RENEGADE THINKING from the CEO of Renegade, the social media & marketing agency that helps clients make more out of less by transforming communications into "Marketing as Service."

Why CMOs Should FLAIC Out on Their Personal Brands

10/21/14

personal_branding-1Whether you call it Cobbler’s Children Syndrome or just basic neglect, talk to a cross-section of CMOs and you’ll discover a startling anomaly—though they dedicate their careers to building brands, very few have made time to take care of their own personal brands. This oversight leaves many a senior executive poorly positioned – especially when they become suddenly unemployed around fifty years of age, two fearsome and often concurrent inevitabilities. (If this article looks familiar, then you read it first on Forbes.com).

The good news is that many current heads of marketing are awakening to this issue.  At The CMO Club’s recent summit in Los Angeles, nearly half of the 150+ attendees joined a workshop on personal branding.  An informal survey of those folks revealed the degree of neglect—less than 20% rated their personal brand at 7 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 and over 60% rated themselves below a 5!  This was not a case of modesty (remember we’re talking about CMOs here!) but more like deer transfixed by headlights, they want to move on but somehow they can’t.

When confronting this group with the obvious need for developing personal brands, there was little dispute.  In fact, 98% acknowledged having Googled themselves, fully recognizing that if they didn’t take care of their own reputation, Google would do it for them.  At the same time, these marketing leaders felt there were some pretty significant barriers to overcome and ranked them as follows:

  1. Insufficient time—they were simply too busy doing other aspects of their job;
  2. Conflict of interest—many felt time invested building their own brand might be interpreted as self-promotional rather than as a good for their companies;
  3. Building CEO’s brand instead—many felt obligated to focus on increasing the profile of their CEO while sublimating their own;
  4. Not sure how—in light of the above issues, many felt overwhelmed at the prospect of building their own brands and just weren’t sure where to start.

To encourage these CMOs to stop flaking out on their personal brands, I offered up a tongue-in-cheek acronym, FLAIC, which they both appreciated and responded to with a request for greater detail.  And at the risk of oversimplifying what is a career-long exercise, here is FLAIC (Focus, Lead, Adapt, Invest, Cultivate) spelled out, a 5-step process for marketers to build their personal brands:

FOCUS:  Though an obvious foundational component to any marketing campaign, many CMOs have not thought about the need for a strategy statement, a document that helps bring focus to one’s personal branding efforts. These statements help senior marketers define what makes them compelling or unique, an exercise that requires at least an ounce of ambition and a cup of introspection.  Since just about everyone’s career is a work in progress, these statements encourage the writer to challenge and stretch his or her sense of self.

LEAD:  With a personal brand statement in hand, senior marketers can then turn their attention to providing thought leadership around their area(s) of expertise.  This thought leadership can be shared in writing (articles, blogs, comments), videos and of course speaking engagements.  The key here is that the content is well crafted and reflects positively on the both the individual and the company for whom he/she works.  (Note—part of leading means making sure your company sees the value of having thought leaders and savvy CMOs secure this understanding prior to taking a job.)

ADAPT: Like corporate brands, it is easy for marketing individuals to get pigeon holed as experts in only one area (i.e. “he’s a car guy” or “she’s a traditional media pro”) which can become career limiting.  While still being focused on your overall brand strategy (i.e. innovator, metrics-oriented, team builder, etc.), you can use your content to demonstrate your breadth of expertise (e.g. “What Pharma can learn from car marketers” or “What TV can learn from digital”).  Note—for many CMOs adapting also means learning new skills via rigorous course-work.

INVEST: Building a personal brand can’t be done without investing time, money or both.  Roberto Medrano, CMO of SOA, started writing and blogging regularly 5 years ago, a commitment of time made more challenging by the fact that English is not his first language.  This investment, which included finding native editors, paid off for Medrano as he was recently ranked 12th among 250 top CMOs, a fact his company celebrated in this release.  For CMOs who don’t like to write, paying ghostwriters or creating video tutorials are equally viable options.

CULTIVATE:  Initially, I had this as C for Connect, given the critical nature that a network plays in building personal brands. But after Evan Greene, CMO of The Recording Academy, shared the story of how old connections often come out of the woodwork during Grammy season; I suspect Cultivate is more instructive.  The idea here is that building a personal brand also includes cultivating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships.  Support your fellow marketers, even if it’s just the occasional retweet or a pithy comment on an article, and watch the good karma boomerang.

