Thursday, April 4, 2013

Job Hunting & The Golden Rule


I left my position with Intown Manchester last June to follow my husband to Kansas, where he had accepted a job. After uprooting our entire lives, he was laid off that September. We made the decision to return home to NH - our real home.

Since returning to the Granite State, I have applied for 87 different jobs. That's 87 cover letters. 87 resume revisions and a whole lot of waiting. I've been lucky enough to land interviews for a good percentage of them, even making it to final candidate status over a half dozen times. While job hunting can be a stressful and sometimes frustrating experience, it has taught me some invaluable lessons...

The Devil is in the Details (Or Lack Thereof)

I utilize several different job boards when hunting. It is easy to see a job title and get jazzed thinking 'This is PERFECT for me!'. Sometimes, this is true, and sometimes it couldn't be further from it. Do not speed read through a job description, focusing only on the qualifications. Just because you have a
degree, the # of years experience they are looking for and the skills they list are in your toolbox does not mean the job will be a good fit for you. Read the ENTIRE job description. Take the time to comprehend the tasks that you will be required to perform and try to visualize yourself doing the job. Sometimes job postings leave key details out (percentage of travel time required, software skills needed, etc) so don't feel hesitant to call the employer and ask some questions before making the decision to apply.

Customize Your Application Materials

Your cover letter describes how you are capable and knowledgeable about the duties and skills outlined in the job description. A static cover letter touting your best qualities won't cut it. It has to explain your experience and skill levels relative to what they are looking for. Otherwise, into the shredder/deleted items folder it goes.

I've been to interviews where the hiring manager has said that they had to read hundreds of application materials in order to narrow it down to potential candidates so if you want a shot at an interview, make sure your cover letter will entice them to get past the introduction.

Not all resumes are created equal. Shooting off a drab, unpolished and outdated resume to a potential employer will almost certainly result in no response or a swift 'thanks but no thanks'. Like your cover letter, your resume, while keeping the usual necessary key points, should be malleable to the position you are applying for. Remember, your resume is a self-promotional marketing tool. Talk about you and your experiences in your previous positions. Listing a former position without describing your specific duties and accomplishments says very little other than you had a job somewhere else at some other time.

Your resume needs to convince people that you can do the job and do it well so don't forget the how and why! Be sure to include an objective that matches the job description but take it easy on the fluff. A serious employer doesn't want to read an objective stating that your goal is to 'Enhance your company's mission with my marketing ninja skills'.

I have gaps in my chronological work experience section because I did not start working professionally in my chosen career path until 2007. Before, I thought listing my position as a teachers aide at a private school was a bad idea but it shows I was working. Regardless if you were in a leadership position, a stay at home mom or a circus clown, LIST IT.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Amen, Tom Petty. After spending a significant amount of time perfecting your application materials (Remember this part when we get to the Golden Rule topic later on)
and submitting them, the clock starts ticking...slowly. Patience truly is a virtue and in this current job market, companies are taking a long time to ensure they select the right candidates. Regardless of how perfect you think you are for the job or how excited about it you are do not contact them unless they have contacted you first. There are few exceptions, like if you know the employer personally, but otherwise just sit tight. I've applied for jobs and heard nothing for over 2 months.

Interview Do's & Don'ts

Hallelujah! You get a call/email/message in a bottle expressing an interest in speaking with you about the job you applied for. It's been my experience that they will want a phone interview before deciding to go any further but these suggestions apply to both phone and in-person interviews.

Do not assume that this is a simple getting to know you chat and be prepared! Do stalk the company website, Google for any latest news on them, familiarize yourself with their services or products, leadership team, company history and prepare a list of questions about the job (What is a typical day like? Will I be managing others and if not, whom would I be reporting to? What happened to the person who held this position previously? What is your timeline for hiring for the position?) I've had some crazy questions thrown at me before so expect the unexpected. Bring a notepad and use it. As for attire, a suit is always the right choice. Don't over-do your hair and makeup and refrain from bathing in perfume or cologne.

Do ALWAYS end the conversation by thanking them for their time and consideration. Let them know that you are happy to provide additional resources (but at least come prepared with a list of references in hand)Do send a follow up thank you email or letter and be sure to list any additional questions you may have forgotten to ask at the interview. Let them know you are genuinely interested!

