Social Media: The end of life as we know it

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It seems hard to believe that we are now already a week into 2012. It seems just like yesterday the Y2K bug was going to destroy life as we know it. In less than a year from now, the Mayan Calendar will be completed and life as we know it will end once again.

If we take a look back to life as we knew it, even in 1999, it has completely changed or ended. To go from Point A to Point B, one had to either have been familiar with the area, had a map, or gone onto the internet beforehand to Mapquest and print off a map. Foresight was a necessity. Today, all we need to do is talk to the all knowing woman in our iPhones, and she can guide us to anywhere we can dream about.

Back in the good old days of the 1990’s, teenagers begged to have either their own phone lines, pagers, or if lucky enough, cell phones in order to communicate with their friends. Today every man, woman, child, and even unborn fetus it seems, has their own cell phone with unlimited minutes, texts, and data. Communication, no matter how insignificant, is constant and consistent. Bob Dylan was spot on when he said, “ The times they are a changing.”

One of the main ways in which life has changed in even the past five years, and is currently changing is through social media. Social media, and all of the web based applications that come with it, have enabled communication to penetrate the fiber of society to its core. Instant and direct communication now exists between person and person, person and business, and between businesses. This communication can be as simple as wanting to get together for lunch with an acquaintance, or as life changing as setting up places and times to meet to overthrow a government, as is what happened in Egypt last year.

There exists in today’s business culture a, “Set it and forget it” mentality coined by RonCo in his kitchen appliance informercials when it comes to Social Media. For example, some businesses create a Facebook page, and think that their businesses will grow, will become immensely profitable, the bad economy and their competition will disappear, and all will be right with the world because of Facebook. By some unknown and incomprehensible force, Facebook will save their business, and they won’t have to change anything for it to happen.

Some might consider it absurd to compare an infomercial to social media, but the fact is, many companies act like the slogan fits. The idea that Social Media is a silver bullet and the absolute antibody to cure a sick and failing business is prevalent today; By sheer participation, Social Media will cure all business ails. The truth is that Social Media is only a tool in a large tool belt, and when used properly, can serve a specific purpose in marketing a successful business.

There are different Social Media applications, and each of them are designed to fulfill different purposes to help businesses.

Facebook is one of the most widely known and used Social Media applications. There are currently about 800 million Facebook users, with half of the users logging on everyday! That is a huge potential audience. How do you get that audience to listen to what you are saying? How does having an audience increase your profitability? What do you say? When do you say it? The key with Facebook is to use it the way it is meant to be used. Just like you wouldn’t cut a piece of lumber with a hammer, neither would you use Facebook to do your monthly billing.

Another application in Social Media is LinkedIn. If Facebook is a dinner party, LinkedIn is a dinner party by invitation only with an unalterable seating arrangement. It serves a specific purpose, but it is important to define and understand what that purpose is before sitting down to eat.

The last Social Media application we will mention today is Twitter. Twitter is widely known for being the vehicle for apologies that athletes and celebrities use when they do or say something inappropriate. The truth is, Twitter serves a greater purpose if you can believe it. When a person decides to follow a person or company, it is their choice. That means, they want to hear from them. It is not an advertisement, but wanted communication, what is shared should be treated as such.

Social Media can have a huge impact on a company, and their brand. The key is to use the right tool at the right time, and in the right way. If you have any questions or need help with maximizing your Social Media, don’t think twice about asking us for help. It’s what we do.

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Plan Measure Improve

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The last marketing lesson to learn from the neighborhood lemonade stand is to constantly plan, measure, and improve.  The kids had planned well and were very happy with their initial success in the lemonade business, but they were not satisfied.  Like all of us, they wanted to do better.

They began the marketing process again with planning.  After a quick strategy session with their AG ROI consultant, they decided to invest a little more money into better signage, better product (actual lemonade this time), and more convenient hours of operation for their customers.  The result – drastically better revenues and over twice as much profit as their first go around, and their customers said they’d look forward to doing business again.

The simple plan, measure, and improve marketing process helped the kids at the local neighborhood lemonade stand increase revenues and profits.

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The Power of Brand

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Do you remember that feeling you had when you saved up for months, and finally bought that pair of Nike Air Jordan’s you had been drooling over? The smell of the genuine leather caressed your nostrils as you slid your feet into the raw power of air pockets protected by a celestial mixture of natural and man made materials. His Airness ain’t got nothing on you kid.