Final note: Though personal branding is hardly a new idea (Tom Peters wrote about The Brand Called You back in 1997,) it does seem to be getting fresh attention from senior marketers as evidence by interest in this basic strategy worksheet.  Now what remains to be seen is whether or not this next generation of marketing leaders will step up to FLAIC or merely flake out.

CMO Personal Branding Worksheet

10/5/14

Personal-Branding-Naming-AlternativesI recently had the pleasure of leading a session on Personal Branding at The CMO Club Summit with Evan Greene, the CMO of Grammys.  The session was really well attended and it was clear by all accounts that this was an area of great interest to senior marketers. The following is a document I prepared for the attendees that is a compilation of guidance team Renegade found from a number of sources (see credits at the bottom).

Why CMOs Need to Care About Their Personal Brand

  • Enhances your value to your current employer.
  • No job is forever.
  • If you don’t control your reputation, someone else will (i.e. Google)

 Personal Brand Statement Overview

  • A short and sweet statement that describes who you are and what you bring to the table. It answers the questions, “what makes you great?” and “what makes you compelling?” but should not be confused with a mission statement (which tend to be more lofty and less job specific).
  • You could be a “reliable, strategic planner” or “a innovative professional connector.” Or, your statement might be something like, “inspiring others to excel.” Are you amazingly well organized? Do people enjoy working with you for your fantastic sense of humor?
  • Your brand statement should be consistent with how others perceive you. Don’t describe yourself as a team builder if your team thinks otherwise.  However, if you have hit some professional brick walls, it may be time for reinvention and it is okay therefore to make your brand statement aspirational.

 Three Components to Consider

  1. Figure out your emotional appeal
    1. How do people benefit from working with me?
    2. How do CEOs benefit from working with me?
    3. How do I make people feel?
    4. What words do others use to describe me?
  2. Determine your description
    1. What field or industry am I in (or do I want to be in)?
    2. What are the words I would use to describe my work?
    3. Who is my target audience?
  3. Describe your role
    1. What service do I have to offer people / companies?
    2. What do I do that makes me stand out from everyone else?

 

Draft Your Personal Brand Statement (here are a few statement starters)

All modesty aside, I am great because_________________________________________________

Yes! I am compelling because______________________________________________________

But seriously, I am special because___________________________________________________

I am different from your average CMO because…________________________________________

Making it Real: Getting Started

If you say you’re an innovative leader you better innovate on the job and lead a productive team.  If you claim to be a results-driven marketer then you should have the case histories with hard data to back it up. Now we can consider all the things you can do to build your personal brand beyond simply doing your job:

  • Basic Appearance: Are you dressing the part?  Does your business card reflect your personal brand statement?  Your resume should express & support your personal statement.
  • Social Basics: Do your social profiles back up your statement?  Are they consistent?  If you claim to be digitally savvy or cutting edge, are you on the latest social channels?
  • Social Channels: How many you choose to be active on is up to you but the key word here is active.  The only way to understand and claim social savvy is to be active.
  • Content Creation: If being a thought-leader is an important part of your brand, then you need to demonstrate that by creating content for your personal blog/website and/or for other legitimate publications. If you don’t like writing, find a ghostwriter or better yet, learn to like it. Or make a video.  Whatever you do, your content should be authentically you and focused on what you want to be known for.
  • Content Upgrade: Does the content you post support your personal statement?  If you claim creativity as part of your personal statement, make sure your content is creative.  (Hint: post better content even if that means posting less!)

Making it Real: Additional Tactics

  • Rekindle Old Ties: Contact and meet with old friends.  Make new ones by going to networking events.  Use these encounters to sharpen the elevator version of your personal statement.  No more “same old, same old” responses.
  • Learn A New Skill: This skill should support your brand statement and give you a new area to write about and discuss with peers.

Good Sources on Personal Branding

The above merely scratches the surface on this topic. I have an article in the works that I will share shortly spelling out FLAIC (Focus, Lead, Adapt, Invest, Cultivate), an acronym I whipped up just for the unique challenges of marketing execs.  As always, let me know if you have thoughts to add.

