Bring Your Brand to Life

Through the Power of Story

Category: strategy

What’s The Shortest Distance Between You and Your Customer?

The latest social media figures reveal there are:

  • 751 million Facebook users
  • 288 million monthly twitter users
  • 238 million LinkedIn users

SmartPak says that Facebook is the number 7 revenue referrer to their website. If you visit the SmarkPak Facebook page, you’ll find nearly 110,000 fans come there to find answers to common problems on equestrian care.

So how can you harness those millions of social media numbers to generate more revenue for your business?

Simple: SmartPak uses Facebook as a place for customers to vent their problems and frustrations. SmartPak listens, and uses that information to build web content that solves problems, positioning SmartPak as a leader, and an advocate to the industry.

How can you get those Facebook and twitter users to share your stories, and promote your brand? What’s the secret to getting users to actively engage with you online and spread the word?

Southwest airlines did not gain 1.61 million (so far) twitter followers through a well-crafted about me page. Instead, Southwest Airlines knows the power of story, and that actions speak louder than words, and used the story to create resonance with its readers.

When a client reaches out for help in building an engaging social media presence, I know I can usually find the “gold” in the customer story archives.

Stories connect people

  1. Build trust

  2. transcend generations

  3. engage our emotions

  4. inspire us, and

  5. Are contagious…social-med

Get Them to Contact You After the First Visit To Your Website

When prospects want to learn about you and your products, the first place they head to for more information is your website. You may have gorgeous graphics, catchy phrases and easy navigation – but that’s not going to convince them to stay, and contact you.

If you’re clever, you will anticipate your prospects’ need even before they open the browser. Follow the example of these four companies to be ready with the exact information they’re looking for.

Just open this webpage to Canon USA for a picture-perfect example. Instantly you’ll notice right smack in the middle of the page is a virtual slide show with entrancing headlines:

  • Counterfeit Accessories are more destructive than you think. “learn more…”
  • Cannon Education: In-depth tutorials, education and more… “learn more….”

If you’ve spent, or are considering spending, a significant amount of money and time on copy machines or photography, how could you resist learning more about these topics?

A quick visit to the web page of FedEx, (one of the Most Reputable Companies of 2013), instantly reveals timeliness – with its “Quick Access” login, FedEx reinforces its reputation and image as the one who keeps tabs on the pulse of its packages. – The customer says, “Yes – show me how much it will cost me to get my package there!”

When you open the Stanley Black and Decker homepage, you’ll see a live feed of news and broadcasts and several links to analysis and investor reports. Clearly, Stanley knows investors frequent their website, and Stanley is catering to these important visitors by making it easy for investors and reporters to find exactly what they need – fast. Notice, also, Stanley’s emphasis on safety — this reassures not only buyers, but investors as well.

Kellogg’s website draws readers in with links to nutrition, offers for a free book, and of course printable coupons.

Each website example I’ve listed here has clearly identified it’s prospects, and has provided an offer to give each visitor something valuable and unique. The key is to use your website to fill a need the prospect wants – as soon as your page is opened. The customer is actively engaged, willing to fill out any online-necessary online forms and quick to join any social media outlets the company offers.

If you’d like help in doing the same, contact us.

Is Your Facebook Page Flatlining?

So many businesses have created their Facebook pages, their LinkedIn Accounts, and have fiddled around with Twitter. Yet, their Social Media business is still flat-lining… and they can’t figure out why. Perhaps they need to tweet more often — or maybe they need to analyze what time of day journalists are reading tweets? Maybe they need more photos to upload onto Facebook? In vain, they’re struggling, trying to find that magic formula that will bring new business rolling in, via Social Media.

All successful marketing campaigns are built on a good story. Customers want an excuse to buy your products — and primarily — the compelling reason they want is to create an emotional connection with you. Master Card does it with their “Priceless” campaign. Nike tells you to “Just Do It,” and we all know a Kodak moment when we see one.

Your company’s signature “emotional connection” will evolve over time — it should, if you are responding to the market, to your customer and to the environment. The fertile ground for capturing and developing those emotional nuances is the story. And your company blog is the ideal place to capture those stories. Customer success stories, historical dates that are pivotal in your comapny’s history, a crisis that was averted — or handled well. (Who were the heroes that day?) New products and why — those are the stories that should be filling your comapny’s blog — creating a timeline of your company’s footprint in the industries you serve.

So many businesses try to create a shortcut out of doing the hard work of sitting down and fleshing out the story… building the book that is your company. They want to open up the Facebook page, throw up a photo and say, “look at our new product.” Every FB update worth reading has a bigger story behind the photo — and it’s your job to get that story, and let your social media feed off your story.

Your company blog is the resource of your SM accounts. Your blog posts should have enough meat to drive your tweets, your FB updates, and your LinkedIn updates. In the classroom, think of your SM accounts as the Cliff Notes version of what’s really happening behind the doors at your company. The real novel, can be found in the blog.

