Thursday, November 12, 2009

The three spheres of marketing influence teaches you how to blog as a business

find the wordsss
Sophie Ouellet was born with cerebral palsy but wants to blog. Her tremors kept her from writing by hand so about two years ago, she got an iPod touch and then an iPhone. Her new ability allowed her to write down appointments at a doctor's office and other reminders. When she got too tired, she typed emails in bed. Meanwhile she's become practically an expert on productivity related apps to for the iPhone and wants to blog about it. She also manages a word search puzzle company and wonders if she can make the two work together. This is my advice for her.

Three spheres of marketing influence

Marketing campaigns must deliver on three different levels to optimal. They are the personal, the professional, and the corporate. This is true whether you are online or not. People need to trust you, understand your product, and think that you are green all at the same time to get that perfect storm that leads to the sale.

Once you take your business online, you are but a shadow of your real self and the methods by which you express your ethical, business, and civic values become subservient to the web. Your business may still have personal contact by voice or in person but that's when the online rules don't apply anymore. The online and the offline personas do have to match up or an inconsistent value system will lead a person to distrust you and go somewhere else.

So to summarize a little here, the three spheres of influence in marketing are

  1. personal - influenced by trust - generated by ethical behavior
  2. professional - influenced by products/services - generated by business behavior
  3. corporate - influenced by social responsibility - generated by civic behavior

Sphere predominance

A business is focused on business goals. Marketing will highlight one of the spheres as being the dominant sphere because it drives the business goal the best way. Most companies prefer that the marketing campaigns are of a corporate focus so that the corporate values with the slogan attached are supported through the research and development down into the products even affecting the employee belief system if possible. This is the whole package of a traditional marketing campaign.

In other companies, such as Google, it's the employee and their expertise that then generates the corporate agendas and encourages personal excellence through playful design, omnipresent white boards, open meeting areas, and great food. Personal ethics are that of being the best geek that you can be. And another type of enterprise based on the person is just that of a person who has values that you want to follow. They don't have any real expertise nor do they have a corporate agenda usually. We usually call these people movie stars. Some have talent and some even manufacture salad dressing for charitable causes.

You might be a charismatic leader that a person would follow anywhere in business such as a Bill Gates whose personal sphere of influence is strong. But all it takes is a smile and a firm handshake in many places to strike that friendly chord without any other talent. If you only have a can of WD-40 but don't have a corporate story or anything except engineer chops like Norm Larsen, then it can still work. But you have to keep coming up with great products and not lose them somehow. If you only have a great public image without the best products or the best people, sometimes that works as in the cases of keeping GM and many investment banking firms afloat.

But each company, based on their business goals, focuses on one sphere more than others and the marketing campaign becomes even more powerful when all three come together. A firm grows and becomes  more competitive when they start increasing the strengths of those other spheres.

Keyword alignment

When designing a marketing strategy that spans all three of these spheres, it's essential to coordinate the brand and image. Media campaigns must be embargoed so that the press reinforces the release of a product. Logos must be redesigned. People have to use a different vocabulary. Ads release an onslaught of new imagery and ideas.

Online, the brand is reduced down to a set of keywords that are seen to the online eyes of the search engines. This set of keywords must match up to what people are asking for or the demand for those keywords needs to be created. It's the same as a lucrative market that's tapped because you've found what kind of persimmon peeler a person really wants. Or you've told people that peeled persimmons are the next big food fad and they believed you.

Personal sphere activities
Dale Carnegie

What we need now are the types of activities that express the spheres of marketing. The personal is most easily summed up as the wisdom of Dale Carnegie in his classic How To Win Friends and Influence People that was first published in 1937. The reason it has been so successful is because people found the substrate of sales activities in it. The bedrock of the close is supported with all of the other business and corporate principles, but without personal values, you'll just get people upset.

Dale wrote the text for his courses that he titled Public Speaking and Human Relations. He realized that people needed to not focus on the business principles entirely and start paying attention to their soft skills which would make them more happy and more prosperous.