Q + A on Relaunching Brands w Kyle Schlegel, CMO of Louisville Slugger

05/30/14

kyle schlegel

Relaunching an old and established brand is tricky business.  There’s always the risk that you will alienate your long-time customers as you try to appeal to appeal to a new generation of potential buyers. Knowing this, the marketing team at Hillerich & Bradsby Co. (the parent of Louisville Slugger) decided that rather than steer away from the brand’s illustrious past, they would embrace it while finding fresh ways to engage a new generation of consumers. Coming from Procter & Gamble, H&B’s new CMO Kyle Schlegel had to figure out how to put this plan into effect despite working with a modest budget (by P&G standards) and an entirely different corporate structure.

In the interview below, you will learn how Schlegel and the H&B team revitalized the Louisville Slugger brand by taking a “grass roots” approach, listening to their customers and engaging consistently in social media.  You will also quickly understand why Schlegel was voted a Rising Star at last year’s CMO Awards.

Drew: You face a similar challenge with the Louisville Slugger brand that you faced with Old Spice: younger, “hipper” brands are infringing on your market share. What do you think Old Spice did in terms of marketing that made its resurgence so successful and how do you plan to apply those same lessons to Louisville Slugger?

On Old Spice, the team realized three critical dynamics to the future success of the brand.   The future of the brand had to be rooted in its past in some way, it wasn’t going to happen overnight. We also had to be comfortable with a generation of consumers that may have been lost and focus instead on the entry point consumer that would be the lifeblood of the brand for decades to come.  In restaging the brand around 2000, we explored the full history of the brand and worked closely with consumers on which, if any, of those elements were relevant moving forward.  We next laid out a multi-year plan that would help get us get ever closer to the goal of the #1 brand in the market and, more specifically, the #1 brand with young men.   Finally, we identified a couple of programs that helped expose and sample the brand to the next generation of consumers, including a sampling program in middle schools, where more than 90% of 5th and 6th grade boys received a sample.   These choices set in motion the changes over the next decade and the global success that followed.

On Louisville Slugger, we are taking a very similar approach.  Our team explored the history of the brand and the sport to understand exactly which elements of the foundation would stay in place and where evolution – or even revolution – was necessary.   Next, we looked at a plan over a 3-5 year window where relevance could be regained, consumer by consumer.  Finally, the team had to make changes to the brand and focus in ways that wouldn’t allow us to attempt to regain the “lost generation”, a necessary but difficult choice to instead focus on the next generation of players. 

Drew: You just updated the Louisville Slugger logo for the first time since 1979. How do you balance modernization with respecting the traditions and history of the brand?
We did not take the change and steps to get there lightly.  Throughout the journey, we engaged with every key stakeholder, from pros to amateurs, from retailers to employees and from ages 8 to 80.   Each of these people are “players” when we think about our brand purpose…”we exist to make players great”.    We quickly learned which elements of the brand were sacred (i.e. the oval within the logo) and which elements could cease to be used (i.e. TPX & TPS sub-brands) in service to the ultimate goal of rebuilding relevance with today’s players.

Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time.  What have been your top priorities in the last 12 months?
I joined a company and team that had not placed a significant focus and investment on marketing in past years.  My first 18 months in the role have really focused on building marketing fundamentals, clarifying strategies and helping to narrow these strategies on the most impactful activities.   The brand restage was job #1 and took energy from everyone in the organization, leading into market in April 2013.  Last fall, the full impact of capability building and the restage took center stage as the brand launched the first fully integrated marketing plan across retailers, grassroots, media and PR, supporting the 2014 product line launch.

Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?
Going from Procter & Gamble to Hillerich & Bradsby, Co. has come with a learning curve for sure.  Overnight, the structure, funding, scale and capability of P&G went away.  In its place, a new set of circumstances took its place.  While the reduced scale and funding are certainly challenges, the autonomy, flexibility and focus are refreshing.  This biggest positive surprise was in the restage.  We were able to pull off the biggest change in the history of a 129 year old brand, supported fully by a new campaign, and do so in less than 12 months; an incredible achievement by the full organization.  On the flip side, we have made a choice or two that I anticipated would work better.   One example was email marketing with top young players.   Through our grassroots relationships, we thought access to databases of thousands of young players would allow great scalability in communication but we learned quickly that this generation of player was not receptive to email marketing campaigns and we had to quickly shift to more one-on-one communication.

