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Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Web Marketing | 2 Comments

As trust in companies continues to decline, and the needs of consumers and employees increasingly evolve, many innovative organizations are now turning to purpose as a means to bolster their growth and outmaneuver the competition.

While these innovators aren’t the only ones that understand the power of a shared purpose, the vast majority of companies have yet to effectively integrate it across their organization. According to Harvard Business Review’s The Business Case for Purpose, while 84% of executives believe an organization that has shared purpose will be more successful in transformation efforts, and 81% believe purpose-driven firms deliver higher-quality products and services, only 37% of executives believe that their own business model and operations are aligned with their company’s purpose

Only 37% of executives believe that their own business model and operations are aligned with their company’s purpose. Harvard Business Review

The successful integration and implementation of purpose, both inside and outside your organization, is directly related to your company’s ability to grow and compete in the digital age. And despite the increasing popularity of the business purpose concept, many companies are getting it wrong.

Purpose is not a veneer

Your company’s purpose is not only what you’re here to do (beyond making money), but the reason people — both customers and employees — connect with and believe in your organization. Purpose goes way beyond what your company sells or solves; it’s about who your company is.

73% of people care about the company, not just the product, when making a purchase. BBMG

Purpose does not mean making a charitable contribution from sales and it isn’t necessarily comprised of altruistic, environmental, or social do-goodery, but it does need to be authentic. It’s the foundation for building a company that people want to work for and do business with.

The way purpose shows itself inside your organization is inextricably linked to how you’re perceived on the outside, affecting everything from the happiness, engagement and retention of employees, to word of mouth, loyalty, advocacy, and even customer acquisition and retention.

85% of purpose-led companies showed positive growth of at least 10% annually.  Harvard Business Review

Your organization needs to do a stellar job of communicating your purpose to the outside world. But because consumers now easily see through marketing, no matter how strategic and clear the message is, purpose cannot be faked. Purpose is not a veneer.

72% of global consumers would recommend a company with a purpose. EY

Externally, purpose is most easily communicated through your marketing content, but it’s more deeply felt by the consumer through your approach to sales and customer experience. In other words, regardless of what your company “says,” how your company and its employees interact with the outside world—your customers and your community— can be the dividing line between success and failure for an entire company. Especially when things fall apart.

Take Chipotle for example.

In a nutshell, the company’s purpose is food with integrity. Not just sourcing, preparing, and serving whole food, but disrupting the fast food industry and how it typically operates.

And although their advertising is very clever and human and full of personality, when you dive deeper into their organization, you realize that their purpose isn’t just something they serve up on the surface in their marketing, it’s something that comes from the core of their organization’s soul. It’s in their DNA.

Purpose, not product-focused

Chipotle’s marketing isn’t just about burritos and the stuff they sell. Videos like Scarecrow and Back to the Start took a stand back in 2013 against how the fast food industry typically operates and sources its food. Chipotle holds free festivals each year like Cultivate where people gather in their local communities to celebrate good food, music, and connect with each other over ideas and values.

Chipotle has sponsored a Food for Thought column on the Huffington Post to build awareness and hold the conversation about how food is grown and the effects this system has on our world. They’ve invested in programs and better ways of working that encourage their employees to self-manage, which in turn empowers them to be better leaders.

For Chipotle, these efforts aren’t just marketing campaigns; they’re exhibitions of their purpose. This is how they’ve operated from the start. And even though their struggle right now with food safety issues is real and threatening the durability of the company, they’re working relentlessly to get back to their purpose and live their promise. Not only testing new ways of preparing their food to be safe and full of the integrity they promise, but also pioneering food safety systems for the rest of the fast food industry to learn from.

Chipotle is a shining example of how to communicate your purpose to the outside world through sales and marketing, through every single touchpoint, because they are purpose-driven through and through: leadership, strategy, operations, and employees.

Patagonia is an equally shining example of a company who effectively markets and sells from purpose. They use their business not just to make money but to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. Again, why they truly exist isn’t just apparent in their marketing, it’s not product-focused, and it’s not a PR facade.

Patagonia’s approach to sales and marketing has everything to do with externally communicating their purpose and this has taken many forms. Of late, a new revenue stream where Patagonia will offer store credit for used, recycle-worthy Patagonia clothing and, in turn, refurbish and re-sell the clothing online.

An additional reincarnation of their purpose to wreak less harm on the earth and encourage other corporations to do the same can be seen in Worn Wear —  a movement to encourage their customers to buy less stuff, and instead get more out of what they already have. All of these actions are a clear representation of why Patagonia exists as a company; it’s their true DNA. All of this meaty and meaningful content that also happens to be their marketing.

And although financially, Patagonia is thriving, they’ve had their share of actions that conflict with their purpose. Using materials in volume that have been proven to do more damage once released into public waterways than plastic grocery bags. Yet once they were informed of the problem, they ran tests to verify and researched new yarn and fabric construction that would alleviate the shedding that caused the environmental damage.

Similar to Chipotle, Patagonia shared their learnings with the apparel industry in order to partner and find a solution on an industry-wide scale, not just to save face. Their hope is that other companies will take advantage of the technology and processes they’re pioneering, effectively increasing impact and further utilizing their organization as a means to make progress towards their purpose.

Purpose is certainly not the only factor that contributes to a company’s success or failure. Product, culture, brand, strategy, leadership, and even convergence, competition, market pressure, and economic shifts all play a part in their fate. However, an expertly articulated and executed purpose will give your organization a fighting chance. Not just to more profit and bigger market share, but to better employees and customers who will advocate on your behalf, even when your company blows it.

Customers no longer believe what you say. They will, however, believe what you do as long as it’s also felt through the experiences you provide.

Purpose lies at the heart of your business model. It should drive your growth strategy, focus, culture, and your way of operating. When purpose starts there, your sales and marketing naturally becomes a meaningful conversation that truly engages the people you want in your customer base and together, through your company, you become a vehicle for greater change in our world.

Clarifying and applying purpose to your sales, marketing, and customer experience

One of the biggest fails with purpose inside organizations is implementation. Many companies invest the money to identify or clarify their purpose, but when it comes to living it in the day-to-day, communicating it through their actions, or how they market, sell, and connect with their customers, purpose gets lost along with its benefits. Much like a mission or values statement, it becomes nothing more than the words stenciled on a wall or penned in an employee manual — read once, if you’re lucky, at onboarding and then forgotten.

Your sales, marketing, and customer experience teams play the biggest role in living the purpose of your company because they are integral in communicating what’s on the inside to who’s on the outside. Consider taking these steps in your organization to effectively clarify and implement purpose for increased growth and competitive advantage:

1. Clarify the purpose of your organization
The first step in clarifying your company’s purpose is understanding what purpose isn’t. Your company’s purpose is not your vision, mission, or values. It is not your brand guidelines or PR strategy, a tagline or a trend. It’s not corporate responsibility. And most importantly, it’s not giving a bunch of money to charity (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not purpose).

Your purpose is aspirational and belief driven, much broader than your products or services, and lies at the heart of your business model. Ultimately, your purpose improves the lives of your customers and your employees.

Ideally you want to clarify your organization’s purpose by pairing a cultural tension — a problem in the world that your company is looking to address — with who you are at your best self (this is an Ogilvy and Mather’s tool that Arielle Jackson explains well here).

For Dove, their purpose is to help women feel good about their bodies, not just sell soap. This purpose is relevant, meaningful, and it’s the key to connection and what drove a $1.5 billion dollar increase in sales. So it’s really important your teams are clear about what purpose is or isn’t so that they can effectively use it to understand your customers and talk with them through their acquisition and retention strategies.

2. Deconstruct your customer’s journey by actually talking with your customers
Once you have clarity on the purpose of your organization, take a look at how that connects you to your customers. Work for a deeper understanding of your customer’s journey — not solely through analyzing sales funnel drop-off rates, demographic or psychographic audience data, but by participating in actual conversations with customers in real life. Make the effort to understand what they’re thinking and feeling at every stage.

When your sales, marketing, and customer experience teams can bridge the gap between the purpose of the company and how it aligns with your customer’s needs and removes their unique roadblocks you crack the code to earning a coveted connection that leads to word-of-mouth: amplification, advocacy, loyalty, activism.

3. Connect your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose
As a leader, there are two questions to be answered here: 1) What does the organization as whole exist to achieve? In other words, what is the purpose besides making money? 2) What role does your team play in achieving that purpose?

Your teams need to understand how their daily contributions matter to the overarching purpose of the company. Especially when they’re pushing hard on things that seem meaningless; understanding how purpose relates to strategy and their day-to-day can go a long way for efficiency, output, and morale. In short, meaning matters to your employees.

4. Adjust the communication of your purpose externally
Finally, in order to effectively communicate and connect with your customers, your sales, marketing, and customer experience teams especially need to understand that the conversation is not just about your product, but also about your purpose. They need to be perceptive, strategic, and creative in how, where, and when that conversation takes place.

A well articulated and implemented purpose gives your marketing team a more focused approach to creative ideation, execution, and outreach. Often brand guidelines and historical data isn’t enough fodder for brilliant campaigns and relevant content. If you take Dove for example, there are thousands of ways to talk about the importance of helping women feel better in their own skin, and only a handful of ways to talk about soap.

When your sales and marketing force changes the conversation from product to purpose, you open up the opportunity to connect with exponentially more people — organizations, influencers, media, communities — who either are or know your ideal customer. Not only that, but now your sales force is empowered because they’re no longer just pushing a product or service, they’re selling something much more meaningful.

Business purpose is a parallel path

In order to get your growth strategy right in the digital age, you can’t just tell people your organization operates from the purpose of your business. You have to prove you’re on a parallel path between what’s happening inside your company and what you’re exhibiting on the outside.

Internally, purpose should be part of your business model. It should come in the form of authentic leadership and from employees at all levels; not top-down management mandates. It should be at the center of decision-making for growth strategy and overall company direction. It needs to be the source of innovation because it is the key to differentiation and competitive advantage. Most importantly, when done right, purpose should be the backbone of your culture, effectively driving how your teams self-manage, collaborate, and work together on a day-to-day basis.

The truth is, customers no longer believe your marketing alone. In order to earn and keep your customers, you must know how to effectively exhibit and fight for your purpose through your actions and the experiences you provide. That’s what will create the conditions necessary to achieve sustainable growth.

Learn how we can evolve your organization:

 

Evolve or Die: How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-5-09-08-pmThis year, Mack had the honor of presenting Evolve or Die: How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands all over the world— from Boston, Massachusetts to Vancouver, Canada; from Dublin, Ireland to Raleigh, North Carolina. What follows are the highlights of her talk that explores how companies need to evolve their marketing and what’s required to build a successful and durable brand in the digital age.


