Archive for January, 2012

Triggers & Passions trump Demographics

Trigger EventIn a recent article, Hubspot’s Sarah Goliger published an article called How to Build Better Personas to Drive Killer Content.  While I love to read Hotspot’s blog as they always present tips on how to improve my blogging, this article – while technically correct – presented steps to developing a clearer perspective of your target market which varied from my experiences at Northwestern and at Marketing Synergy – my social consulting company.

In the article, Hubspot recommended you perform a three step process to build your persona.  They were 1] Segment your markets by demographics, 2]Identify each market’s needs, and 3] develop behavior based profiles.  While this is a time proven methodology used by traditional marketers to develop their target markets,  I have found it less than appealing when develop any type of social marketing plan. 

Demographics have always been useful in traditional marketing because it was some of the best data we had to define our markets.  While we knew demographics were always surrogates for actual motivators, we knew that analysis of age, income, household composition, wealth, life style and other data would produce segments with differentiated purchase behaviors.  While this works when we had little other information and were attempting to segment national markets, social networks and social communities have radically changed our ability to target social markets.

Think Communities, Triggers, and Passions

 Social networks are formed by consumers and businesses based on identified needs and desires.  They form regardless of our marketing and social activities and are created to fulfill some type of need.  While these communities have demographic dimensions, as a marketer I don’t care if a SciFi buff is 17 , 37, or 74.  If I am selling SciFi books and memorabilia, I want to target all SciFi buffs.

Rather than start with demographics, we teach our Northwestern students to think in terms of the “forces” which create social communities – triggers and passions.

Trigger Events are a Key

When you are considering social targets, the first question I recommend you answer is “what triggers a person [consumer or business] to action to begin considering your products and services.   It might be a specific life event – having a baby, getting married, graduating from schoolm etc – or a periodic event – tax time, new years, back to school, etc.  When these relevant trigger events occur, your prospects are likely to seek out community sites and begin search activities which predictable.  Identify where they will go and what they will search for and you can build a social marketing strategy to make them your customers. 

Passions are also important

While trigger events identify when a less interested person will trigger into action to consider your products and services, there are also people who are always in the market.  We call these the passion markets at Northwestern.  People who are passionate about a social topic – fashion, sports, politics, etc – are always looking for the new and trendy.  They are the ones who will tell others about your new products if it really excites them.  In creating our social marketing plans, we focus on the passion markets because these are often the people who are instrumental in taking your products viral.  They are heavily networked, aggressive in giving you their opinions, and active in blogging their point of view to your prospects.  These are the people who will likely read your blog aggressively and tell others about it if they like it.

Things you can do

Here are some recommended actions you can take to develop personas to drive your communications:

  1. Identify your trigger and passion markets – There are statistical ways we can do this but your market experience is often a great place to start.  From your experience, what are the events that trigger prospects to action.
  2. Learn what they do when triggered – Where do they go for expertise?  What search terms do they use?  Who are the influentials in their social space?  At Marketing Synergy, we created the Social EKG to quickly and effectively answer these questions.  If you know where they are going, you can intercept them and make them more likely to consider your solutions to their needs.
  3. Develop your social marketing strategy – Finally, develop a social marketing strategy to “be there” when they are actively seeking solutions.  This strategy should include a mix of social and traditional integrated marketing elements to reach out to influencers, social communities, and social news aggregator sites to show the social community your expertise and ability to address their triggered or passion needs.

By better understanding what moves your prospects to market – regardless of their demographics – you can better develop your communication, blog, and social marketing strategies.  To see more on how this is done, visit my social marketing page.  Also, please sign up for my blog to receive future article on social marketing with bottom line ROI, social monitoring, and social media.

Finally, let me know what you think of this blog article.  Always interested in your comments and views. 

Randy Thumbnail 1Randy Hlavac is CEO and founder of Marketing Synergy Inc – an integrated and social marketing company located in Naperville IL.  Founded in 1990, Marketing Synergy works with companies to build measurable, highly profitable marketing programs and the database and analytical systems to drive them.  Randy works with B2B and B2C organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 firms.  In addition to Marketing Synergy, Randy has been a Lecturer Professor of Integrated and Social Marketing at Northwestern’s Medill IMC program for the last 21 years.  His graduate and undergraduate courses focus on the development of high impact Social IMC marketing programs and many of the course “graduates” work in social marketing today.  Dialog with Randy on Twitter @randyhlavac or discuss social issues with this hash tag #NUSocialIMC.  Randy can also be reached through Marketing Synergy website.


