating a cohesive campaign that would carry the client through to the next year. It’s a lot of work, and it can be very intimidating when you are new to a client or new to the marketing world. After all, this isn’t just a task you are doing. This is your client’s welfare in your hands.

All of this might sound kind of crazy if you have been learning about marketing via the Social Media prism. For some reason, in the online world, the idea of planning has joined the ranks of Santa Claus and the unicorn. You hear about it on occasion but you don’t really see it much, and in fact quite a few people suggest that it doesn’t really exist. Planning is time-consuming. By the time you create a plan, someone else might have already beat you to the punch. You’ve probably heard all of this before.

The main argument against planning that you see in the online world, of course, is that social media is free. Experimenting with something like Quora or Google Plus or Pinterest or whatever the next big thing will be is a no-lose proposition because you aren’t at risk for losing anything big. As we have already discussed, this is a dangerous thought process to carry with you into the online world.

Why planning matters

Let’s use Pinterest as an example. Let’s say your boss (or you if you run your own company) want to start “doing things” on Pinterest. It’s hot, it’s driving traffic, and it just seems like it would be silly to NOT try it out. So, you decide, without a plan, to dump a few product pictures onto a board with your company name as the title. Fine. Easy enough to do.

Then you start noticing that some of your images are getting repinned all over the place and there seems to be a lot of interest in them. You think, “Wow, this is great!” But then another thought crosses your mind.

“Now what?”

Without a plan in hand, how can you make sure that those repins and comments are going to translate into something really good for your company? It’s pretty hard to catch all of the fish if your net is up on the boat for half the trip, right?

Now let’s take a different example. Let’s say you decide to take the initiative and throw up a Facebook page for your company. You have learned all about the shiny new Timeline features, everything looks great, and you’re even getting some conversation on the page.

Then one day, a person starts trolling the page because they had a bad experience with your product. How are you going to react? Not only do you need to react to this online scenario, but you probably also need to wonder if your product is really having issues. Since you acted of your own volition with no plan, you’re going to have to inform other folks of what all is going on. That’s not gonna be too comfortable.

Finally, consider this example. One part of your marketing team has put together an ad campaign saying that your new product is ideal for ant collecting. No real plan was put together surrounding these ad placements, and no other kind of plan was put together either. Later in the year, you start some social media marketing, and you note on your various platforms that your new product is great for collecting ladybugs but not so much ants. That’s something silly the other companies do.

Well, you’ve got yourself a bit of a problem, don’t you? If your left hand isn’t talking to your right hand, they might both be signing completely different things. Without a plan, there is no way to even double check that everyone is on the same page.

While the idea that social media is free can seem like a compelling argument against planning, these sorts of problems are definitely not free of charge.

Finding a middle ground

The thing about planning is that it doesn’t have to be written in stone. Plans can be flexible. Plans can even change. But working out a general idea, even, of what you want to accomplish and how you are going to get there is essential for businesses today. Perhaps it is even more important now because there are so many different tactics that can be used.

Planning can seem like it is too time-consuming, too this, too that. It’s definitely not something that seems romantic, right? But it is a preventative measure. Planning can stave off true marketing and PR problems. That seems worth the time, does it not? That seems worth the energy.

So what do you think? Is planning lame, or is it worthwhile? What are your thoughts on this whole issue?

Image Credit: via Creative Commons