The 3 Most Effective Content Marketing Principles

by Eric Tsai


It will be increasingly difficult to grab attention from anyone on the Internet or in person.

You may spend hours writing a great blog article, creating a high-value video or designing your marketing slicks only to find that people just aren’t interested in consuming them.

Why?

Because we’re being bombarded by messages, alerts, and feeds every second. We’re constantly distracted and interrupted when we invest our time on the Internet. As a result, our brain essentially reconfigures itself.

This is what Nicholas Carr, the author of the book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, found when he studies how the Internet influences the brain and its neural pathways.

Basically he discovered that the mental and social transformation created by our new electronic environment makes us shallower, unable to concentrate and strips our ability to do deep creative thinking.

Carr argues that,” We want to be interrupted, because each interruption brings us a valuable piece of information… And so we ask the Internet to keep interrupting us, in ever more and different ways. We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive. Tuning out is not an option many of us would consider.”

Simply put, greater access to knowledge is not the same as greater knowledge; and breadth of knowledge is not the same as depth of knowledge.

So how does this affect your marketing or how you produce content for your business?

The answer is simple. If you don’t produce content in the way that people want to consume them, you will not be read, remembered or passed on.

Most of us simply don’t read and retain what we consume over the Internet like how we do it with physical books.

In fact, I heard one of Carr’s recent interview as he described that most people read over the Internet in a “F” formation, scanning horizontally across at the top, then moves down the left and half way down scans again across.

It’s indicative that in the process of producing compelling content you take consideration in the following mistakes to avoid so you have attractive “looking” content in format, length and appeal.

1 Strong Opening That Gets Straight To The Point

Great copywriting is not different than great public speaking. You must instantly grab people’s attention in a thought provoking way without trying to be fancy.

This is why article/book titles, the first 10 seconds of you meeting someone are so critical to set the tone for your audience.

Your audience’s mind wants to see the payoff by giving you the attention and their emotions are driving the need for you to get to the point.

This is extremely important as we humans do a lot of consequential thinking to figure out why we’re investing our time in consuming information.

Most experienced professional coaches, consultants, marketers, gurus or trainers have a lot of knowledge, but they often forget that they are the expert and their audience are not!

That’s why it’s important to open with a great title or introduction that immediately gets to the point.

The wealth of information out there usually overwhelms normal people, so I recommend you to focus on emotional connections so you can meet them where they’re at and try not to use any of your professional jargon. It takes practice.

2 Use Emotional Keywords And Phrases

Give them what they want then facilitate what they need as the content unfolds. Leverage emotional keywords and phrases that automatically paints a specific picture and are easy to understand.

When you use complex, difficult to understand phrases, your audience has to do all the work to figure out what you mean and it interrupts the flow of consuming that piece of information.

Stay away from theoretical, conceptual, abstract and general terms in your communication. Focus on communication that brings concrete, emotional and specific outcomes.  This is because we’re wired to respond more with what Paul MacLean discovered as our reptilian brain or what some calls lizard brain.

MacLean’s evolutionary triune brain theory suggests that the human brain was made up of three brains: reptilian (self preservation), limbic (emotions) and neocortex (logic).

I won’t go into the details but basically the reptilian brain can hijack the higher levels whenever it wants to do so especially when there is a pain point or urgency to solve a problem.

It can be as simple as the “need to know” urgency where you seek immediate knowledge (we want to be in control, our logical ego) or looking for an answer.

People don’t go to seminars, watch videos or engage in a conversation with you for no reason; even entertainment and the need to connect or to be heard is something we unconsciously look for.

3 Leverage Powerful Stories That Creates Your Marketing And Conversation

Story develops relationships with people. In order to do that people have to like you, know you and trust you (and yes, you can do that over the Internet).

Just having social proof is not enough, just being a likeable person is not enough.

Both of those are great foundation to build your relationship on, but ultimately people are more likely to buy what you sell if they trust you.

And trust can be built via powerful stories that motivates and inspires people.

When developing your story think of your story as a movie.

There is an opening, a situational challenge and then it goes through a rollercoaster ride that eventually hits a turning point then finally ends.

So how do you position your story?

You need to start your story high where everything is normal then take your audience to a low point where they can relate and connect but don’t make people feel sorry for you.

And then through a turning point or a series of events you overcome the lows and that’s where you give your audience hope.

It is NOT about you but your audience. Don’t make it your life long story or biography; focus on a specific area of your story that allows people to quickly learn about who you are.

Your story is a way to show your humanity so people believe what you can do for them.

The take away: Content marketing is about creating information that are meaningful to your audience and engages them emotionally.

The real value is when you’re able to meet them where they’re at psychologically and make them highly motivated to take actions.

Whether it’s signing up for your newsletter, buy your product, get your coaching or read your book. In fact, it can also be used to get your internal team on board or management buy-in to your proposal.

Everyone is inundated with information, overwhelmed with daily tasks and if you can focus on the 3 principles above, your audience will be drawn to you more because you make it about them and easy for them.

How do you approach marketing your information, content or product? Share your thoughts below.

How Will Social Media Impact Your Business

by Eric Tsai

I saw a video on the State of Social CRM post on Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang in which Paul Greenberg talks about how companies are having difficulties with cultural changes internally to execute against the new bread of customer, the social customer.

In case you don’t know what CRM is, it’s Customer Relationship Management as described in Wikipedia as a “technology that allows companies to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.”

What an ear full!

My version would be just an application that keeps track of customer facing activities so you can find the gaps in your service and make adjustments to be more efficient.

The point both Jeremiah and Paul are making is that businesses are still figuring out how to integrate CRM and Social Media so the combination provides meaningful business value.

The shift in how customers use social media is forcing companies to add the social element into their CRM system. They’re both spot on.

It also raises the question that if you’re not in the business of generating value and serving to keep the customer, then what are you in business for?

Social media encourages interaction which leads to generating a new type of intelligence that CRM system were not tracking before. Data such as reactions, activities, sentiments, locations, behavior and preference are converging providing a never seen before clear picture of each customer.

So how does this change the dynamics of your business moving forward?

Well, for one thing you have more leverage as a result of having more available data to target your niche and identify your prospects. In fact, as social CRM matures, I would expect to see companies shift their corporate strategy to ensure that every aspect of customer touch point is aligned with their marketing and sales strategy.

And this is the reason why it requires a true “cultural” change, a mindset really, for businesses to not just think from the perspective of their customer but to become their customer, to feel and empathize with them.