Not only with your blog stories give you the foundation for building your SM activities — it’s good to know that this is the primary place journalists still go to find information about you. Check out this latest research from Ragan’s PR Daily.



Social Media Creates Transparency

Most businesses today have adopted a Facebook page, a Twitter profile and certainly a web page. Online media, for some businesses, is viewed simply as a modestly effective marketing tool, that certainly makes it easier for customers to find their hours, and location. Yet, there is much more brewing below the surface, as I discussed last week. Social media makes the actions of a business more transparent… and when customers, people outside the company can create blog posts, facebook entries and tweets that impact a large circle of people, businesses can be vulnerable.

Some businesses have learned the hard way that social media brings a dramatic, forceful impact on the company image.

It will be interesting to see how social media will impact those companies once tainted with scandal. Glencore International, the long-held private Swiss-based commodity trading powerhouse, a name tied to allegations of bribery, corruption, tax evasion and human rights violations, is now opening themselves up to the investing public.

Will Glencore change its business practices in an effort to gain public investors? Companies desiring to gain our trust will need to be believable through sustained efforts.

We might like what we see. As part of Disneyland’s green initiative, their trains run on bio-diesel made with cooking oil from the resort’s hotels. The Columbus-based restaurant, Park Creek Kitchen is committed to using products from Ohio farmers.


Some of the strongest companies will emerge from those brands that connect the public and the personal in today’s financially-strained economy.

Adapted from my column for the SNP.

Social Media Demands Responsibility

Most businesses today have adopted a Facebook page, a Twitter profile and certainly a web page. Online media, for some businesses, is viewed simply as a modestly effective marketing tool, that certainly makes it easier for customers to find their hours, and location. Yet, there is much more brewing below the surface, as I discussed last week.

Each week we mention specific brands more than 90 times in our conversations. Seventy one percent of us claim reviews from family members or friends exert a great deal of influence on purchases.

Now our conversations are happening online, and our stories have the potential to spread as quickly and as wide as wildfire. This on-line shift has set a spark under the board room chairmen of businesses, as they are beginning to realize they can no longer hide behind a glossy, expensive ad campaign designed to convince consumers to buy their products.

Today’s new marketing departments are less focused on ads, and are more focused on how to build relationships with their customers, as collaborative partners, gathering insight to create a lifetime, two-way interpersonal relationship.

If a business wants to develop a raving following of high-value customers, they can begin by leveraging their social networks to actively search for complaints, and work hard on modifications to make it right. If we’ve had a bad experience with a product, customer service is usually the last place we go — we usually head straight to our Facebook page.

But this is a two-way relationship. If social media has made it possible for a business to build a relationship with us, the company must give something back to us in return. Now we can easily find out how authentic its values really are. Read more about how some businesses are using their social media platforms to help their, sometimes tattered, images shine. Read more about those companies here.

Adapted from my column for the SNP.

Ten Sources for Stories

If your online content is not updated consistently, your readers, and more importantly, the google search engines, will begin to loose interest. An outdated website, Facebook page or twitter profile can give prospective customers the idea that your company isn’t current either.

This might be true.

The very act of creating content helps you become a stronger company, by improves your customer service and keeps you current with changing market preferences. . The process of gathering content for your blog naturally connects you to your customers; your products; and helps you see if your product is evolving with your customers. hen you stay close to your customers to hear what they’re saying. 

Sometimes, I’ve found, that clients think they have nothing new under the sun to share. This, is where you’re wrong. The next time you get stuck, mine this list of ideas for sources of great stories to feed your online presence.

