President Obama's Views Post Presidency

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, May, 28, 2018 @ 16:05 PM


Thanks to Okta for inviting me to Oktane18 and giving me the opportunity to hear President Barack Obama - truly a "life experience."

Todd McKinnon, CEO and Co-founder of Okta hosted the hour-long question and answer session.

Following are the points made by the President with the parenthetical notes my own:

  • We live in culture today where everybody feels the crush of information and collision of world’s in a way previous generation. haven’t felt.
  • Previous generations knew 100 or 150 people.
  • How many people do you know today? (Thousands thanks to social media and CRM systems).
  • Today, there are rural villages in Africa in which everyone has a phone.
  • We have the ability to absorb information in ways that can be confusing.
  • While there are a lot of questions around technology and social media, the U.S. had a head start in trying to figure it out because we’re a people that came from everywhere else.
  • We've had to figure out how to work together since the country was founded.
  • The challenge today is how to maintain sense of common purpose, how to join together as opposed to splinter and divide.
  • If we don’t figure it out it will be hard for our democracy to survive (just what the Russians are fomenting in social media).
  • There is a misperception that government doesn’t work, and people don’t work hard based on their experience of getting their driver’s license renewed (everyone laughed knowingly).
  • The public sector has extraordinary talent and does a lot of things really well.
  • There is a big gap in technology, especially with responsiveness and nimbleness. A lot of this has to do with government's antiquated procurement requirements.
  • In a host of areas, like taking government data and putting it out there so organizations can use to improve people's lives, we made real progress during my term.
  • We tried to create, re-architecture and replace legacy systems in the FDA.
  • There is a need for big data sets to achieve the promise of personalized medicine.
  • We made inroads in a few of those areas; however, the political system is not being as responsive as it could be (because we are divided rather than united).
  • Creating a framework that’s agreed upon and transparent, most people understand is a challenge we should welcome and approach it in a systematic and transparent way (however, little in Washington is transparent).
  • We need to be proactive identifying the questions we have to grapple, with the tools we have to protect information, and be transparent about what consumers are giving up (Google, Facebook, et al).
  • There is a big lag between how we’re thinking about the social organization and technology.
  • We underinvest in the IRS because no one likes it; however, it can be a great deal more efficient.
  • As a consequence of no one wanting to give up their write-offs, we discovered the basic IT infrastructure of the IRS is held together by string and bubble gum.
  • If you made no changes to the tax structure you could make interaction with the IRS more user-friendly, but it requires front end investment no one is willing to make.
  • Business identifies the essential problem and hires good people to solve business problem.
  • Government procurement requires you to identify the problem and allocate a budget up front. That's not how a successful business works.
  • We need a good conversation between the tech community and people in Washington for ongoing deliberation and exchange.
  • There should be bias towards making voting easier not harder, there’s a legacy that dates back to Jim Crow to disenfranchise voters and it is being perpetuated.
  • If we can secure the voting process, and there’s a paper record generated along side the electronic vote, I believe it will come to pass but it will take awhile.
  • Laws are structured to make it hard for people to vote.


How did you instigate change?

  • Change is hard in personal live, it's hard for groups, it's hard for institutions.
  • The U.S. evolved from an agricultural-based economy to manufacturing-based economy over a period of 120 years.
  • Today we're evolving to a technology-based economy in just 20 to 30 years and that's hard for everyone to accept.
  • Principles for effective change:
    • Talk to people whose lives will be disrupted so you appreciate who they are and insure they are heard before you instigate change.
      • Listening is a good starting point for change.
    • Every issue you are dealing has probabilities.
      • Get the best info available.
      • Have, and listen to, diverse voices around the table.
      • Understand the different perspectives.
      • Have people who can argue all of the sides of the issue.
    • I set up processes so that by the time I made the decision I could say, with confidence, I heard all the voices, had all of the information, and made the best decision I could.
    • Initiating change requires enough situations like that, even when there are disruptions. where you can anticipate the disruptions and be prepared to address them.
    • There will be disruptions with technology (There already has been and there will be a lot more).
    • People are going to be resistant if their jobs are threatened.
    • Anticipate this and be prepared to address the change.
    • Ask people “What do you think?”
      • I would catch people by surprise and they would tell me what they really thought, rather than a prepared answer.
      • Deliberately reach outside the bubble of obvious decision makers.
    • I had a good b.s. detector, if a question wasn’t answered with confidence I’d drill in until I learned what the person was really thinking.
    • Insist on people delivering on bad news quickly.
      • Part of the culture we tried to build, these are human enterprises, they’re going to be flawed when you do screw up or you can’t solve something bring it to me and let’s solve it together


How did you go about vetting and hiring people?

