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I had a great opportunity to participate in a panel presentation Wednesday at the Association of Fundraising Professionals, MO, Mid-America Chapter along with Dave Svet of Spur Communications and Patrick Sallee of the American Red Cross, Greater Kansas City Chapter. The topic was “Can Your Smartphone Be a Smart Fundraiser? Mobile fundraising and other “Smart” Strategies.” Short story, we all approached it from a social networking and mobile strategy angle, with insights applicable to nonprofits and for-profit businesses both.

The Other Speakers

Patrick Sallee covered actual case studies of “text to give” from his career. Patrick addressed the upsides (significant impact opportunities when tied to an attention-getting event) and downsides (set-up and ongoing costs, long payment processing cycles, challenges in reaching sufficient scale). The net of his remarks was that “text to give” yields on average about $1000 for a charity, which makes pursuing this social networking strategy not widely viable.

Dave Svet provided a solid overview of the technical opportunities and challenges of mobile giving. He covered smart phone trends that will make mobile giving more seamless domestically in a few years. Near-term, Dave underscored the importance of a mobile-enabled website and the opportunity to develop app-like features within a web environment at significantly less cost than creating custom apps.

Mobile Content Marketing Strategy

I presented on content marketing strategies for nonprofits before fund raising even starts. The mobile content marketing ideas were tied to a social networking impact model The Brainzooming Group uses. The social networking impact model is focused on maximizing audience interests, how to create compelling communication within a mobile strategy, and methods to employ social networking most effectively in sharing an organization’s stories with its key audiences.

Here are five key social networking points from my section on mobile content marketing:

  • It is no surprise that spouses, relatives, friends, and experts are more important to consumer brand decisions than having a Facebook or Twitter page. Two big opportunities exist for brands in social networking, though. These opportunities are to share content and a personality which moves a brand into a friend or expert role and to provide content to individual social network members they can readily and credibly share within their own social networks.
  • Develop relevant personas for important audiences to improve addressing audience needs and interests with your content. Write content for individuals (not for the masses) about what your organization thinks, knows, and does.
  • In a mobile environment, compelling communication requires brevity, direct calls to action, integrated messaging, a mobile-enabled website, and easy ways to invite people to deeper information.
  • When making the move from solely traditional communication vehicles (annual reports, quarterly newsletters, events, etc.) to include social media, take advantage of the opportunity for greater frequency to share a more complete organizational message. Quarterly Facebook status updates do not cut it.
  • In addition to sharing stories of the people and personalities associated with your organization, make it easy for your audience to share your content via social sharing.

What Questions Does this Prompt?

Beyond the talks from Patrick Sallee, Dave Svet, and me, there were some intriguing questions from the group on social networking, technology, and content marketing. Look for a future post addressing audience questions from the Association of Fundraising Professionals session on social networking and mobile content marketing strategy. Do you have any questions you’d like to throw in the mix before that post? – Mike Brown

 

If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating a 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!”

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Seems like everybody is a “solutions provider” these days. Whether you make a product, provide a service, or do just about anything, you better be telling clients you’re a  “business solutions provider.” In the past, it used to be all about “answers,” but when everybody started doing that, “solutions provider” became the new buzzphrase for every vendor to tout.

Having had a lot of vendors call on me in my corporate life talking about being a solutions provider, I became very skeptical about the buzzphrase and what business expertise might really be behind it.

What Does It Really Mean to Provide Solutions

In light of that, it was refreshing at an event I was helping produce recently to hear a business-to-business services customer offer his perspective on what being a business solutions provider really means for him. While his list was industry specific, his remarks prompted this short list of questions a vendor (or their business clients) should be able to answer “yes” to if solutions really are part of the equation:

This list clearly just skims the surface. For those of you buying business products and services from companies claiming to provide solutions, what do you think separates  companies really solving challenges from the posers who claim to but don’t?

– Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement.  To learn how we can bring out the best innovative thinking in your team email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Suppose a collaborative business blog is part of  the right social media strategy for your business, but senior management has concerns about blogging. Not the kinds of concerns which make senior management demand, “Absolutely do not create a collaborative blog.” No, we’re talking passive-aggressive concerns where senior management will allow (or potentially encourage) a collaborative blog to be developed. Right before the blog goes live, however, they clamor for multiple review points on each blog post so management is comfortable nothing will happen (in every sense of the word, unfortunately).

What do you do?

How do you protect the timeliness, relevance, and personal feel a successful collaborative business blog should have from death through a thousand – okay, I’m exaggerating…make it “ten” – senior management tinkerers?