Drew: You operate in a relationship-based business. How do you improve loyalty among your customers?
Quite simply…show them you’re listening.  We are working more and more with young athletes and reaching them in more channels.  Each time, this gives us an opportunity to cede some control for where the brand is going and give them a say.  When we show them we’ve heard them by baking their ideas into our brand, loyalty comes with it.  This will be a bigger focus for us going forward.

Drew: One of the big challenges a CMO faces is organizational given all the different marketing channels.  How are you addressing these organizational challenges?
We’ve taken a long look at our marketing organization and how the roles are split, leading to an evolution in the team and the responsibilities.  We increased our staffing by nearly 40%, better clarified tasks (especially things like social media) and worked to provide the right training and the right time to help folks succeed.  Our industry has some natural segmentation and we’ve addressed that within the organization but then, on top, gotten people into new roles that allow for future focus areas, like social media, graphic design and retailer marketing.

Drew: Innovation is a sexy word but not as sexy to a CEO as ROI.  Have you been able to link your innovative marketing activities to the kinds of business metrics favored by CEOs?
The other big surprise, going from CPG to sporting goods, is the relative lack of timely, in-market data.  At P&G, ROI could be broken down to every element of the marketing plan and was available within 2-3 months of execution.   In my new life, shares cover only a portion of the market and often trail my more than 12 months.  We’ve sought to offset some of these challenges by trying to triangulate around some of our biggest spending areas, including working closely with our field sales reps to help provide insight into what is happening at the store level and how that is being influenced by our marketing efforts.  We have also shifted dollars into more digital programs (SEO, social) that allow us to better connect those activities with conversion data to aid judgment and future planning.   Transparently, we’re not there yet, but we’re attempting to add new tools each quarter.

Drew: Marketing seems to be getting increasingly complex in terms of ways to spend and ways to monitor. Has it gotten more complex for you and if so, how are you dealing with that complexity?
My change from P&G to H&B has come with a good balance of increased and decreased complexity.   The significantly smaller budgets led to a reduction of touchpoints (i.e. TV not possible) but the introduction of a robust grassroots focus comes with new challenges and decisions.  So far as grassroots are concerned, we are a part of nearly 400 individual events but limit this complexity by working with partners in this space that work closely with our team to preplan, execute and track.

Drew: How are you integrating social media into marketing efforts at Hillerich & Bradsby? Have social platforms proved to be a valuable channel for your brands?
Social media was not part of the marketing focus 18 months ago but has become one of our top two marketing priorities, including our #1 media investment.   In that period of time, we have increased our social following by more than 30X to nearly 500,000 fans across channels.   With our limited media budget, we’ve used the majority of that spending in SEO and in driving increased engagement in social media.   We now have an incredible audience and, in a sport where something newsworthy happens every day, we have a treasure chest of content and the highest engagement rate of any brand in the industry.

Drew: Do you agree with that notion “that marketing is everything and everything is marketing”  if so how have you extended the boundaries of your job beyond the normal purview of the CMO?  Asked differently, as CMO, have you been able to address the entire customer experience?  
I completely agree with the sentiment.  Anywhere and everywhere someone comes in contact with the brand should reinforce the brand purpose, the identity and should help get someone closer to demonstrating their allegiance.    Beyond the marketing department, we’ve worked very closely with all other functions.   The two where the most energy has been spent are with Sales and the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.   With Sales, we now have strategic marketing discussions with each retailer and have increased our priority here by creating the new position of Director of Retail Marketing.   In the Museum & Factory, we have a built-in competitive advantage.  With over 270,000 guests per year, this provides us with an opportunity to tell the history of the brand and provide a sense of the sport and where the brand is going next.  With consumers from 8 to 80 “in house” every day, we’ve worked closely with the Museum staff to ensure the customer experience is complementary and additive to everything else we do.

Q + A on Leadership w Stephanie Anderson, CMO, Time Warner Cable Business Class

05/28/14

stephanie anderson

Sorry Kermit the Frog, if you think its hard being green–try being a CMO. The demands are relentless, the barriers to success are often as large inside the company pond as they are out of it and the timeframe for delivering meaningful results are a de minimis hop or two away. So finding a CMO who knows how to not just survive but thrive under these conditions is worth celebrating — which is exactly what The CMO Club did when they recognized Stephanie Anderson with their President’s Circle Award late last year.