Imagine your company is competing in a fairly saturated and competitive industry like fast food. You’ve been around for a little while but you’re really just getting started. You have something new and different and you’re ready to take the world by storm.

Taking on the world

Now imagine that you’re up against companies like McDonald’s who spent $800 million on their advertising in 2013. Or Panera Bread who spent $55 million on their marketing efforts in that same year.

Imagine this is your competition and these are their marketing budgets. What would your marketing strategy be? How would your company contend?

How would your company compete?

Chipotle did. In 2013 they spent a fraction of what their competitors did — less than $10 million — on their advertising and marketing efforts and they had a much greater impact because they were doing things like this:

  • Creating videos like the Scarecrow that takes a stand and challenges how the fast food industry typically operates and sources its food.
  • Holding free festivals like Cultivate where people celebrate good food and music and connect with each other.
  • Sponsoring a “Food for Thought” column on the Huffington Post that is dedicated to creating awareness about how food is grown and the effects this system has on our world.
  • Investing in better ways of working that gives their employees more authority and empowers them to be better leaders.

All of these things that Chipotle has been doing aren’t just marketing campaigns. This is what they believe in as a company and this is authentically how they operate.

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And that is what has contributed to their durability and growth over the last decade.  From 2006 to 2015, Chipotle has grown revenue from $820 million to more than $4.5 billion.

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So how did Chipotle’s approach bring this much growth? And how can you learn from it to grow your business in the digital age?

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There’s no doubt that if you want to compete in the digital age, you must have a stellar product or service, and you have to provide a cross-channel experience that is unparalleled.

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Ultimately, these things must be baked into your DNA; this is the new status quo.

But competing today—for time, attention, and market share— is not about how much money you spend on your marketing.

not-about-spend

If you want to stand out from all the noise, you have to build from purpose and authenticity.

build-from-purpose-and-authenticity

And here’s why:

More than 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over the competition.
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In that same Cohn & Wolfe study, the #1 behavior that people expect of brands is the fact that they communicate openly and honestly about their products and services. They don’t let their customers down, and that they act with integrity at all times. Because people want to relate to you, they want trust you and know you’re going to do what you say.

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Additionally, a BBMG study shows that when people are trying to figure out who to buy from, 73% of people care about the company, not just the product when they’re making purchasing decisions.

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And when people care about your company, they tell their friends. And word of mouth is responsible for more than 50% of all purchasing decisions.

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The fact of the matter is, in this face-paced, digital world, if you want to earn and keep your customers, build a community of advocates who will support you and tell their friends about you, your approach to marketing must shift. It’s not just about how your company is packaged, it’s about who your company is.

If your company wants to experience growth in the digital age, your company, and your marketing, needs 3 very important things: 

  1. You need to clarify your purpose that so that you can effectively position around it and communicate it to your customers.
  2. You need to better understand your people so that you can remove their roadblocks.
  3. You need to use strategy and action to prove you’re worth your customers’ time and attention; showing them you are willing to keep your promise to them.

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Chances are, your company or the company you work for is in business because you want to make some money. You want to grow. So how will building an authentic brand help you do that?

Because authentic brands are built from purpose, and purpose is the key to their growth.

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Our world is changing so quickly, and that has changed how quickly businesses must react and it has also changed consumer behavior.

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Consumers know they have the upper hand. They know they have a choice. So the bar has been set a lot higher for companies. Consumers expect businesses to play a larger role in changing society.

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Not only that, but as far as employees go, people want meaning in their work and they want to work for better companies.

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Purpose is something that can help companies hurdle each of these challenges. It also helps them stay relevant in their customer’s lives.

In a Harvard Business Review study they found that companies with purpose make more money and have more involved employees, all because they’re operating from purpose.

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Purpose drives your products and services, the people you hire, your culture, and your marketing. Most importantly, it gives focus that drives the whole business. Once you have purpose and focus, you can develop a much more effective and powerful marketing strategy that will connect with the right customers. When you’re talking to the right people and removing their roadblocks, those customers want to become part of your community, tell their friends, and drive your growth.

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The first step in building an authentic brand is positioning your company around that purpose. One of the ways we do this is by using an exercise from Ogilvy & Mather’s called the Big Ideal.

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It can take some time to figure out your big ideal (we’ll use Dove as an example from Arielle Jackson’s work on First Round), but essentially it works like this: combine two things: your cultural tension—which is the problem in the world that you’re looking to address:

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with your brand’s best self—what your company actually does when you are at your best:

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Dove’s big ideal is that the world would be a better place if women were allowed to feel good about their bodies. This purpose drives the focus for everything they do. Their job is not just to sell soap; it’s to create products that help women feel good about their bodies.

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This purpose and focus then comes out loud and proud in everything they do in their marketing strategy. Dove has been running the real beauty campaign for over a decade now and it’s still resonating and relevant because it’s coming from their purpose.

And from 2004 to 2014, Dove saw a $1.5 billion dollar jump in sales as a result of focusing on purpose to drive their business.

Because Dove’s purpose is so clear, it’s easy for them to resonate with the people who align with it. This isn’t a marketing ploy. They eat, live, and breathe this throughout their organization. Just like Chipotle does.

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Often times companies will disregard an authentic, purpose-driven approach to building their company and brand because they think it is only applicable to environmentally or socially responsible companies like Patagonia or Tom’s Shoes.

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A purpose-driven approach is not a social cause thing. It’s not a non-profit thing. It’s not a B2B or a B2C thing. It’s a people connecting with people thing. It’s focusing on the right things that will help you build a company that people care about, want to work for, and do business with. That’s what brings growth in the digital age.

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When you’re building an authentic brand, how do people fit into the equation? Every day it seems that there’s some new marketing tactic to try; a new piece of technology that will magically help you earn customers faster. But technology will not earn customers. Having a great product, building a great company, being authentic, and doing the work to find and connect with your people will.

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The biggest thing to remember about growth and building a community is that you’re not looking for everyone. You’re looking for the right people who connect with your purpose. And this takes time because you’re not just looking for numbers. You’re building a community of customers who will become loyal advocates who want to tell their friends.

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If you want to build your community and make a connection with your customers, your job is not to focus solely on selling your product. Your job is to figure out how to bridge the gap between the purpose of your company and the people who want to be a part of it. Let’s look at an example.

Traveling Vineyard

We have worked for a company called Traveling Vineyard for the past three years. They’re a direct sales company. They have several thousand people, or Wine Guides as they call them, who are mostly women, who sell wine for them.

before-purpose

Before we met Traveling Vineyard, that’s exactly what they were doing. Selling wine. And they were struggling to connect with their people.

We worked with Traveling Vineyard to discover they actually don’t exist to sell wine. Their purpose is to change lives by providing fulfilling (and flexible) work. This purpose has been driving the growth of their business. One by one, we have been looking for the people and organizations who align with this purpose and who are a match for their community and customer base. Clarifying, operating, and marketing from their purpose has helped them build a deeper connection with their customers and has brought a tremendous amount of growth to their company.

In the very beginning of our work with Traveling Vineyard, we began by identifying an audience that appeared to be 3 different types of moms: a stay-at-home-mom who loves her family but could use a little extra income without a lot of commitment. An empty-nester who’s looking for something new to consume her life now that her kids are gone. And an achiever; someone who is tired of just being a mom and wants something that’s just for her.

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But when we were building their persona, we didn’t just stop here by identifying these stereotypes.

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We wanted to make sure we were talking to the right people, so we took the step of matching these persona to real, actual people.

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Once we mapped the characteristics of the stereotypes to REAL people in their community, we honored them as ambassadors. This allowed us to build better relationships with their existing community and leverage that community to find more people outside of their community who are like them.

connect-by-identifying-challenges-and-goals

One of the first steps we take when we’re building these relationships is to create a Customer Journey Map (adapted from an exercise from Adaptive Path) that helps us understand these women’s desires, roadblocks, and fears that keep them from converting to wine guides.

We then deconstruct this journey by starting with one persona or audience segment. Like Kirby, who represents nearly 60% of their customer base.

persona-segment
Through many surveys, group meetings, and 1:1 interviews, we’ve identified Kirby’s biggest challenges and goals.
biggest-challenges

goals

Once we knew Kirby’s greatest challenge and most important goals, we could break down what she is thinking, feeling, and doing at each stage in her journey in the lifecycle of becoming a Wine Guide for Traveling Vineyard.

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When we analyze what customers like Kirby are thinking, we look at the common questions that are holding them back. Stuff like: Is the company legit? Will I make money doing this? Do I have to be a wine expert?

Then we move onto how they may be feeling in each stage of their journey. These are the emotions that they are having that could also pose potential roadblocks like if they’re nervous about trusting the company, anxious to tell their friends they may do this, or even just excited to get started.

And then lastly, in the doing stage, we analyze their actions; the actions that the potential wine guides may take before they convert. Things like investigating other companies, talking to their friends and family, and watching videos or reading content on the website.

And even though Kirby won’t be thinking/feeling/and doing these things in a linear fashion, deconstructing her customer journey this way helps us understand what her overall experience must be likecustomer-journey

Now once we understood all of these things about Kirby, we can address all of her thoughts/concerns/fears/challenges through a content strategy that helps reach goals for the company.

content-strategy-to-remove-roadblocks

Let’s say we’re breaking down the CONSIDER phase in the funnel and identify roadblocks for potential Wine Guides who have been comparing Traveling Vineyard with other direct selling job opportunities.

So for example, let’s say we wanted to address Kirby’s fear of whether Traveling Vineyard is a legitimate company:

thinking-stage

We created some content around the concern of pyramid schemes and how Traveling Vineyard isn’t one.

model-example

We asked their existing Wine Guides (who Kirby can relate to) in order to help us create content so that they could tell potential Wine Guides about how Traveling Vineyard’s business model actually works and isn’t a scam.

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We even asked direct selling experts to provide an unbiased view on direct selling to address this roadblock.

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Then we built content to address Kirby’s ‘feeling’ behaviors; being unsure that this job will add stress to her family:

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We interviewed Jonelle, an existing Wine Guide who someone like Kirby would resonate with, to talk about what a day in the life is like with Traveling Vineyard and how she balances it all.

day-in-the-life

In this video, Jonelle shows talks about her schedule and how she fits Traveling Vineyard into her family routine. Again, more real people (and user generated content) from the Traveling Vineyard community addressing these common roadblocks.

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Finally, we addressed Kirby’s ‘doing’ behaviors — the actions that someone like Kirby might want to take in order to become a Wine Guide.

