Values Bring Devoted Customers Who Will Pledge Allegiance

Values Bring Devoted Customers Who Will Pledge Allegiance

(originally published in Entrepreneur.com)

Jack Trout, an old mentor of mine, used to say that branding is “what other people say about you.” For most companies, though, the message that defines the brand comes from the elevator pitch — a carefully crafted and succinct value proposition. The only problem is that when your company needs to pivot, the ideas your brand was built upon may no longer transmit the right message. So, what can your startup rely upon if not an elevator pitch?

The answer is a carefully chosen core value. In his theory of basic human values, social psychologist Shalom Schwartz identified 10 basic personal values that are recognized across cultures. These values are spread across four dimensions — conservation, self-enhancement, openness to change and self-transcendence — and organized into a circular arrangement like a pie. Each value represents a slice.

Schwartz explains that the closer any two values are, the more similar their motivations. For instance, power and achievement in the self-enhancement dimension are motivated by the desire for social superiority and esteem.

The opposite is also true. Value dimensions on opposite sides of the circle — self-transcendence and self-enhancement, for instance — come from the opposing motivations of devotion to others and social superiority, respectively.

By using this universal model to inform and guide your startup’s central messaging, you can develop a strong brand and appeal to your audience’s most deeply held values, to inspire loyalty.

Make decisions based on value alignment.

If you’re starting a small B2B company, for instance, you’ll need to rely on service and relationships to differentiate your brand. You’ll need to be ready to help a client at any time, even if your agreement only requires service during normal business hours.

That focus on service fits into the self-transcendence dimension — characterized by the values of benevolence and universalism — and it’s a powerful force that will ensure the loyalty of your clientele.

Schwartz’s system can also help you identify and prioritize markets. For example, like most disruptive startups, Airbnb appeals to people who value the dimensions regarding openness to change and self-transcendence.

These are people who either challenge the status quo or think that everyone should have equal access to everything. For that reason, Airbnb thrives in places such as Paris — which has more listings than even New York City — because the French are revolutionaries at heart and are very open to the company’s value proposition.

Determine your audience’s values

As a startup, you’ll want to stick to one value dimension. For example, if you’re working with risk-averse B2B clients, a tagline about challenging the status quo probably won’t resonate. You want to match your messaging to your client base. Here are three tips for getting started:

1. Show your true colors. If you’re an ambitious, wealth-hungry founder, don’t try to play your company off as a philanthropic crusader. Ride-sharing company Uber is under intense scrutiny for ambitious overreach with its contractors and employees. Its attempts to offer up a more gentle, benevolent side are being read as disingenuous. Know yourself and your team: That kind of awareness will keep you from sending mixed messages.

2. Follow through. Actions speak louder than words. Your core value proposition won’t resonate if your company doesn’t back it up with action. Major telecommunications companies espouse benevolent values, but in my opinion, their fight against net neutrality shows they value self-transcendence instead. Had they consulted with Schwartz, they could have saved millions of dollars in lobbyist payments. They were as destined to lose that battle as were the opponents of marriage equality.

3. Embody your core value. Your entire company should align with your core value. If you’re in the self-transcendence dimension, you need to embody inclusiveness and equality — from your administrative assistants to your executives. Hire people and work with vendors who hold similar values. Everything — from your company benefits to your marketing messages — should be consistent with your core value.

When your message is consistent and appeals to your audience’s most deeply held values, you’ll gain devoted customers who pledge allegiance. Priorities change, and your company might need to pivot to survive, but your dedication to a value dimension will always keep your messaging consistent.

Are You Thinking of Your Customers When You Pitch?

Are You Thinking of Your Customers When You Pitch?

By Jack Holt, Mattr CEO

Sales are a big part of my everyday job, and since my company sells predominantly to marketers, I talk to people that fill many different marketing roles. Of all the different types of marketers, though, PR people have really stood out to me. They have a difficult job. Given their focus on media relations, they have additional audiences that they have to consider every single day beyond the people they’re selling products or services to. While other types of marketers are able to concentrate on only the customer, PR people have to think more broadly when writing a pitch.