  • The government has two million employees or so, only 3,000 are political appointments.
    • The entire process during transition, gathering names, going through folks who have the qualifications we were looking for, as well as interest in the position.
    • Tech is where we had a problem because tech pays much better than the US government.
    • So, we set up US digital services – a SWAT team of amazing tech folks who, like the Peace Corps, would come into the US government for six months to two years to work on a particular problem – example of the need for more creativity of how we staff government and non-profits.
  • Think of creative ways for people to take leave and make an incredible contribution.


What advice did you receive going into office that was useful and what wasn't?

  • Advice not useful and slowed us down and hurt effectiveness early on was the sense that somehow now that you are president there are certain ways you should do things that had to do with traditions but were not effective.
    • During the campaign, we communicated in a way that was fresh and accessible. That changed when we moved into the White House – it made the team feel more conventional than we should have. We corrected this near the end of the first term. There were a lot of fires to put out immediately when we got to the White House..
  • The best advice a number of people gave us was to maintain your humanity. Michele and I, partly because we didn’t want our girls to get weird from being in a weird environment, were very focused on this. It was important to make sure we did not lose ourselves, that we stayed intact in what we believed in and how we treated people, expectations of ourselves, kindness, honesty, being useful, and taking responsibility
    • People given great responsibility, power, and wealth begin losing a sense of what’s important, who they are, and holding on to what they have rather than responding authentically. We did not lose that, we came out intact.


What are your greatest observations post presidency?

  • I don’t miss the trappings of the presidency.
  • I get more sleep now versus five hours a sleep each night for eight years.
    • That's what's required if you are going to stay up to speed on all of the issues and consider different points of view.
  • There is a physical and mental element to being president if you are serious about the job.
  • Everything now seems to move in slow motion.
    • Today it takes two weeks to set up a meeting rather than two hours.
What are you and Michele going to be doing with Netflix?
  • I would not have been president if I had not learned early on the importance of stories.
  • As a community organizer I learned instead of telling people what they should think, I needed to ask people about themselves and their stories.
  • If you listen, people will tell you their story.
  • Discovering those stories creates relationships and committed people.
  • I continue to believe if we are hearing each other’s stories and recognize ourselves in each other that our democracy works, if we don’t then our democracy doesn’t work.
  • We want to identify people doing amazing work and create platforms for them to tell their stories.
  • We have all these amazing story tellers and we want them to continue to tell the stories we think are important, lifting up talent to identify the connections that we have between all of us.
  • We want to train leaders around the world to tell their stories.
  • We’re all human and have basic needs, wants, and desires for our families, for our children.
  • The country can go in one of two ways: 
    • We can go tribal, go ethnic, pull in, push off, think "us versus them," think power-first, view life as a zero-sum game, and have a need to dominate.
    • Or, the other narrative is a more fragile, newer notion that we can think, reason, connect, and set up institutions based of the rule of law, dignity, and the worth of every individual based on science and facts. This narrative is one the human race has pursued, and America has been at the forefront of, since World War II.
  • We’ve made progress in all of these areas in "fits and starts." Now there’s a clash in the two alternative ways of seeing the world.
  • Part of the political polarization is if you watch Fox News and read the New York Times you are viewing two different realities (this is divisive rather than inclusive and not in the best interest of democracy).
  • Obviously, I believe the second of the two ways is we need to proceed if we are going to be united.

Tags: Trustworthiness, Ethics, transparency, trust, integrity, authenticity, listen intensely, empathy, inspiration, community, customer insights, big data

Guest Blog: What to Do When Your Social Media Campaign Backfires

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Nov, 13, 2014 @ 12:11 PM

NYPD twitter fail








The NYPD Effect: What to Do When Your Social Media Campaign Backfires


Almost everyone uses social media. More than 70% of Internet users are involved in at least one of the major social media networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram – or even all of them. []


Using social media for branding and customer engagement often is paved with good intentions, but it doesn’t always assure that everything is going to work out well.