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Each week, Traveling Vineyard provides a webinar which is an opportunity for potential Wine Guides like Kirby to better understand the business. It’s also a chance to ask questions about what it’s really like to work for Traveling Vineyard and learn that it is in fact possible to be a Wine Guide and keep your family in tact. 

weekly-webinar

Doing this work to understand Kirby (and the other persona segments) and give her what she needs throughout her customer journey with Traveling Vineyard has helped to increase lead form submissions (one of Traveling Vineyard’s key performance indicators) by more than 298%. This growth has contributed to a more than 40% revenue growth in the company (year-over-year).

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Clarifying your purpose, understanding your people, and removing roadblocks brings sustainable growth. This is an iterative cycle of getting to know your people, understanding them, figuring out what they need, and helping them solve their challenges.

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This doesn’t require any of your content to “go viral.” This is simply a slow build of trust that has brought tremendous growth to the company.

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Over the last year, Chipotle has been having a rough go of it. And for a brand that is supposed to be synonymous with “FOOD WITH INTEGRITY” being associated with words like Norovirus, E.coli, and Salmonella is pretty bad news. Even worse, when people are talking on social media about puking and pooping and going to the hospital because they’ve eaten your food, it is not so good for business.

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But in true authentic style, Chipotle has spent the last year reacting to this stuff from authenticity and purpose. So they’ve not only been telling their customers that they’ve blown it, but they’re doing what it takes to make it right.

Chipotle has been transparent about how the outbreaks most likely happened. They’ve taken apart their current food safety systems and put them back together. They’ve provided their customers with a plan for action to pioneer and become a leader in food safety. Chipotle wants to make sure that this not only doesn’t happen again in their restaurants, but also inspire other fast food restaurants to operate the same.

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But had Chipotle not built such trust with their customers over the last 10 years — if they hadn’t operated from their purpose from the inside, and not just in their marketing — something like this could have ruined them.

And that’s what’s kind of remarkable about Chipotle’s community is that their customers were willing to give them a second chance. Even as their stock prices fell and the media chewed them up, their customers were still with them.

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And even though Chipotle is projected to have a 65% earnings loss this year due to the outbreaks, next year in 2017, their earnings are projected to jump 125%. And even over the next many years, Chipotle is still projected to have a higher growth in earnings than McDonald’s and their big ol’ marketing budgets.

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So here’s the thing about living your promise and leading from purpose. It is a parallel path. Because the way purpose shows itself inside your organization is inextricably linked to how your company is perceived on the outside.

So here’s the thing about living your promise and leading from your purpose. It is a parallel path. Because the way purpose shows itself inside your organization is inextricably linked to how your company is perceived on the outside.

If your company wants sustainable, durable growth in the digital age, your company’s sales, marketing, and customer experience strategy must start with 4 simple steps.

The first step in living your promise and leading from purpose is clarifying the purpose of your organization.

Just like we talked about with Dove and Traveling Vineyard, look at the cultural tension you want to address in our world and combine that with your best self. This is what will make you relevant. It’s also the key to connection.

But it’s really important that you’re clear with your team about what purpose actually is and what it isn’t.

Purpose is aspirational and belief-driven. It’s way bigger than your what you sell or what you make. It’s fully integrated into your business model and it’s the long-game of how you’re going to improve your customers and your employees lives.

Purpose is NOT your vision, mission, or values statement. It’s not solely focused on internal activities. It’s not making a bunch of money so that you can give it away (that’s great, but that’s not purpose). It’s not your brand guidelines or PR. It’s not a tagline or a trend. Purpose is connection and your teams need to understand what purpose truly is so that they can use it effectively in their strategies.

The second step to living your promise is deconstructing your customer’s journey. Once you know your purpose, you’ve got to look at connecting with your customer.

Look at the journey of your customer and what they’re thinking/feeling/and doing at every stage. Remember, it’s not just assessing audience data, demographic data, or psychographic data; that data is plentiful but it doesn’t tell you about their fears, desires, or what’s truly on their minds.

The good stuff is when you participate in actual conversations with your customers in real life (not just through digital surveys but with 1:1 interviews) so that you can understand how to bridge the gap between the purpose of the company and the people who align with it. Your job is to understand and remove their roadblocks so that you can connect and be part of their lives.

The third part of living your promise is to connect your team’s purpose to the purpose of the organization. You can do this by asking 2 questions:

What does the organization that you work for exist to achieve as a whole? In addition to making money. In other words, what is the purpose of the entire company? And the second question, what role does your team play in achieving that purpose (other than to make money)? Your teams need to understand how their daily contributions matter to the overarching purpose of the company. Especially when they’re pushing hard on things that seem meaningless; understanding how purpose relates to their day-to-day can go a long way for efficiency, output, and morale.

And the fourth and final step to living your promise is to effectively communicate your purpose externally.

Especially in your sales, marketing, and customer experience teams, they need to understand that the conversation is not only about your product, it’s also about your purpose.

What that means is that rather than only focusing the conversation with your customers about your product (like Dove; when they were just selling soap)…

You can have a much more meaningful conversation about things that matter.

Like women feeling good about their bodies:

Like women working on their self-esteem:

Like having the body image conversation with young girls so that they learn to love their bodies from a young age, too:

The thing is, there are thousands of ways to talk about Dove’s purpose of helping women feel better about their bodies, but there’s only a handful of ways to talk about soap.

The same thing with Chipotle, there are thousands of ways to talk about food with integrity and its impact on our world, but there’s only a handful of ways to talk about a burritos. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about or advertise your product. What I am saying is when you change the conversation from product to purpose, you open up the opportunity to exponentially connect with more people.

Look at all of these organizations, people, media outlets, communities, influencers who are part of Dove’s purpose-conversation vs. the amount of people who want to talk about soap.

When you lead from purpose and live your promise, you have a competitive advantage.

In a Harvard Business Review study, 85% of purpose-led companies experienced positive growth of at least 10% annually.

An EY study shows that 72% of global consumers would recommend a company with a purpose.

Not only that, but keeping your employees is an significant factor in contributing to your profits. The employees at purpose-driven organizations are 3 times more likely to stay. 

And the time is now. Only 37% of executives believe that their own business model and operations are aligned with their company’s purpose.

It’s time for you to get ahead of the other 63%.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 4.36.04 PM

If you’re considering building an authentic, purpose-drive
brand, remember these things:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 4.36.14 PM

Building your company from purpose gives people something to connect to and believe in. Even more, building from purpose gives your business focus. Focus that will bring growth.

growth-is-understanding-people

If you want to earn the right customers who will support you and stand by you through the good and the bad, you’ve got to bust your ass, hustle and do the work to connect with people. The people who align with your purpose.

For better or worse, customers no longer believe your advertising alone. You must earn your customers by fighting for and exhibiting, your purpose through your actions and the experiences you provide.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 4.36.40 PM

When it comes down to it, building and marketing a company and brand in today’s world requires a different path than traditional marketing, advertising, and quick-fix tactical approaches. It’s not about how much money you spend on your marketing.

Technology is going to continue to change. Google is going to continue to change. We need to use technology effectively and also build brands that transcend this technology.

These are all very simple things. They just take time and iteration and focus. Many companies aren’t committed to doing the diligence of this work. They are doing the same things that every other company is doing. They are creating content for the sake of content. They are adding to the noise. 

If your company is ready to triumph over the next many years, it’s time to evaluate and evolve your approach to marketing.

Why Content Strategy Isn’t Enough

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | One Comment

Mack recently had the honor of speaking at SearchLove Boston 2016 where she presented on Why Content Strategy Isn’t Enough. What follows is a recap of her talk about how companies need to evolve their approach to marketing in order to survive in our ever-changing world.

Technology has changed our world

There’s no doubt that technological advances have made our world faster, smarter, and more connected. Where it took the phone companies 89 years to connect 150 million people, it took Facebook only 8 years to connect 8 billion.

technology-advancing

The problem is, even with all of the remarkable technology that we have, companies are failing to make authentic connections with their customers. Although our world, business, and consumer behavior has evolved, there is an approach to marketing that’s fundamentally broken and it’s not helping companies earn the relationships they need with their customers.

 

marketing-wrong

Competing on content and experience alone won’t do it anymore. Great brands and companies already have these things baked into their DNA.

stand-out

Being stellar at every touchpoint is the new status quo. And yet this, alone, is not enough for companies to weather the relentless evolution of technology, earn customers, and experience growth.

Earning customers and experiencing growth has to come from something bigger and deeper than content marketing or content strategy; it comes from building a company from purpose and earning the trust of your customers through authenticity.

Building an authentic brand is not a social cause thing. It’s not a non-profit thing. It’s not a B2B or a B2C thing. It’s a people connecting with people thing. And it’s about building a company that people care about and want to do business with.

In order for your company to succeed, you have to continually strive to build a better one. And from that, comes your marketing.

Over the next 5 years, authenticity will win

Every day it seems that there’s some new marketing tactic to try: a new piece of technology that will magically help you earn customers faster. But technology will not earn customers. If your company wants to make it through the next 5 years of content saturation, noise, and technological advances, you must build an authentic, human brand.

cohn-wolfe-study

Here are the facts:

  • More than 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over the competition.
  • That same Cohn & Wolfe study shows that the number one behavior that people expect of brands is open and honest communication about their products and services. The second behavior is that they don’t let their customers down, and the third behavior is that they act with integrity at all times.
  • A BBMG study shows that when people are trying to figure out who to buy from, 73% of people care about the company, not just the product, when they’re making purchasing decisions.
  • When people care about your company, they tell their friends. Word of mouth is responsible for more than 50% of all purchasing decisions.

In today’s face-paced, digital world, it’s not about how your company is packaged. It’s about who your company is.

not-about-packaging

about-who-you-are

How to evolve your marketing

How does your company evolve in this digital age so that you can experience sustainable growth?

Start from purpose

Building an authentic brand starts from purpose, and from purpose comes growth.

purpose-growth

Purpose is also what solves these common challenges in our world:

  • Businesses are challenged with unrelenting change. And because our world is changing so quickly, that has changed consumer behavior and how quickly businesses must react.
  • Consumers expect businesses to play a larger role in changing society. They know they have the upper hand. They know they have a choice. So the bar has been set a lot higher. Consumers want companies to do more than just make money.
  • Employees want more meaning in their work. And they want to work for better companies.

Purpose helps companies hurdle each of these problems and also helps them stay relevant in their customer’s lives. Even more, “purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees, and are better at innovation and transformational change.”

purpose-driven-company-benefits

Building an authentic brand comes from purpose and that purpose drives everything.

purpose-drives-everything

Purpose drives your products and services, the people you hire, your culture, your marketing. Most importantly, it gives focus that drives the whole business.

Once you have purpose and focus, you can develop a much more effective and powerful marketing strategy that will connect with the right customers. When you have a great product or offer great services, and you’ve done your diligence to learn about your customers and how they align with your purpose, those customers want to become part of your community and support your growth.