During her tenure as CMO of Time Warner Cable Business Class, among other accomplishments Anderson reorganized her group, established a Customer Experience and Knowledge (CEK) team and most recently led the launch of PerkZone, a multi-dimensional customer loyalty program.  (Proud disclosure: TWCBC is a Renegade client and is part of the team that created and manage PerkZone!)  Here is my interview with Anderson conducted around the time of The CMO Awards.

Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time.  What have been your top priorities in the last 12 months?
I think when you are in any leadership role you need to spend the right proportion of time with key stakeholders and constituents to get the job done in a collaborative way, without being too far into the details or overshadowing your people.  I use my boss’s rule: 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.  A third of my time is spent with my peer group and up, making sure they all understand the strategy, focus, and priorities for Marketing, Advertising and Offers and 1/3 is spent with my direct reports (3 GVPs and 2 VPs) helping them with priorities and any people/budget issues, and 1/3 out in the market, with customers, suppliers, vendors, events, continuing education, etc.

Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?
Not any big surprises about what has worked.  But, one that continues to baffle me is that I have had challenges drawing a straight line conclusion that direct mail influences the web or overall leads, even though we have used purls, phone numbers, vanity urls – but over time, without the DM in our industry you start to see a reduction in overall sales related calls.

Drew: Big data is a big part of the CMO conversation these days.  How are you tackling big data?
This is a tough one.  We are revamping our database as we speak to not just be more encompassing, but really more searchable and friendly.  The data is useless without the ability to pull together the storyline and make decisions based on what you find out.  That is the challenge.

Drew: Innovation is a sexy word but not as sexy to a CEO as ROI.  Have you been able to link your innovative marketing activities to the kinds of business metrics favored by CEOs?
Yes, and more importantly in my case our CFO (who has the office next to mine!).  I, myself, actually drive us harder than the CFO because I want us to always be spending on relevant, revenue impacting marketing initiatives.  I think the easiest and most enjoyable is SEM.  The toughest is loyalty and brand – but we do prove the link to revenue or reduced churn or improved consideration in everything we do.

Drew: Marketing seems to be getting increasingly complex in terms of ways to spend and ways to monitor. Has it gotten more complex for you and if so, how are you dealing with that complexity?
More sophisticated, not necessarily more complex.  The depth of knowledge you can glean from online activity to inform offline is sophisticated, and extremely useful.  We have one marketing team that has all digital and mass for that reason – because of the relationship between on and off line.  Also, while the analytics can seem daunting, the end results generally help you make better decisions overall, so now you may spend a bit more of your budget tracking, learning and understanding and less on the actual tactics because you’ve mastered and fine-tuned them.

Drew: How do you stay close to your customers when you operate in so many markets and have so many different types of business customers?  
Not so well on the low end, but we are changing that.  We serve very small, small, medium and large enterprises.  It’s easy when you are dealing with a national customer to be responsive, available, etc.  but in the mass world of transactional, very small and small, it becomes harder and pretty soon your relationship is boiled down to email and a monthly bill.  We do have newsletters, are building a value–added benefits program for small business and try to send them information that can help their business grow and/or stay healthy.  It’s getting better as we use campaign and life cycle management tools, but there’s always room for improvement.  Our job is collecting and keeping customers.

Drew: One of the big challenges a CMO faces is organizational, given all the different marketing channels.  How are you addressing these organizational challenges? 
I am going for Best in Class in this area.  I recently implemented what I call an “outside in” structure that takes the customers and competitors in the segments we serve into consideration.  So I have a lead GVP of Small, a lead GVP of mid-market and Channels, and a GVP of Enterprise and Carrier business.  They run the marketing end-to-end for their segment including offers, competitive, life cycle strategy and then I have two functional teams that are shared resources – one is mass & digital and the other is customer experience and knowledge for all of the database and research/retention etc.

It’s a new design, but I believe any structure that puts the customers/prospects at the core of it should work out!

Drew: Content marketing is a hot topic at the moment. Are you increasing your investment in this area?
Content marketing is hot – but not new.  Being in technology, that is the way we work – be relevant, educate and then solve.  I would say yes, we are increasing our investment here but not because we are following a content trend, but because our own thought leadership and solutions have advanced and we need to be able to tell our stories quickly and with the prospect or customer in mind.