A PR person should consider the journalist, the customer, and the publication audience when writing a pitch.

The graphic to the left illustrates the three audiences a PR person should consider when writing a pitch. However, as I’ve talked to many PR people, I’ve noticed that not all actually focus on all three of those audiences. In many instances, they spend most of their time focused on a journalist and/or a publication’s readers and largely neglect the customers they’re actually trying to reach through media.

How do you decide who to pitch? Does that decision involve qualitative data about the customers you’re trying to reach? If not, you might be missing something valuable that could improve your pitches – and the stories that ultimately result from those pitches.

How much do you know about the customers of the product or service you’re pitching? Many people in the industry have told me they think they have a solid grasp of the customers because of the years they’ve spent interacting with journalists. But when I ask them more about their customer targets, and especially when I question their personality details, they realize that aside from some anecdotal evidence they hear, many don’t have as good of a grasp of those customers as they thought. When they see a thorough customer segmentation analysis, it can be very revealing. Sometimes they even discover that the publications or blogs they assumed customers were reading aren’t at all what they actually read.

Most in the PR industry that I’ve talked with say that audience targeting and segmentation is something they’ve never thought to do before, but is something that could be very valuable to them. It can tell them not only which publications their customers read, but which publications are over-indexed with their customers. In other words, it reveals those publications their customers read at a disproportionate rate. Very important when deciding who to pitch.

But let’s go a step beyond the the pitch audience and focus on the actual pitch content sent to a reporter. What do those pitches usually contain? Information on the product or service you’re pitching? Maybe something that shows the reporter you know and understand what’s interesting to them?

How often do they accurately reflect the customer you’re trying to reach? I’m not referring only to customer challenges your company can help them solve; I’m talking about who these people really are – their personalities, their interests, and their values.

Process for the perfect PR pitch.Think about this process for a pitch:

Look at step two. After determining the appropriate publications to target in step 1 (based on consideration of your customers, the journalist and the publication’s readers) step 2 takes into consideration qualitative information on those people.

Targeting and segmentation can provide signals or indications of the people you’re trying to reach – who they really are as people. That information can help you make subtle changes to a pitch to appeal not just to the reporter, but to tell a story that you know will appeal to the customers and potential customers you’re actually trying to target. If you know your audience is more liberal, more tech savvy or more environmentally conscious than the average person, shouldn’t your pitch content resonate with their motivations and their values? And wouldn’t the reporter you’re pitching be interested in knowing that as well?

Utilizing targeting and segmentation can help PR people become better acquainted with who their customers are as people, and in turn, get more targeted and insightful with their pitching. Remember, when targeting a publication, think about the customer, journalist and readers. And when writing the pitch, consider the personality, values and interests of those groups of people.

Personalized Grassroots Fans Versus Old-Fashioned Celebrity Endorsers

Personalized Grassroots Fans Versus Old-Fashioned Celebrity Endorsers

(Originally posted in Social Media Today)

It’s 11 p.m., and you’re in your local big-box store. You’ve got a package of white sports socks in each hand, and you’re trying to figure out which one to buy. One brand has your childhood sports hero smiling on the package, and the other comes highly recommended by your best friend.

Which do you choose?

Oddly enough, the same question torments marketing professionals as they try to figure out which approach will resonate with their target market: the highly personalized grassroots campaign or the good old-fashioned celebrity endorsement. And the answer isn’t easy.

Grassroots Campaign or Celebrity Endorsement: Which Strategy Is Best for Your Brand’s Story?

Image provided by We Are Social Media.

Which Approach Will Ignite Your Audience?

Celebrity endorsements have long been embraced as the go-to marketing strategy for brands looking to establish trust and build excitement with new customers. But consumers have developed a distaste for in-your-face advertising tactics, and new studies suggest that grassroots advocate campaigns might have just as powerful an effect on customers as celebrity endorsements.