Take, for example, what happened to the New York Police Department (NYPD) in April 2014, when it tried to establish itself as a brand and engage its customers on Twitter. []


NYPD is one of the major police forces in the country that have been working hard to improve community involvement. Aside from setting up its own Twitter account, it also launched a campaign early this year inviting people to upload and tag a photo with an NYPD police officer with the hashtag #mynypd. []


Well, it didn’t really turn out as planned, where photos of NYPD officers interacting with community members in a positive light would be uploaded and tagged, because within only a few hours after the campaign’s launch, the hashtag went viral for all the wrong reasons: people started uploading a variety of pictures showing NYPD police officers in compromising situations (e.g., depicting harassment and brutality).


Worse, other police departments got involved as Twitter users tagged their officers in photos depicting negative circumstances, too.


It turns out that the NYPD effect happens far too many times, particularly on Twitter with its millions of active users all around the globe and where trends can be monitored in real time and easily go viral.


Similar fiascos have happened to some well-known corporate entities including McDonald’s, Amy Baking Company and even celebrities like Robin Thicke. [], [], [].


If you ever find yourself in such a situation, what should you do?


  1. Don’t let it run for too long. If there’s one good thing about social media failure, it’s that you can see its effect within hours. Thus, you always have the option to end it as soon as possible, which is definitely suggested.

  2. Avoid feeding on the trolls. Trolls are Internet users that love to ignite heated discussions and arguments with the brand and/or among its followers through posting offensive, hurtful, below-the-belt comments and inflammatory media such as photos or videos. Trolls are growing by astonishing numbers [], so you need to be very careful in how you deal with them:

    * Don’t respond to anything offensive. That’s what trolls want you to do. Remember that. 

    * Block them immediately from your social media account. This way, your other followers won’t see their remarks, and they have no other means of communicating with you unless they create a new account. 

    * Take legal action. If you feel that their comments are untrue and are hurting the brand, do know that you can always take an appropriate legal action, but be discreet about it.

  3. Take control of the situation. Apologize if you have offended users with your campaign or strategy, even if that wasn’t your intention. You can never fault other people’s feelings or perceptions about an issue. Deal with the trolls, but respond to certain serious concerns and questions. Pick one social media person to maintain consistent feedback to your followers.

  4. Use it to your advantage. As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Tell your followers that you appreciate all feedback, whether good or bad, and that all feedback can be used to improve your product or service. Then follow through with action on that feedback so that your followers can see that you have put your words into practice. This builds trust.


Social media teaches brands a very painful and hard lesson: you can’t please everyone. There will be hundreds or even thousands who will taunt and say something bad about your brand on a daily basis. The keys to surviving any kind of social media backfire are to be objective, maintain a positive, calm mind and act upon the lessons you learn.


About the Author
This article was provided by our friends at Fluid Review. As a leader in the cloud-based application management sphere, hundreds of organizations use FluidReview to make better decisions in their scholarship, grant and fellowship programs.

Tags: trust, be reliable, be responsive, be real, authenticity, social media

Accelerate Sales with Social Media

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 02, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

use social media to enhance customer engagement









Use social media to build authentic engagement with customers and prospects throughout their customer lifecycle.


Open, transparent and honest conversations accelerate the customer lifecycle, as well as the sales cycle.


The more you know about your customers and prospects, the more you are able to help them by providing information of value that will simplify their lives.


The more you simplify their lives, the more loyal they will be, the more they will buy from you in the near-term and the greater lifetime value they'll have for your firm.


Strive to build relationships.


Facilitate conversations across all stages of the customer lifecycle. The person who is just considering your product or service for the very first time is very different than a previous customer or someone who has been researching for the past few months.


As an example, I’ve been evaluating marketing automation software for employers and clients for the past five years so I’m a fairly well-informed prospect; however, the features and benefits of the platforms change so frequently I need to get a demo every six months so I'm fully aware of what one platform offers versus another.


Know what your prospects know and then share with them what they need to know to make a well-informed decision.


Customer communities help build engagement and brand advocacy.


Prospective customers trust what other customers say about your product or service, twice as much as what the company says.


Empower your customers to speak to others on your behalf.


Encourage them to do so by providing "wow" customer experiences that they want to share with their friends, family and colleagues, as well as their social media followers.


You can drive engagement and activate revenue through persistent, discoverable and relevant conversations.


Make fleeting social interactions more persistent and long-term to build trust and credibility.


Relevant content drives conversion. Achieve this by prioritizing and contextually appropriate community topics.