Furthermore, this would mean that the employees may have to do the same by constantly thinking and enhancing the customer experience to the fullest. Instead of just using tools to do sentiment analysis by listening in on what customers are saying, companies can anticipate what customers will say and do before they’ve done it.

Checkout how Salesforce is making their CRM social with Twitter.

This would probably be the ideal desire outcome for most businesses: to proactively facilitate prospects and customers toward a market funnel and minimize customer frustration as problems are addressed before they happen.

Imagine a prospect is interested in finding out more about your product before a purchase, not only would you be able to answer questions using social CRM data to anticipate them, but to personalize your communication and create real-time offering to increase the rate of conversion.

By delivering relevant communication crafted with exactly what the customers want at the right place at the right time, this will be the next phase of effective social influence marketing.

The take away: It is important to recognize this emerging trend in CRM and social media. Even though a cultural shake out would be necessary for companies to fully utilize the benefits of social CRM, it would be wise to start making some basic evaluation of how going social may impact your operations and bottom line.

What’s needed to make that jump and if you’re already using a CRM system, think how you can rally your staff to start thinking about new marketing processes and research more on how you can streamline social media into your CRM.

10 Reasons Why You Are Not Getting The Results You Want Out Of Your Marketing

by Eric Tsai

You spent countless hours crafting your marketing campaign investing money and hiring marketing experts to help guide you through the process. You get ready to push the launch button, waiting for emails and phone calls come pouring in, then…

Nothing happens. But what could go wrong?

You did the things that the marketing “experts” said you should do with your keywords, putting up blog articles day after day, uploading videos and sending out email newsletters.

Why?

Here are 10 reasons why you’re not getting the attention, buzz and most importantly – the sales conversion. Oh, and let’s assume you have an unbelievable product.

  1. Your marketing message is full of “I” and “me” instead of “you.”
  2. You didn’t communicate the “why” (from the “I” perspective)
  3. You didn’t communicate the “what” (again from the “I” perspective)
  4. You didn’t communicate the “how” (need I say more from which perspective?)
  5. You didn’t communicate the “what if” (as in what if “I” was to buy and use the product)
  6. Your marketing talks at people about your own expertise instead of showing them how your solution solves their problem.
  7. You make assumptions about your customers (because you already sold some products before or you just know because you’ve been doing it for 20 years, ok great continue to do that then) instead of focusing on fact gathering (read my last post on listening)
  8. You didn’t do enough testing on your products, services or marketing messages before you launch
  9. You use all your email and social media as a one way push advertising instead of two way conversation (to help you pre-test)
  10. You lack compassion and didn’t empathize with your prospects because you’re too focused on the bottom line – making money

The talk away: Don’t be all things to all people. You’ll have a better opportunity to convert sales (subscription, readership etc.) if you narrow down your target market because you’re a big fish in a small pond so just go after more small ponds! Don’t swim with the sharks in the big ocean because chances are, you’ll become their lunch.

Ask yourself if your marketing message is tangible, external, specific and measurable to your target prospect? And try NOT to use the word “I” or “me” in your message.

Here is one of my all time favorite (and world famous ad) created by the genius David Ogilvy. Notice how many “I” or “me” were used in this ad – none. Focus on the title and you’ll learn how this 1959 ad is still the foundation of today’s direct response marketing.

How To Get Inside the Minds Of Your Customers

by Eric Tsai


Over the past months I wrote about how to find your customers in order to improve your customer segmentation and gain better understanding of your niche market. Everything goes back to connecting with your audience so you can craft campaigns utilizing tactics such as email marketing, SEO and social media.

Then as more businesses learned the tools of the trade, I brought up the point of adding value on my last post because ultimately knowledge will be commoditized similar to most disruptive technologies.

The trick is maximizing the use of your knowledge (when it’s still valuable) to help you grow your business and become an authority in your domain expertise.

If there is one thing that technology won’t be able to replace (at least not easily) it would be the content of your communication.

Every business and individual are elevating the concept of the freemium model, publishing free valuable content on the social web, competing for clicks, eyeballs and engagement opportunities.

It’s what Seth Godin calls “permission marketing”, what Hubspot calls “inbound marketing” and what Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 calls “content marketing.”

However you like to label it, it’s basically creating content that communicates the value in which your target audience values then leveraging it as the bait to attract those in need of your solution (products or services).

This is a highly targeted approach like design thinking, social design and service design that truly serves up what’s going to solve a problem rather than just bunch of trivia concepts or random thoughts.

It’s also a validation on how your content is really worth on the internet where content is the new currency.

And to stay competitive and survive the ongoing challenges marketers and business owners are presently facing, they need to reassess the way they build and maintain relationships with customers.

A product or service is merely a means to an outcome. The real core value lies in the story attached and that is where marketing truly shines.

I don’t want to use a microwave – I want the ability to quickly eat hot food so I can get on with my life. I didn’t go to Home Depot to buy paint – I want a painted wall for my new living room.  I don’t want to use Google – I want answers to my questions now.

You see, you may be very good at what you do but your communication may not do you justice and as a result you end up with lame content that just sounds like everyone else.

And to make matters worse, if you don’t know how to market your content, your content will just sit on the web with little to no traffic.

Unfortunately this is not going to help you in translating how great your product is or how much value you can bring to the table.

In this article, I will explain what to listen for and how to take quantitative measures from listening so you can drill down to the minds of your customers. Then I will show you how to communicate effectively so your solution sounds exactly like what’s going to solve your prospects’ problem.

Step 1: Gather Information by Listening

Many people know the concept of listening and yet few are able to do it well (everyday I continue to practice listening). Listening is a form of information gathering which allows you to take in the data, process and abstract meaning out of the dialogue.

In a typical conversation people tend to wait for their turn to talk rather than actually absorbing the meaning of the words.

We all have some sort of attention deficit as the by product of all the distractions around us from cell phones to emails, from writing a blog article to meeting with your team, from preparing dinner to picking up your kids, we live in a fast pace society.

The trick is to unlearn your habits of making assumptions and let go of as much preconceived thoughts as possible and simply focus on what’s been said at the moment of the conversation.

Think of it as taking a training course and preparing your mind to get into the learning mode so you can pay 100% attention during the interaction.

Listen for key emotional phrases that are connected to a person’s problem. Typically it will sound like this: “my business is xxx” or “I want to xxx but xxx is xxx”, try to dig deeper and get the frustration and emotions out of the conversation.