The Golden Rule - Not Just for Kindergarten

We're all familiar with the Golden Rule, right? Essentially, we should treat others as we would want
to be treated. During my time spent job hunting I learned that this rule is often forgotten by potential employers. In my opinion, job hunting is a job. Without mentioning any specific company, I have to say that I have been shocked by the lack of simple courtesy. If a company doesn't think you are a good fit, I feel that they should at least send you some sort of correspondence stating so. Many employers do this and it is appreciated. Surprising to me where the instances when I have had an in-person interview and then heard nothing. No call. No email. No message in a bottle. If I were an employer, I would think about the Golden Rule - that if the roles were reversed, that I would want to hear back - whether it was a static rejection letter or a simple email. Sometimes observing how potential employers interact with potential hires is a good indicator of whether or not you would want to work for that company. A company's greatest asset are their employees and if you catch a vibe that they don't treat their employees with respect and dignity, that is a direct reflection on the company as a whole and probably someplace you would not be happy working at.

I'm confident that I will find a great job soon but for now, the hunt continues. If you are in the same boat, I wish you the best of luck!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ho Ho NO! Horrible Holiday Gift Ideas

The holidays are a magical time of the year, and present a perfect opportunity to show friends, family and loved ones how much you care in the form of gift-giving. Some people are easy to buy for, others present you with a serious challenge - either because they are someone you don't know very well or they seem to 'have it all'. The safest gift to give to anyone is a bank gift card, which they can use same as a debit card but there are people who find gift cards to be too impersonal (I'm not one of them). Unfortunately, opting to buy someone a gift without really knowing them often leads to your present being A) tossed into the abyss of a closet or B) re-gifted.

Obviously, I can't tell you what to buy (gift card) BUT in an attempt to aid you in your holiday shopping adventures, I've created a short list of what I feel are the most horrible holiday gifts and some good gift alternatives.

1) Anything with the Words 'As Seen on TV' on the Packaging
Think back to last year... chances are if you went to a Yankee Swap party, more than a few people ended up with a 'Snuggy'. In the 80's, it was the 'Chia Pet'. For a gag gift for someone you don't really know, it can be overlooked but 2012 has brought us some truly terrible As Seen on TV tragedies. The worst, in my opinion, is 'The Perfect Meatloaf Pan'. Besides using phrases like 'Air-Bake Tray' to make it seem revolutionary, every meatloaf shown in the commercial looks like someone took a few cans of dog food and molded it into a meatloaf-like shape.

Good Gift Alternative - Cotton: The Cookbook
My friend Jeff Paige (chef/owner Cotton in Manchester, NH) has assembled some of his best recipes in this book which includes his recipe for meatloaf - which is hands down the BEST meatloaf I've ever had.

2) Furby
When my twins were younger and these came out, they were all the rage. Each of them asked for and received a Furby for Christmas. The idea behind the Furby was that it was built to learn the more you interacted with it. Both of my sons Furby's started out as harmless dolls that quickly evolved into 'Child's Play' like creepy monsters that would inexplicably start talking and blinking it's eyes in the middle of the night AFTER you had turned them off. Well, it seems that the geniuses at Hasbro have come out with what they are calling the 'All New Furby' with a subtitle of 'A Mind of It's Own'. Unless you want your children to have night terrors, forget the Furby because the only thing 'new' about them is their potential to be even creepier.

Good Gift Alternative: Chica from PBS Sprout's Sunny Side Up Show
She's cute, inexpensive and won't plot to destroy your life while you sleep.

3) Yankee Candles
Whenever I stroll the mall I have to hold my nose as I walk past the Yankee Candle store because the collective odor of an entire store full of super strong scented candles gives me an instant migraine. I don't have anything against them personally, but whenever I have been given one as a gift I think A) absolutely no thought was put into this and B) are they implying that my home smells bad? I know people go ga-ga for them but (and this is purely my opinion) candles are meant to be used when the power goes out or if you somehow travel back in time pre-electricity. If I want my house to smell like a chocolate cupcake, I'll bake some.