SOPA – It’s like Deja Vu all over again

social marketing casey stengel

Casey Stengel "It's like Deja Vu all over again"

 If you have ever had the unfortunate circumstance to look at my photo, you will immediately notice two things.  One is that I am a marketer [because I said so] and that I am old.  This makes me an “old marketer” and allows me to tell brief but important stories from the past.  So, here comes one:

Just after the dinosaurs died out and I got my MBA, I was attracted to a new form of marketing called “Direct Marketing”.  While I was attracted to it because it was measurable, testable, and I could analyze and develop it, my bosses were primarily attracted to it because it was cheap, new to most propsects, effective and – did I mention cheap?  As a result, we mailed A LOT…I mean A LOT.  Like we mained millions evey month.  In fact, at one point we tried to develop a single campaign with 4 million prospects!  As I recall, we didn’t make it but we got close.  And this campaign was in addition to dozens of similar efforts we were excuting at the same time.

And why not?

We felt that everyone in the US would purchase from direct mail…if only we could get them the righ prodct and make an attractive offer.  And, because there were no laws governing it, we pursued our goals of direct mailing everyone we coule because we were oncinved it would work.

As direct marketing grew, consumer [rightly] grew tired of this intrusive form of marketing.  Even though we in the industry sensed this backlash [all you had to do was listen to people calling our call center], we did little to help them.  Further, our major associations also avoided the issue.  They fought any attempt to monitor direct mail and, for the most part, viewed any governmental action as negative.  We fought it for as long as we could … to our detriment.  Consumers began calling it “junk mail” and they were right.

The SAME THING happened with telemarketing and emails.  Each time, the industry paid scant attention to consumer and givernmental interests and failed to lead in addressing key concerns.

This brings us to SOPA

History is repeating itself.  As marketing and business managers, we need to:

  1. Get educated on SOPA and its implications for your business – I posted some great videos and links as have others.  Find out the broad reaching powers it grants to government and its impact on you
    1. Here is a great article from Forbes with several great SOPA options 
    2. Another one from gizmodo
  2. Better understand the issues & [more importantly] the nature of the problem – While I agree copyright & intellectual property rights are important, if most of the problem is overseas, then punishing US citizens is not the solution.  It is just a loss of rights and freedoms.  I encourage you to understand where the problem is and determine if the SOPA solution, no matter how it is re-written, is the right solution.
  3. Get in touch with your representatives in Washington –  The law is currently being re-written.  Tell them your concerns about the current plan and how we should manage the internet to punish those who break existing laws which leaving most of us alone.

Now is the time for action…before someone in Washington does it for you.  Thanks

Social Marketing or a Football Game? – You Need to Decide – Now

social marketing

Football & Social Marketing – More Related than you Think?

As the former head of the Nebraska band & an instructor of social marketing at the Northwestern Medill IMC program, I really love college football.  The band playing, the fans yelling, and the spirit of the event are infectious.   It’s great to attend the game whether you win or lose … OK, winning is better but it is still fun regardless of the outcome.  But what does this have to do with social marketing?

Think of the crowd at a football game.  Occasionally, we all yell the same thing because the cheerleaders or the scoreboard tell us to.  When this occurs, the stadium loudly resonates with the cheer.  It is powerful, directed, and is often effective in lifting the spirits of the fans and the players.  At the right time, a cheer or school song can appear to lift the team to another level.

However, most of the time the crowd is involved in the game but not participating in coordinated cheers.  We all yell to encourage the team but our yelling is much like the picture…individuals shouting their own message to the team.  While it creates noise, individual shouts are probably not heard by the team members and the noise generated is both positive and negative.

But what does this have to do with Social Marketing?


social marketing social media usage survey results

Altimeter Social Media Usage Survey Results 1/2012

 In a January 2012 survey on social media usage from the Altimeter Group, determined that – on the average – a large company has 178 SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS!  These accounts are on a wide range of platforms and have been established by individuals throughout the company.  Companies have 39.2 Twitter accounts and 29.9 Facebook accounts.  Think about the implications of these findings for your company.

In marketing, we spend a lot of time discussing the importance of brand and the brand message.  We teach students that the brand is to be treasured and carefully managed to both differentiate you from the competition and to provide prospects with a known product to purchase.  From start-ups to the largest corporations, we spend a great deal of time [and money!] to be consistent in our brand mesage.  And we do…sales, marketing, and PR work hard to ensure all communications with stakeholders, customers and prospects uniformly position the company, our products and services, and our brand “essence”.