Ask your customers and prospects what they want to know more about and then engage them.


Engagement = (Content + People) x Participation


Relevant answers to relevant questions accelerate revenue.


Know your customer's buying cycles.


Know what their questions are at each stage of the cycle.


Answer the question before they ask it.


You will earn their trust and make their lives simpler and easier.

Click Here to Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" that Will Accelerate Sales

Tags: trust, integrity, voice of the customer, accelerate sales, authenticity, listen intensely, social media

Empower and Engage Employees to Share Content

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Aug, 04, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

empower employees to share content







Great webinar from Natanya Anderson (@natanyap) from Whole Foods, Denise Holt (@deniseholt1) and Nicole Alvino (@nalvino) of Social Chorus entitled, "From Employee to Advocate: Mobile Your Team to Share Your Brand Content."


According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 52% of consumers trust an "average employee." Content shared by employees receives eight times the engagement of content on brand channels.


At Whole Foods, employees are empowered and encouraged to share the brand's story online.


Whole Foods actively recruits passionate team members to voluntarily share their offline stories online.


This has resulted in:

  • 300 active team members sharing.

  • 10,000+ social shares.

  • $35,000 in advocate market value.


According to Natanya, the five keys to successs are:


  1. Align the program to business objectives. Their metrics are engagement, awareness, employee engagement, thought leadership and morale.

  2. Start with a social media policy. This includes: mitigate risk, ensure FTC compliance, avoid marketing jargon, make sure participation is voluntary, provide resources and best practices for employees.

  3. Get leadership buy-in. Have a brand champion at every location. The leaders will drive program awareness and adoption.

  4. Create a content and engagement plan. Provide a variety of content and opportunities to share. Monitor and optimize content performance. Identify a method for ongoing communication.

  5. Identify social team members and encourage more participation. Start with the most active team members already involved with social media. Identify team members and leaders to champion the program in each store.
For companies with less engaged and empowered employees, Denise suggests an employee-brand relationship program that addresses the employees' emotional journey:
  1. Hesitation -- overcome fear of saying the wrong thing through training and role plays.

  2. Empowerment -- give employees a voice and examples of what you consider to be appropriate and relevant content to share.

  3. Stake in the company's success -- help employees see where they are making a difference sharing content and engaging with consumers in social media channels.

  4. Loyalty -- engaged employees have a desire to contribute to the company's success.

  5. Satisfaction -- examples of how employees' efforts have built, or improved, the business.
Are you and your company empowering your employees to share content and help disseminate your company's message?
Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: trust, authenticity, content, employee engagement, social media, employee empowerment

Consistent, Compelling Stories Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Jul, 08, 2014 @ 10:07 AM

stories create emotional connection








Thanks to HubSpot for the following.


Storytelling is a great way to differentiate your brand.


Stories help us understand the world and remember things.


Stories are much more memorable than fact, figures, features and benefits.


What makes a great story?


  1. Context

  2. Emotional response.

  3. Consistency and authenticity -- great stories spread because they are true.

  4. They're specific and memorable.


Think about how and where to tell your story.


Start with your website.


Appeal to the senses rather than logic. Make an emotional connection.


Do this by:ty


  1. Know your niche and the personas to whom you are speaking.

  2. Incorporate personal/emotional experience. Why did you get into this business? What problems were people having that you were able to solve?

  3. Counter challenges, failures and overall problems. Address people's questions, fears and concerns upfront -- don't wait for them to ask.

  4. What are you bringing to the table? What make you "different and better" than what your competitors have to offer?

  5. What excites/interests you? Tell a story about a time in your business that your excitement and interests helped you solve a business problem.

  6. Convince your audience to care -- about you, about your business, about what makes you "different and better."


Create an experience. People don't remember the pitch, they remember the experience.


  1. Focus on a specific worldview. Set the stage.

  2. Provide great value at a fiar price. Help people see, and feel like, they're getting a fair deal.

  3. Interact and connect. Have a dialog with customers and prospects. Get to know them as individuals.

  4. Bring the human element back to business. People do business with, and make an emotional connection with, people, not companies.

  5. Convince your audience to care by making an emotional connection with them. Provide information of value that's relevant to them and their situation.

As with all marketing, consistency is king. Consistency builds trust. Inconsistecy builds confusion and distrust.


  1. Make sure your story is consistent with your mission statement.

  2. Build your story into your core products and services and ensure that your employees know, and tell, the story.

  3. Separate the story from the experience.


Think story, not features.