Good Gift Alternative: Gourmet Cupcakes from Queen City Cupcakes
These are the best cupcakes around. Period. You'll be a gift-giving godsend carrying a box of these into someone's home for the holidays.

4) Any Personal Hygiene Product

One of the most memorable Christmas day's for me was about 20 years ago. My grandmother always arranged the gifts under the tree in groups of who they were for so you didn't have to dig under the tree and read every single label. This particular Christmas, my uncle Dave, who is a tad socially impaired, didn't have a stack of neatly arranged gifts under the tree - he had one GIANT, beautifully wrapped box next to it. We were all wondering what it was... a TV? a new stereo system? WRONG. When my uncle unwrapped the box and opened it up, he found a year's worth of bar soap, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream, etc. Although her intentions were good, the gift basically said 'you have horrible personal hygiene so let me help you'. Cologne and Perfumes are exceptions, of course, but bar soap? We talk about this holiday horror show every year.

Good Gift Alternative: Gift Certificate to a Day Spa or Salon
Everyone loves & needs a little pampering now and then and both these ideas will be well received and won't imply anything other than you care enough to want someone to treat themselves to something nice.

5) Unless You Know the Person REALLY Well - Clothing
We've all seen it unfold before our eyes - a loved one unwraps a gift box to find an article of clothing that is completely NOT their style, is the wrong size, not meant for their body type and let's not forget about the ultimate clothing gift giving nightmare: the Cosby Sweater. For kids, it's a gift of necessity more than joy but for an adult, giving someone a sweater, pair of pants or even something simple like a hat or gloves usually results in either the item being returned (BTW always include a gift receipt) or re-gifted.

Good Gift Alternative: A Bank Gift Card
Some people think gift cards are thoughtless but I disagree. One of the best memories I have in my childhood was the year my parents stopped giving me gifts and started giving me cash or gift cards. Mall gift cards are okay, but a bank gift card can be used anywhere (grocery store, liquor store, independent small business or boutique or online)

Let's face it - you can't always hit a holiday gift home-run but, if you take a few moments out of your hectic holiday schedule to carefully choose a thoughtful and useful gift for everyone on your Christmas list, you will truly know what it means when people say it is better to give than to receive.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's a Blog Eat Blog World

(Image courtesy of
As we approach 2013, marketing pros are predicting trends for the New Year and publishing their respective predictions everywhere and in many forms. In the past 7 days I have downloaded 3 eBooks from 3 different industry pros and while the authors of the content are different, the messages within are pretty much the same. If you've been keeping up with marketing trends for 2012, you already know that companies vying for your loyalty are shifting efforts to focus more on Inbound Marketing. 

The Almighty Wikipedia breaks the concept of Inbound Marketing into (5) stages:
1) Attract Traffic
2) Convert Visitors to Leads
3) Convert Leads to Sales
4) Turn Customers Into Repeat Higher Margin Customers
5) Analyze for Continuos Improvement

Popular tactics to 'earn media' include eBooks, newsletters, podcasts, social media and blogs.

 (Image courtesy of TopRankBlog)
Among the other trends predicted, most articles or other blogs I have read all emphasize the importance of companies having a blog. For most companies and organizations selling a product, service or those that serve a cause marketing purpose, this makes sense. The problem, in my opinion, is that in the age of content being king, the majority of articles, eBooks and blogs all make the same exact point using similar content only in different context. Since most of these pro's suggest linking to other articles & blogs for reference, here are a few:                                                                   

Just in case you are still pondering whether or not your business needs a blog:
Blogs as an Inbound marketing tool can be successful, but the more I am inundated with blogs that all say the same thing but in different ways, the less effective I find them to be

What REALLY makes a company, product or service stand out cannot be measured in content marketing, especially when the content is stale, repetitive or irrelevant to the reader. While most of the blogs, articles and eBooks with titles like '10 Marketing Trends for Success in 2013' or this gem list similar trends, I think they can be shortened down to just a couple.

Content and Context will Rule - Together

(Image courtesy of
There is no question that continual creation of relevant, targeted content is important, recognizing that the world has gone mobile creates the need for both content and context to act as combined methods to drive commerce. The best article I have read (thus far) on this comes from eMarketer entitled 'Trends for 2013: Content, Context Vie for Supremacy' where they explain that " an increasingly mobile-centric world, context - where consumers are, what they are doing and thinking, and how receptive they are to engaging with marketers, shares the throne." 