What about your first Apple Computer? Listening to their advertisements and hearing their Keynote speeches introduced you to a company that innovates technological changes and forever impacts and changes the world as we know it. The first time you turned it on, heard it’s patented chime, saw the unmistakable image of a partially partaken apple,  and viewed the magnificent startup screen that hypnotized you with its elegance, you realized you now possessed the raw power of magic in a computer. You didn’t second guess yourself when you maxed out your credit card to purchase this technological beast, and you’d be paying for it long after their next generation computer came out in six months, but you’d have this one now. The anticipation of owning such a device literally almost killed you as your heart palpated irregularly inside of your chest. Buckle up and hold on. This ride waits for none.

Developing a powerful and memorable brand is more important than the products or services they represent. At one point during their existence, Coca-Cola decided that their product was more important than their marketing, and almost destroyed their company with New Coke. Luckily they returned to Coca-Cola Classic, and their brand was saved. They lose taste tests, but win the marketing war against Pepsi. Power branding is why “Just Do It” and the swoosh are recognizable worldwide and why Nike dominates over its competition. Powerful branding is why Apple now has more in their savings account than the Federal Reserve. Powerful branding is why children nationwide throw themselves to the ground, screaming bloody murder at deafening decibels and kicking the scuffed up white tile floors with the ground and pound fury of an MMA title match in grocery stores so their parents will buy them Lucky Charms, and not the Malt O’ Meal replica.

With so many choices available for everything from toothpaste to financial advisors, not getting that one customer or account could result in the difference of a successful business versus one with closed doors and an eviction notice posted. The human mind is finicky. The deciding factor between people choosing you over your competition is mostly based upon their perception of and relationship with your brand. Developing and maintaining a powerful brand isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

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Understand What You Are Selling

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Another marketing lesson from the neighborhood lemonade stand is to understand what you are selling.  My kids were not selling lemonade.  (It was actually Gatorade because they didn’t have any lemonade on hand, but that isn’t what they were really selling either.)  What they were really selling was initiative.  It didn’t really matter what they were putting into those plastic cups… people bought from them because they wanted to support their local lemonade stand and encourage the initiative of these young children.  Understanding what they were selling took an idea that would have been dead in the water (or Gatorade), and made it a profitable one.

In businesses, we sometimes focus too much on products and forget what we are selling.  We get caught up in our quest for better, more innovative products, and we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture.  When we truly understand and remember what we are really selling, we are on the path to success.

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Lessons from a Lemonade Stand

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A lemonade stand in my neighborhood last weekend reinforced some keys to success that can be applied to any business.  The stand was actually setup and run by my kids.  It was their first time doing anything of the sort.  They came to me with the idea, and with my AG ROI hat on I extended the same invitation to them that AG ROI extends to everybody:  Profit from us.

In the next few blog posts, I’ll explain what my kids learned from running their lemonade stand and how those lessons may apply to your business.

The first lesson they learned is preparation.  It’s been said that the will to succeed is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to succeed.  My kids wanted to get out on the street and start selling lemonade right away, but what made them successful was taking some time to plan and prepare.  At AG ROI, we call this process market planning.  As it applies to the lemonade stand, we planned where the stand was going to be located, what the price of the lemonade would need to be to turn a profit, and how they would communicate to people that they were actually a lemonade stand.  After an hour of preparation and a few hours in business executing the plan, my kids came home happy to report that their lemonade stand was a hit.

In business many companies are so excited about their products and services, they think they will just sell themselves without proper planning and marketing.  But just like my kids with their lemonade stand, businesses can and will be more successful if they go through the market planning process.  This process is what helps companies understand what is going on in the minds of their consumers, what opportunities are available in the marketplace, how and where they will best sell their products, how they are going to communicate with consumers, and what is necessary to be profitable.  This crucial step at the beginning of the marketing process is what will give you a clear path to success and will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Do you have a written marketing plan?  Most small business don’t.  AG ROI can help you create one that will put you on the path to success.

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Say Something

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Aren’t kids annoying sometimes?  Have you ever been at a family party, trying to balance your meal on a flimsy paper plate, engaging in conversation with somebody nearby while her kid is poking her arm saying, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.”  Eventually, the mother turns to her child out of frustration to see what is so important.  The child stands there awkwardly.  She finally has her mother’s full attention, and she quietly mutters, “hi… I’m here.”

The world of advertising is, unfortunately, much the same.  Businesses spend a lot of money to get noticed or to stand out from the crowd.  And when they finally get the attention of their audience they don’t have much of anything to say other than, “hi… I’m here.”

At AG ROI, we think if you are going to spend the time and money to get the attention of your audience, you shouldn’t stop there… you should actually SAY SOMETHING!  Say it quickly.  Say it eloquently.  Say it with creativity.  Say it so well that when your audience wants or needs your product or service, they will remember you, and they will buy from you.

AG ROI provides the insight, strategic thinking, and creativity to help you say, not just something, but the right thing.

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