Social media should be about real human interactions. However, it's too noisy and difficult to make these interactions easily.


  • Social media is meant to be a personal channel.

  • It has become broadcasting, canned responses and mindless monitoring.

  • Get back to having actual human interactions. 

  • All departments in your organization can use social media for their work. Empower, and encourage, them to do so.
Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: empower employees, alignment, consistent messaging, authenticity, mission, emotional connection

Empower Influencers and Raving Fans to Grow Your Business

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Jul, 03, 2014 @ 10:07 AM

influencers and raving fans







Great webinar by David Amerland (@davidamerland), Linda West of Act-On, and Carly Tatum (@carlyjeane) at Dell entitled, "Influencers 2.0: ROI of the Influencer" presented by Social Media Today (#smtlive).


The key takeaway from the webinar -- provide a great customer experience (#cx) to engage your influencers (a.k.a., raving fans).


We live in an age of advocacy. Word-of-mouth and referral marketing grows more powerful as social media grows.


An increase in brand advocacy is one of the most important benefits of social media. Content is shared, comments are made and awareness and attention is gained. You just want to ensure that what's being said about you, and your brand, is positive not negative.


Do this by being relevant, being reliable, being responsive and being real.


Fail to do any of the four and you'll be called out in social media and lose the trust of influencers, customers and prospects.


Marketing induced customer-to-customer word-of-mouth generates more than two times the sales of paid advertising.


Why do consumers write about brands online?


  • 64% offer advice

  • 61% praise a brand

  • 52% criticize a brand

  • 51% share contents produced by a brand


Influencers and raving fans can seriously drive a brand message.


Influencers and raving fans are gatekeepers for information of value.


They help increase visibility in social media and search thereby saving time, effort and directing the attention of prospective customers.


Reach out to influencers to gain their trust, ensure alignment of values, goals and aspirations.


This is part of the personalization of business. Social media is about establishing mutually beneficial relationships with people. Use it to establish a relationship with influencers and raving fans.


Reach out to build trust through dialog.


Encourage and empower your employees to engage with influencers and raving fans. The more people within your firm that an influencer or raving fan has positive connections with, the more trust is gained.


Social influencers help attract visitors to your website.


You can track revenue by looking at referred social traffic and then seeing which ones convert to leads and sales.


Dell identifies an influencer as an individual, trendsetter or tastemaker with a signficant following among their target. Someone who's often quoted in the media. Someone who's statements result in action. A thought-leader in an industry vertical.


Dell works to:


  1. Identify influencers

  2. Engage with them at events so they have an in-person connection.

  3. Give them early access to products ("product seeding") as well as access to company executives.

  4. Maintain an ongoing relationship.

  5. Track the amount of advocacy the influencer provides over the course of the relationship.


Dell strives to have sufficient transparency for a customer to interact with the company on a personal versus corporate level by identifying the people within Dell who will be able to provide the most value to the customer.


Carly recommends engaging influencers from the outside in using customer feedback and from the inside out using influencer dialog.


The key is empowering employees to engage with influencers, customers and raving fans as real people rather than corporate spokespersons.


Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales 

Tags: be reliable, be responsive, be real, authenticity, be relevant, raving fans, referrals

Ensure Your Content Marketing is Integrated Marketing

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Jul, 02, 2014 @ 22:07 PM

converged media workflow resized 600 








Great webinar by Heather Whaling (@prtini), CEO of Goben Communications, Heidi Sullivan (@hksully) SVP of Digital Content at Cision and Scott Livingston, SVP of Market Engagement at Cision entitled, "Marketing Through Content: Integrated Communications Strategies That Work."


Having been a proponent of integrated marketing since my career began, and also being a proponent of inbound and content marketing, I think this is an extremely important topic that gets far too little discussion as we see the proliferation of media channels.


Just as TV and radio are more effective when used together, rather than independently, content, social, digital and traditional media are all more effective if used together rather than independently.


As marketers, it is critical that we ensure the consistency of message, tone and brand voice across all of the channels we use to market our brands.


Consistency builds trust. Inconsistency breeds confusion and distrust.


I am a big fan of Chipotle and their commitment to delivering "food with integrity." However, when I saw "Farmed and Dangerous," their sarcastic look into "big food" companies, that felt off brand and inconsistent to me.


