I love to get the chance to rant and rave. I am not one for self promotion, and this is not posted here for that reason. There are several items in the article, kindly done and posted by Daniel Milstein, that have caused quite a bit of turmoil – comment-wise – in other places. So, I thought it appropriate to let y'all have a go here!
By the way, I bought and read Daniel's book – The ABC of Sales: Lessons from a Superstar. Very, very compelling read!
What challenges do you think businesses face when reaching out via social media these days?
There are several challenges that businesses face with regards to social media. If I may be so rude, and please accept my apologies, that I must point out that your question is an example. You do not "reach out" in SM, we are social by nature. You engage and you simply perform socially using whatever tools you choose. I am very proud of the fact that I was awarded the rights to use the material in the book The Cluetrain in a lot of my work. The Cluetrain is a must-read for anyone who goes online, especially if you are a business. It was, in fact, what the so-called Web 2.0 and The Social Web was built on. Not reading The Cluetrain is akin to trying to be a doctor without studying anatomy. Many of the challenges facing companies is that SM is still relatively new to most folks.
I personally have been involved in the online world since 1986 and dedicated to the social web since the late '90s. The immature nature of the SM practitioner's market leads most people to be skeptical, and rightly so. If you are relying on a Guru to lead you, you are in trouble. I do not believe I have met any Gurus in all my years. Sure, I have met a few experts, but no Gurus. To me, Gurus are in the same category as Santa and the Easter Bunny.
Also, it is not proven that any SM activity will provide a measurable ROI. It is certainly proven that SM can give a company a black eye – we've all seen that – but nothing I have seen can show the folks in the C suite what the returns are. Social behavior is what all companies should be engaging in, online and off. A cute quote I saw and Tweeted recently – @mose Best line: "The ROI of Social Media is that in 5 years your company will still exist." As well, if you do jump into SM and you are outsourcing your campaigns to a company or a so-called Guru, you are missing out on the organic nature of the activity. Meaning: It really isn't you, or your company, interacting with the folks. SM turns out to be very anti-Cluetrain at that point and that is highly ironic.
When you’re helping a client market their product/brand/service, what do you look for most in order to accurately create a marketing plan for them?
There is an old saying one of the smartest guys I have ever known, who happened to be my partner, once told me: "It ain't what ya don't know that will screw ya and put you out of business, it's what ya know, that ain't so!" I should mention that this fellow Peter Zarry was as astute a marketer as I have ever known. He would be as close to a Guru as anyone I have ever met. But knowing Peter, he would laugh at that notion. For every marketing plan, I do extensive research and pre-planning prior to putting pen to paper. One of the things I am very particular about is knowing the truth. The real truth! A lot of companies will boast about things they think they do. I go out and talk to clients, staff, competitors, and so on and so forth, and see what they say about these claims the company is making. Most times, what the clients think and what the market thinks, are vastly different than what the company thinks – ergo that saying is probably the key to my accuracy.
Do you find it easier to market for certain clients over others? Why?
No, not really. At least not so far. All variety of industries need the same types of thinking. The only big differences are why they want their plans in the first place. Are the plans internal communications pieces? Are they to present to a bank or an investor? Or, are they the company Magna Carta to get the large organization mobilized? There is a huge difference depending on the purpose.
Marketing, if I might add, is very misunderstood these days. Especially online in most SM circles. When you have thousands of people jumping into "marketing" areas in social media that have really no background in business, this is totally understandable. I have heard some pretty wild definitions of marketing, or what people think marketing is, or worse, what they are doing they believe is actually marketing! It generally is not. From what I know, the science hasn't changed since I went to school. It is still finding a defined need in the marketplace, crafting the 4 Ps (sometimes 5 Ps) of a product, or service and then executing the plan. By the way, I will not write a marketing plan, a true marketing plan, unless I can contribute to ALL the Ps: Price, Product, Place and Promotion. (The fifth is what I call Positioning). Most folks today who talk about marketing misuse the word to mean advertising, sales, communications, or worse branding! (God I hate that word!)
What the best piece of marketing advice you can give to a small business just starting out?
My only piece of advice is to have enough capitalization, but most don't, so I will give the following advice that I know everyone can do. Small business is my specialty; I have worked with so many. I would say plan for failure. I do not mean "failure" as in total collapse; I mean those bumps in the road. The mistakes, the missed targets, the financial pitfalls like receivables and a hundred other things. Plan some contingencies. "What if?" is my favorite voice inside my head. For instance, you are starting up and you make a product. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket with suppliers. Hunt down alternative companies, just in case. The same goes with forecasting, do low projections and high expenses. Plan for things to perhaps go wrong – they sometimes do. It is not a bad thing. In fact, it is normal. It is only a bad thing when you are not prepared. If you have a contingency plan for some of the things that are critical to your business, you are prepared in the eventuality that there are hiccups. I like trying to avoid surprises. Having some contingencies makes sure these potential bumps in the road are not surprises. Surprises are what kill most companies.
Your website says you’ve been giving presentations for about 15 years now. How have you tweaked your speeches/presentations over the past decade to keep them up date and relevant for today’s market?
One of my sites – especially the one dedicated to presentations – says, that I have been teaching and lecturing "How to give Professional Presentations!" for over 15 years. I taught at three universities and traveled all over the globe training a half dozen Fortune 500 clients, plus have lectured and given workshops for all of the major marketing associations in Canada. But I have been giving presentations for well-over 40 years – literally thousands and thousands of them. As for tweaking … never! Every single one of my presentations is different and custom designed. I demand a lot of myself because I demand a lot of my audience. My audience must sit there for any given length of time – 20 minutes, one hour, 3 hours, and not be bored.
I can categorically state, and this is no boast, in my thousands of presentations, people have never been bored! That is why I am passionate about presentations. I have seen maybe two presenters in all my years that live up to my standards. This rather disgusts me. Why are we so horrible at presenting? We are giving presentations all the time, and we suck. Not just that we need to improve, we need to toss out the entire notion of what we are doing. I bet there are hundreds of millions of dollars (probably more) in resources wasted every single day spent giving useless, droll, boring "death by PowerPoint" presentations that have no results. For the record, having seen the markets and presented to the markets, from the '70s up until to today – there is no difference. Sure, topics and technology change, but people have not. You simply communicate effectively with them. And by that I mean your presentations must deliver results!