They suggest that adding features that are attractive to mobile shoppers like store locators and local deal finders are valuable ways marketers can "create more avenues for  engagement".

Tell Me a Story

Prior to leaving my last job I was invited to join an ad-hoc steering committee with the City of Manchester's Economic Development Office and major real estate stakeholders in the Queen City regarding use of some grant money to find a way to deal with the growing amount of vacant Commercial Real Estate properties in Manchester. After a couple meetings and a pretty penny spent with a consultant, the solution boiled down to the need for Manchester to 'tell it's story'. Companies looking to earn loyalty need to do the same. Storytelling is a creative way to let consumers know how you are different from competitors, what makes you special and paves the way to create a more intimate 'relationship' with people. Forbes recently wrote a brilliant  article on storytelling. In short, it emphasizes the importance of a company having a unique story to tell to excite and retain their best employees. After all, if your employees are not invested or passionate about your company, how can you expect a consumer to be? Paul Smith, with regards to the ways storytelling can help leaders be more effective, says "The five most commonly used are probably these: inspiring the organization, setting a vision, teaching important lessons, defining culture and values, and explaining who you are and what you believe."

(Image courtesy of
If you need more trends to look forward to, simply Google 'Marketing Trends 2013' and set aside a few hours. I don't want to sound as though I am judging the numerous intelligent, savvy and hard-working people who blog, write articles or spend any amount of their time organizing their valuable thoughts and opinions into reader-friendly content, but the redundancy of information is overwhelming. In addition to numerous blogs about trends, what to do and how to do it - many posts have focused on how not to suck at blogging. From what I have seen, heard and read the best way to not suck at blogging is to not tell the same story as everyone else. 

(Image courtesy of Ricky Cadden)
Subscribe to what speaks to you directly and recognize quality content that you deem valuable. Otherwise, it's the same old blog - just a different author.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Having a Happy Holiday When You Don't Have a Pay Day

It's official - the Holidays are here. We stuffed ourselves on Thanksgiving, enjoyed the insanity that ensued nationwide on Black Friday through viral YouTube videos of people literally throwing other people out of their way so they could get a good deal on a Smartphone or flat screen and then cyber shopped for deals on Monday - a LOT of cyber shopping as The Huffington Post revealed that sales from Cyber Monday jumped 30.3 % since last year, suggesting that many people either cybershopped at the office or even played hooky to stay home and scroll through endless webpages full of 'must have', 'one time only' deals.

With all of that hullabaloo over, we can focus on what is about to take place during the next few weeks before Christmas. Families make plans on where to go and when; You sift through a constant stream of invites to attend holiday gatherings and reply to them in triage-like fashion according to where you absolutely have to go because you skipped it last year, etc, etc.

Navigating your way through post-turkey to New Year's Day can be a daunting task and even more so when you are under tight fiscal constraints. We have been struggling for the better part of three years but up until September, at least one of us had a job and could pull off a small Christmas miracle. This year, both my husband and I are out of work. I've compiled some simple ideas on how NOT to make your holiday's horrible in 2012 simply because you don't have a ton of $. Of course, these are my ideas and opinions based on my current financial/work/family situation - everyone is different but there are somethings that apply to everyone regardless of your place in life.


  • If you have a large or extended family, you may feel as though your entire holiday shopping budget will disappear in an attempt to buy something for every single member of your family. For the past 3 years, my family has had very little disposable income. Our current rule is we only buy gifts for the kids (Age 10 and under). Everyone else gets a card (which, they will no doubt open  and expect a gift card to fall out) and that's it. We don't buy for our parents, siblings, cousins or even each other. Some offices do Secret Santa so you may have to participate but if not, a card with some homemade cookies works just fine. Christmas is about kids so if you only have a little budget, make the most of it and use it to give them a Merry Christmas. If you are in a situation like ours, they get it... they already know you are struggling so no major feuds should arise from a lack of gift giving
  • My sister recently told me that her sons (both under 10 years old) asked for their own iPad for Christmas and when she tried to explain why they would not be getting them, their reply was 'Santa doesn't have to buy them - he makes the iPads so don't worry about it'. My response would have been carefully plotted after consuming a few goblets of wine and involve budget cuts at the Elf factory, but if you are faced with a similar scenario, this might be a prime opportunity to have 'the Santa doesn't exist and we are bleeding our savings dry to make Christmas happen' talk