I reached out to Chipotle to share my thoughts, and while I never got a response, I haven't seen the second of four episodes of "Farmed and Dangerous." I hope they'll let it die.


So how can you ensure a consistent message is delivered across all the channels through which you communicate with customers and prospects?


Heidi provided the Altimeter Group's "converged media workflow" -- how brands must combine paid, earned and owned media:


  1. Content strategy. If you don't have a creative strategy brief, get one and make sure everyone on your team fully understands it and is interpreting it in the same way.

  2. Publication across channels. Determine where your customers and prospects are most receptive to hearing from you. Where do they want their questions answered? How do they want to find out about a new product or service?

  3. Engagement/dialog. People don't engage with companies or brands, they engage with the people behind the brand. Empower your employees to engage in a dialog with customers. This will enhance their emotional connection with the brand. The more employees they have a positive experience with, the stronger the emotional connection.

  4. Amplification. Produce content (advertising, press releases, blog posts, tweets) that people find sufficiently compelling to want to share. I think Chipotle did a great job of this with "The Scarecrow."

  5. Restructuring. Think about how content can be repurposed across channels in paid, earned and owned media. Customize content for the channel but ensure that it remains on strategy and consistent with all your other messages. Think about how you can use each piece of content 10 different times in 10 different channels by repurposing the content.

  6. Listening/iterating. What are your customers and prospects taking away from your messages? Don't assume you know, ask them! Don't be afraid to engage your customers and prospects in a conversation because they may tell you something you don't want to hear. In the age of the Internet and social media, the customer creates your brand perception. Do you want to participate in the creation or stand idly by?

  7. Strategic analysis and reporting. As part of your strategic planning process, identify key performance indicators and monitor them religiously. Don't forget to supplement analytics with qualitative insights that let you know why a customer or prospect is reacting the way are.


Identify the stories you should be telling by learning which ones elicit an emotional connection with your customers.


What are the stories your customers are telling about you?


What are the stories your employees are telling each other about providing an outstanding customer experience?


Stories are much more memorable, and shared, than features and benefits.


Engage your raving fans in a conversation to help identify the most compelling stories that support your strategy and brand promise.


By doing so, your customers will become brand ambassadors and share your stories with their friends, family and colleagues.


Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales 

Tags: trust, dialog, alignment, consistent messaging, authenticity, connecting emotionally with customers, content, integrated marketing

Authenticity and Trust are Keys to Customer Engagement

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, May, 06, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

Authenticity trust customer engagement






Insightful interview by Elisabeth Sullivan of Marketing News with Lisa Macpherson, Hallmark's senior vice president of marketing.


Lisa believes the best emotional relationships are based on empathy and authenticity.


Empathy is a function of having an intimate understanding of your customers and their needs.


I know from experience that you're only able to get this level of understanding by having one-on-one conversations in which you are really listening to what the customer has to say and the customer knows that you are fully engaged in the conversation and find what they have to say is of the utmost importance.


I met a Hallmark "emotionaire" at a millennial marketing conference.  This person was a former copywriter attending the conference to gather insights on millennials and how to make an emotional connection with them.


Hallmark uses emotionaires to understand the needs of a customer, what Hallmark calls a "relationship believers" -- someone who genuinely believes that happiness and emotional well-being come from the quality of our relationships with others.


Hallmark's current campaign is "Life Is a Special Occasion." Simply translated it's saying, "Don't wait.  Stop the blur of life.  Recognize and linger in those imperfect moments you share with others.  They can happen any day."  The campaign is result of insights gathered from "relationship believers."


Macpherson believes authenticity comes from being very clear about your brand: what it stands for, what it promises and what it means to your customers.


I know from experience, and research, that authenticity is either reinforced or lost based on how consistent you are with regards to delivering on brand promises and customer expectations.


Consistency breeds trust and confidence that you will do what you say you will do when you say you will do it.


Inconsistency breeds distrust.


Are you earning your customers' trust?


What are you doing to gather meaningful insights from customers?


How consistent are you in delivering on brand promises and meeting or surpassing customer expectations?


How authentic is your brand?


Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: trust, authenticity, customer engagement, emotional connection

Empower Employees to Help Your Social Media Presence

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Apr, 08, 2014 @ 10:04 AM

empower employees on social media









Do you have an active social media presence?


Are you providing information of value to customers and prospects via blog posts?


You need to. It will build awareness, trust and traffic.