There’s no single factor that determines whether a grassroots campaign or celebrity endorsement is best for your target audience. However, there are clues that can help you discover which option is best for you. Here are three considerations that can help you select the right approach:

1. Analyze your budget for the best ROI. Don’t think that a small budget makes your decision easier; a budget of any size can secure a less obvious, but still powerful, celebrity influencer — regardless of whether it’s the best choice for your brand.

What matters most, though, is that you choose an approach that will resonate with your audience for the most powerful ROI.

Taco Bell’s “Burner Phone Breakfast” grassroots heist is a great example of using a minimal budget for maximum impact. After sending phones to 1,000 of its 1.1 million Twitter followers, the brand texted and called each phone with different challenges to complete, then rewarded these fans with Taco Bell prizes and gear.

This effort created a lot of engagement and awareness via social media and targeted its Millennial audience perfectly — all at a fraction of the cost of contracting a popular celebrity.

2. Track target audience conversations. You can’t confidently predict which trends will appeal to your audience unless you’re tracking their social media conversations in real time.

Gather data and try to incorporate celebrities, events, or topics your audience mentions into your current marketing strategy. Listen to what your audience cares about (their friends’ opinions, a hot TV star’s endorsement, etc.), and redistribute that information in creative ways.

Telemundo is a great example of a company in tune with its audience’s interests. In partnership with Latin World Entertainment, the TV channel invited 100 of its top social media influencers to come on screen and judge its new talent competition, “Yo Soy el Artista.” This approach strengthened the show’s relationship with its social media influencers, who, in turn, promoted the show and the experience to millions of followers.

3. Read into every audience detail. Go a step beyond tracking conversations to uncover your audience’s deeper motivations. Use a social media segmentation tool to identify unique characteristics that describe your audience and popular, but less obvious, influencers.

Every trait you can uncover — from being eco-friendly to price-sensitive — is an important indicator of what will warrant a response from your audience. And if you’re going the celebrity route, this will uncover the people they really care about, not just the hot celebrities of the moment.

Under Armour did a great job of incorporating its knowledge of its audience into its celebrity promotions with the current “I Will What I Want” campaign featuring Gisele Bündchen and Lindsey Vonn. By featuring real women celebrities who have overcome criticism, injuries, and more, each powerful promotion connected with the everyday athletic woman and created buzz around the brand.

It’d be a lot easier if marketing campaigns came in a one-size-fits-all package, but that’s not how you make a genuine connection with your target consumer. Put in the work to determine what resonates with your audience, and use that information to develop an effective grassroots campaign or secure a compelling celebrity endorsement.

Fashion Forward: Why Fashion Brands Belong on Pinterest

Fashion Forward: Why Fashion Brands Belong on Pinterest

Fashion Forward: Why Fashion Brands Belong on Pinterest

Fashion Week in Paris just wrapped up, and like fashion, Pinterest is a visual medium. That’s why 40 million people actively use this booming social network to get visual inspiration each month. So it’s no wonder fashion brands living on visual appeal are creating a Pinterest presence to garner people’s attention and showcase the full spectrum of their aesthetic.

Kate Spade is a fantastic example. Each of the famous fashion label’s pinboards interprets the brand’s message in creative ways and demonstrates exactly what Kate Spade stands for. Although Pinterest isn’t limited to clothes, makeup, and jewelry, it’s an excellent place for fashion brands to interact with their fans in a richer, more authentic way — and build a brand presence that’s even more interactive.

The Advantages of Going Pinterest

Here’s an understatement: Pinterest is extremely popular among young women. In fact, 80 percent of its users are women. According to Pinterest, thousands of brands and businesses are using the social network to showcase their products and reach their customers where they’re already spending time.

Here are a few reasons marketers and brands are choosing Pinterest as their social media platform of choice:

  • People buy more on Pinterest. On average, Pinterest shoppers spend nearly$170 per session, much more than Facebook shoppers (who spend $95 per session) and Twitter shoppers (who spend $70).
  • Engagement is already high. Anthropologie and lululemon athletica have tracked engagement rates of 99 and 97 percent, respectively. Top fashion and retail brands are averaging 46 repins for each individual pin, which means people go to Pinterest to discover new fashion and repin items along the way.