This helps you to identity what that person values and where the connection points can be made. Take notes if you have to but avoid memorizing what you want to say (I know you want to help) because you will be interrupting the other person and stop listening altogether.

When you try to do anything but listen, you also break the flow of the other person’s thought and the energy of the dialogue making it harder to identify the key emotional points. Take notes and wait until the other person finishes.

Easy right? It takes practice.

Plus if you’re good at what you do, you should be able to provide instant feedback by looking at your notes.

Remember, people don’t care what you have to say unless you show how much you care about what they have to say and how they feel. Yes, how they feel is where the connection point can be made.

This is why great sales people always listen first and ask questions later allowing their prospects to fully emerge into an emotional output session.

This is a skill that takes practice so try it with your friends, colleagues or family as often as possible.

You may find that this will help you discover more about them and can also help them to understand you better. It all starts with listening.

Step 2: Pinpoint Signals Avoid The Noise

The key to forging a powerful connection with your audience is to first understand that people simply want to be heard and understood.

If you can describe your prospect or customer’s problem better than they can, they will automatically assume that you may have the solution to their problem (most of the time).

Even if you don’t have the exactly solution, it’s a great way to establish a common ground for the relationship you’re forging.

And why do we want to connect with others? It’s just how we build trust, the “wow, this person gets me…” or the “OMG, you know exactly what I’m going through!…” emotional connection.

Not everyone is good at communicating their problems, thus when someone perceives that you sound and looks like an expert, you may just become the expert that’s going to solve their problem (or maybe you are an expert? But are you just an expert in your own mind?).

Keep in mind that the focus is on validating your assumptions. Ask questions that helps to confirm their pain points, their vision of success or their desired outcome.

This requires a lot of critical thinking and again do not formulate conclusions from your assumptions unless you have enough information. Otherwise go back to step 1 and ask more open-ended questions so you can listen again.

This of course, applies to all form of conversations including blogging, social media and email exchanges.

The idea is to abstract the emotional triggers from the depth and tonality of the conversation so you can fully understand the opportunities to build meaningful connects.

If you ask the wrong questions, it just shows you don’t get it and you’re eager to sell yourself, your story and your products. You will get your turn but you must be able to distinguish the signals from the noises.

At this stage, you should still be more reactive allowing your customer to freely express themselves.

The most valuable information are those that are freely expressed without boundaries from your prospects. This is also the core value of surveying your customers so you can apply what you’ve learned to improve your product and services.

Step 3: Build Connections That Create Convictions

Once you’ve got solid understanding of the problems your customers want to solve, you then must learn to get into the minds of your prospects so you can turn them into customers.

This is the “I heard, I know, I understand, I believe and I do,” steps that lead to actions through the use communication.

Most people are good at passing through “I know and I understand” stage, but it’s the “I believe” stage that communication often fails to connect resulting in no action. You buy a product or change an unhealthy habit because you would only take the action after you become convinced of your decision.

Most people don’t realize that a desired action is often brought out through the use of specific communications tools from advertising to word-of-mouth testimonial, or via social proof endorsements. Simply put, people don’t just do what we want them to do because we want them to do it; they need to convince themselves first by having the right information.

And how do they know that it’s right for them? Well it’s by moving through each of these communications steps that people will take action.

So if the “I heard” part doesn’t resonate, it won’t move into the next step and in most cases it’s your professional jargon or the inability to identify what it is that your customer really values.

So your job as someone with the solution should be to help by facilitating them through that discovery process and not forcing your ideas upon them.

Again, it’s not trying to convince them, but helping them to convince themselves.

A great marketer knows how to unleash the power of communications and seeks to understand their target market needs, perceptions and how they like to receive information.

Is it how expensive (monetary value) your products are? Or how much time you’ve invested creating your solution? Perhaps it’s the work and labor you’ve put into your services.

Whatever it is, they must do the job of translating why they should take action to contact your or buy your product.

Step 4: Convert The Sale With Meaningful Communication

Once your prospect is convinced of their decision, there usually is no turning back as the human brain will attempt to rationalize that decision from the emotions of wanting to feel good about moving forward and the urgent need to solve their problem.

It’s indicative that most “modern” businesses realize that customers respond more to an emotional connection, thus it’s not about selling but educating.

And educating requires providing how you are going to make their lives easier from a more personal perspective.

This is the part where traditional business owners have a hard time letting go of what they perceive as high value in their knowledge.

It’s true that giving away your knowledge can feel like doing something for free that you usually get paid for, the key is figuring out where to draw the “free line.”

However; I’ve found in many instances, people simply won’t do it even if you provide detail step-by-steps.

For example, recently I wrote a detailed article on “how to use Goolge and Twitter to find your customers,” and have received many emails from people telling me that I’m stupid for giving out such high value content.

As a result not only have I gotten more leads and referrals but I was able to sign up clients while using it to make a case for content marketing, sort of proofing that this stuff works!

You must be able to paint the picture and hit home with what your solution looks like to your prospects, communicate the results they will achieve and the steps they will need to take in order to achieve those results.

Sounds simple but all too often I came across marketing messages full of features and benefits (especially for technology companies or specialty industries) that typically starts with “our innovative products are designed for xxxx,” “our company has xxxx technology that’s xxxx” or the ever popular “xyz company is the leader in xxxx and have xx years of experience…”

So what does it all sound like to the prospect?

It’s all about YOU, not them and that’s not going to take you far.

Businesses are quick to tell people what they have but forget that their prospects are in different stage of the buying cycle. It’s important to speak the language that they understand and values which is why you need to focus on their needs.

So what if you’re an innovative company or a leader in your space? Who isn’t innovative and a leader in their space these days?

The Take Away: The meaning of your communication is the response you get from your audience. If you don’t like the responses you get, you’re not doing a good job of translating your value.

If you can do step 1-3 well, you should have good amount of data to start writing great sales copies and headlines that gets inside the heads of your customers.

And by using what Robert Cialdini’s six “weapons of influence” (reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity), you will end up with powerful communications that gets you phone calls and inbound traffics.

The worse that can happen is you actually don’t have a solution but you marketed as a solution, or your product sucks and it doesn’t solve any problem. In that case great marketing can only help you fish for a day because the fish will learn that your bait isn’t a real one.

What do you think? Are you communicating the right way?

Leave me a comment below or share your most effective marketing copy.

