Book Review: 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

I’m trying out viddler for the first time. I loved how simple it was. The only hiccup was the flash player crashing after I recorded this whole video the first time. Are you guys using viddler? Is youtube or something else better?

This week I reviewed the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout. It’s a book that I think every marketer should read. A lot of the stuff they talk about, we already kind of know. The way they present it though, allows you to understand how marketing works, at it’s core.

The big takeaway I got from this book is that much, if not all of marketing is about perception. In business, perception is everything. There are a number of factors, or “laws” that explain why consumers, perceive businesses the way they do.

Each one of these laws are carefully, but clearly laid out in this book. I’ve read books where authors dance hypothetically around obscure ideas. Reis and Trout sound like they know their shit, and make it very easy for you to grasp their message. No bullshit.

Published in 1993, many of the examples they use are something a millennial may have to rack their brains to remember (if they’re like me). The lessons behind the examples however, are as relevant today as they were then.

Give it a read. If you already have, what did you think?

Learn more:  The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! [Amazon Affil]

Too Much Networking Makes Bad Marketers

Photo cred: Andy Beal

A marketer’s ability to do their job relies on how well they understand their audience…

Same goes for you PR professionals. You too advertising pros!

…so unless your audience (the one you were hired to understand) consists of mostly marketers, focusing so much time and effort on them will not make you much better at your job.

One could argue that lately, many professionals are equally (or more) concerned with building their personal network as they are with being good at their job.

This is especially an issue for young communications professionals and students.

We’re just starting out, and the first thing we now learn isn’t to start studying people and marketing, it’s to use social media to network and build a personal brand.

When you focus on interacting with other communications professionals all the time, you lose touch with the people that you’re supposed to understand…the ones you’re getting paid to understand.

Learning how to reach out and engage with communications professionals will usually be very different from engaging with other people.  If you’re focusing too much on the former, you’ll quickly find yourself failing at the latter.

A communications professionals has to understand what people want, what triggers them, what turns them off, how to reach them, how to build trust with them, etc… and strictly communicating with other marketing professionals will only take you so far.

Is the value of a professional’s network starting to outweigh the value of their ability as a professional?

What happens when we focus more on meeting communications professionals than on becoming a better communications professionals?

The Balance Act

Balance
Photo cred: DirkJan Ranzijn

Here’s a thought I’ve been struggling with lately…

It’s not all about community, relationships and engagement.  To focus only on these things was naive and idealistic.  These things are vital in the long-run, but in terms of building a large userbase (a.k.a. making money).  In order to scale, these ideals sometimes have to take a backseat to impersonal, systemic approaches.

Now I don’t necessarily agree with that thought…hence me struggling with having it.  As if they were reading my mind, both Chris Brogan and Dave Fleet recently shared relevant thoughts on their blogs to get me thinking even more.  Then to top it off today, I enjoyed an extremely interesting presentation by Gabriel Weinberg (Scribnia’s Dreamit mentor). He shared his story of how he found success by doing nothing in terms of human engagement or community building, but rather by developing a deep and thorough understanding of the system.

I know different approaches work for different situations, but I’m quickly coming to the realization that these social media concepts do not scale, at least not at first. We get caught up on the “success stories” of companies that have done nothing in terms of marketing, and have grown solely from word of mouth.  While nice to think about, to plan the same for yourself is usually idealistic and unreasonable.

So much focus have been put on these tools lately, and I pretty much soaked it all in, not quite seeing the limitations…understanding, but not quite grasping the concept of breaking down silos, as Beth Harte would explain.

I’m learning that the only thing that really matters in the end is numbers…number of users, of customers, of traffic.  Regardless of how you get there, that’s the game.  These are harsh realizations but realizations nonetheless.

So I guess in the end, all you can hope for is a balance. I will never sacrifice my passion for community building and human engagement, but it’s looking like there’s a lot more to it.

I’m sure many of you already know this, so help me through this one…what are your thoughts?

Are You Good at Social Media?