Tapping Into Audience Behaviors

Just because Pinterest boasts high engagement doesn’t mean it’s the ideal place to focus your efforts. Conduct research before you create a campaign to ensure your customers actively use the platform. If you find most of your consumers use Facebook regularly, consider going there.

Here are a few other preliminary steps you should take before launching a Pinterest campaign:

  • See what people are already saying. Monitoring conversations around your brand can help you discover brand influencers who are naturally passionate about your brand and can help spread the love. Often, these conversations also reveal new trends and hot topics within your audience. They reveal what people want to see from your brand — and how you can give it to them in your Pinterest content marketing strategy.
  • Find influencers. Search for influencers based on factors including reach (how many people see their posts) and relevance (how often they post about certain topics). Look at Pinterest boards for events such as Fashion Week 2013, for example. Determine who was influential then, and see if they’ll be attending again this year. Then, add them to your influencer list.
  • Create an editorial calendar. What will you use to create your brand identity on Pinterest? Will you make the content or simply curate it? Make sure you have a plan. If you’re strapped for time, hands-on services such as Curalatecan help schedule pins for you.
  • Make your site pinnable. It should be easy for your website visitors to pin the designs or products they love. Putting Pinterest buttons on your site lets fans choose their favorite products and spread buzz organically.
  • Don’t just pin products. Fashion brands shouldn’t feel limited to simply posting clothing. You can post makeup, travel, weddings and events, or DIY styles, like how to fade a pair of new Converse shoes. You can also promote events and special collections.

For example, last year Pinterest created a New York Fashion Week hub with curated Pinterest boards from designers, brands, publishers, and bloggers participating in Fashion Week. Create boards that speak to your label’s aesthetics, the meaning behind your designs, and what inspires your brand.

Beyond Just Pins

Fashion shows are all about the visual thrill — models on the catwalk, flashing lights, and front-row celebrities, right? That’s why fashion brands should consider taking advantage of Pinterest’s video feature. Whether you’re giving a peek at a new line or a backstage exclusive at Fashion Week, Pinterest can give your customers an insider view.

Here are a few tips for making your video appealing:

  • Mix media. Combine videos and regular pins on your pinboards. You can also post videos on your website and other places, such as YouTube, and include a pin button next to them.
  • Keep it short. Longer videos aren’t as engaging as shorter ones, so make them brief but compelling.
  • Make it visually appealing. Pay attention to your video thumbnails on Pinterest; they’ll attract people just as much as your descriptions. By the same logic, it’s important to write good descriptions for all of your videos. Use plenty of hashtags and relevant search terms in your description. (Be sure to specify that it’s a video, too.)

Remember: For most women, Pinterest isn’t just a shopping cart. It’s a source of inspiration and aspiration, too. Women go there to find new, exciting ways to style, enliven, and reorganize their lives. And the faster your brand establishes a presence that’s focused holistically on connecting lifestyle and fashion, the faster you’ll start interacting with your customers in new, more meaningful ways.


Image courtesy of Bloomua / Shutterstock.com

Every Brand has a Powerful Story Behind It – 4 Ways to Find Your Own

Every Brand has a Powerful Story Behind It – 4 Ways to Find Your Own

(Originally posted in DailySEOBlog)

The Jeep brand is great at storytelling to influence their audience.

If there’s one secret to effective marketing, it’s that customers are drawn to powerful stories.

It makes sense. Compared to traditional sales tactics, storytelling is downright seductive. Where “selling” pushes the product on the consumer, storytelling pulls the consumer in with culture and a sense of belonging. Instead of spouting facts and features, storytelling provokes a positive emotional connection. And finally, where traditional selling pressures the customer to act, storytelling builds a need within the customer that the brand can fulfill.

As marketers find new ways to make these connections with buyers, creativity and storytelling become increasingly important. But it’s not enough for a brand to simply develop a personality; it has to translate into a story that truly resonates with customers.