Determining the Underlying Senior Management Concerns

The first step is better understanding and narrowing in on the nature of your senior management group’s challenges. You can do this by probing on a variety of potential issues that might drive their concern. You have to find out if their concerns about a collaborative business blog stem from content which:

  • Violates confidentiality
  • Is incorrect
  • Damages customer relationships
  • Compromises professional standards
  • Is off brand for your company
  • Is personally inappropriate or objectionable
  • Could trigger regulatory or legal issues

Figure out which of these (or other issues) are the real pain points with a collaborative business blog. Additionally, determine who would need to review blog posts to relieve the pain for each area of concern.

Addressing the Underlying Issues

Based on the conversation’s outcome and the breadth of the reviewer list, one of a few possibilities will likely materialize:

  • Upon discussion, you’re able to mitigate the concerns either at the start, or perhaps after some initial “learning curve” period, OR
  • The number of people who’d need to review posts is manageable within your blogging process, OR
  • The level of review is so great it will be burdensome or even crippling to the business blogging effort

If the last bullet is where you wind up, it’s far better finding out ahead of time before launching a blog hampered by its inability to function at an appropriate social media pace.

At this point, it’s critical to get creative with alternative ideas to simplify an unwieldy process, take more comprehensive steps to ally their concerns, or in the extreme, delay or pull the plug on the collaborative blog before it becomes one of those “they started it, but it died out in about two month” blogs.

And nobody wants that.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed  integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.


Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Coca-Cola has introduced a new Diet Coke can design for fall 2011, with Turner Duckworth, a design firm based in San Francisco, re-imagining the familiar Diet Coke can. The most striking element is the logo is blown up in size, making the script “D” in Diet the only letter of the major brand logo which appears fully on the can! This move with the Diet Coke brand holds both great strategic branding and creativity lessons.

5 Branding and Creativity Lessons

1. The Diet Coke logo violates the can’s physical space.

Absent the self-imposed restriction of  containing what you’re doing to the physical space available to you, all kinds of new creativity options open up. How often do we ask about how much of something we have to fill? Forget that. Fill up the creatively appropriate amount of what needs to be filled without a concern for physical space or completeness boundaries.

2. You can be bold and still hedges some bets.

For all the boldness of not including the product’s full name in the major logo treatment, Coca-Cola hedges its bets with 4 other full, albeit smaller, logos on the can. It pulls the design back from being completely edgy, but it strikes a good balance between creativity and brand imperatives. Some will claim though that hedging bets went into overkill mode with 4 other logos.

3. Incompleteness creates attention.

Since the major logo doesn’t fully display the product’s name, it creates both attention (from a new, striking design) and forces the customer to use imagination to fill in what’s missing. When you can get an aluminum can to tweak engagement, you have a winner on your hands.

4. You CAN stretch your strengths.

Coca-Cola knows it can take advantage of an iconic logo’s ability to be stretched to freshen it and create interest. When a brand element is so well known (in this case, the logo), it’s an opportunity to play against the strength and expand how people view the brand. And what applies to consumer and business brands applies to personal brands, too. It’s important though to know how much of a stretch people will accept from the brand before making a move. You want to stretch, but not break your brand.

5. Not every promotional offer is about price.

Too often, we think of a promotion (which one of my mentor’s drilled into me is “a short term change in the marketing mix”) as only focusing on price, discount, or “get more for your dollar right now” offers. If you look at any element of the marketing mix as a promotional opportunity, however, you can easily get to a short term revamp of a packaging design. Additionally, as an AdWeek article points out, Coca-Cola has also introduced a short term change in the publicity element of the marketing mix, by being a bit mysterious about how long the can change will last.

Summary

What are your thoughts about the Diet Coke can change? Is it simply interesting or do you think people will drink more Diet Coke than they would already have this fall?

To me, it’s a really smart promotion with strong banding and creativity lessons. Plus this move is a relatively easy strategy others could employ, if they’re smart about it and have strong enough logo recognition in their own market to pull it off successfully.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand strategy and implementation efforts.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Tanner Christensen has been making regular comments on Brainzooming this year, and when he reached out recently to go a guest post, I was excited to have him share longer-form content. Tanner Christensen is a leading creative thinker, entrepreneur, and founder of the creative digital publishing company A Spindle. He frequently writes on creativity and innovation and believes that your ideas can help change the world.

Here’s Tanner on what has set Apple apart from other organizations that also  have great ideas, but stall out in their growth.