Positioning around your company’s purpose can be done through an exercise called the Big Ideal from Ogilvy & Mather.

the-big-ideal

Your Big Ideal is the soul of your company. It’s also your point of view on how the world should be. Identifying your company’s purpose comes from the combination of two things: your cultural tension—which is the problem in the world that you’re looking to address, and your brand’s best self—what your company actually does when you are at your best.

big-ideal

One of our clients, the Traveling Vineyard, addresses the cultural tension that people are looking for more meaning in their work and also in their lives.

cultural-tension

At their best self, Traveling Vineyard provides the resources and training necessary to build a successful career in direct sales.

best-self

Traveling Vineyard believes that the world would be a better place if people could change their lives with a fulfilling job. This is their Big Ideal.

world-is-better-place

Traveling Vineyard’s Big Ideal then drives their purpose. Traveling Vineyard exists as a company so that they can change lives by providing fulfilling work.

purpose

This purpose then powers Traveling Vineyard’s marketing strategy that is centered around the theme of living a richer, fuller life. Any content that is generated addresses the questions, concerns, thoughts, and feelings that their customers have at every stage in their journey with Traveling Vineyard.

content-strategy-theme

Build an ecosystem

Once your company has clearly identified its purpose, that will drive everything. Essentially, your marketing strategy will be born out of this ecosystem:

marketing-ecosystem

  • Identifying and understanding the people who align with your purpose so that you can talk to them
  • Developing the strategy that will help you use the right channels to reach that audience
  • Creating the right content that will connect with that audience, taking care to solve their problems
  • Getting that personal and customized content in front of the right people with customized outreach
  • Assessing data (and intuition) to determine whether what you’re doing throughout this cycle is bringing growth.
  • Finally, showing your purpose through action: having that stellar experience; having that stellar content; following through at every touchpoint and simply being human

Ultimately, your marketing strategy is only powerful when it’s connected to the purpose of your business as a whole. Your marketing efforts then become an iterative cycle of getting to know the right people, understanding them, figuring out what they need, and helping them solve their challenges. This is a slow build of trust. You must work to be authentic and personal in order to earn a community and grow your business.

personalization

Why isn’t content strategy enough?

There are two reasons that content strategy isn’t enough to build a sustainable company and brand:

durable-brands

 1) Content strategy alone won’t build a durable brand
If you want to earn the right customers who will support you, tell their friends about you, and stand by you in good and bad, you’ve got to do the work to connect with people. Yes, you need to create 10x content and provide a stellar experience across channels, but growth goes deeper than that. It’s not about how your company is packaged; it’s about who your company is.

brands-transcend-technology

2) We need to build brands that transcend technology
Remember that technology can’t build relationships with your customers. That’s what humans are for. Building an authentic brand will help you weather technology, the saturation of mediocre content, competition, and Google. So no matter what the trend is, or how the algorithm is changing, you will have built a brand so durable that people will talk about you, they will hear about you, and they will come looking for you.

time-to-evolve

It’s time to evolve our approach for durability and growth

Just like building a business, a purpose-driven and authentic approach to marketing is hard. It takes a lot of time and effort and care. Perhaps it’s time to assess whether what you’re doing now in your marketing is really working. Maybe you’re feeling stuck. Maybe you’re not getting results from what you’ve been doing for many years. Maybe your audience growth has plateaued. And maybe all the tactics you try don’t seem to get traction.

It’s time to do things a little differently. It’s time to build from purpose and build authentic, human relationships with customers.

How to Lead with Meaning in Your Marketing

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

– –

brian-solis

There are a whole lot of companies who have been changing the face of business, and our world, with a very simple approach: prioritizing meaning over money. Rather than just make a profit, they recognize they’re here to do something bigger. They want to use their businesses to be agents for change and to build durable, worthwhile companies that leave a mark on our world.

Often referred to as mission-driven, companies who value purpose over profit experience a number of advantages. Their employees are happier and more engaged; they stay longer and make bigger contributions. Mission-driven companies also have a better understanding of their value and how to use it to retain a strategic advantage over the competition. As a result, they attract much more passionate customers.

The biggest caveat to this concept is that it can’t be just for show. To reap these benefits and connect people to your brand, your company must genuinely communicate your meaning beyond money with an authenticity that comes directly from your core.

The trick is to lead with meaning while, at the same time, effectively marketing your product. The best way to do this is by completely intertwining them so that no one thinks of your product without considering your meaning, and no one ponders your meaning without connecting it to your product.

This can be accomplished in a few ways. Read More

Using Focus to Build Long-Term Momentum in Responsive Companies

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | 2 Comments

focus-mack-web

If you take all of the lessons we’ve learned over the last 11 years, add them up, and extract the most telling insight, the biggest realization is this: the clients who have been most successful are those who are willing to focus.

Focus is the ultimate challenge. We have a finite amount of time. How do you spend it on the right things that will grow your business?

Many of the companies we work with are Responsive or inherently become more Responsive as they work through our approach to marketing. Where traditional companies often allow their long-term planning and projections to drive the direction of the business (and their marketing), Responsive companies embrace the unpredictable and rapidly changing world we’re living in.

Responsive companies are a different kind of animal. They learn, respond, and advance. They utilize a more progressive method to build their businesses, one that is dedicated to constantly evolving and iterating — both their organizational structure and products or services. They also spend a lot of time investing and listening to their customers and their employees.

It’s definitely more work to be Responsive, but these companies are using their businesses to change our lives and leave their mark on our world.

Responsive companies run on operating systems that allow for agility. They move quickly and respond to unrelenting change with grace. They have different values and cultures and support flexible work environments that many companies envy.

Responsive companies hold themselves to a higher set of performance standards and expectations and actually achieve them. They work to communicate and collaborate. They honor transparency and community. Most importantly, they prioritize meaning ahead of money.

Responsive companies are remarkable and they build their organizations, and ultimately their brands, differently. And that requires a very different approach to marketing. Marketing that will provide focus so that goals are accomplished. Marketing that constantly evolves just as quickly as their company does, but without adding to the chaos.

If you want to be a Responsive company, you have to do it through and through, including your marketing. Every part of a Responsive company’s marketing should align with everything that makes the company Responsive. This requires a focus on two fundamental things:

[1] A Focus on Core
Especially as you grow, there must be a sustained focus on the core of the company and the stuff that makes you authentic.

[2] A Focus on an Adaptive Marketing Process
In order to accomplish company-wide brand and revenue goals, you need an adaptive process that lives and breathes within the company’s operating system.

Doing both of these things will keep you on target and add to the durability of your company. Even more, it will provide the focus and necessary momentum toward achieving the company’s long-term vision.

Here’s how it works.

A Focus On Core

As a Responsive company, your marketing is going to follow the same paradigm as your overall perspective: it focuses first and foremost on your core.

This, by far, is the most admirable characteristic of Responsive companies because at their core lives their higher purpose. Something truly authentic that propels the organization and transcends their desire to exist solely for the sake of profit.

Prioritizing meaning over money doesn’t mean your company has to lead an environmental cause, put shoes on people’s feet, or glasses on people’s faces. It can be as simple as encouraging young girls to develop an affinity for science or helping stay-at-home moms find more satisfaction in their lives by building a successful business.

Focusing on core and valuing meaning over money doesn’t mean you’re disregarding the importance of financial benchmarks. It means you’re investing in the long game. From the core meaning of the company you derive the marketing goals that are going to make you the company you want to be.

At the top are your Visionary goals, driving the 3-5 year bigger, hairier, audacious vision.  These goals are then broken down into approachable Business and Brand goals that share equal weight. In other words, the financial benchmarks you want your company to achieve are certainly important, but so are the Brand goals that will ensure you’re continually working toward realizing the company you really want to become.

Finally, Campaign goals are what initiate the necessary steps toward action and bringing everything to fruition (which I’ll explain more about in a just a bit).

Meaning Beyond Money | Mack Web

When a company has the courage to focus on their core and build an authentic brand from meaning, they have clarity about why they exist.  They’ve identified their heartbeat, the real thing that makes them go, and they choose to infuse that in everything they do. This is what drives their marketing and it’s also what makes their marketing go a little differently.

When a company operates from core meaning, marketing momentum starts at the source and naturally works its way out through integrated strategy. On the inside, the company is aligning all tactics and deliverables with their meaning, goals, and vision. On the outside, customers and community get to taste that authentic core first-hand, connecting them fully to the brand.

Just like building a Responsive company, marketing from your core is hard work as it is an ongoing challenge in self-awareness. Companies don’t have to be perfect, but they must be real, authentic, transparent, and above all, human.

When you can do that, people will genuinely respond to you. When you respond like a human who cares about something, you provide a better user experience. Your customers remember you. You stand out. They return. They tell their friends.

By focusing on core in your marketing,  people become your momentum. Before you know it, you have a community of loyal advocates and an inexplicable strategic advantage over the competition.

Over time, the organic velocity becomes unstoppable.

Improving, Not Just Promoting

In order for your marketing to align with everything that makes you Responsive, there must be a continual focus not only on defining your core purpose but on ensuring that everything you do — the marketing campaigns you execute; the user, customer, and employee experience you provide; the way you operate and communicate internally — aligns with the vision, mission, and goals that make up your brand’s foundation.

Ultimately, for marketing to bring momentum, there has to be a willingness to improve the business, not just promote it.

This requires continuous evaluation, improvement, and a willingness to be self-aware in the business. It’s doing what sometimes may be harder or take longer to experience ROI because that’s what’s best for your employees and for your customers. It’s putting an emphasis on important stuff like improving internal structure, team communication, fostering your internal culture, and investing in the personal growth of your employees as well as the external culture you have with your customers.

You must continually work on your company’s value and own what truly makes you different from your competition. The authentic vision that you’re driving toward needs to be revisited from time to time, not just put on auto-pilot. You’ve got to hold your entire company accountable for living your mission and values every single day. All of that stuff sounds great, but it takes a tremendous amount of dedication and work.

There’s an important marketing framework to developing your brand’s foundation, too, that improves the business and contributes to the success of your marketing. Persona must be developed and remain dynamic so that you’re attracting those customers who align with your approach, values, and over time will become loyal advocates. Communication loops must be built in and feedback applied so that customers and employees know you’re listening. Critical (yet simple) questions must be asked and answered so that resources can be developed for your audience and provided at every point in the lifecycle.

Investing in your core requires building meaningful relationships one by one. It’s seeing your goals through even when you don’t think you’re going to reach them.  It’s intentionally selecting priorities and spending time executing integrated strategies that strive for consistency and integrity across channels. These are all of your building blocks and they’re what place your responsive company on a solid foundation.

Momentum Comes From Building Blocks

No matter how long a company has been in business or what stage they’re in, momentum towards realized goals and fulfilled benchmarks comes from focusing on all of these core, foundational building blocks. Over time then, and through your marketing, you’re able to radiate your authenticity and the internal work you’ve been doing on your core, outward. This may seem fluffy, but in actuality, all of this work is what builds an ideal experience with your brand that you can actually measure.