According to Experian, who collect data from more than 34,000 retail web site, shoppers clicking from social networks today account for 7.7% of all traffic to retail web sites in November, up from 6.6% a year earlier.


While social media likely has a more significant impact on B2C than B2B, I'm sure the growth is similar.


Don't know what to post or share? Empower your employees to help you.


Chances are they're already more familiar with different social media channels than you are. In addition, customer-facing employees already know what your customers and prospects would find to be information of value.


Start with frequently asked questions. Every answer to every question is a potential blog post that will help your customers, your prospects and your business.


If you've done a good job communicating your vision, mission, values and strategic positioning, your employees will be more credible and authentic sources of information than anyone to whom you might outsource your social media marketing efforts.


Social media is about personal relationships, so hearing from, and developing a personal relationship with, members of your staff is important.


You may charge your marketing department with leading your social media marketing effort; however, contributors should come from all departments in your company.


Having social media team members in all departments gives your social messaging more reach, greater effectiveness and authenticity.


If someone has a technical question, who better to answer the question than an engineer?


Likewise, if someone has a question about billing, why not have them engage with someone from accounts payable?


Getting more employees involved with your customers gives your customers a better perspective on the breadth and depth of your company.


The more employees a customer interacts with, the less likely they are to move their business if one employee leaves.


To get started building your team, start by identifying the social media lead in each department:

  1. Name and title

  2. Availability to spend on social media

  3. Potential role on the social media team

  4. Who needs to approve their participation


Again, I recommend having at least one person from every department in the company so they can share with others in their department about the company's social media efforts and the desire to collect questions and other information of value for customers and prospects.


Engaging all of your employees in your social media efforts will ensure you have a steady stream of content and fresh ideas on ways to share content (e.g., product demonstrations on YouTube).


The more you post, the more awareness, SEO performance, traffic and leads you'll get.


Develop a social media strategy and plan to ensure your social media efforts are consistent with all other marketing efforts and then empower your employees to help you build awareness, trust, traffic and leads.


Regardless of what you do, I urge you, and your social media team to be relevant, be reliable, be responsive and be real.


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Tags: be reliable, be responsive, be real, empower employees, authenticity, be relevant, social media

11 Questions to Ask to Have a More Customer-Centric Brand

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Apr, 03, 2014 @ 10:04 AM

answer these questions to be more customer-centric








A lot of people ask me what can they do to improve the awareness and perception of their brand.


Start by asking questions to understand the awareness and perception of your brand right now. Listen intensely, don't assume you already know the answer. 


Asking the following questions of yourself, and your management team, will make your brand stronger, better and more authentic to customers.


  1. If your brand were a car, what kind of car would it be? What color? Old, new, used? What price point? Does everyone in the company have a similar answer? If so, great. If not, why?

  2. Can you describe your brand as the first, the onlyfasterbetter or cheaper?  If not, you're toast. What makes you "different and better?"

  3. Who is your brand relevant to?  Describe him or her in as much detail as possible.  How old is he?  How does she spend her day?  Her nights?  Weekends?

  4. Ask your office manager, your receptionist, and your cafeteria serving staff to describe your company in one sentence.  Those people are your frontline soldiers who hear and see every department, at every level.  Really listen to how they answer the question.

  5. When was the last time members of various work teams, at diverse levels of the company, spend more than two hours together just looking at data and talking about the brand -- without a specific brainstorming topic on the table?

  6. Who are your five most visible partners? What do you think your target market thinks of them? Have you asked them?

  7. Do you have standards for selecting partners?  Are they based on multiple elements or just on price?  Size?  Convenience?

  8. How does your mom, husband or child describe the company where you work?  Is it a more simple and accurate description than the one you've been instructed to recite?

  9. Do you have written brand guidelines for your company?  A booklet?  A one-page memo?  An e-mail that was sent "to all" last year?  Who wrote it?  How was it put together? Are the guidelines being followed? Who is enforcing them?

  10. Are there words that are nevers for your brand? (For example, in soccer you never use your hands unless you are the goalie.) Do you have banned words?  Should you?

  11. What does the data say? When was the last time you asked yourself this question?


A lot of executives may see these questions as being "soft."  


I find that these executives are the same ones that either don't understand, or value, the importance of differentiation.  


The answers to these questions will help you differentiate your brand or understand how your customer differentiates your brand in their "considered set."


How can you strengthen your brand?


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Tags: dialog, consistent messaging, authenticity, customer centric, listen intensely