Paddling

In June of 2007 Apple Inc. made a bold move into a market they had never touched.

To nearly everyone’s surprise, one of the top — but, notably, not the top — computer manufacturers had created a mobile phone. Of course, it was more than just a phone, but the move was unexpected and entirely different than what most people had come to imagine was possible from a computer company.  The creation of the iPhone proved to be valuable for Apple as, near the middle of the year 2011, the company owned roughly 19% of the entire U.S. mobile market.

Rare is a tech company the size of Apple who can report annual growth of 125% year over year. So how did they do it?

What It Takes for Real Growth

The truth is that growth comes from change. But even that’s an understatement. Real growth comes from paddling.

Businesses that have succeeded in the past — Myspace, Yahoo!, Nokia — grew to a comfortable place and then stopped innovating. The process of growing was, as they saw it, a natural one that follows any business which reaches a certain size. These were businesses that had worked hard to reach a point where they felt confident in moving forward without having to try anything new. Why would you continue to worry about producing new products or services when your existing products had sold so well to-date? When you’re floating down a river in a canoe and suddenly find yourself in the most beautiful spot along the entire river, what reason do you have to paddle forward and explore further territory?

Unfortunately in business, as in a real life canoe trip down the river, storms are to be expected.

One day you’re safe and comfortable, floating gently down the stream of success, and then suddenly there’s a competitor, a better or cheaper product, a new innovation you never saw coming. For Nokia and Microsoft the storm was the iPhone. For Myspace it was Facebook and now Google+. If you’re in business then a storm is coming, you can count on it, you just don’t know what shape that storm will be.

So what should you do? Paddle. Keep moving forward.

A Dedicated Creative Team’s Role

Investing in a dedicated creative team is the best way to keep moving forward. Whether you’re a large corporation or a freelancer, you have to focus on exploring uncharted territory, otherwise you’re sitting in a river under a darkening sky.

For Apple there isn’t any hesitation, they have an entire team of leaders who are focused on moving the business forward every single day. Steve Jobs isn’t a product designer or marketing executive, he’s a thinker. For the rest of us the choice remains: hire someone to help move ideas forward (not just keep existing structures going), find the flexibility to make your current team dedicate part of their work hours to doing so, or face the impending storm and find yourself dead in the water. Sure, focusing on innovation can be risky, but without it you’re already dead.

Even if you’re a new business just starting out, focus on exploring new territories, as success is surely around one of the river bends.

A dedicated creative team can help paddle your corporate boat upstream, pursuing ideas and making them a reality. As a creative thinker the job description isn’t to just show up and do the necessary work; it’s to come up with ideas and see them through. To physically take action and move the whole boat of business forward. Sometimes that means failure. Sometimes an idea will sink into the abyss, and sometimes things will break, but as long as you’re continuously moving, there is no way your boat will be swallowed by the storm.

Keep Moving

As a business or even in your career, look at ways you’re sitting in the water now. Understand that the longer you simply sit there the longer you risk drowning. You should be paddling your way up the river and discovering what’s new. That’s where the real adventure lies. Just ahead. Keep moving. – Tanner Christensen 

Guest Author

The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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This video on the creative thinking-based strategy TESCO employed to penetrate the South Korean grocery market was shared on Google+ recently by James Fraser. With TESCO using an alternative name, Homeplus, it was able to become the number two player in the South Korean grocery market even though it suffered a deficit in the number of retail locations.

If you jump to framing the business objective as “we have to get more stores,” the answer is easy, self-evident, and all too routine: build or acquire more stores.

Instead, the grocery chain remained focused on the real business objective (grow sales) and based on consumer insights (South Koreans are incredibly busy and the in-store grocery experience is a nightmare), Homeplus used (or approximated the results of) creative thinking exercises to look at the opportunity in reverse: take the in store buying experience to where shoppers already are with a virtual subway store!

Homeplus created the virtual subway store with displays identical to those in actual stores, QR codes for online ordering by phone, and home delivery. Putting the virtual stores where potential grocery shoppers already are in subways increases personal productivity and maximizes their free time. The virtual store campaign led to online sales gains highlighted in the video.

All this success by sticking to the fundamental business objective, but re-framing the business issue in a very different way.

That’s creative thinking for business success at its best! – Mike Brown

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help on how to be more creative! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I was in Lawrence, KS yesterday for the latest SocialIRL program created by Ben Smith and featuring HARO-creator, Peter Shankman. The day’s underlying theme was customer service in the age of social media. That’s actually a bit of a misnomer though, because so many of the principles Peter Shankman shared are solid customer service and communication strategies even if social media weren’t around.