Time spent on the brand’s foundation ensures that no matter how someone connects with your company — a referral from a friend, on social media or your website, clicking through on an ad, attending an event, speaking to customer service, or picking your product off the shelf in a big-box store — you present the same message, meeting and exceeding their expectations. You’re real, you’re human, you are the company you said you would be because of your investment on improving your business and in your core.

This level of commitment to core focus certainly requires a level of diligence and intention. It’s also something that can be managed with an adaptive process.

A Focus On an Adaptive Marketing Process

This authentic approach to marketing is a long, organic game. The inherent challenge with a Responsive company is that there are always so many opportunities along the way. So many shiny things that you want to embrace with enthusiasm as they provide another chance to iterate and try something new.

The problem is, this is also what perpetuates campaign-centric-shiny-thing marketing that makes it difficult to integrate across channels and teams, accomplish company-wide brand and revenue goals, and experience long-term progress. That’s why you need a process that helps you identify and focus on the right strategic priorities to stay the course,  but also gives you room to adapt.

It’s easy for Responsive companies to struggle with process because it can be difficult to implement and utilize one without feeling suffocated by it. Without allowing it to drive or sacrificing flexibility. Rather than stifle, process should provide guardrails for momentum.

Responsive companies may be drastically different from month-to-month. The challenge becomes making the commitment to slow down so that they can also speed up. As companies pass through different stages of growth, priorities become a moving target. This lack of focus impedes momentum. When it comes to marketing, Responsive companies need an iterative process — a cycle that ebbs and flows with the rhythm of the business — to help them identify and prioritize areas of focus and then provide the necessary structure to see them through.

Something like this:

 Responsive Process | Mack Web

Focusing and Adapting: 90 Days at a Time

When you’re aligning your marketing with your core and using an adaptive process to drive it, strategic priorities — and the tasks required to accomplish them — will ultimately fall into three categories: acquisition, conversion, and retention. Your focus may fall more heavily in one of these areas at any given time.

Let’s say your company is just starting out with this approach and you’re carefully placing the building blocks of your core (going back to identify your meaning beyond money, your values, your mission, vision, and goals).

Focusing on Core | Mack Web

Before you jump into your first 90-day cycle, you’ve identified your strategic priorities for accomplishing your Campaign goals (that stem from Business and Brand Goals), and for this time period, your strategic priorities lie in acquisition (and awareness) and retention.

Strategic Priorities | Mack Web

So, for this first 90 day cycle, 75% of your marketing resources and bandwidth will be spent executing deliverables that drive acquisition. You may be making the necessary adjustments to the copy on your website and on social media to better align with your authentic voice and communicate your meaning beyond money, focusing more heavily on the value you provide for your customers and community.

You may be creating additional copy on your website and blog to answer the questions your actual customers have (based on your persona research) as they’re experiencing your brand through the variety of phases and channels on which they interact with you.

The other 25% of your marketing efforts for this time period may be spent focusing on retention and the customers you already have. Listening and learning from them, understanding what they need, and then driving strategic priorities from there. Maybe, as part of a test phase, you’re curating content and talking with your community (both on and offline), using targeted social campaigns to test and gather information about what really speaks to them.

All of these efforts are essentially iterations that take place in 30-day increments. Your focus is on executing, testing, and collecting data that will help you better identify how to accomplish those goals you’ve set, and to make informed decisions about direction moving forward.

Iteration- Mack Web

As you go about your merry way, executing on these strategic priorities and associated deliverables, at 30-day intervals, your team will work through an exercise called Catapult where they will review data and also consider intuition to identify red flags, challenges, and opportunities. Most important, during Catapult, the pulse of the company is evaluated in order to determine whether deviations from tactics being executed need to occur. Then your focused efforts continue as planned, or are adjusted, and the cycle (and your momentum) continues.

At approximately the 60-day mark in the 90-day cycle, strategy is scrubbed at a deeper level:

  • What is generating the most momentum?
  • What has become a larger priority during this cycle because of what you’ve learned through testing and iteration?
  • Do you need to adjust the balance between Business and Brand focus during this cycle?
  • Based on what you’ve learned and what’s changed in the business, in the 90 days ahead of you, does acquisition, conversion, or retention take the largest precedence?
  • Ultimately, are you accomplishing the right things in the short-term to eventually (in many cycles) reach your long-term goals?

Responsive Process Scrub | Mack Web

The more cycles completed, the more momentum that builds and the more the process becomes ingrained in the natural routine and flow of the company. Every 90 days, strategic campaigns get better at integrating together and becoming more seamless, building continuity across teams and channels.

Then, as you accomplish the smaller Campaign goals each cycle, you’re slowly chipping away at achieving bigger Business and Brand Goals, and eventually, reaching the Visionary goals and mission you’re working toward for your company overall. Over time, all of the efforts build on each other, not only bringing momentum, but long-term value and durability to the company.

Responsive Process | Mack Web

The most important thing to remember about focus when using an adaptive process like this is that it doesn’t mean you just put your head down and drive. This is where self-awareness comes in. This is where you’re being accountable for aligning with your core and your meaning beyond money. It means getting to know your business better so that you can make better decisions. It means spending more time listening to your customers and your employees, all the while learning and adapting as you work your way up the mountain.

Mountain of Success

Playing the Long Game

Responsive companies are powerful, world-changing entities. They are bold, agile, and lead with authenticity and meaning. Their approach to marketing should most certainly follow suit.

But this kind of approach isn’t easy and it takes companies who have the diligence to be intentional. Companies who are committed to investing in their core and the foundation of their brand even when they’re not brand new. Companies who can be alive, self-aware, and present, and also see the value in taking the time to focus so that they can strategically play the long game.

By really focusing on conveying their central meaning to their very human audience, responsive companies light the spark of connection and interest and real, solid value that will ignite the engine of their growth. By following a reliable, adaptable, cyclic process, they can keep that motion going, meeting both Brand and Business goals.

Most important, they can effectively communicate why they exist, from their very soul, which will foster communities full of advocates, continue to shape a durable foundation, and sustain a strategic advantage in the marketplace. All it takes is a little focus for the momentum to build and the company to continue to thrive.

Getting to the Good Stuff – Mack Web’s Year in Review

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Data and Analytics, Mack's Musings, The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement | No Comments

I remember reading some advice on Mark Suster’s blog at some point a year or so back about how important it is to record the stuff you’re doing in your company on your blog — good or bad — so that it becomes a historical record.

That way, some day you can look back and uncover key turning points and gateways of your journey, and also see how extremely far you’ve come.

Initially this post was going to be a curation of the best stuff on our blog this year. But as I looked back at the posts that would fill the list, I realized the story of what we really learned this year was living behind them. Mack Web has made some big leaps over the last 12 months. Here’s a look at the discoveries that surfaced for our company this year (with blog posts in tow).

The Start of Changing the Way Companies Build Their Brands

At the very beginning of 2014, Mack Web was enjoying the success of our Community Building Guide, a guide we had launched in October of 2013 documenting a community-building process we had developed and were testing both on Mack Web and with our clients.

The guide was 147 pages and although we were receiving extremely positive feedback, it was a lot to digest. So I kicked off the year with the Essentials of Community Building, a webinar and accompanying slide deck that aligned with the key takeaways in the guide (page numbers and all) so that we could offer a more truncated version.

Essentials of community building Mack Web

I didn’t see it at the time, but looking back after all that has transpired this year, our guide was not only full of tips and suggestions for building community (and effectively building relationships with social media), but it was also the start of a fully integrated marketing approach that, by the end of the year, would evolve into our core method for helping companies change the way they build their brands.

It’s hard for me to believe that in just one year, we would go from here:

then

to here:

now

So although Mack Web started the year out with a strong focus on community and how to get started building one, there was a much bigger mission that we would end up pursuing.

And it all began with measurement.


The Start of Changing the Way Marketing is Measured

In the first quarter of 2014, our entire team resolved to change the way marketing is measured. Here we were: a highly dedicated team who was taking so much pride in all of the little pieces we were putting into place to grow our clients’ companies. The problem was, we weren’t just helping these companies build communities. We were helping them build the solid foundation of their brand. We were helping them set goals for their entire organization. We we were digging deep into the core of their companies and revealing weaknesses that we would then help them address and conquer. We were helping them transform their businesses from the inside out and even forge the right relationships one by one.

We were doing great things. But we were doing a terrible job of communicating the return on their investment.

Our work was highly qualitative and our clients wanted to see the results in quantitative metrics. They wanted to see their ROI in numbers, in black and white. And we had a whole lot of work to do in order to make that happen.

Ayelet started the conversation with Social Media Engagement Metrics: Taming the Elusive Beast in an attempt to reveal some relevant and useful qualitative metrics to complement the quantitative ones we had already been working with. At the time, we thought this disconnect and gap in communication with our clients was social media related. That our clients didn’t fully understand the value of social media and how it supported the building of their brand and ultimately their community.

In an attempt to bridge the gap, I wrote the slide deck Why Follower Count is Bullshit to shed some light on social media metrics that communicated real value. Turns out the deck struck a chord (it hit the front-page of SlideShare and was picked up by Hubspot) and had a lot of people looking at social media metrics differently. The thing was, this was just one part of the equation. We had so much further to go.

why follower count is BS

By May, our clarity in terms of how to effectively measure and then better communicate the value of our efforts was starting to get stronger and when I spoke at WistiaFest I was able to talk about the importance of an integrated strategy and how Mack Web had been using that, plus some scrappy low-budget videos (with eggs and fairy wings), to build our brand and community.

wistiafest

At this point, we were still testing a ton of the metrics I was talking about (take a look at slides 67-80) but it was a solid start. This time I wasn’t just focusing on social media metrics. We had started identifying and conveying the difference between metrics that showed how effectively we were building the brand and metrics that showed how our efforts were affecting bottom line revenue.

Each time I speak at a conference it gives me a chance to really digest what we’re doing as a company and also to see where we need to go next. A few weeks after I returned from WistiaFest, the team started working on the hurdle of reporting. We hadn’t yet found all of the metrics we needed to communicate both qualitative and quantitative efforts, but at the time, some of our reports were 16 pages long. The narrative of our efforts was way too much for our clients to take in and although we were making progress on the metrics front, we were gaining no ground on how we were communicating them.

Over the summer months, slow progress would continue to be made with the way we were measuring marketing and how we were reporting, but the most important growth would be made with our team.


The Turning Point

In September, we hired Mike to be our Director of Client Strategy. This meant that we would have someone in our company who was solely focused on the growth of our existing clients so that I could focus more on driving the vision of the company (as well as speaking and blogging which are a huge passion).