  • If you absolutely must buy something for all 10 cousins, secretary, mailman, etc - some frugal ideas that won't leave them thinking you despise them would be:
    • An ornament
    • A picture frame with a recent family photo in it
    • Lottery Scratch tickets
    • Starbucks/Dunkins $5 Gift Card
    • ITunes Gift Card
    • Bottle of local wine (Farnum Hill Cider is AMAZING and less than $10)

 Holiday Parties

Regardless of your financial situation, DO plan on going to a few holiday parties. After all, it is a season to celebrate and if you hyper-focus on what you don't have, you'll come off acting like the Grinch. It's hard not to be resentful watching others shop worry-free while you count pennies BUT PLEASE, put your worries aside for a few nights and ENJOY... but choose your parties wisely.

  • Stick to parties hosted by family and really good friends. Being surrounded by people who know and care for you will ensure a stress free environment where you will actually enjoy your time, not worry about awkward small talk and you can be who they love - the REAL you!

  • I've always been taught that you never show up to a party without something (bottle of wine, dessert, etc). Spend a Saturday baking up Christmas Cookies, find some inexpensive decorative tins at Target and keep a pile of them in the trunk of your car... instant guest contribution!
  • If you work for a large company who is hosting a holiday party, you may be obligated to attend. Hopefully, they'll have an open bar but if not, make sure you are seen by a few key people and then head out.
Cheesy as it may sound, the holidays really are all about family and friends. It is easy to see why there is a spike in people who get depressed during the holidays - if you don't have a ton of money, if you are not close to your family or can't afford to go visit - they are all downers. Without going into the gritty details, this has been the worst year of my life. I left a job I loved to follow my husband to Kansas after he had been unemployed for almost two years. Six months in Kansas and he was laid off. We lost everything. 

BUT we have 3 little kids who need only know that regardless of our financial situation or geographic location that  THEY will have a memorable and Merry Christmas. Don't dwell on what you don't have and focus on the wonderful things you do have and you'll make it through the holiday season, without someone calling you the Grinch or uttering 'Bah Hum Bug' once.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Social Media Mediocrity

During this 'in transition' period of my career (AKA unemployed) I have found that my morning routine has changed significantly. The hurried pace at which the pre-office morning me existed no longer exists. In fact, the most hustle and bustle part of my morning is trying to get to the coffee machine before the go-go juice is gone. 

While I hope to soon find a new gig, I'm enjoying my new morning routine. Instead of pounding my coffee in the car while plotting out my to-do list for the day at the office, I find a cozy spot on the living room sofa, sip my coffee slowly and catch up on the news, sift through job search driven leads and delete all the 'to Sam Spam' emails that have crept past the filter in my inbox.

When that petty pace is done, the 'social media' me takes over. I use three major social media applications daily, without exception - LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. This particular morning, while catching up on Tweets, I came upon the post from Mashable Tech that read '7 Apps You Don't Want to Miss'. The title grabbed my attention so follow the link I go, and I find that 6 out of the 7 apps were ones I would not miss- they were copycats or slight tweaks to existing apps or they were apps I would have no real use for. 
I decided to pay a visit to the App Store on my iPad to download 'Highlight' - an app that resembles the love child of Facebook and Foursquare. It's appeal to me, as silly as it sounds, was the ability for users to give virtual 'High Fives' as opposed to 'Likes'. That's it. 
(photo courtesy of

I downloaded Highlight, created a profile and then logged off. I didn't interact with anyone (only about half a dozen people I know are using it) and it didn't present an opportunity to do anything more than post something and share it across my other social networks. For a brief moment, I questioned whether or not I was using social media too much, or, based on the endless stream of places to 'share', 'post', 'like' people, places and things, not enough.                                          
                                                                                               (photo courtesy of
When I started blogging I starting using 'Klout' - a software/application that essentially grades you on how much influence you are putting out into the social media realm (your connected accounts) by keeping track of frequency of use and shoots you a random score. This morning, I had a message from Klout that said my score had dropped from '53 to 51'. Many applications like Klout exist and they are valuable in terms of measuring the effectiveness of your inbound marketing efforts for companies, organizations... people who are trying to sell you a product or service. It is a cost effective way to learn about and engage your target audience.  In terms of outreach, a high grade of influence and a way to measure it is really not for people like me. I pondered my 'score' and then deleted the app.