Photo cred: Hamed Parham
Photo cred: Hamed Parham

Look at the traditional tools like commercials, ads, press releases, newspapers, etc… These are practices and tools that could be taught because they are based on a systemized strategy.  For the most part, they could all be simplified down to lists, rules, and guidelines, seperating the successful from the not so successful by who can be efficiently creative and can execute.

You may be thinking, “Well so can social media.  I’ve seen plenty of expert’s social media strategy organized into lists”.

My point is that social media is simply the set tools that allow you to communicate in a different way…a human way.  You can’t be taught how to communicate in a “real”, human way.  You can advise on where, why and even how to use these tools but you can’t shave down human engagement to a few rules or guidelines and it takes more than a creative edge.

The traditional tools weren’t human; marketing, email, advertising, journalism and even PR.  Many of the tools and “procedures” used by PR professionals were aimed at talking to people, not with them. They’re all tools that allowed for a “systemic” communication.  Communication was meant to be efficient, not “real”. The concepts that have developed around social media tools aim to be both efficient and “real”.

Strategy and systematic approaches are only half of the game.  You have to be real.  Can you communicate with a real customer like a “real human”? Are you good at social media?

This is a post that I’ve had saved as a draft for some time, but haven’t been able to really develop my thoughts until I read Lauren Fernandez’s post and then Beth Harte’s comment on that post. (Surprised that these two got me thinking? I’m not…)

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Advice for PR and Marketing Grads

m00by
Photo cred: m00by

This is a collaboratively reworked version of Lauren Fernandez‘s post “Let’s Be Frank: Some Advice for PR Graduates” that I thought was SO great, I needed to make it available to my readers with a few additional insights of my own. I also spoke with Lauren after her post to find answers to some additional questions I had which will also be included here. Here we go…

  1. Build experience and set goals. Participate in internships, take offices, join clubs and do community service.  Find jobs that you are interested in and work to become qualified.
  2. Be realistic. Many companies have become big by retaining their employees and job openings are limited, especially in today’s economy.  You shouldn’t always shoot for the big name companies.  You will find that smaller – medium sized companies are the ones looking for bright new entry-level people to join them as they grow.  At these small agencies, you can gain a lot of experience because you really get to see the ins and outs of an agency.
  3. Don’t rush to grad school. Focus on building some experience first.  PR students should always have some experience before going to grad school. Really, a masters in PR is geared toward if you want to go into teaching. However, you can always go for Emerging Media, Public Affairs, Communications, etc. In many situations, only YOU would know what’s the right approach when considering going to grad school. In general, I would recommend having at least 2 years of professional experience first.
  4. You are not too good for ANY offer. As long as an organization has a good reputation, there is no reason to not give it a shot. You might find it’s a great fit, and you will definitely learn from it – good or bad. Also, you might hear of a development coordinator job opening – this is geared toward fund-raising and developing the brand. This is great for a young PR pro because you can really fine-tune your pitching and customer service skills.
  5. Stay open to doing internships after you graduate. Not everyone coming out of school will get a job right off the bat.  If you are set on the big agency, be prepared to take a paid internship for a couple of months before being offered an entry type position. Don’t look at this as a disadvantage!  Since you have a degree, you will be given more responsibility and greater consideration for full-time opportunities. You will take away great experience, contacts and if you do your job well, a recommendation.
  6. Set up interviews around graduation time Sure, your finance and business major friend already landed a job back in December but guess what? This is PR and marketing. The job offers WILL come.  Those hiring, unless stated differently, usually want someone to start within a month of the interview process. This is a field that is constantly on the go and constantly changing.
  7. Network until you graduate! The key is to establish a connection with professionals and stay involved until interview season. Three quick networking tips:
    1. Use social media to it’s fullest! Tools like linkedin, twitter, and professionals networks have made it easier than ever to meet professionals in your field. If you feel comfortable enough, have a lot to say and can say it well, start a blog!  Make sure to be respectful and professional in your online presence. Word gets around in these fields and you don’t want to tarnish your reputation.
    2. Go to networking events! There are always events going on in major cities.  They are a great way to make some real connections with experienced professionals who will only be impressed that you are networking before you graduate.
    3. If you’ve made a contact, communicate with them once a week – either by email, phone or even meeting for coffee. It’s the simple things that keep a relationship alive, and that drive to connect with PR pros is going to get you very far. Face-to-face communication is ALWAYS the best route to create meaningful relationships, especially for those that haven’t jumped into social media yet.
  8. You can focus your job search on social media. As many have argued, social media doesn’t exactly fall under marketing or PR but more of a mixture, and there isn’t an accepted method to approach social media. If you’re set on working in social media, consider an association/non-profit job. Contrary to popular belief, this is where a lot of job opportunities will be coming from. They all need in-house PR, and they also have a great need for the 20-something who is great at social media. In non-profits/association, you truly know the ins and outs of your client, because you ARE the client. In these settings, you also gain a ton of experience because you get to do a lot more, and are trusted a lot more, than in the agency atmosphere.