Is your Social Media program a crowd or marketing? 

 Think about your social marketing program in light of this survey.  You know social media is an effective way to impact prospects and customers.  It’s ability to effectively target the high value communities which produce your company’s business is unparalleled and it’s growing.  However, if dozens of people within your organization are yelling messages into the social cloud – with little or no coordination within your company, what is the brand message your are communicating?  Your carefully developed brand and company positioning is lost the same way an uncoordinated crowd has its message lost at the football game.  Rather than a strong, loud, coordinated yell or fight song, your message is lost as literally hundreds of social media sites shout at the very prospects you want to attract.

It’s time you take control of social media


Marketing Sherpa social marketing survey

Marketing Sherpa social marketing survey

In a 1/2012 survey, Marketing Sherpa found that only 20% of all companies are producing a measurable ROI from their social marketing programs and 64% – while feeling that intuitively social marketing should have ROI – don’t see it in their current efforts.  It’s time for that to change.  [I will be discussing this Marketing Sherpa survey in a future blog article]

Today, there are business models producing measurable ROI.  That is what we are implementing at Marketing Synergy and at in my social marketing classes at Northwestern.  From this experience, here are some actions business and marketing managers should do today:

  1. Determine the role of social media at your company – You cannot successfully develop and deploy a social marketing program without a goal.  As I discussed in previous blogs, is the role of your social program marketing, customer service, brand positioning or something else.  For many combinations it is all of these … but in an uncoordinated fashion.  Worse, for many companies, their marketing and brand presence in the social cloud is run by PR or other non-marketing functions [or – worse- just someone in the organization who wants to talk products].  Managers need to discuss what they want to accomplish and where in the organization that function should occur.  You CAN have social marketing programs with measurable ROI and trackable results…you just need to determine that is what you want.
  2. Develop clear roles, responsibilities, and communications goals – In integrated marketing, companies go to great lengths to clarify who will run their marketing communications and the company, brand and product essences they want communicated.  However, in social, this is rarely the case.  When we create an integrated marketing campaign [email, telemarketing, DRTV, etc.], we develop a creative brief which defines our target market [social community], marketing objectives, key measures, selling propositions [USPs] and the creative and marketing tests we will undertake in the program.  These marketing efforts go through many levels of management review to ensure the final prpgram is consistent with the company and brand positions we carefully developed.  Does your social marketing efforts have the same level of scrutiny?  Is anyone really watching it?  Whether you are just “talking” to people on Twitter or Facebook or doing a sophisticated social marketing program like we develop at Marketing Synergy, you need to manage social media just like any other marketing program.  Whether you acknowledge it or not, you are marketing when you “go social”.
  3. Identify the markets you want to impact – There are two types of social media deployment.  One waits for prospects to show up at your site to initiate a conversation.  At Northwestern, we call this the Twitter/Facebook strategy.  A second form of marketing goes to targeted communities to join them and become a part of the community.  This is what we call social marketing at Marketing Synergy and at Northwestern.  To develop this second type of marketing strategy, we start with a Social EKG.  This is an analytical methodology designed to:
    • Identify the customer segments of highest value to your company
    • Use social monitoring and primary research to determine where they are in the “social cloud”.  We want to know what social media they use and how frequently they use it.  This includes Facebook, Twitter, social aggregators [Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc.], bloggers, news sites, and other social network elements.
    • Determine if they are discussing you and your competitors and, if so, what are they saying and is it positive or negative about you
    • Identify the influentials in the social networks where your high value prospects go for information
  4. Develop community specific strategies, tactics, and – most important – performance measures – All forms of integrated marketing – including social marketing – are inherently targetable, testable, and measurable.  This is the foundation of the Social IMC business model.  It is now time for companies to transform social media into a marketing strategy we can measure, improve and – most importantly – justify at the “C” level of your company.  Today, companies are developing social marketing programs with measurable ROI [20% are doing it from the Marketing Sherpa survey].  It’s time for your company to do so as well.

It’s Time

It’s time to make social media more focused for your company.  It’s time to transform social from talk to action.  It’s time to  add the elements which makes integrated marketing successful – targeted, testable, trackable, measurable & justifiable.  It’s time to change social media from a crowd yelling at a football game into a marketing asset for your company.


Randy Hlavac
Randy Hlavac is a marketing futurist who – since 1990 – has worked to integrate new technologies into the marketing strategies & tactics of B2B and B2C companies.

January 2012
« Dec   Feb »