This same problem has been countered in the digital age in 2009 by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. Their Trust Agents reads like a modern day Dale Carnegie in telling people how to be a real person online. The chapter on the Human Artist could have been written by Carnegie himself had he been publishing on the web. Carnegie's first few principles of:
  1. Don't criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.
make you wonder if he was talking to a group of rogue online marketers and grumpy social networkers. Instead these were just the immigrants and farmers of the day learning how to do business much like we are today online.

So, if you want to find out how to do the right personal things online because you're a little rusty with the ability to friend a tweeter on a blog, then pick up Brogan and Smith's book  It will humanize your experience and make you realize why people enjoy social media so much. The  book also covers topics on marketing niches, transparency, and building on your strengths. And pick up a copy of Carnegie's book as well to humanize your business. It will amuse you to know that they both start out by talking about major crime lords in the first chapters.

Professional and corporate sphere activities

In the professional sphere there are the business principles at work. We follow the functional distinctions of sales, marketing, public relations, executive management, product development, etc. On the web, we have tried to mimic the same core areas and don't understand always why they don't work For instance, sales, a very non-computer personal sphere centric discipline, when transferred over to the web, loses almost all of its power because the human element is not in play. Marketing, on the other hand, is enhanced because of the ability to collect and track information.

Knowledge and expertise is what makes a person stand out in the work force or in education so that they become a thought leader. This was dominated by the professor type before the digital age so schools became leaders in business thought. Now online, anyone can become an expert with influence through the writing of a blog. The use of keywords helps define the types of people that find you and is the essence of the field called search engine optimization.

The corporate sphere is active with good will projects, corporate charitable events, environmental reformulations and helping communities get back on their feet. This type of web activity can be found in charitable alliances from Drew Carey paying $1 million for the @drew name and donating it to LiveStrong to Google's Data Liberation Front to Ford donating cash to a Mashable charitable cause.

Sophie Ouellet's advice

Wonderword Special Project Coordinator and digital photographer Sophie Ouellet was born with cerebral palsy. She currently manages the company that publishes word search puzzles in over 225 newspaper worldwide and sells related books and calendars. Her posting on LinkedIn requested help for monetizing her product website which is where I started commenting but the comment got way too big.

Here's my advice. Her market is made up of fans that come to the site for puzzles and those that are searching for free puzzles. Her professional site is characterized by a keyword set such as "free word search puzzles online." The way to monetize the puzzle site is to improve all three spheres of marketing. The professional sphere will include things like improving the design, the navigation, the shopping experience, the SEO of the pages, the copy of the pages, and the amount of information about her word puzzles. The personal sphere will include things like customer comments, emailed responses, customer requests, stories about people solving the puzzles, etc. And the corporate sphere can be improved by sponsoring contests, offering discounts on products to organizations putting on puzzle events, and possibly having her husband who writes the puzzles offer to speak at appropriate events.

She does want to blog but not about the puzzles. A blog is a way to improve the professional sphere of a site but the blog keyword set must be aligned with the rest of the site or it will misfire in the market. Since she enjoys photography and practices yoga which improves her health, she prefers to write about that which she knows won't interest her puzzle hunters except tangentially.

That means that she needs a separate blog focusing on her determination and spirit to turn her life into an inspiration to others. She can review the best iPhone apps for business productivity and talk about how nothing stops her from enjoying life with her word obsessed husband. She can post photos that show her creative side and encourage others to get stronger through yoga. That sounds like a winner.

As an online knowledge service she has three spheres to her business. I suggest a regular blog and photos for the professional sphere. She should find other inspirational sites and let them know about her blog postings to promote it. The personal sphere will include comments, and common social networks links for reposting and tweeting. And the corporate side of things might be speaking engagements or doing fund raising for cerebral palsy once she gets well established.

The connection between the two however is a weak link. I would make sure to put a Wonderword link on her personal blog and vice versa by adding a link on the Wonderword site. But other than that, there is no real reason to connect the two.

Sophie has real value to a market she hasn't even begun to tap yet. I encourage everyone to check out her sites and see what she does with her blogs in the future. Good luck to you, Sophie!

Image by Captain Billy Guns via Flickr

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