We’ve been taking the Marketing Smarts podcast around the country and recording episodes before live audiences. (Our next stop is Boston on July 10.) Two weeks ago, in Minneapolis, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pat Schaber of The Lonely Marketer fame and Joe Sorge, president of Hospitality Democracy (though you may know him better as the AJ Bombers guy or as the co-host of Kitchen Table Talks).
Much of my conversation with Pat and Joe revolved around the importance of direct interaction with customers. I wrote about that over at MarketingProfs. (You can also listen to the entire recording there.) I also wanted to share other tasty morsels of advice and insight, so here you go!
1. Create Structures That Allow for Experimentation
Pat described how he works with marketers at his organization, Communication Systems, Inc. He said, “I want to put a structure in place and let them work within that structure and be creative and experiment. I think a huge part of what we do is experimentation. You’ve got to get out there and try new things. You’ve got to be innovative. And you can’t do that if you’re too structured.”
The number of platforms and channels for marketing activity and customer interaction continues to grow and evolve. To find out how these things (e.g., Pinterest, Instagram and Lockerz) work, you have to get in there, play around, and discover how they might help your business. Creating a marketing structure that allows for this sort of exploration—while maintaining consistent focus on your business objectives—is critical.
2. You Can Do a Lot With a Little Money
Years ago, Pat launched The Lonely Marketer blog because he had just assumed a role in a marketing department that had very limited resources. As a result, he had to figure out what he could do on his own—such as start a blog—and what he could do for little or no money. He has continued along this path. Recently, he made some forays into video marketing to learn the craft and, in the spirit of exploration and experimentation, to find out what can be done with existing resources… and where money needs to be spent.
As Pat pointed out, you can do a lot inexpensively. The key is picking something to try out, figuring out how much time to put into your experiment, and setting a goal or a metric that will tell you whether to pursue this tactic more deeply or move on to something else.
As in all marketing, your overarching business goals should serve as your touchstone.
3. Use Traditional Media for Customer Acquisition
You don’t have to go any further than Google to learn about the success that Joe has had using social media to promote and grow his restaurant, AJ Bombers. But, as Joe told us in Minneapolis, social media isn’t (and wasn’t) the whole story. He said, “We wouldn’t have gotten where we were, let alone been recognized where we were, without traditional media.”
Traditional media is, he says, “Better for acquisition, better for exposure, at least in my business.”
4. Social Media Can Forge Bonds with Existing Customers
So, what is social media good for?
Social media played a huge role in earning Joe the attention he got from traditional media—The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The Travel Channel, etc.—in part, though, as a result of timing. Joe just happened to be using Foursquare, for example, when it was blowing up, so when the mainstream media took an interest in it, folks sought him out.
Success like that is not necessarily repeatable. As Joe told us, “You can’t force the stories down traditional media’s throat. Sometimes, they just don’t care, no matter how innovative your QR code campaign is!”
If you want to use social media effectively in a way that is repeatable, Joe suggests employing it to demonstrate “the style of customer service you have as well as forming a closer bond with the existing customers that you have.”
5. Plan As If You’re Failing
During the Q&A portion of the Marketing Smarts podcast, Joe was asked if he had been able to maintain the success he had initially enjoyed as a result of his social media efforts or if things had fallen off. Saying first that he was surprised that things had gone so well for him, he then added, “We still plan as if we’re failing.”
There is wisdom in those words. If you feel like you’re failing—yet you want to win—then you go into overdrive. You try new things. You do whatever it takes to build momentum. And then you don’t stop.
Joe and his team have not stopped experimenting or stopped looking for new ways to engage and involve their customers. As a result, they haven’t stopped being successful either.
As I mentioned, you can listen to my entire conversation with Pat and Joe here or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. You are also welcome to subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes and never miss an episode.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Well-Trained Dog)