What Is Adding Value And How It Applies To Social Networking

by Eric Tsai

As a social media advocate I often discuss adding value to the conversations, to the communities or to the relationships. I guess I assumed everyone already knew what the term means and how it applies to them until I started to get questions from people.

So what exactly is adding value and how? Is it just an over-used marketing jargon? An illusion of a feel-good emotion? The more I use the term “value” the more I feel like it’s loosing its soul (I’m guilty as charge at times).

One of my favorite artists, the awesome Hugh MacLeod had a great piece about Adding Value with the quote, “The aim of “adding value” is a hard one to argue with… who doesn’t want to add value to their current enterprise? But it’s also utterly meaningless…”

Well, obviously there are many ways to look at it but here is how I perceive the meaning of adding value.

Let’s face it, most businesses wants to add value to the bottom line which means making sales and growing profits.

In sales, adding value used to mean networking in the best interest of your company or your career which is to sell, sell, sell!

Today it means helping people to make informed decisions, finding out their needs first and showing an interest to solve their problems not yours. The one way sales pitch broadcasting simply becomes part of the meaningless noise in a sea of noises.

The Meaning of Knowledge

In sales, either the product sells itself (more of an affirmation and emotional validation) or it’s selling via education (information and data).

A Porsche salesman don’t sell the 911 Turbo, they sell the experience of buying a Porsche (great products drives emotions). On the other hand, a Honda salesman sells the features and benefits against competitors like Toyota and Nissan (value proposition, more needs than wants).

In both scenarios, the goal is to ensure that the person feels good about the decisions that they’ve made (or going to make) on the purchase which leads to trust building. And trust is built on relationships from knowledge and actions.

The more knowledge you have, the less fear you have, the less stress you feel and the better you feel about your decision making process.

You could think of having knowledge as freedom from limitations and having information is empowerment. The ability to make your own decision is valuable because who wants to be pressured into buying?

Emotion Trumps Logic

Now you know the importance of adding value through knowledge transfer, you then need to know how to take actions with your knowledge.

Besides physically helping someone, the action part comes down to communication. And because emotions are the essence of the communication, marketers need to focus on the emotional needs of the customers at the time when feelings are vivid. This mean to empathize with your customers and truly focus on how to make their lives better.

You can not make people’s lives better if you don’t understand their lives.

When you solve someone’s problem, they’ll usually remember it not because of the facts but because of how they felt when it was happening. Simply put, memory is tied to emotions and emotions are more real than thoughts.

Now apply that to marketing and you’ll realize that providing useful and meaningful information does exactly that – it makes people remember you if you satisfy their needs by providing value!

This is why the increasingly Social Web is a great place to find those that are in need of knowledge (also why information product sells). When you need an answer, you want it now, you Google it (you can Yahoo or Bing it too of course).

The online conversation across all social networks are as authentic as it gets, besides the offline in-person engagements, because it’s taking place when people are still feeling the emotions dealing with their problems – what is, how-to, why is, who can…you get the point.

The rest of it is about the context of adding value, at the right place at the right time.

The optimal time to email your subscribers, the suitable LinkedIn group to contribute knowledge or the people you engage on Twitter – they’re all channels to add your value to the conversation within the communities to forge solid relationships.

Motives and Actions

The last point in adding value is the motives behind such actions. Why are you doing this? Why are businesses embracing the freemium model?

Most of the time the objective is to create brand awareness, build credibility and what I keep pounding the table on: to create social proof around the topics of health, wealth and relationships.

However; there is always a trade-off, you get free Gmail with all the awesome features of other Google Apps because Google advertises around your inbox.The same applies to most of the social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. You’re exchanging personal information to use their products.

My take is that if you’re honest about your intentions and focus on serving only those that matters to your business, you will attract the customers you want.

Like what Seth Godin wrote in his book Purple Cow, “the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” Well, he’s right, everyone is NOT your customers.

And the science behind motivation isn’t as clear cut as features and benefits or even monetary rewards. Checkout this video by RSA animation adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA on “The surprising truth about what motivates us.”

The take away: Identify your customer’s problem is where adding value starts. And listening when they talk is your opportunity to fill the value gaps.

Think of it as facilitating the process of buying on their terms not yours. You have to create the right environment that entices people, and if you do it well, then they will show up and join the party.

It is only by adding value you will be remembered, reciprocated and passed on (via word-of-mouth).

There are simply too much information and too little time. Marketing messages are everywhere and people have developed ad blindness, seeing doesn’t mean retaining.

Are you adding value?

How to Integrate Email Marketing, SEO and Social Media

by Eric Tsai

Social media is changing how businesses find customers and how customers engage with brands. There are many reasons to believe that it will eventually overtake email marketing, but I’m a firm believer that it’s here to stay.

In fact, I believe email marketing combine with search (SEO) and social media will the best strategy moving forward.

However; let me get a few things straight. First, email is the original social network. Second, you need email to open social network account and get alerts.

And third, search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) will continue to index and aggregate social network data not to mention most social network has their own internal search engine as well.

It sounds like there is a lot of cross-over between the three, so how should you use these three tactics to help you strategize your marketing efforts?

It’s hard to realize how these tactics can impact your business without some basic understanding of the big three. Let’s look at how each works and what you can do to get the most bang for your marketing bucks.

The Big Three #1 – Email Marketing

Why email – Today it’s hard to find someone without an email account and majority of account holders have had it for a while (I still check my hotmail from 14 years ago) thus letting it go is not likely for most.

Account holders may reduce the time they spent on email but it doesn’t have the abandon rate (Facebook, Twitter) like majority of the social networks.

Almost all basic business communications are done via email not via social networks.  The perception is that it’s more secure, private and user friendly (centralized contacts, integrates with calendar, easily accessible via mobile devices).

Simply put, people will use what’s easy to achieve the same goal – to get work done and to communicate.

Another benefit of email is that it’s a direct private channel of communication to alert customers on new product offerings or promotions. At the same time, customers can use e-mail to provide feedback and ask questions.

Done right, you will be kept away from the spam folder and earn a permanent spot on the white list.

This is why great email marketers tend to focus on delivering high value content at the right time, with the proper frequency using attractive subjective lines that encourage clicks and forwards.

Building your email list should still be all marketers’ top priority. Give people a reason to subscribe and to remain subscribed is the ongoing art and science of email marketing.

The Big Three #2 – Search Engine Marketing

Why SEO – This one should be a no brainer. What is the first thing you do when you’re looking to buy a product? If you do your homework you would first Google it.