It was a gift to have Mike join our team when he did. After months of struggling with balance, I was elated to have someone sharing the load, but I also knew that we were on the cusp of making some significant gains with our two big goals: changing the way companies build their brands and also the way marketing is measured.

Having Mike on our team would provide me with the space to find clarity, give the team a fresh perspective, and supply us with some long overdue feedback that would catapult us ahead.

At the time that Mike started, I was preparing for two important conferences: one for Conductor in New York City and one for Distilled in London. Simultaneously, he was getting his feet wet. He was observing. Asking questions. Collecting data. Lucky for us, all the work the team had done all year (and the years preceding), Mike’s external insight, and the effort I put into these talks, would bring the long-awaited clarity that would define who were as a company.

In October, Moz launched a post on their blog that I collaboratively wrote with Mathew Sweezey. 4 Ways to Build Trust and Humanize Your Brand talked about many of the things we were helping our clients do. We were asking them to be real companies. To care about their customers. To live up to their customers’ expectations. To focus on reaching big goals for their business (not just their marketing). To do the shit that doesn’t scale.

Then I gave the talk in New York — Playing the Long Game: Growing Your Business Through Community and Integrated Marketing — which provided a step-by-step walk through the integrated process (formerly our “community building” process) that we had been evolving (by leaps and bounds) at Mack Web ever since the beginning of the year.

C32014-MACK FOGELSON.001

Two weeks after New York, I took a plane across the big blue ocean to speak at SearchLove London. The talk I gave in London — The Measurement Behind Your Integrated Marketing Strategy — was a continuation of the conversation I started in the States.

In NYC, I talked through all of the detailed steps of our integrated process. In London, I dug deep into our approach and metrics side with how to actually communicate the value of integrated marketing — telling the story of progression over time. The story of those valuable and essential building blocks that we were working so hard to put into place — one stone at a time. The story of the long game. The story of all these integrated pieces and channels working together to drive success in order to show both qualitative and quantitative value for both the business and the brand.

Measurement-Behind-Integrated-Strategy-SearchLove.001


Definitely Something of Historical Record

When I got back from London and had a chance to breathe, I had a big realization.

It was the culmination of everything the team had been struggling through and learning. Everything that all of us had worked to communicate all year on our blog and to our clients. From the process we had unveiled in our community building guide last October, to the evolution it made for WistiaFest, and then finally coming together for my talks in New York and London.

What I finally realized was this: Mack Web isn’t just a community building company.

We’re a full-blown integrated marketing team who wants to build great brands and communities full of loyal advocates who truly love the companies they so selectively choose to support.

And it’s kind of funny that we did this almost backwards. That we came at our USPs, the core meaning of Mack Web almost by accident, at the end of a very natural (though somewhat painful) course of evolution.

Because, as you know if you’ve read any of the posts that led us here, the very first thing we do in this integrated marketing approach we’ve created is to sit down with our clients and ask them who they are and who they want to be. What do their products and services add to their customers’ lives? What do they care about, beyond making money? What sits right at the heart of their company?

From those answers, we’re able to help them articulate multi-level goals for their brand and their business. Everything else — the metrics and the social media and the content and the ROI and even the reports — springboards from there. We can’t tell you if you’re succeeding until we know exactly what you’re aiming for and who you really want to become.

These are questions Mack Web has struggled to answer for ourselves. Not because we didn’t take the time to ask. Not because we didn’t care. But because we started all of this during the evolution of an ever-changing industry that sits on the shifting sands of Google’s algorithm. Our company, among so many others in our industry, has been growing and redirecting so rapidly that we’ve been reaching half-blind. We’ve been running on all the knowledge we could get our hands on, as well as sheer intuition, to anticipate the changes.

So we answered the questions as best as we could at the time, with what we understood, and each time it was enough to carry us just a little bit farther, a little bit closer.

And then, in the midst of all the hard days, the disconnects, the gaps in ROI communication, the speaking engagements and slide deck creation, without anyone noticing it was happening, all the pieces slid into place. It had nothing to do with Google (and everything to do with sustainability). And we were looking at the whole picture of what Mack Web had always wanted to become all along, and it felt like home.

After nearly three years of effort, we were able to articulate — with clear examples and case studies — not only how our approach was different, but why it mattered. Why all the things we’d learned along the way were important and how they fit together.

Community building led us to authenticity. Authenticity led us to brand. Brand led us back over to goals and meaning. Goals and meaning led to progress and measurement. And everything together put a spotlight on all the channels, pointing back to community and relationships.

With all of those parts and pieces we finally had an approach that worked and that drove success. And, most importantly, it’s an approach that makes us proud to call this our work.

There’s More in Store

It’s been one hell of a year and I’m so incredibly proud of this team for what we’ve accomplished. We’ve been pushing really hard which means we don’t always post on our blog as much as I’d prefer. It’s really important to me that we’re not just putting something up to meet a designated frequency.

What’s important is that we’re sharing our journey and making your lives easier in the process. That everything on our blog is a window into the struggles and victories of this responsive company who is using integrated marketing and communities as a way to transform businesses.

This year has truly been a gateway. It took us 11 years to get here, but I finally feel like we’re getting to the good stuff. It’s not like it’s all rainbows and ice cream every day, but the mountain we’re climbing doesn’t seem so steep. We intentionally said no to new clients for nearly 9 months. And now we’re ready. We’ve selected some new clients and now it’s time to grow this team again.

We can’t wait for what’s coming in 2015. Thank you so much for your unconditional support of Mack Web. We hope you’ll stick around for the next part of this ride.

Putting the ‘Integrated’ into Integrated Marketing Strategy

By | Building Community, Events, Web Marketing | No Comments

Mack was recently asked to speak at C3 2014, a marketing conference hosted by Conductor.

It’s not a surprise to us that they requested that she speak on the topic of community. Our Truly Monumental Guide to Building Online Communities made quite a splash when we launched it a year ago and Mack (and, consequently, the whole Mack Web Team) is well-known for being passionate on this topic.

Never one to disappoint, Mack did talk about community. In fact, her talk was called “Growing Your Business Through Community and Integrated Marketing.” (See, community is in the title and everything.) But, in true Mack Web fashion, she didn’t focus on fuzzy or fluffy talk of singing Kumbaya and/or bribing people to be your friends. She came out with a practical, actionable approach and process for building the necessary groundwork to grow an authentic community.

In other words: building a better business, one soul-searching, thought-provoking, hard-working step at a time.

Build a better business, attract a community.

Here, in its entirety, is her beautiful deck from that talk, lovingly crafted by Mack and our genius designer Natalie and then cruelly nitpicked to death by the rest of the team.

 

But if you’re in a hurry, keep reading for the highlights.


Key Takeaways

Building a community is how you perform well online. Building a better business is how you attract a community.

Community is what you need to make your marketing sing: actual human people sharing and disseminating your content, promoting your brand, buying and recommending your stuff, both online and in person.

Marketing is building a better business.

You attract people by building a better business from the inside out. You find something authentic and meaningful at the core of your company and build your business around that. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be real. That special something is what will draw your audience near and give them something to tell their friends about you.


Sustainable marketing results demand an integrated marketing strategy.

An integrated approach means you build a cross-channel marketing experience which will attract both the right people and revenue. It means that no matter where a consumer comes in contact with your brand (on- or offline), you’re living up to (or exceeding) their expectations.

An integrated marketing strategy uses all channels.

An integrated process is an agile way to create and maintain momentum in your marketing efforts. It puts the focus on accomplishing real-world goals so that you’re doing the right things (not just the shiny things) to move your business forward.

Integrated results look at the what all of your channels have achieved together, not just individually, over the long-haul. These results are an indication that you’re doing the right things in the short term to accomplish the big things in the long-term.


Your integrated marketing strategy starts with who you are and what you want to achieve.

Before you do anything else, figure out your company’s meaning: why, beyond making money, does your company exist? What is your authentic passion? This is how you will form a meaningful connection with your audience.

An integrated marketing strategy builds an experience and relationships.

Then figure out your goals; they will drive everything else you do. (These are goals for your whole business, not just your marketing, by the way.) There are three levels: visionary, business & brand, and campaign goals. Your campaign goals help you achieve your business & brand goals which, in turn, feed into your big, overarching visionary goal.


Once you know what you want to accomplish, it’s time for action.

Start your 90-day integrated marketing strategy cycle by figuring out what is most important. What needs to be done first to set out towards your business & brand and visionary goals? Look at your audience, the current state of your brand, your strengths and weaknesses, and how you match up to the competition.

When you know what your priorities are, start planning tactical campaigns to reach them. And this is where that word “integrated” really comes into play. Make sure you’re looking at all channels (content, search, social media, email, outreach), at efforts both on- and offline.

Then, y’know, do the stuff.


Build agility into the process and factor momentum into your planning.

Be prepared to assess every 30 days and change direction as needed. Measurement is not enough. You must be prepared to respond with action.

At 60 days, start looking forward: what is your next 90-day strategy going to hold? What are your priorities? How is your progress toward those goals of yours? By the time your first 90 days are up, you’re ready for the next. And you’re not starting from scratch. You’re simply continuing the momentum you’ve got going.

An integrated marketing strategy means you always have momentum and a plan.


Sorry, kids. We’re in it for the long haul.

An integrated marketing strategy can deliver amazing results, but it takes time, it takes one-on-one effort, it takes passion, and it takes authenticity.


More to Come

As part of mastering this process, you’ll need to understand how to effectively communicate the value of an integrated approach. Mack continues the conversation with her presentation from SearchLove London: The Measurement Behind Your Integrated Marketing Strategy.

Hungry for more? Never fear: the idea of an integrated marketing strategy for building a better business as a true, sustainable method for growing an online community is something Mack Web will be talking about more and more in the coming days.

Curious? Want more? You should definitely sign up for our e-news so that any updates will come directly to you. (It’s super easy.)

You could also download the infamous guide itself and find out more that way.

What do you think?

The Importance of Company Culture from the Inside Out

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Web Marketing | 4 Comments

Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

– –

At the beginning of last summer I quit my job at Walther’s Golf & Fun to move to Fort Collins, CO. I’d been working there for almost ten years. I wasn’t even old enough to drive myself to my very first shift.

Walther’s was a big metal building on the north side of town with indoor and outdoor miniature golf courses, a Lazer Tag arena, a full cafe, and over 50 arcade games. What I liked most about that place wasn’t the unlimited free lazer tag or the or the discount on pizza and mozzarella sticks, but rather all of the fun times with my co-workers and the irreplaceable memories made.

Walthers

Mack has a saying (well, she has a lot of them, but one specifically that relates to this post): Culture is the heartbeat of a company. And I realize how true this is – the importance of genuine company culture – more and more everyday. The heartbeat keeps blood and oxygen circulating in the body. Culture drives everything a company does.