Sure, I like seeing that people have 'liked' a post on Facebook, when someone 're-Tweets' something I've managed to get out in less than 140 characters or even if people read this blog, but I am not relying on this to measure anything. Unless you are using social media for business - B2B or B2C, you are like me - you are part of the 'Social Media Mediocrity', or if you need it shortened, U2W (you to the world).

What the 'Social Media Mediocrity' Means to Me

- You use social media applications like Facebook and Twitter daily
- You mainly use social media for it's original purpose - staying connected to people
- If you are a professional, you use LinkedIn at least 3 times a week (new connections, posting articles    relevant to your profession, seeing what others are saying and doing - what's trending
- If you are selling anything, it's yourself
- You are not using any sort of analysis or metrics to measure your influence (i.e. Klout)
- There is not someone waiting to hear a report from you on the # of followers you have, unique mentions or re-Tweets, etc

There are a ton of social networks out there. Every piece of content someone creates can be shared across a vast and constantly expanding stream of social media networks. Some may even say that the social media market is saturated. A site called Social Media Chimps actually integrated social media sites into Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs map. I think it's ridiculous. In today's digital age, we are all staying connected past the typical M-F, 9-5 world. Some say that is a good thing, others say it can be a bad thing. Social Media Today breaks it down in this post entitled 'Social Media - A Good Thing or A Bad Thing?'
            (photo courtesy of hubpages)

In the end, it's up to you to decide on how much you use social media and for what purpose. I've read Facebook posts from people that have brought me to tears because of the raw emotion they willingly put out into the world and then one page scroll down, posts about cats playing the piano.

Businesses trying to generate leads, make connections that turn into fruitful relationships for their business - they should worry about their influence in terms of the effectiveness of their marketing strategy and how it all effects their bottom line. I see them as the 'Social Media 'Hierarchy'.

Oppositely, I know people from a much older demographic who have a Facebook account but are very confused as to what a 'wall' is and instead of sending a private message directly to someone, you'll see something like 'No, no... I said we'd meet at Clam King for supper at 4pm' as a post on their wall. 

As for me, right now I am content to exist in the social media mediocrity. I use it for what I want, when I want and don't put too much stock into how many 'likes' a post gets or who follows me on Twitter. But, for the sake of conformity, feel free to share this post across your vast social media network. I hope you 'like' it. Oh, and download Highlight so I can have more people to 'High Five', okay?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Are You In or Are You Out?

I see myself as a challenging prospective consumer. There has not been a single piece of direct mail that has made it any further than my recycling bin. I don't make purchasing decisions based on what I've seen on TV, heard on the radio or advertised in print. I am an opt-out email responder, I don't click on ads on the web and am a telemarketer's worst nightmare. If I want to know about something, I will seek out the information on my own, listen to the opinions of trusted friends and family and make a decision without the influences of traditional marketing tactics and based on the shift from companies to invest and rely more on Inbound marketing strategies as opposed to the more traditional (Outbound) strategies and tactics, I guess I am not alone.
                         (Photo Credit Pamorama)

If you are unfamiliar with these strategies, think of them in very simple terms

- Outbound Marketing uses tactics such as TV, print ads, direct mail and telemarketing (all costly methods) to attract consumers. They 'push' info at you in the form of casting a broad net and attempt to generate sales by what they've managed to catch.

- Inbound Marketing uses the 'earned media' approach by using tactics such as utilizing blogging, article publishing and producing creative content through SEO, Content Management Systems, lead nurturing and the omnipowerful world of Social Media to spread the word and 'pull' you in. A recent 2012 Social Media Trends study reports that Social Media Marketing nets 61% more sales leads than traditional methods.