Drew: As CMO, have you been able to address the entire customer experience?   
Yes, I actually have a Customer Experience and Knowledge (CEK) team.  We work very closely to survey and research what customers/prospects want, pilot the findings in market and then implement across the company, working especially close with our care organization and field operations.  We all own the interactions as employees of TWC, but my team has the ultimate accountability to make sure we capture and harness the best experience possible and deploy that across our business.

Social Media Innovation + GRAMMYs CMO, Evan Greene

04/21/14

evan greene

As CMO of the Grammys (officially titled National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences),  it would seem that Evan Greene doesn’t have to go out on a limb to create engaging content. Most fans are already engaged, eagerly awaiting the next photo or tweet about their favorite music artist. But he and his team maintain that the biggest contributor to their success is their dedication to listening to those fans and joining them in dialogue, which is not quite as easy as it sounds.

To dig into this more, I had the pleasure of moderating a breakout discussion with Evan at The CMO Club Inspiration &  Innovation Summit in New York City last month.  It was a lively conversation with about 40 other CMOs covering a wide range of social media challenges, many of which Evan and I addressed on the spot (and rather pithily I might add!).  Since I am not a great notetaker, I recorded Evan’s responses, which are transcribed below for your reading pleasure. Given the GRAMMYs extraordinary success overall (ratings were 2nd highest in 21 years) and on social (13.8 million tweets during the show generated 862 million impressions), you’ll want to read on…

Could you talk a little bit about your planning process?
Our campaigns need to engage people and if they don’t, then social media is not going to help and we usually abandon it. It’s really for us about having a very respectful, two-way dialog that we think is engaging on a daily basis. We don’t come from the standpoint that we’re the authority, that we’re the expert, that you should listen to what we say, that we want to tell you what to listen to, who to follow, how to dress, what to do. We simply want to be where music is happening. We want to be a credible voice in music.

And the thing that we’ve discovered, the sort of the universal truth that we’ve hit upon over the last couple of years, is that people generally are looking for two things. They’re looking for discovery and they’re looking for community. And if we can enable the idea of discovery and empower the concept of sharability, then we are, by default, going to be leading to a greater, more robust community.

Can you share some of the innovative things that you’ve done in the last couple of years?
Innovation really is simply how do you add more to the conversation to make it more interesting on a daily basis? So some of the things that we did this year were simple, but engaging. For example, we’ve now live gif-ed our nominations show and the Grammy awards telecast. So we’re now creating gifs in real-time.

We also expanded the size, the scale, and the scope of what we call our social media command center onsite at the Staples Center during the show where we have more bloggers from more diverse areas from more diverse music genres and we try to get more people to tell our story for us. Because it’s one thing if the GRAMMYs talk to you about it and tell you about it. It’s another thing if people that you know and like and respect and trust are telling you about it.

How does content marketing fit into this discussion?
For The GRAMMYs, it’s all about content. Granted, we’re a non-for-profit trade organization, so we don’t have the budgets that you probably think we do. But we’ve made a pretty sizable investment in our content infrastructure because we want and need to be creating a lot of content. For example, we want to be creating engaging, short, episodic video pieces that are easily digestible and easily shareable.

In a lot of ways we’re fortunate because music overlaps and enhances so many different areas. A good example is the intersection between music and sports. So six years ago, at the Beijing Olympics, the biggest story was what’s on Michael Phelps’ iPod as he’s going in to compete for 8 Gold medals.

So we thought, since there’s always been that overlap between music and sports, we created a content program called Champion’s Playlist where we talk to professional athletes and say, “What’s on your iPod? What do you listen to to train, to get motivated before the big game, before the championship?” And this starts to become a shareable experience where you can now overlay what your playlist is with your friends’, you can see how some of these famous athletes, how their playlists overlap with your own. This gives us the opportunity to create a leaderboard, et cetera.

So you’ve done all this stuff. How do you measure it and do you try to differentiate social metrics from your broader metrics?
The easy answer is what are your ratings and how much money are you generating. Well, I look at it another way.  I see all of that as a consequence of everything else that we’re doing right on the front end. If we spend a whole lot of time on the front end, being really true to and respectful of our brand, and really making sure that we do the work to fill the pipeline, and if we create that conversation, if we create that relationship with music fans everywhere, then we’re going to be rewarded by people watching the show, we’re going to be rewarded by 99 percent positive sentiment. We’re going to be rewarded by the fact that our marketing partners are more engaged and happier than they’ve ever been before. Our revenue is going to increase. I think if we focus on the revenue and we focus on the ratings as the objective, it skews the narrative and it skews the story.