This applies to almost anybody looking to learn more about a company, a product or how to do something.

Often times, people don’t even question the search results because it’s just easier to trust Google’s rankings and feel good about the decisions you’ve made based on what was found.

It’s no surprise that 79% of United States hiring managers and job recruiters search online information about job applicants according to a recent research commissioned by Microsoft.

This is why smart businesses (and individuals) are putting more emphasis on content marketing and shifting their mindset to operate more like a media company.

They understand search engine is catered to “people” and people want relevant, valuable content that’s going to move them a step closer to identify the information they’re searching for.

The key is to create great content around what your customers are interested in when looking for your product; such as how things work (the outcome of your product or services), step-by-step guides or research reports that reveals product comparisons.

Then tie these high quality content with relevant keywords and over time you’ll likely to move higher through the non-paid “organic” rankings. And today you can SEO anything from websites, blog posts, videos, images, podcasts you name it.

SEO is one of the key marketing arsenals especially for retailers, direct marketers and authors.

The latest Internet Retailer Survey (some sample data below) clearly shows a growing interest and investment in search to drive more online sales. It’s not a matter of why, but how.

There is simply too much information and too little time. Search engine is our instant gratification to today’s ADD (Attention-Deficit Disorder) society.

The Big Three #3 – Social Media

Why Social – If search engine is a way for people to find information, then social media is a way for people to find conversations and be part of them.

It adds the credibility fuel to the fire of trust since social media is basically word-of-mouth. Instead of just believing in what you read from company websites or reviews you found online, you can talk to people you trust or listen to experts you follow.

Similar to search, you can get people to your site with social media, and it’s a great tool to tell customer stories, demonstrate expertise, and stack up your social proof to win business from competitors.

The goal is to connect with customers on an ongoing basis to further understand their needs, wants and concerns.

This will help you to build strong, lasting and engaging relationships with your customers for future business as well as referral opportunities by getting people to share your products on social networks to bring in traffic and find new customers.

And since social media is word-of-mouth, it’s your brand’s reputation on the line. Your digital reputation is your first impression and perception is reality.

How The Big Three Can Work Together

Although you can choose to only do one or two of the three, but to get the most out of your marketing investments, you should consider doing all three.

Here are a few ideas to consider on how to leverage the big three:

1) Create Once, Recycle Many– Focus on content not just promotions and sales, it’s about facilitating people through the sales cycle.  People usually don’t buy base on just one piece of data think of it as adding “trust points” to people’s decision to buy.

If prospects consumed a great piece of educational content on your landing page, that’s one point.  If they read some great reviews about your product from a third party site, that’s another point.

If there is more positive comments than negative ones about your brand in social networks, that’s another point.

The goal is to accumulate enough trust so prospects feel good about why they’ve made the decision over you than others.

You want to invest your time and money on creating the best blog content, how-to articles, educational videos, whitepapers or anything that will get your audience to bookmark, download and share.

Then make sure you optimize the content for search engine with the proper keywords and deliver them to the right people in your target channel via email and social networks.

For example let’s say you have a really good article on how to do something (try not to involve your product first, focus on solving the problem then introduce your product later when appropriate), you can package it in a downloadable PDF put it on a landing page that’s highly optimize for SEO.

Then abstract the summary from the content for your email newsletter so you can send your subscribers to that very same landing page, a typical web marketing campaign.

But let’s take it a step further by turning that piece of content into a video (using screen capture tools like Camtasia, or with a webcam or FlipVideo) and upload it to YouTube, Ustream or Vimeo to drive traffic back to your landing page.

Then post the video on your blog, tweet it out via Twitter, send it to relevant groups on LinkedIn or submitted to social network sites like Technorati, Digg, Reddit or StumbleUpon. Continue to produce great content and after 3-6 month you can recycle that piece of content with some updates and do it again.

2) Streamline with Process – Think about how your customers consume information and respond to connections.

It’s NOT jamming the information down their throat like traditional one-way push advertising but allowing them to discover and get permission to establish a relationship.

Talk to your customers, ask them what they read, who influence them and why? Understand what they don’t care about (don’t be surprise if it’s a lot of what you do) is just as important as what they care (a lot of what you should know).

If you make the wrong assumption it will bring you the false conclusion which will impact on how you strategize your campaign.

For example if you know your customer reads certain blogs regularly, should you advertise on their site or is it better to build a relationship with the blogger?

Once you’ve made your decision, focus on identifying the path to your web properties.

Take out a piece of paper and map out that path and create a process to streamline every possible step that your customer may take so you can funnel them via your sales pipeline.

Remember, not everyone consumes media the same way, some people like to read while others prefer to watch videos or listen to a podcast.

It’s important to have as many media options as possible available to maximize engagement opportunities.

3) Target, Track and Repeat – Without the right data you won’t know where to focus your marketing efforts and no accountability in your actions.

What happens after your prospect conducts a search?

What actions were taken after consuming your content?

Was it shared on Facebook or forwarded to a colleague?

The biggest benefit from tracking your email, search and social media analytics is that you will be able to tie them all together and figure out your ROI.

You’ll know where your site visitors are coming from, which email links they clicked on and what gets shared so you can make adjustments to improve conversion rates.

Why continue to do something that doesn’t work?

You need to know so you can keep doing what works and stop doing what doesn’t. Perhaps Facebook is not the best social network to target your audience or is it because your marketing messages aren’t resonating with them?

Marketers must aggregate customer behavior information to build a holistic view of the customer.

This means analyzing quantitative data to measure and monitor customer-related metrics such as customer attrition rate, customer retention rate, number of products purchased, repeat purchases, likelihood to recommend, etc.

When you have the right customer insights, you’re in a position to address customer needs, improve processes (to shorten the sales cycle), and to maintain a strong connection for an opportunity to turn customers into fans and fans to brand evangelists.

Do Your Homework, Fish Where Fish Are

Before you start, you should learn where your customers are at, the tools they use and why.  This allows you to make better informed decisions and build a framework for your assumptions before you jump in. You can find some valuable research data from the internet and here are two examples I’ve found.

First is the Morgan Stanley Internet Trends Analysis, which has a lot of in-depth information about all things internet, mobile, cloud computing, email, social networks and more. (Check out slide 12 on social networking vs email usage).