What did we leave out? What advice would you give to PR and marketing grads?

7 Tips to Engage College Students

picture-11Are your messages reaching college students or are they being tossed away quicker than class notes after a final? Today’s college students and recent graduates, including those from online colleges [ad] have been using services like livejournal, myspace and facebook for a very long time and have developed a talent for sniffing out worth while messages from the noise that floods their mailboxes and social websites.  If done right however, word spreads through college campuses like a cold in a dorm building.  If you have something valuable to provide and you don’t want it to get lost in the noise,  here are some things to tips and things to keep in mind when attempting to engage college students…

  1. If you’re direct emailing off of a research based database…stop.  If students want to be emailed about something, they’ll sign up for it.  Even if you have something valuable, the minute they see a “pitch” in the subject line, they’ll delete it.
  2. Students join groups that their friends are already involved in.  Facebook groups are a great example of this.  In your feed, you are told when your friends join a group or become a fan of something.  They don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on something that their friends are involved in.
  3. Organize your job board.  I can’t tell you how many students, including myself, are searching online for job opportunities.  The problem is, 99% of the jobs they find are for more experienced professionals.  If you want to drive college traffic to your blog or site with a job board, make a clear section that is specific to entry level jobs.
  4. Add a little wit to your twit. Whether you’re reaching through blogging, twitter, or other social networks, keep your content witty and fresh.  College students spend 5 days a week reading boring, bland material.  If you make your content fun to read, they’ll appreciate it.
  5. Brevity is king. Think about how willing you would be to read a long email or blog post after reading 10 chapters of Freud, or sitting through an hour long exam. Time is valuable in college, so take up as little of it as possible and you will be well received.
  6. Sponsor student reps. College campuses are extremely viral environments.  If you don’t know someone, you probably know someone that does.  Create that facebook group then sponsor a couple students to represent you on campus. As I said in #2, students are attracted to groups that their friends are already in, so hire their friends!  A familiar, friendly face can get students to listen to your message. The only companies I have seen on my campus have been red bull and skoal (says a lot about us huh?) so there is a lot of opportunity to embrace a practically untouched marketing method.
  7. Collaborate with clubs and organizations. This is a great way to reach out to college students that can be relatively inexpensive as they receive funding from their school.  Contact the marketing club or any college business organization and give them an opportunity to collaborate with you. Clubs are always hosting events that you can sponsor.  Or you can really collaborate.  Give them some merchandise, have them create a marketing campaign for your company and test it out in their own college campus.  They will appreciate having the opportunity to do something real with an actual company instead of dealing with hypothetical situations.  (I’m trying to find opportunities like this for the Geneseo Marketing Club)

There are so many ways to reach college students.  If you do it right, the viral power of a college campus can pay dividends.  Not only will it spread through campus, but to all those college students’ friends from back home with the help of facebook and other social media platforms.

If any companies are interested in collaborating with the Geneseo Marketing Association Club (GMAC) email me at dspinks5@gmail.com