UnknownJacobs & 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 post, because it’s an anniversary of sorts – four years ago this month, I started blogging with Brand Empire, which transitioned after a couple of years to what you see now. Over that time, I’ve got 200+ posts under my belt and I’ve learned a lot by basing my posts on Marty Neumeier‘s simple premise that a brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what they say it is – they being customers, supporters, prospects and the like.

So I put today’s post into the lens of what Ron wrote, and I came to a couple of conclusions:
1. A communications channel is most effective if your target audience resides on the receiving end. For example, it makes zero sense to recommend launching a Facebook profile if your audience doesn’t congregate there. Radian6 and other social media monitoring platforms have ways for you to find that out. To Ron’s point, what’s the evidence that your target audience is going to be on the other end of a direct mail piece?
2. Simplicity is absolutely, undeniably, rock-solid crucial when it comes to the communication you’re going to deliver through a selected channel.

Regarding No. 2, I’m not only talking about the words and images you choose to use; I’m talking about the messages you deliver and the concept you’re trying to convey. Take a look at Einstein’s quote above, and let it sink in.

See, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the B2B or B2C worlds – target audiences are too damn busy to spend a lot of time thinking through things. That’s to say as marketers we sometimes think that the more elaborate, the better … the more key messages, the more robust a messaging platform seems. And that’s a good thing – right?

Probably not. If your target audience is receiving a message from you that’s hard to understand, they’re simply going to ignore it and move onto something that’s easier to “get,” maybe from a competitor. Through that lens, then, the communication channel – advertising, PR, social media, direct mail, what have you – is secondary to the ease of understanding of what you are trying to get across.

When I was a cub reporter at the Lake Country Reporter newspaper in Hartland, Wis., in the mid-1990s, my editor once told me not to use 10 words to say what you can in five. The same thing applies here. Why try to deliver five key messages when you can convey everything you want to say in three?

If you think about it, it’s easier for the deliverer of the message to do his/her job, and at the same time it’s easier for the receiver to understand.

I’m not talking about dumbing down communications; I’m merely saying that thinking through what you want to convey is just as important as the channel you select. And to dovetail on Ron’s point, that will likely make a channel that much more effective, which metrics will bear out over time.

What do you think? How can you make your communications more simple and easier to understand? Let’s talk about it below.

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332591-300-0I 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 digital connection with target audience members … just a bunch of stuff posted, ranging from the somewhat interesting to the downright silly. My favorite was the company that, for the last year and a half, has posted photos of its truck in the back of random buildings across the U.S. asking people to “Come on over for a demonstration!” I mean, come on.

Now granted, I don’t know the social media goals of each these companies, but it just struck me that with all the best-practices content – especially available on social media channels – and the fact that we’re now several years into social media era, that I’m just not seeing a lot of community building and nurturing, particularly in B2B

Maybe I’m looking at the wrong feeds, but I challenge you to visit the Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn profiles of B2B brands you support, and ask yourself: What do I see here?

How did we get to this point?

I think it comes down to cost and hubris. I’ve had clients tell me that they’re going to take social media in house because budgets are stretched and they figure social media just isn’t that hard to do. What does it take to post something 3-4 times per week?

And to that I counter with the first and most important rule of marketing:

Who’s your audience?

If you know that – which you should, or you shouldn’t be in marketing – you can then figure out where they congregate online. It may not be on Facebook; it might be on Twitter or LinkedIn, but the point is there are social media monitoring tools that can help you figure that out.

When you do, you’ve got to think through how you’re going to reach them, and with what. I hear this phrase, “Content is king!” and I throw up a little in my mouth. That seems to be EXACTLY what those companies I mentioned early on are thinking … just throw up a bunch of content and they will come. Or will they?

B2B is the perfect place to grow and nurture and online community. Audience members are trying to solve a problem for their customers and do it in cost-effective way with the right tools for the job. In other words, these people may be physically located from Maine to Southern California and beyond, but as some writers have suggested, are like a tribe – the commonality is the work they do and the challenges they face, which your brand can impact.

How do you do that? It’s simple – make sure your social media community manager is empowered to do exactly that: Build the community.

You empower them by ensuring they understand your products or services and how they mesh with the audience’s pain points. You empower them by ensuring they speak the same language. You empower them by making sure they have the tools to succeed, and I’m not talking about understanding social media platforms. I read a Yext whitepaper recently about geo-marketing that noted that smartphone adoption in the U.S. is as high as 74%, and is likely to climb to 90% penetration by 2016.

In short, you help them become, in effect, a pseudo-audience member who can walk the walk and talk the talk, virtually anywhere.

Anything short of that, and you’re wasting your time.

It’s that simple.

Image credit: Bizjournals.com

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Maximizing Your LinkedIn Profile, Part 2: Content

September 15, 2014

My note: In Part 2 of this mini-series on maximizing a LinkedIn profile, I dive into profile content, specifically focusing on things to improve that might not be obvious. My friend and LinkedIn connection Patrick Mayoh talked about connection in Part 1 last week, which you can read here. I might add that in the […]

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Maximizing Your LinkedIn Profile, Part 1: Connecting

September 11, 2014

My note: From two continents, my friend and LinkedIn connection Patrick Mayoh and I attack the challenge of maximizing your LinkedIn profile in Part 1 of this two-part series. You may remember Patrick, who works for Euromonitor International in his native Cameroon, in west-central Africa, wrote this insightful post about the brands that stand out […]

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In Defense of B2B PR: Three Keys to Shining as a Brand Representative

August 28, 2014

Beth Monaghan from Inkhouse Media and Marketing had a really good take recently about why she entered the public relations field, and why what she does on a daily basis is so fulfilling. You can read her piece at Ragan.com here. It was thought-provoking for me, especially as a PR, social media and marketing communications […]

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Being in the Present: Personal Brand Lessons from The Power of Now

August 3, 2014

I’m back, after nearly two weeks of convalescing after my most recent surgery, and frankly, VERY glad to be back. It wasn’t pleasant … a tonsillectomy and work on my soft palate left me feeling like I was swallowing glass shards for the better part of the last couple of weeks. Ick. But, two pieces […]

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Yes or No – Is There Any Legitimacy to Brand Journalism?

July 23, 2014

FYI that I’ve got surgery scheduled for this afternoon (the second of two this month, ugh), and so I’m tidying up loose ends before I head out. One of them is to tie off on the discussion generated by my previous post about brand journalism. It sparked quite an insightful discussion within the PRwise LinkedIn […]

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The Three Must-Haves to Be a Great Brand Journalist

July 14, 2014

Is brand journalism a valid term – and career path, for that matter – or rank hogwash? I read this story on Ragan.com the other day, titled Is Brand Journalism a ‘Half-baked, Made-up’ Expression? It debates this very question and gave me pause, because I happen to consider myself a brand journalist. I was a […]

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Book Review: The 46 Rules of Genius Can Have Profound Effect on a Personal Brand

June 27, 2014

Will Marty Neumeier‘s new whiteboard book The 46 Rules of Genius actually make a marketer, PR or social media professional a genius? That’s subjective, of course, but I will say this: For some of you, it’s going to have a huge impact on your personal brand, and that will have a ripple effect on the […]

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Post #200: A Brand Discussion with Marty Neumeier, Part 2

June 23, 2014

My note: For my milestone 200th post, here’s Part 2 of my brand discussion with Marty Neumeier, Director of Transformation for San Jose-based international brand firm Liquid Agency, and author of The Brand Gap, ZAG, The Designful Company, Metaskills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age and the just-released The 46 Rules of Genius. Miss Part […]

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