If your brand wants to crack open the long-term benefits of building a fan base with storytelling, here are four steps you need to follow:

1. Research What Personally Influences Your Market

Your brand story is based on the unique personality of your brand and all the facets that have shaped it: its history, influences, and values, as well as the people behind it.

But even with an established brand story, the way you tell your target market this story depends on who those people are. To ensure the right message reaches the right people, you need to determine what personally influences your audience’s emotions.

First, you have to identify and target the right audience with segmentation. Pay attention to things like gender and demographics, as well as deeper segmentation, such as personality traits and your audience’s interests.

To see this strategy in action, just look at Red Bull. This brand has done a great job of telling a brand story that resonates with a certain segment of young males, including content focused on adventure sports, car racing, video games, and music.

Red Bull breaks out of its comfort zone with its content — just like its target customers strive to break out of their own comfort zones — and Red Bull’s branding and content reflects this message.

Jeep is another brand that successfully communicates its story with rugged, “part of the club” brand storytelling. This aligns with the values of freedom and adventure that are extremely relatable to its audience. Jeep has continued to connect to its audience throughout its long history of weathering the market, even as it introduces more luxury features to the brand with the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

2. Utilize Strategic SEO

Once you have a clear view of your brand story, you need to tell it strategically through digital marketing with content and SEO.

Content marketing creates a deeper connection with your audience by relating to them one-on-one or solving a persistent problem they face. This gets them so invested in your story that they can’t wait to share it with their own networks.

You need to reinforce this story with a backbone of strategic SEO, using keywords that relate to your product features and your brand story. Choose words that work as specific product descriptions and emphasize how your consumers want to feel.

For Jeep, imagine a customer searching “adventurous car to take on awesome road trips,” or “4-wheel drive, soft top, black.”
Keywords that speak to your company values and what your product can deliver will make SEO work for your search results and brand story.

3. Tell Your Story on the Right Platform

You may tell the right story to the right audience, but if it’s communicated on the wrong platform, your efforts are wasted. Tell your story on a platform that will resonate with your unique target audience.

Traditional platforms: While many trends are moving toward digital and live events, traditional marketing methods such as print and TV ads, billboards, letters, and direct mail remain important.

For example, Jeep still sends welcome letters to new Jeep owners with Jeep-branded leather keychains. It’s a traditional, simple touch that’s highly effective and continues to fuel its brand story of inclusiveness.

The brand also does an amazing job of telling emotional, inspirational brand stories, as evidenced by its latest Jeep Grand Cherokee campaign. This is a particularly powerful approach for high-volume viewing events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.

Digital advertising: Because it offers the largest number of platform options, digital advertising is a no-brainer. However, the sheer amount of engagement tends to create a lot of noise, making it more difficult to stand out.

Mix in your brand story throughout the digital landscape, starting with your company website and the social sites best suited for your brand story. Decide which platforms to focus on by researching each platform based on its merits and targeting the ones on which your customers are spending the most time.

Live events and promotions: Depending on the characteristics of your target customer and the brand story you’re telling, your brand might benefit from live events and promotions. Red Bull does this perfectly with campaigns that exemplify bravery and action, such as its Red Bull Stratos campaign. Ask yourself how your brand could create and promote similar events on a smaller scale to share your brand story.

4. Listen to the Playback

In the digital age, it’s easier than ever for consumers to contribute to a brand’s story. With so much conversation, it’s important for a brand to listen to its consumers’ version of the story and react accordingly. This is especially relevant on social media, where consumers are offering their own content and opinions about brands.

The most powerful part of storytelling happens after you’ve crafted your message, identified your audience, and released your story, so monitor conversations and respond to keep your story relevant.

Every brand has a powerful story behind it. It’s just a matter of untangling that story for the right audience and releasing it on the right platforms. When you take the time to appreciate storytelling and its impact on your customers, you open the floor for your brand fans to latch on to your story and start sharing it themselves.