It’s both intensely personal and completely obvious. Your culture is unique to you and if it’s healthy, you thrive. And that vitality attracts people who align with the culture. It draws them in and keeps them coming back.

Any company that can earn a decade’s worth of loyalty has this kind of culture. Though we always called it Walther’s for short, Fun is in the name of the company, and there’s a reason why. It’s what keeps the company alive and drives everything they do. It’s their heartbeat.

At Walther’s, we had permission and encouragement from upper-management to have a lot of fun, all the time. If we were having fun, then that meant our customers could have fun. If we were bored, well, our customers probably wouldn’t enjoy their visit quite as much. Sometimes this looked like a quick demonstration at the prize counter of how a sticky hand or slap bracelet worked. Sometimes it meant letting the employees stay late after the building closed to play our favorite arcade games or a round of employee-only all-building lazer tag. Of course no job is perfect, but for the most part we all loved coming to work because we knew we were going to have a great time while we were there. And because of that, our customers had a great time too.

This culture-from-within concept worked really well at Walther’s. As employees, we were having such a fun time and believed so fully that Walther’s was a fun place to be that we ensured that our customers were having fun, too. When the core values of a company are sincerely embraced by everyone inside the company, it becomes much easier to reflect those values outward.

It’s a real world thing and it happens all the time

Two companies letting their heartbeats shine bright to their customers are WestJet and TD Bank. Both companies pull off pretty clever campaigns that seem to come from a place of genuine authenticity. A little research shows that their inspiration is rooted deep in their respective company cultures.

Let’s start with Canadian airline West Jet:

This Christmas Miracle makes two things very apparent:

First, their company culture goes beyond good service. WestJet might be a terrific, affordable, safe, and on-time airline, but they don’t think that’s enough. Richard Bartrem, VP of Communications for WestJet, in his explanation of why they put together this Christmas Miracle, says that their company culture is all about being fun, friendly, and caring. He says they’re always full of surprises, and that’s part of what makes them fun. They believe in magic. That’s what they wanted to share with their guests and YouTube visitors. This fun, friendly, and caring spirit is the heartbeat which drives everything they do.

Roald Dahl

WestJet showed their true dedication to their cause in the way they gave thought to each individual customer (or ‘guest’, as WestJet calls them). They could have chosen to give every guest Christmas cash or a free flight voucher, but instead they took the time to ask what it was that each individual guest really wanted. It was all about making people smile, all about that moment when the boy says, “NO WAY!” That’s their caring heartbeat shining through.

A culture this strong starts at home, with the very top-dogs of the company who fully believe in it. WestJet takes good care of their employees who all participate in profit sharing and are offered ownership in the company. It’s where they get their “owners care” slogan. (And if you needed another example of their culture, check out the material they’ve put together for shareholder meetings: such as this video showing what “owners carereally means.) And, being so well taken care of themselves, the WestJet employees take good care of their guests in their turn. The 150+ employees who helped put together the Christmas Miracle were all volunteers. This kind of campaign comes from within; it’s who they are and the proof is in the figgy pudding.

Speaking of surprising your customers with something extra special, have you seen TD Bank’s #TDThanksYou campaign?

Automatic Thanking Machines (ATMs), such a genius idea for a bank. And what an amazingly thoughtful and go-the-extra-mile type of thing to do.

No surprise, this is what TD Bank is all about: being considerate and caring, putting people at the forefront of everything they do. “Banking human” is what they like to call it. Their selfless gestures range from small to grand, from staying open late to thanking ATMs.

throw kindness around like confetti

Just like with WestJet, all of this started in-house. TD’s employees are at the very center and the culture they live day-in and day-out is what drove this campaign. How else do you think the thanking machine would have known that Michael was a huge Blue Jay’s fan or that Dorthy’s only daughter, who lives in Trinidad, just had surgery and could use a visit from her mom who’s never been able to make it out?

TD’s employees listen to their customers. They have really taken the time and made an effort to get to know their guests individually. It’s the human thing again, building relationships with other humans. It’s why people love to go there, to that specific bank, over all of the other banking options.

Remember: It starts on the inside, at the very core, then works its way outwards

You can have the most creative campaigns in the world, but if people realize it’s not who you really are, they won’t stick around. People crave authenticity, especially in this day and age when it’s so easy to hide behind the Internet like a mask. Your campaigns must be deeply rooted in every aspect of who you are.

All of this is kind of how my role at Mack Web came to be. Mack cares a great deal about our culture, and truly being who we say we are and who we want to be. Kid you not, it’s half of our performance review.

One of these things we very much care about is people: being humans among humans (human-centric, as we say), connecting and fostering relationships. It’s our whole approach to customer service and how we do marketing, and, well, pretty much everything we do.

My tenure at Mack Web started off by solely helping Mack as her assistant. Mack was losing her mind trying to juggle everything and the whole team was feeling it. Before they could even think of serving the clients they had, they needed to take care of the team first, and that started with Mack.

Maybe I wasn’t the most practical hire for a team that really needed a Director of Client Strategy (don’t worry, we later got that dude too). But they decided that looking after the people on our team was the utmost priority.

My job was to alleviate some of the day-to-day tasks of running a business, like managing her schedule and keeping the oh-so-treasured snack cabinet fully stocked. Taking weight off of her shoulders a few days each week would provide her some extra time in her schedule and the head space to stay focused on our company and clients.

Snack fairy

Once I was there to take the edge off Mack’s crazy, the team started to realize what a difference it made having me around (and not just because I introduced them to gummy bunnies, which are way better than gummy bears). Thus being Mack’s assistant and only taking care of her turned into full blown Team Support.

I still help keep the boss sane, but I also make sure the rest of the team is fully supported too, ricocheting back and forth from person to person and task to task depending on what the needs of that day or week or month may be. My job’s nickname is Rubber Cement, because I can bounce around easily, but I still help hold everything (read: everyone) together.

My role is important not only in the practical aspects but also in the way the Mack Web team reflects our brand: How could we claim to care about the real people on the other side of the screen if we didn’t take care of the real people on our side of the screen? Helping our clients build and foster relationships always starts by taking care of our own on the inside.

But PS: it’s also not always the happy stuff and it’s not always easy

As great as that sounds, there’s a hard truth we haven’t discussed yet which is this: creating and cultivating your company culture isn’t all about playing Santa and sending people to Trinidad and making sure the snack cabinet is correctly stocked.

Preserving company culture takes A LOT of hard work. It’s not easy. And it’s not always fun.

Sometimes this not-always-happy-side of culture involves letting people go because they’re not a culture fit. Because if they stick around and they don’t have the same heartbeat as you, it will destroy your company from the inside out.

Sometimes it means saying no to a potential client because you know that they don’t value the same stuff as you do. Sometimes it means waiting patiently for the best thing instead of what’s easiest, fastest, or cheapest.

One of the not-so-sunshiney sides of our culture at Mack Web is Conflict and Commit. Mack doesn’t let us back down from this difficult side of our culture. We have to be willing to have conflicts with each other. We bring it up with someone when something rubs us the wrong way or is making our job more difficult. Then we commit to finding a solution together. In the end our team is stronger and more unified, rather than a bundle of seething resentment and neuroses.

kitten hug

I’ve been on the flip side of this before, the lack of a steady heartbeat, and it’s not enjoyable. You can have the flexible work schedule, casual dress code, and coffee bar in your office building (which unfortunately is sometimes all that people count as “company culture”), but all of it amounts to nothing and it’s only a matter of time before it comes crashing down if the beat that drives your company isn’t strong and distinct enough to be felt by your people.

This is the ultimate way to check the authenticity of your brand: do your employees naturally adopt the characteristics you brag about on your website? Is your internal culture a healthy point of origin for the customer experience you want to provide?

Before coming to Mack Web, I’d seen both sides of it: excellent culture and terrible culture and I knew which one I wanted to find. It was important that I find a place with a company culture consistent with the core values they claimed. A place that would be around for a while and that I would want to stay in for as long as it was. Just like the employees of WestJet and TD Bank, I recognized the heart that beat in time with my own.

That’s why I tell Mack all the time how thankful I am to be a part of this place and especially how thankful I am that she fights really hard to keep it this way. She doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff and she works hard to preserve all of the good stuff. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere.

My Mack Web hoodie is just a bonus.

Officially a part of team awesome

Quest-Post

Conversion Rate Isn’t Everything in Digital Marketing

By | Building Community, Data and Analytics, The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement, Web Marketing | 5 Comments

I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat in where it’s immediately obvious that the only thing the client cares about is leads, conversions, or sales. Hey, I get that. They want to improve their business. We want to help them build a better business. We’re on the same page there.

But focusing on conversions – and conversions alone – isn’t helping a business get any better for a few reasons. First, focusing on the number of conversions ignores a lot of the work that goes into setting the stage for those conversions, drawing people to the brand. Like integrated marketing. Using all the channels together to keep your strategy in sync and make sure the right people are becoming aware of you. These efforts aren’t as easy to express as conversions, but they are worthwhile. Without these efforts, conversion rate suffers… a lot.

diasppointed turtle

Second, the conversion-only focus means you (or more likely your staff, under pressure to perform for conversions alone) neglect your higher level goals (you know, the ones that move you toward a better business and not just a better income). Again, those higher level goals might not come wrapped up in one simple number, which can be presented to superiors. However, they are just as important to moving your business forward.

If we had only focused on how many conversions (in this case, how many clients we signed) we received from our Truly Monumental Guide to Building Online Communities and neglected to look at our integrated marketing efforts and all they accomplished along the way, we would have felt like we failed.

If we only looked at new client conversions alone, we would be missing the more important, bigger picture of everything we achieved. When we took the time to analyze our efforts, we realized we accomplished so much more than signing on new clients. And we saw our success in a whole lot of different places. Read on for our very own study on measuring integrated marketing efforts.

The What, Why, & How of Our Community Building Guide

The What

Over 10 months ago, we released our Community Building Guide. We affectionately nicknamed this 147-page guide Arthur. The guide itself is an ode to why and how to build communities online.

The Why

Arthur sprang up out of our need to talk about the benefits of online community building to anyone who would listen. No, really, we are passionate about building communities (it worked so well for us) and we wanted to share this love with the world (it can work well for others, too).

In addition to our desire to share our community-building knowledge with the world, we had goals for the company. As a brand, we wanted to continue to earn and enhance our reputation for thought leadership in our community and the industry it serves. As a benchmark for that, we set the goal of 8,000 downloads of the guide by the end of 2014. We also set a business goal of increasing leads. We had no idea that launching this guide would do so much more than that.