Morgan Stanley Internet Trends Analysis

The second report is from Edison Research on “Everything You Need To Know About Who’s Using Twitter.” I found it particularly interesting that people actually go to Twitter to learn about products, far more than they do with other social networks. (51% of active Twitter users follow companies, brands or products on social networks)


Twitter Usage in America 2010

The take away: Email marketing, search engine optimization and social media are all great, but it takes a combination of know-how and creativity to get people just to open your e-mail, to click on your search results or to retweet your messages.

Business owners and marketers need to have some technical knowledge of what methods produce positive results.

Your goal should be to have a mix and balance of the big three utilizing content strategy that is useful and easy to share.

Think like a publisher, not only do you have to figure out ways to engage your subscribers (and to remain subscribed) but also prospects, people on the fence and try to sway influencers your way.

Yes, it’s time consuming like what Jay Baer mentioned recently but think of it as investing in your customers, you get what you put in.  It’s easy to setup your email newsletter, social network accounts and have SEO gurus optimizing your site, those are executions of tactics NOT strategy.

First, learn before you start, listen before you talk and research before you decide.

You’re better off investing your marketing dollars to build your own targeted database (and customer segmentation!) with accurate information.

Questions on email marketing, search engine optimization or social media? Subscribe to my newsletter and get more tips on the full potential of integrated digital marketing.

Reputation Management Using Social Media

by Eric Tsai

Recently I purchased a new vehicle and was excited about the whole experience. I’ve had many cars in the past and the part that always annoys me is feeling the pressure to buy from the sales people on the floor.

But this one is different.

It was like two friends talking about cars and with no initiation about buying. She wasn’t worry about selling.

Obviously I purchased the car and about 3 weeks later I had to go in for some service and again the experience was painless and I even got a loaner car to drive for a few days.

I was so thrilled that I wanted to endorse them by leaving reviews on their social network profile. Then I discovered a string of negative reviews online and what’s worse is that they received an average of 2 out of 5 stars on multiple websites.

So I called the sales person that sold me the car and she said she will help me pass it to her corporate marketing executive. Below is a slightly altered version to keep both the dealership and sales person confidential:

=================================================================

Dear Jenny (not real name)

I’m a happy customer because I had a great experience buying a vehicle from you. It was enjoyable and I felt no pressure or that I wasn’t been judged.

When I came in for a service a month later, your service department was superb not to mention I can talk to the technician forever. The car was serviced promptly and the entire process was painless.

With such exceptional service and people, why is it that your dealership only gets

  • 3 out of 5 stars from Google?
  • 2.5 out of 5 stars from Yelp?
  • 3 out of 5 stars from Edmunds?

The reason is simple. No one is managing your company’s reputation online.

People typically would only review something when they’re either excited, happy, satisfied or vice versa; frustrated, angry or dissatisfied. Looking at some of the reviews you will find YOUR NAME is all over the positive side, which is the reason why not all the reviews are negative.

As you can see the negative reviews out weights the positive reviews. Nobody from your company is defending the dealership brand and it’s unfortunate because your car manufacturer makes a product that practically sells itself.

But does your dealership have any loyal fans that would refuse to go to other dealerships because they love you guys so much? Does your dealership have any advocates internally or externally that promotes the positive things about your company?

Does your management care? And what are they doing about it? Is the entire business run on listing cars on websites, classifieds, and print advertising? Then why should I come back to buy my second and third vehicle from you?

There is NOTHING on your website that shows credibility of your great sales people, hardworking service advisers, happy technicians or a sense of strong community. Just bunch of product photos, inventory listing and resources that every other car dealership has on their website.

How can I trust your brand? I only walked in your dealership knowing there is a deal NOT because I know Jenny Smith, the awesome sales person was there. If your dealership competes ONLY on price, then it’ll be very difficult to build value in the business because there won’t be any long-term customer relationship forged that way. And that’s not what your GM wrote to me in his thank you email.

Unless you’re selling a commodity such as water, people don’t buy what you sell, they buy the experience! And even water brands are working hard to differentiate from the competition, what marketing efforts are you doing to differentiate? What reasons are you giving me to talk about your company and your people?

Now, would I recommend your dealership? Sure but I would tell people to ask for Jenny in sales and Kevin in service.

Sincerely,

Eric Tsai

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Reputation Management is Marketing

It should come to no surprise that reputation management is marketing. And crisis management cross over to reputation management as well, thus it should be considered as marketing too.

Take a look at the recent two big crisis for these two brands: Tiger Woods and Toyota. One is a billion dollar personal brand and the other one is a multi-billion dollar consumer products brands.

For Tiger Woods, he opted to go with the silent treatment, laying low to let things wane a bit and the conversation just kept going. Even after his public statement, the damage has already been done, sponsors dropped him and fans still skeptical on his integrity.

With Toyota, it’s indicative that there is no magic solution to fix a fundamental problem on a technical issue on the accelerator. The key is to manage the crisis in a way to mitigate negative press going viral as it did on Twitter just check the #Toyota hashtag.

According to AdAge, “on Jan. 22, the day after the recall, buzz within the social web skyrocketed, with the number of posts about the automaker going from less than 100 to over 3,200. With the stop-sale announcement four days later, online chatter shot from about 500 posts that morning to more than 3,000 by that afternoon.”

In both cases, the respond time is  just as critical as what’s been communicated.

As we continue to transition to the social and relationship-focused era, companies will no longer be able to ignore social media and online marketing because the truth of the matter is the more social you are and the more transparency you expose, you’re more likely to convert the sales and retain loyalty.

And if you’re able to provide a community for your fans, customers, staff or even vendors to interact and engage with each other, they’re also more likely to buy repeatedly not to mention providing you with referral business as well.

According to the latest report from Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate, “social friends and followers feel more inclined to purchase from the brands they are fans of… 60% of respondents claimed their Facebook fandom increased the chance they would recommend a brand to a friend. Among Twitter followers, that proportion rose to nearly 8 in 10.”

Social Networks Continue to Grow

And it helps that social network giant like Facebook is now just as popular as Google according to Hitwise,”Facebook reached an important milestone for the week ending March 13, 2010 and surpassed Google in the US to become the most visited website for the week… Together Facebook.com and Google.com accounted for 14% of all US Internet visits last week.

Just look at the chart below and you’ll see how Facebook have exploded while Google maintains its steady traffic. Why the exponential? For one, Facebook is a great way to get started with social media since most people will already have a couple of hundred friends that they can talk to about anything.

For businesses in the offline world to reach customers they would have to make hundreds if not thousands of phone calls or send out loads of flyers that would cost lots of money and resource. Now companies can do that a couple of times a day for free through a Facebook page or a Twitter tweet.