  1. Your customers. Ask them questions. What’s your biggest challenge? What’s your business goal for the year? What’s a strategy you’re using to grow your business… or if it’s a consumer — what’s a strategy you’re using to keep down costs? See how this can naturally make you a stand-out customer? This is a great way to incorporate video into your oline presence.
  2. Industry Thinkers. Find someone interesting, and Q&A them to point out new trends and insights. Don’t forget people in your own company. Showcase your company. This is also a great time to use video.
  3. Customer Service: This topic could spin itself into a periodic regular feature. “Questions from our customers.” What is the biggest reason customers contact you? There must be a trend, and you should know what it is, anyway. Is it being solved efficiently? If the customer has a blog, make sure you link to that too.
  4. Analyze Keyword Searches: This is an interesting way to find out who is reading your site, and why. Google analytics tracking software to show you the top search trends. While the words can tell you what problems  would-be customers are looking for, you can build content around those queries. Show the customer you’re here to solve their problems.
  5. What is the Social Media Saying? What are your customers, and prospective customers talking about? Luckily, you are spared from tedious, espensive surveys, because the information is already out there. Monitor social conversations via trending keyword topics on Twitter, on blogs (via google alerts.) (Learn how to listen to your customers, here.) If people are actively engaged in a dialogue about a topic related to your business, offer them the content they’re looking for. Offer an opposing view, or solve the problem.
  6. Research Your Competition. You can do this online with a tool like Google AdWords Keyword Tool, Google Predictive Search, or LinkedIn Answers.  Setting the parameters in the search string will help you see what people are searching for that relate to your product. If you’re selling shoestrings… how many people are searching for fluorescent shoestrings? How many are looking for fobs to add to their shoestrings? The answers you find can lead to a mountain of content material, that your customers will be interested in.
  7. What’s Going On In the Industry? This one demands timeliness. Give your opinion about today’s news within 24 hours of its release. You could be first. Make sure to link the original content (it’s online somewhere) increasing the chances that the follow-up story will link back to you.
  8. Passionate Tie-Ins. Readers love to read stories that parallel two non-related topics. What your hobby? Are you a skydiver? A golfer? Surely, you’ve had  moments of ephiphany when “the whole wold came together” while you were engrossed in your hobby — those moments when time stood still. What did you learn that you can share? How does it parallel what you’re trying to do for your customers?
  9. Get Behind the Scenes. Post photos that show an indsider’s view of your company. This is great if you have a manufacturing plant. Show the the raw products, a video of your product line from start to finish.
  10. Customer Photos: Encourage your customers to share photos of how they are using your product in their lives. Offer a give-away or contest, and ask them to write a story about how your product solved their problem.
  11. Event Reporter: Tradeshows, conferences and industry events are great sources for content. Share your impressions, session notes via real-time blogging and tweets. Follow-up the event with in-depth insights  on whom you met, what you learned, and what surprised you.
  12. How-To: From virtual, “How to Create an Online Webinar” to practical, “How to defrost the Drain Plug On Your Refrigerator.” Your product solves a problem. Show readers how it’s done. This is a great place to offer troube-shooting techniques, in an easy how-to format.
  13. Your Best Habits: What productivity secrets can you pass onto your readers? What online applications do you love? Have you figured out an ingenous way to use an application to solve an entirely different problem? Share it.
  14. Your Archives: Do you have a story that needs revsiting? Or updated?
  15. Guest Posts: Be creative, and find someone prominent — a blogger, a community leader, someone you geninuely admire.
  16. What are Your Competitors Posting? Surely, you are tracking them via Google Reader and Google Alerts. Is there anything they’ve left unsaid? Would you like to compliment them on something “well said,” or “well-done?”  Link to them, and let your readers know you’re a genuine human being.
  17. Virtual News Source: Designate a spot on your webpage that links to your must-read sources into a central location. You can use RSS feeds to showcase headlines, and excerpts from the stories your’re reading today. Don’t forget — sources that write about your passions can be listed here too.

Listening Comes Full Circle

What your customers are saying about your industry can be just as important as what they are saying about you. If you’re not tuned in to what the community is saying, this fact will show in your communications, your tweets, customer service, and ultimately, in your product.

How can you find out what’s inside your customer’s head? By listening. Surveys and focus groups are one expensive  way — but what about prospects? What about people who are not yet your customer, but you would like them to be?  Fortunately, this person is already giving you his opinions and ideas for free. I’m going to show you some ways to find them:


Google Reader:

  • This is a free service, linked to your Google Gmail account. Reader is an RSS reader that lets you read blog in a column format, and allows you to view simply the headline, and quickly open up the story to see what’s in the content, without going to the acutal blog.
  • Reader also lets you categorize your blogs into categories, making it quick and easy to pursue different trends.
  • You can also use Reader’s search button to find posts on a specific key word.

Google Alerts

  • This serve allows you to enter search terms, phrases, and URLs into a search profile. Google will then  send its search engine indexes for something new on the Web that matches your search.  Via settings, you can arrange to have these links sent to your inbox each morning.

  • Start by entering your company’s name and see what’s there. What did you find out? Don’t see anything? Time to start creating a buzz around your company.
  • Enter the name of your competition… what are they saying?

This little exercise should enlighten you to new blogs, and new sites that are relevant to your business. Keep your tabs on them, and make them part of your daily reading. Subscribe to blogs that are relevant, and read them. Then, begin slowly, and carefully, to offer your own opinion in the comment section… with a link to your own blog. Listen.. then invite them over to see what you have to say.


What’s the Point?

Game three of the soccer tournament was rained out. This happened despite the fact that the fields were creatively engineered to sit on “levels,” allowing the fields to drain, preventing rain outs and canceled games and nightmare re-scheduling.  The participants forfeited the game fees, hotel rooms booked for the event. “Acts of God,” were not covered in the invisible refundable clause.

Yet, with those fancy fields, why the rain out?

The parking lot was one massive huge ditch, lacking drainage and full of potholes. The participants and spectators couldn’t make it to the pristine-drained fields. One coach was late for game two, as he was detained with a damage to his car when he hit a massive pot hole while trying to find a parking place.

Before making big investments in final product, ensure you have the infrastructure in place to manage the load.