The How

Here’s the first twist in measuring the results of a single piece of content when you’re Mack Web. We’re strong proponents of integrated marketing so nothing exists in a vacuum. We know our goals are better met if we put all available outreach channels to their best use.

Now to go back to Arthur specifically: take a look at all of our community building guide efforts in visual form first so you can be truly and properly overwhelmed. Then, we’ll get into the bits & pieces.

all the things for the guide

Pre-Guide Release

Here’s everything we did before the guide was even released:

  • We created a signup page for people if they wanted to get the guide right when it came out.  We used Launchrock to collect the email addresses and we highly recommend it.
  • We organized a Google+ Hangout with some excellent community building panelists in our industry two weeks prior to the guide’s launch.
  • We made five videos to promote the guide before it came out and to build some momentum. The videos provided lots of good tidbits about building community. We structured them as bite-sized teasers to the guide to inform and inspire people thinking about building online communities.
  • We sent out six pre-launch emails that shared value with our community and were related to our other efforts.
  • We wrote seven blog posts related to the guide and efforts surrounding it.
  • On social media, we made sure everyone and their brother knew that we had a guide coming out. And then we told everyone again.
During Release

And here’s what we did (mostly on the day of the release):

  • We released news about the guide on the blog, on our site, and via email to those who had signed up ahead of time and those already on our email list.
  • We contacted friends and peers in the industry to help spread the word about the release.
  • We promoted the guide on social media and to our community.
  • We celebrated and worked together that morning (our war room was filled to the brim with fruit, breakfast burritos, other delights, and snacks). This was a very important part of our launch.
Post-Guide Release

We didn’t leave it at that – here’s what we’ve done since the guide was released:

  • We asked for feedback about the guide via email and on social media.
  • Mack did a webinar based on the guide .
  • Mack spoke at WistiaFest and State of Search about the video series we did for Arthur.
  • Mack also wrote on Moz about 5 strategic steps to big content, stemming from our experience with the community building guide.
  • We promoted these spawn of Arthur via email, on the blog, and on social media.
  • And we’ve got a secret project in the works related to Arthur. No, you can’t bribe us for more information with gummy bears. We’ve got morals, people.

Now that you’ve got a bit of background about the tactics we used, you’ve probably reached two conclusions. First, we must have gotten a million new customers. Second, figuring out how many of those millions was a direct result of the guide would be pretty much impossible. Well, you’re right about the second one (coming up soon). As for the first conclusion… yeah, not so much.

The Results of Arthur Alone

Conversions

We can count the number of conversions of new clients we received off of our guide on one finger. Approximately 3 months after Arthur launched, we signed a client because they had read our guide.

You read that right. One. Single. Client. Un cliente. Ein Client. Great result for all that work, right?

But here’s where I’m going to blow your mind. That’s only an embarrassing result if all we cared about was the conversion rate of clients. Lucky for us (and our egos), we had a ton of other results from this guide that we’re proud of.

Inbound Links

The guide received 373 total inbound links since it launched in October 2013. Influential sites like Moz, Inbound, Conductor, and Wistia all linked to the guide, substantially increasing its reach. Most of those links were thanks to friendships we had made in the industry waaaaaayyyyyyy before the guide was even a twinkle in the Mack Web team’s collective eye. That’s the kind of groundwork that’s hard to measure and hard to do, but gives indisputable value.

And then, because the guide was full of so much good stuff, it earned even more links all by itself. That’s value we can’t even begin to attach a number to.

Guide Downloads & Pre-Guide Signups

Before the guide was launched, we had 350 signups from people who wanted to receive word when the guide launched. Within 30 days of launch, we had 1,250 downloads. As of July 2014, we’d reached  more than 5,500 guide downloads (just 9 months). We’re well on our way to reach 8,000 downloads by December 31st (I wouldn’t bet against us if I were you).

The number of downloads is a valuable metric for us. Each time a person downloads our guide and reads it, that’s one chance for us to convince someone of the value in building an online community. And once they’re convinced of that value, they often share the guide with their friends,  which expands the reach of our brand. As a bonus, the social proof offered by their willingness to share the guide builds trust in our brand as people come to know us as the folks who know what they’re talking about in terms of building communities.

The Results of Arthur as an Integrated Marketing Campaign

Those results above are just the ones directly related to the guide. We look at the community building guide as just one part of our march towards inevitable integrated and digital marketing greatness. And in the time since launching Arthur, we’ve made great strides forward.

The Full Story on Conversions

Let me go back real quick to the conversion. The best part about signing on a client because of the guide was that the client fully understood who we were and the value we bring to the table. Our guide did all of the work and we are now basking in the glory of a client who is in sync with our community building passion.

Leads

In March 2013, right around when we started the earliest pre-launch promotion efforts for Arthur, we were averaging 3-5 leads/month. Arthur was launched in October 2013. As of July 2014, we’re averaging approximately 20-25 leads/month. Conservatively speaking, that’s a 300% increase in leads.

arthur leads pre and post guide

Email Marketing

Our email list increased by 50% year over year (2012 vs. 2013). Once the community building guide was released, we started to see all kinds of organic email subscriptions.

Social Media & Community Building

Conversation, Amplification, & Applause

We’ve made solid growth on social media in our amplification, conversation, and follower count.

total applause amplification conversation fans_pre and post guide

Sessions & Pageviews from Social Media Referral Traffic

I like looking at how Arthur affected social media referral traffic. We saw awesome growth in our referral traffic sessions (what Google Analytics now calls visits) and pageviews from Twitter.

pageview referrals from Twitter

session referrals twitter

The other social channels also performed really well.

linkedin slideshare youtube referral sessions

Speaking & Blogging Gigs

In the 3 months after the launch of the guide, Mack was invited to speak at SearchFest and Conductor’s C3 conference. The guide helped give Mack a little bit of extra awesomeness (like she needs it).

mack

Site Traffic

New vs. Returning Visits

These metrics show us that not only are more people who’ve never heard of us coming to our site, but also that people who have heard about us are coming back for more.

new and returning visitors

Organic Search Traffic

We saw a 145% increase in organic search traffic in the 3 months after the guide launch (compared to the 3 months before the launch). And at the time of the launch, that meant more people were coming to our site than ever before. Woo hoo!

organic search traffic change 3 months pre and post arthur

Session (or Visit) Duration & Total Sessions

Session duration increased 8% (comparing 9 months pre- and post-Arthur) and we had 55% more sessions after the guide was launched (same time period). So not only are we getting more traffic to our site, but now they’re staying longer, too.

total sessions pre and post arthur updated

The Mitigating Factors

Are you thoroughly and undeniably impressed? All of that was a huge boost to our presence on the web, the awareness of our brand, and the respect in which our knowledge is held. We also want to acknowledge that a) just because we only signed one client directly from Arthur doesn’t mean we didn’t sign other clients in the intervening months and b) we are insanely selective about our clients, which is why more of those leads haven’t turned into clients.

And yet, Arthur was not the impetus for all those results. Because as the guide launched and lived on, we did not sit idle.

We launched a new website that more effectively communicated what we actually did. We started to get more qualified leads for our business. We became more strategic about our blog posts.

And as is fitting in a company that believes in building communities, we made more connections on social media and offline. We experimented with our email marketing and email subscription efforts. Mack keeps getting more speaking and blogging opportunities. Our processes are becoming tighter and even more integrated. We’ve found more llama images than when we wrote the guide. Sure, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but our team is in better shape than ever.

All of which is to say that, though Arthur undoubtedly played a huge role in the results of the year here at Mack Web, we don’t actually know how huge that role was (because of all the things). Which leads to one natural conclusion.

My Conclusion: Measuring the Effects of Truly Integrated Marketing is Hard

When you do a lot of things, it isn’t always clear what results can be attributed to what action. Arthur achieved a lot, but so did all our other integrated marketing efforts in the year. Because all these efforts played off each other as well, the data becomes even more entangled, harder to attribute, and skewed.

The important thing is that we’re reaching our goals, and not just with Arthur. With everything we do now, have done in the past, and will do in the future.

The Solution

If I told you I had the solution right now on how to best measure integrated marketing efforts, you’d probably give me a million bucks. Sorry, I have no such thing.

However, here are a few things that I advise you to remember and remind your clients or superiors along the way:

1. Assign specific KPIS to your goals, meaning all goals, not just business goals.

Conversion rate will only get you so far (and mainly it just works to make marketing look like a total loser. Which it isn’t. Anyone tells you otherwise, you send them to us. We’ll straighten them out.)

Think through key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics thoroughly, and take baseline measurements before you start your efforts. It’ll make your life infinitely easier in the long run, but it still won’t make it a cakewalk (mmm, cake).

2. Look at the long-term data.

So what if your campaign only lasted 3 months? You should still look at year over year data because it gives you an excellent baseline to show how much progress you’re making. Sure, it’s difficult to directly attribute specific successes to specific campaigns, but long-term data makes the results of all your efforts wonderfully obvious.

3. Educate your clients/higher ups on the the importance of meaningful goals (beyond conversion rate).

Remind them you can’t increase conversions without increasing brand awareness, establishing an online and social media presence, and building community.  Integrated marketing efforts are more than just stepping stones to more sales or leads. The broad-reaching and foundational goals they achieve – such as brand awareness and online community – are both vital to higher conversion rates for your digital marketing and valuable in their own right.

Questions, comments, suggestions, congratulations? We’ll accept all of those things (but especially the latter) in the comments below.

An Integrated Approach to Video (Mack’s Slide Deck from #WistiaFest)

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

An Integrated Approach to Strategy

Video is an incredibly powerful tool that is integral to creating a connection with your customers. But it takes a whole lot of channels and a whole lot of effort —in addition to video—to build your brand and your community and to accomplish goals for your business.

Like social media, email marketing, search, other forms of content, and offline efforts, video is just one tool that needs to fit into a larger marketing strategy.

This slide deck is a case study of the first time that Mack Web used video in our integrated marketing strategy. Inside you will find our roadmap. Our process. What we actually did: the goals we set, the strategy we followed, what we measured, and how it all turned out in the end.

(Feel free to walk through the deck yourself – it’s pretty self-explanatory – or have Mack walk you through it by watching the video of her WistiaFest talk.)

The Videos

If you’d like to see the actual videos that we created, take a peek at these. Each video provides a community building tip and a little Mack Web personality. Creating the videos this way really helped us to build brand awareness and a connection with our audience and to earn sign-ups for our community building guide:

Why Build a Community

Building Community Takes Personality

Building Community is a Team Effort

Make Friends with Other Communities

Our Guide to Building Online Communities is Finally Here

But Wait, There’s More

If you really want to experience the power of video, check out these speaker intros that Wistia created for each of the speakers at #WistiaFest. What a great way to honor each speaker and raise the energy level in the room before taking the stage.

I bet you can’t name anything that rhymes with Fogelson.