9780470260364_p0_v1_s260x420It’s rare these days that a book will stop me cold and challenge me to critically assess what I do every day. But that’s exactly what happened when I read Tuned In by Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott.

Tuned In’s premise is simple: It’s the buyer‘s problem that matters. Are you and your organization considering first and foremost what the buyer needs and wants? Or is your product development process and resultant marketing, PR and social media efforts egocentric, focusing on features and benefits and not much else?

That caught my attention. I’m hoping it catches yours. It reminded me a little of Marty Neumeier‘s missive that became the basis for this blog almost five years ago: It’s not what you say a brand is – it’s what they say it is.

In this case, “they” are the buyer. And it’s the buyer that matters, according to Messrs. Stull, Myers and Scott.

To that end, Tuned In provides a six-step process to get an individual and his/her organization to focus on the buyer’s problem:

Step 1: Find unresolved problems.
Step 2: Understand buyer personas.
Step 3: Quantify the impact.
Step 4: Create breakthrough experiences.
Step 5: Articulate powerful ideas.
Step 6: Establish authentic connections.

The authors hammer home the point that it’s crucial to develop and market a product that resonates with buyers. They call it a Resonator, and they define it as a breakthrough product or service that buyers immediately understand has value to them, even if they have never heard of your company or its products before. Think about the Apple iPod (which they use as one of dozens of examples of a Resonator). Think of what it does, how easy it is to use, how it looks (even down to the white headphones), and how it’s marketed.

But how do you get there? How do you get to the point where you’ve sold 350 million units globally, like the iPod?

“Understanding your market and your buyers through in-depth interviewing is by far the most effective way to discover unresolved market problems that people will pay money to solve,” the authors say.

Contrast that with what they cite as the typical way products are developed and marketed: Conference rooms packed with both people and opinions about the market and buyers. In fact they have a funny phrase to counter that:

“Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.”

Which is what hit home for me. Am I focused on my opinions and pre-conceived notions about a buyer or an entire market in my counsel to clients? I like to think not, but I would also say that I don’t think I am where I need to be. That’s why this book was so powerful – it is literally the catalyst to fine-tune my approach to everything I do professionally.

As usual with business books, I’ve marked this one up and am going to keep it nearby going forward because it’s simply rich with practical ideas. I’d recommend you do the same.

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What’s Really Authentic on Social Media?

by Gregg on January 26, 2015

From time to time I wonder if social media is burning out as a communications channel. I thought that again this week when I read a story in WSJ titled, Paid ‘Influencers’ Undercut Ads on Pinterest.

communityThe story noted that some brands are investing in Pinterest, not in advertising, but in paying the channel’s influencers to “talk up” their products to consumers (WSJ’s words). It appears to be working; a J.C. Penney spokesperson noted that the company sees “twice the lift in engagement on a product when we use an influencer on Pinterest.”

This didn’t really surprise me. I’ve suspected this has been going on for awhile now; it was about a year and a half ago that I started seeing some pretty big names in social media talking about a new-fangled car service called Uber. In fact, I even point-blank asked one of those people whether he was being paid to promote Uber to his followers. I didn’t get a straight answer, so I’m left to draw my own conclusions.

The marketer in me understands that paying people to promote your products on social media channels might make sense. Which would you be more influenced by – an ad or the words of someone like you? The PR person in me understands how important it is to control the conversation.

But the social media user that I am sees this as somehow wrong, and it comes down to a key word: trust. Can I really trust what someone else is saying about Brand X’s product or service, particularly someone I know only through the keyboard?

And for that matter, shouldn’t brands trust that their product or service is the kind that people will want to talk about in glowing terms on social media channels? If not, then maybe brands need to go back and rethink their product or service.

Is this an ethical question? Maybe, and then again, maybe not. What these brands are doing on Pinterest (and other platforms) is probably not that much different than a celebrity endorsement in advertising, i.e., someone getting paid to say nice things about a company’s product or service. But I’ve always wondered: Do these people really believe in the product or service they are hawking, or is it simply a matter of they’ll say anything if the price is right? Same applies here.

Maybe I’m being a little naive about this whole thing, but I don’t like the fact that someone I engage with on social media channels may have been hired to tell me how great something is. I think it’s more authentic and genuine if the product or service stands on its own.

We’ll probably never know one way or the other. I have to think that this doesn’t build community – the whole point of social media – but ever so slightly undermines it. Fast-forward a few years, and how viable is social media as a communications channel if everything is a facade?


Welcome to 2015: Starting Something New for Your Personal Brand

January 2, 2015

Kinda hard to believe we’re at the start of another year. Want to feel old? That whole Y2K thing came and went 15 YEARS ago. Remember how important that felt at the time … and maybe like me you felt a little silly when it passed with nary a problem? That story illustrates the whole […]

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Why is Your Brand’s Product or Service Newsworthy?

December 24, 2014

I love media relations. Hands down, it’s my favorite part of my job. See, I come from a journalism background, not pure PR, so I’ve got perhaps a little different approach toward media relations than colleagues of mine. Having been a journalist, I know what I would look for in a story topic that a […]

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What Does Change Mean for B2B Brands?

December 10, 2014

Seth Godin has been blogging about the concept of change a lot lately, including this gem from a couple of days ago, which got me to thinking. What exactly is change for B2B brands? To me, it’s the inevitability of movement from one state to the next. That, of course, could be a desired state, […]

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Take a Cue from Uber: B2B Brands Should Never Go ‘Off the Record’

November 24, 2014

Ragan.com had a piece this week that dove into the complicated waters of going “off the record” during a media interview. This is timely, of course, because of the unfortunate comments made by an Uber executive that he thought was off the record. This person basically said he would be for hiring researchers to target […]

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Twitter’s Struggle to Define its Vision a Cautionary Tale for B2B Brands

November 10, 2014

Friday’s story in the Wall Street Journal about Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s struggle to define the vision of the social media network is a cautionary tale for organizations of all sizes, including (and perhaps especially) of B2B companies. The story notes that, “Amid staff changes, Mr. Costolo has vacillated in defining Twitter, confusing investors betting […]

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Where Does Wearable Technology Fit for B2B Brands?

October 24, 2014

I have friends who work in IT that swear the next big thing is wearable technology, and the statistics seem to bear that out – the market is supposed to be anywhere from $5.8 billion to as much as $12 billion by 2018. Of course, we’ve seen Google Glass for a couple of years now, […]

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Simplicity Key for Brands to Make Communications Channels More Effective

October 20, 2014

Jacobs & Clevenger here in Chicago had a blog post recently that posed a surprising question: Have all communications channels stopped working? In it, Ron Jacobs muses about whether marketers should stop investing in websites, if SEM and SEO are still effective, and the virtues of direct mail. It was a perfect segue for today’s […]

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Why Are Some B2B Brands STILL Doing Social Media Ineffectively?

September 30, 2014

I was working on a research project recently where I was tasked with surveying a group of B2B companies’ social media presences, and once again, I was astonished by how ineffective they collectively were being approached. What was wrong, you ask? You name it – one-way newsfeed-like communication, complete and utter lack of engagement, no […]

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