It used to be how many Facebook friends you had, right? And then it was, what’s the sentiment? But now the questions are getting a lot more detailed and a lot more sophisticated. And so that’s why listening is changing all the time. That’s why you need people who have access to the full Twitter fire hose. You need people who are doing more than just sort of skimming the surface with Google analytics.

We spent a lot of time talking about listening as a customer service channel and I think everybody recognizes that as a doable thing in social. I’m curious if any of you are listening for customer acquisition opportunities and if you’ve been able to systematize that and talk about that.
It is about credibility, and gaining the trust of your customers. You need to be where your customers are, and not necessarily only your own Web-site, and seek to create evangelists. So if your business is photography sales, you go to a photography forum where people are talking about a new camera. So, from a social media standpoint, don’t try to sell people with a link to your website and a price. Rather than talk about this new camera, utilize the buzz that is already happening organically, and re-tweet or re-post other credible voices in your community. Trust and credibility are powerful tools toward acquisition.

Well, you also brought up an interesting point which is sort of empowering employees to be social voices for the company as opposed to trying to control the conversation centrally.  Can you explain the advantages of this decentralized approach?
The key is, I think there’s so many divergent conversations happening all the time about all our respective businesses and the key is how do you channel those conversations. How do you channel all those disparate conversations into a cohesive dialogue? And I don’t know that there’s one answer to do that but one of the things that we did is we created what we call our Social Media Bible which has all of our correct URLs. It has all of our proper hashtags, all of our handles.

We distribute that to all media, and all of our friends, fans, and followers. We distribute it to artists and managers, labels, anybody that can possibly be having a music conversation. Now whether or not they’ll follow it is another story. But when everybody’s got the same consistent inputs and the same data, the results are usually stronger than they would have been otherwise.

Do you have any ideas as to how one can track word-of-mouth marketing and be able to then put some type of ROI to it?
I think one of the biggest fallacies and one of the biggest misnomers about social media is that it’s free and easy. And I think right now, the next big step is figuring out how you can track word-of-mouth marketing and be able to put an ROI on it.

How do you measure measurement analytics? What’s the value of having a bunch of Facebook friends? Is it the aggregation of tonnage? Is it who’s passing it along? All of that is being parsed right now and I don’t think anybody’s got the answer but there are some companies that are getting a lot smarter about it.

How do you approach social media innovation?
We try a lot of different things and the down side of trying a lot of things is that you fail sometimes. But every once in a while, you get it really right. And if nothing else, we’re always learning. Sometimes we make the right move, sometimes we don’t but we’re always in there. And frankly, the deeper you are into social media, the more you hear about trends first. So you can sort of pivot down the river and play around over here and see if it works and if it does, great! If it doesn’t, you just come back to where you were.

Q + A w John DeVincent, Award-Winning CMO of eMoney Advisors

03/27/14

John DeVincentFaced with big-budget competitors boasting award winning advertising, John DeVincent, CMO of eMoney Advisors, needed to find a fresh way to stand out. For DeVincent, this meant focusing his attention on eMoney Advisors’ rare, personal approach in a business that is increasingly self-served. DeVincent’s marketing tactics revolve around excellent customer service and include openness to changes in marketing trends. At the end of the day, his efforts make eMoney more visible in the financial services industry, introducing trusted advisors to a solution that helps them build and strengthen client relationships.

Note: DeVincent won the CMO Club President’s Circle Award late last year.  According to The CMO Club founder Pete Krainik, this award is based on “a marketing executive’s demonstrated delivery in supporting the DNA of The CMO Club for building relationships with peers in the club, sharing and helping others, and referring other CMOs to join the world’s best CMO conversations.”  

Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time.  What have been your top priorities in the last couple of years?
My focus has been around product innovation – the messaging and positioning of new products. eMoney Advisor operates within the B2B space and our focus has been on presenting software products to financial advisors who are looking for innovative and all-encompassing wealth planning solutions for their clients. Ultimately we’re looking to position ourselves as advocates for financial advisors in the marketplace.

Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?
There haven’t been any huge surprises. We’ve been working on new 90-second video elements that have shown success so far. Online advertising doesn’t work quite as well (though we don’t focus as much of our efforts here). Additionally, we’re beginning to expand our digital presence to offer constant flow of timely and relevant content to our audience. This industry experiences frequent market changes, which calls for us to shift our priorities. Regardless of this unpredictability, we do a fantastic job of creating content to accommodate these changes.