As opposed to a lot of presentations you see, Tuesday’s Peter Shankman SocialIRL session was more about storytelling, entertainment, engagement, videos, and technical glitches. You probably couldn’t have a better translation of what happens in social media to an in real life setting. From that standpoint then, the day definitely fulfilled the event theme!

As a recap, here are 11 take-aways from SocialIRL:

STRATEGY

1. “Embrace the concept, not the brand.”  – Peter Shankman

Absolutely. Brands (in this case, social media platforms) may come and go, but underlying concepts (i.e., mobile marketing) have more staying power and can be the strategic foundations for marketing plans.

2. “Social media is all about quicker, faster, and better. People do the quicker & faster, but forget about the better.” – Peter Shankman

If you’re not getting attention for your content, then you have to look at what you’re creating and how to make it more relevant and meaningful to your audiences.

3. “If you don’t listen to your customers, someone else will.”

Even if you can’t sell-in a social media program in your organization, you have to start listening to understand what customers, prospects, and others active in your industry are saying about you. Social media listening is both the source of opportunities and the way to head off more serious problems.

4. “Let us not underestimate the power cool has. Any time you can make your customers feel cool, they will do your PR for you.” – Peter Shankman

Give your audience things that make them seem cool and cooler than the audience they’re sharing your content with online.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

5. Good customer service kills online problems before they become problems online.

Finding links between brands with strong customer service and successful social media efforts (i.e. Southwest Airlines) isn’t a coincidence. A cultural orientation toward understanding customers and going out of your way to meaningfully engage with them translates from offline into the online world much easier than trying to create a new attitude in social media.

6. There are 3 critical steps in addressing customer issues online.

Relative to customer issues, the three key steps are to listen, analyze, and personalize your reply. The analyze step is especially important. While there’s a need for a timely reply (Shankman claims 1 to 3 hours response time on Twitter is adequate), your person responding should understand the service recovery options available and know what steps they’ll be using to address the customer issue.

7. If legal concerns are an issue for social media in your organization, use the 80-20 rule to be able to interact more effectively online.

When it comes to having a two-way conversation, many organizations, especially regulated ones, can look at what customer service issues come up most frequently and craft 5 or 6 messages which answer a majority of questions and point people in the right directions.

SOCIAL MEDIA MISTAKES BRANDS MAKE

8. In answer to a question about what he sees brands doing wrong in social media, Peter Shankman offered these:

  • Not acting quickly enough – This is a result of fears from legal implications or other potential issues, or the need to get more people involved. By the time everything is ready to go, opportunities are lost.
  • Afraid to offend anyone – Lots of humor isn’t being used because brands are afraid of it. When a brand uses humor, the humor needs to tie to the brand and its audiences. As Shankman puts it, “Funny stuff equates to viral.”
  • Not learning from mistakes – He suggests Googling the top social media mistakes and learning from what mistakes others have made in social media.
  • Not listening enough (or well enough) – Peter Shankman recommends more listening and less talking. And when listening, brands need to do a better job of responding.

COMMUNICATION SKILLS

9. The killer social media skill is writing.

Peter Shankman’s stat was that we have 2.7 seconds (or essentially 3 sentences) to reach our audiences. Doing that successfully depends on knowing how to write, and knowing especially how to write headlines. He encourages his employees to take as many writing classes as they want to continually improve.

10. When you have a speaking element that works, repeat it often.

One of Peter Shankman’s most effective speaking approaches is drawing comparisons to yesterday’s world by linking it to things people under 30 are familiar with. Examples: “The radio is like Pandora before the Internet” and “Madonna is like Lady Gaga with more kids.” Not only are these similes effective for all age ranges, the familiarity of hearing them throughout his talk added both impact and anticipation.

AN OBSERVATION

11. Peter Shankman may be the Forrest Gump of web 2.0.

The day opened with stories form Peter Shankman about his move from being 18 hours short of a degree in California to being at the center of a variety of online blow–ups, including HARO. He didn’t really offer any rules or strategic lessons learned for accomplishing this, other than to create strong content, have a brilliant idea, and plan for outrageous success. Absent any easy lessons, it seems to be either a numbers game (create enough content and hope for brilliance), dumb luck (Lance Armstrong RTs an xtranormal video you did), or some apparent combination of the two. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us atbrainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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