The take away: All businesses should start exploring with social media to find their sweet spot. Traditional media channel such as advertising on TV, magazines or billboards can still be expensive with unpredictable results. Social media has a low barrier to entry (yes it’s cheap) and allows you to meet people in a fraction of the time that it would take in the real world to start building meaningful relationships.

However; you must factor in the the resources and time spent on social media marketing, because it can get out of hand which can lead to inefficiency and ultimately costing you more.

You don’t even need to have a profile on every social network like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Simply focus on one that you’re comfortable with, develop a process in which you can implement a systematic approach and see what results you get. If you get the result you like, keep doing it. If you don’t, try something else.

Whether you like it or not, people will continue to talk about your brand and you can either choose to ignore it or do something about it.

5 Keys to Incorporate Social Media in Your Business

by Eric Tsai

Last week BusinessWeek published its 100 Best Global Brands 2009 and to no surprise, financial brands were largely untrusted which dragged down all brands across the board with them.

Moving forward, brands are rethinking how they can win back the trust focusing on the psychological aspect of marketing and advertising in an attempt to rebuild its relationship with customers.

You can see from the gradual shift in magazine ads and TV commercials using regular everyday people to lead advertising campaigns instead of celebrities with messages such as the “we’re here for you in this economy” (Hyundai guarantee programs, Subway’s $5 foot long, Gieco’s money saving tips), or the “we stand by our product and services” (GM’s may the best car win, Carl’s Jr.’s value comparison with McDonald’s Big Mac) that centers around authenticity.

Serious Trust Issues

What’s interesting is that with more marketers embracing social media, the actual adoption bottleneck are brands themselves.

I’m not speaking about the Fortune 500s but mainly the small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs).

Why is this important?  Because small businesses represent 99% of all employer firms and employ nearly half of all private sector employees, small businesses span all aspects of our economy.

Digital marketing is no longer a fad and has a solid track record of proven success even in this economy but what brands must realize is that building trust takes time and innovation. 

It’s nice to see marketers are quickly to embrace social media such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, creating their own online community focusing on customer acquisition and retention.

I’m a big believer that social media is in the process of reinventing PR, marketing and advertising by integrating some of these processes into one multi-functional, all encompassing vehicle to engage consumers.

But this is not the answer to earn back the trust, in fact as I’ve mentioned before, these are simply tools and tactics that has evolved due to the shift in consumer behavior and technology innovation.

Companies should re-evaluate their brand strategy to focus on ROI and profits by doing something tangible that align with their core mission while demonstrating ethics and transparency.

Social media is like the hot new gadget that you just bought but haven’t quite figured out what all the buttons can do and the hidden features beneath it.

To some brands, they’re uncomfortable with having conversation with their customers, while others simply refuse to hear the negative comments from the community. 

To marketers, some are starting to figure out how to integrate it with their existing offering, while others are grasping the idea to demonstrate ROI to their clients.

One thing is for certain, social media can help brands in accelerating its reputation (good and bad) and the real question is how to best leverage it to improve an organization as a whole.

Social Media and Business Intelligence

It’s no longer difficult to collection data on customers, data such as conversion rate, click-through rate (CTR) and eyeballs (page views) are nothing new.  The real challenge is to identify useful data to help drive business success.

Analytical data are only as good as developing a strategy and execute against it not to mention taking into account broader factors such as advertising ROI, media weights, distribution, in-store activities, promotions and even closely examining competitors’ brands.

It takes an enormous amount of effort to aggregate meaningful data to build a case for cause and effect correlations between buying and not buying.

Web 2.0 and social media practices is actually a narrow focus in evaluating ROI unless your business operates primarily on the internet.

Social media marketing can certainly build influence and trust, but they should be part of a business intelligence initiative.

Businesses should consider integrating social media tactics with CRM (customer relationship management) tools in a collaborative effort to improve business processes visibility while helping customers in the process of buying.

This kind of business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, processes and social ROI, will invite the new generation of social customers (particularly Gen Y, 18-27) into the conversation (that they will own anyway).

Integrating social media into traditional channels of engagement requires risk and change management, but that’s exactly what innovation is all about – taking calculated risks, implement unconventional approach to create a trusted and transparent business environment to drive exceptional customer experience.

The goal is to streamline business processes to give the customer a voice, bounce ideas within the organization, leverage crowdsourcing to cultivate an authentic community.

Done right, this can ease the transition for organizations (new and old) into the growing social media-centric business environment that will continue to test the boundaries of trust.

And trust is what drives pricing power, profit margin and customer retention.

It is what your community thinks and shares with one another. Growing trust will be more important than growing the customer base.

transitioning

5 Keys to Incorporate Social Media

1. Transition into hybrid business model by integrating social media with existing marketing strategy that aligns to business initiatives both online and offline

Drive print/radio/TV traffic to your social network that can spark conversation with your team, or leverage hyperlocal blogs/media for regional advertising/promotional campaign to drive traffic to retail locations.

2. Identify an internal social media administrator candidate to spearhead social media strategy that can examine the processes for failures at the moments of truth

Preferably someone that truly cares about your brand that gives real feedback, not someone from an agency or an consultant that just get paid by the hour to care.

3. Provide analytical capabilities to capture customer insight and purchase processes with CRM tools to enhance visibility into key business processes performance

Cross reference social media statistics/dialogues/behaviors with CRM telesales or retail sales data to find correlation in campaign effectiveness, tie it back to ROI and resource allocation.

4. Leverage crowdsourcing to drive product and service innovation by providing a platform for ongoing engagement, evaluate customer retention

Combine email campaign, direct mail campaign and events to encourage call-to-action feedback with incentives to reward participants, identify the fans and new sources of expertise within the community for word-of-mouth marketing.

5. Pinpoint fact-based data related to more areas of the business decisions and take action to increase the success of change initiatives, create pilot programs, let the customer take control of the purchasing experience

Say one of your product sells really well during a specific time with a specific demographics, figure out why and where it’s coming from; conduct a survey to abstract relevant data on buying pattern and the source of sales reference to improve the purchase experience.

Organizations looking to transition into the social business model will need to think outside the box, get out of the comfort zone and adjust current models to find the right balance of people, process, and technology to fully realize the benefits of this emerging medium.

Are you transitioning your business into social media? 

Are you experiencing success or having issue?