Drew:  You have some noisy competitors like eTrade and Fidelity.  How have you been able to get your message across without being drowned out by talking babies and endless green lines?
eMoney is a smaller firm. We can’t compete with the advertising budgets of our big competitors like eTrade and Fidelity. Instead, we created a campaign to position our user-base as “trusted advisors” and encourage them to leverage our product as a tool to further strengthen the advisor-client relationship. It can be challenging because of eTrade and Fidelity’s award-winning advertising, but when clients need comprehensive financial advice, they look for a trusted advisor, not an automated system. We advocate for the human advisors – the ones who provide a personal touch.

Drew: Marketing seems to be getting increasingly complex in terms of ways to spend and ways to monitor. Has it gotten more complex for you and if so, how are you dealing with that complexity?
As marketers, we wear several hats.  At eMoney, we manage a blog, create video vignettes, maintain a social media presence and employ traditional advertising. Again, how you shift that focus is dictated by the market itself. With that in mind, it is extremely important for us to work collaboratively to align the 12-15 tasks assigned at any given time.  We make sure we communicate among ourselves to develop our campaigns that reach all channels based on what’s currently relevant in the industry.

Drew: Have you been able to link your innovative marketing activities to the kinds of business metrics favored by CEOs?
We have a number of analytics coming back from these 12-15 projects on any given day. What we do is take the key metrics from each campaign initiative and tie it to an ROI for our CEO. Edmond has come to rely on these metrics as a starting point to strategize for future initiatives.

Drew: How do you stay close to your customers when the relationship is primarily online?  
We’ve realigned ourselves to become a regional company. Our sales team attempts to get as many face-to-face meetings with prospective clients as possible. We also have an advisory board that we meet with twice a year. Our retention team monitors whether or not our clients (advisors and their staff) are actually logging in and using the software. If we find out that they are not, we reach out and offer educational resources, software training, etc. Additionally, we provide classroom training sessions. We are really focused on this because, to us, getting in front of customers to facilitate the natural interactions that we have as human beings is imperative to a lasting advisor/client relationship.

Drew: A lot of financial services firms have tip-toed into social.  Do you see social as viable channel for your business and if so, in what capacity?  
The financial services industry has been very slow to adopt social because of the regulation and compliance gray areas associated with it. FINRA has been very slow in defining how social media initiatives should be handled in our industry. There is a fine line between what is considered advice and what isn’t. Recently, we’ve seen more advisors embracing the tool as an arena to show thought leadership, reach existing clients and find prospects.  However, LinkedIn is currently our biggest social platform. We are using it heavily as a recruiting platform. Highly educated, high-income prospective clients are on LinkedIn and that’s who we see our advisors going after.  However, we’ve recently ramped up our efforts around Twitter and Facebook.  By leveraging these channels, we can participate in current industry conversations, connect with thought leaders and show the depth of our own knowledge.

Drew: What are you doing in the content marketing area?
We have a corporate blog and a user-focused knowledge community blog called Ask eMoney. On this blog, we’ve included eMoney-focused content, as well as general industry best practices. The content is incredibly rich to the point that I’ve hired people whose sole responsibility is managing the blog. We’re also increasing efforts to identify people who are knowledgeable in the industry as content contributors. We’ve found that good content is incredibly sticky – people become more interested in your site and, therefore, your product.

Drew: Do you agree with the notion that “marketing is everything and everything is marketing” and if so how have you extended the boundaries of your job beyond the normal purview of the CMO?   
I do agree with the notion that the CMO’s job extends to supporting the entire customer experience. In my mind, during every customer interaction, you either win or lose share. It’s either positive or negative. That includes everything from a phone call and training, to customer support and interacting with sales people; you want to make the process easy for your customers. You want to be the company that people want to do business with. It’s important to stay relevant and stir emotion. Make people feel good. If you face obstacles, you must make sure you overcome them with style and go above and beyond to problem-solve. Being a small company, this has been a relatively easy philosophy to adopt. The customer experience is a big priority for our CEO. We focus heavily on best practices and proper training for our team — embracing that philosophy as a company. You have to consistently go above and beyond to create an excellent customer experience.

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