The 12 Principles of Brand Strategy

by Eric Tsai

In a situation where you’re selling to multiple personalities, it’s best to first connect everyone on a common ground then articulate clearly what’s in it for each of them.

The goal is to stimulate an engaging conversation that allows us to change perception, diagnose expectations and bring clarity to the dialogue.

That’s the essence of developing a brand strategy – the foundation of your communication that builds authentic relationships between you and your audience.

It is by defining your brand strategy that allows you to utilize marketing, advertising, public relations and social media to consistently and accurately reinforce your character.

Without defining the core strategy, all channels of communication can often become a hit and miss expense.

Here’s 12 brand strategy principles I believe to be the key to achieve business success.

1. Define your brand

It starts with your authenticity, the core purpose, vision, mission, position, values and character.  Focus on what you do best and then communicated your inimitable strengths through consistency.

There are many examples of companies acquiring other brands but only to sell them off later because they don’t fit within the brand and its architecture.

Microsoft acquired Razorfish in 2007 when it bought aQuantive, a digital marketing services company, for about US $6 billion then sold it a few years later for $530 million.

Simply put, Razorfish isn’t a good fit with Microsoft’s brand strategy.

2.  Your brand is your business model

Supports and challenge your business model to maximize the potential within your brand. Think of personal brands like Oprah, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson.

These individuals practically built their business right on top of their personal brand; everything they offer is an extension of their brand promise.

3. Consistency, consistency, consistency

Consistency in your message is the key to differentiate.

Own your position on every reference point for everything that you do. President Obama focuses on one message only during his campaign, CHANGE. BMW has always been known as the “ultimate driving machine.

4. Start from the Inside out

Everyone in your company can tell you what they see, think and feel about your brand.  That’s the story you should bring to the customers as well, drive impact beyond just the walls of marketing.

That’s example how Zappos empowers employees to strengthen consumer perception on its brand.

5. Connect on the emotional level.

A brand is not a name, logo, website, ad campaigns or PR; those are only the tools not the brand.  A brand is a desirable idea manifested in products, services, people, places and experiences.

Starbucks created a third space experience that’s desirable and exclusive so people would want to stay and pay for the overpriced coffee.

Sell people something that satisfies not only their physical needs but their emotional needs and their need to identify themselves to your brand.

6. Empower brand champions

Award those that love your brand to help drive the message, facility activities so they can be part of the process.

If your brand advocate doesn’t tell you what you should or should not be doing, it’s time to evaluate your brand promise.

Go and talk to someone that works at the Apple retail store or an iPhone owner and you’ll see just how passionate they are about Apple.  It’s a lifestyle and a culture.

7. Stay relevant and flexible

A well managed brand is always making adjustments.  Branding is a process, not a race, not an event so expect to constantly tweak your message and refresh your image.

Successful brands don’t cling to the old ways just because they worked in the past; instead, they try to re-invent themselves by being flexible which frees them to be more savvy and creative.

Here is an example: when the economy tanked this year automaker Hyundai came out with an assurance program that lets you return your car if you lose your job with no further financial obligation and no damage to your credit.

The results?

As of end of February, only two buyers have taken advantage of this program but it has boosted their sales by 14% year-over-year in Q1, only one of the two companies increased revenue while companies such as Honda experienced a drop of more than 30%.

Follow by that campaign in July, as gas prices expected to push higher during peak summer travel months, Hyundai came out with another program that guarantees a year’s worth of gas at $1.49 per gallon on most models.

8. Align tactics with strategy

Convey the brand message on the most appropriate media platform with specific campaign objectives.

Because consumers are bombarded by commercial messages everyday, they’re also actively blocking out the great majority of them.

Invest your branding efforts on the right platform that communicates to the right channels.

Television may be expensive but it has a broader reach, wider demographics and can produce instant impact.  On the other hand, social media may seem cheap but it takes time, resources and may not give you the desire outcome.

9. Measure the effectiveness

Focus on the ROI (return on investment) is the key to measure the effectiveness of your strategies.

Often times it is how well your organization can be inspired to execute the strategies. It could also be reflected in brand valuation or how your customers react to your product and price adjustments.

Ultimately it should resonate with sales and that means profitability.  But don’t just focus increasing sales when you could be getting a profit boost by reducing overheads and expenses as well.

Give yourself options to test different marketing tactics, make sure they fit your brand authenticity and aligns with your strategy.

10. Cultivate your community

Community is a powerful and effective platform on which to engage customers and create loyalty towards the brand.

In an active community, members feel a need to connect with each other in the context of the brand’s consumption.

We all want to be an insider of something, it excites us to tell people which community we’re part of and what knowledge we posses.

In many ways it’s our ego that prides us to be part of a sports team or a professional group.

Guess what car would members of the Porsche club consider first when it’s time to purchase their next vehicle?

Brand communities allow companies to collaborate with customers in all phases of value creation via crowdsourcing such as product design, pricing strategy, availability, and even how to sell.

11. Keep your enemies closer

Even if you have the most innovative, highly desirable product, you can expect new competitors with a superior value proposition to enter your market down the road.

The market is always big enough for new players to improve what you deliver better, faster, cheaper. Call it hypercompetition or innovation economics, competition could be good for you believe it or not.

It challenges you brand to elevate the strategy and deliver more value.

Just look at how the Big Three (automobile manufacturers General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) got crushed in the past decade by competitions from Germany and Japanese.

Not only do their competitors make a better product, they’re more efficient doing it and command a higher brand loyalty.

In 2008, Toyota overtook GM while Honda passed Chrysler in US sales.

12. Practice brand strategy thinking

IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown calls design thinking “a process for creating new choices.

Essentially it means to not just settle for the choices currently available but to think outside the box without being limited.

This concept actually applies to your brand strategy creation process that I called brand strategy thinking.

It’s always easier to execute tactics than coming up with a strategy because it implies the possibility of failure.

It’s much faster to emulate what worked for your competitor than to come up with something original and creative.

But the truth is, that’s not you and it violates the first principle of brand strategy.  Brand strategy thinking is about creating the right experience that involve all the stakeholders to foster a better strategy.

Leverage the ecosystem that includes your employees, partners and customers to help you articulate your brand strategy so they sync together.

The take away: Having a brand strategy will bring clarity and meaning to your brand so you can focus on making, creating, and selling things that people actually care about.

If you could do that, your brand would be unique and memorable on its way to become an esteemed brand.

Are there any you disagree with?

Let me know if I’m missing anything.