Some would say that the older Outbound Marketing strategies don't work, and judging by the visible shift to Inbound Marketing and its ability to better convert a lead into a sale, they might be right BUT putting all your eggs into one basket is never a good idea - enter the idea of an integrated campaign that utilizes both methods at appropriate times in an effort to enrich what has been 'earned' by using Outbound tactics to strengthen your overall strategy.

Inbound marketing is heavily focused on creating and distributing engaging, relevant and useful content. A couple ways to integrate Outbound tactics to an already engaged audience:

- Package your content rich Inbound marketing tools (blogs, EBooks, white papers, webinars, etc) in a targeted email marketing campaign. In short, leverage your content with an Outbound strategy that could prove beneficial in driving traffic to your website, expand your blog audience and create
sharing opportunities across social media networks

- Use the 'Human' tactic. You've learned a lot about your audience so why not leverage what you know about them that's been harvested from social media monitoring, web analytics and what they've responded to, turn off your computer, silence your cell phone and pay someone a visit to discuss their needs or problems and provide
one-on-one content through conversation. Emailing is cold and allows people to ignore you... showing up at someone's office with an invitation for coffee to share content relevant to them or even ask what issues they'd like to see    addressed in your company's next blog post builds a strong working relationship. (Photo Credit Dust Consulting)

At first glance, it seems like focusing your efforts on Inbound marketing tactics is a no brainer but industry experts feel an integrated marketing campaign is crucial to generating high-quality sales leads. Integrated campaigns cover all areas - lead generation, brand awareness and more and at a faster rate. The all mighty 'sales funnel' has 3 levels and getting a consumer through all 3 means knowing what marketing strategies work best at the various levels... a great topic for the next post.

Until the next time, be well and keep your mind on what matters.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Social Media Monitoring - Data Mining in the Digital Age

Long ago, in a conference room far, far away, company execs were formulating marketing strategies with a simple focus: selling more products. Little regard was given to identifying or even caring about what the consumer needed or wanted; in fact, the marketing strategies of old were formulated with a goal to sell as much as possible in the short term. We all know that generating revenue is good but what the 'old timers' disregarded was how to build relationships with their consumers that would equate to sustainable consumer loyalty.

As years went by with competition flooding the market, it soon became apparent that in order to retain market share and a loyal consumer base that marketing strategies had to evolve. Not only were industries, products and services changing/growing, so were the needs and wants of the consumer. The era of 'sell sell sell!' had ended and along with it, the complacent marketing tactics of old. The conversation in the conference room would now focus on creating marketing strategies that were formulated based on identifying and understanding the needs of the consumer as a foundation for a long-term marketing strategy aimed at building and retaining consumer loyalty.

Fast forward to 2012. Businesses who had once relied on traditional marketing strategies (TV, print, radio, door-to-door, telemarketing) are finding it hard to stay competitive. Don't get me wrong, traditional marketing methods are still useful but, in order to compete in the age of technology, businesses need a comprehensive digital marketing strategy to supplement those methods and data taken from social media sites and their users are helping to sculpt them.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

There is no denying that we live in a digital age. Consumers are inundated on a daily basis through the availability and use of digital communications. In addition to TV, radio, print and direct snail mail, people are constantly connected to digital mediums such as smartphones, tablets and the new marketing superhero, social media networks. In order to build a strong consumer base, companies must base their marketing strategies on what the consumer wants and needs and the best resource any company has is information that comes straight from the consumer through Social Media Monitoring.

Getting to Know You... ALL About You

On any given day I read at least half a dozen articles on marketing trends, research, analysis and view infographics that serve as a visual explanation of what you just read (think of an infographic as an instruction manual). Lately, it seems the most widely discussed topic is the use of Social Media Monitoring to compile
information on consumers to better understand their needs and use that info to create more effective marketing strategies. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are prime info harvesting tools for companies. Creating a consumer profile through what you 'like', opinions you express, links you post or what/who you follow. I had my first experience with this in December 2010. My husband had just proposed so of course, I changed my Facebook relationship status to 'Engaged'. From that point on, the sidebar of my FB page was filled with ads for bridal magazines, custom invitations, etc. Using what you share through social media to help companies better understand their target market makes perfect sense. After all, we share just about everything - where we shop, restaurants we like, businesses we patronize and on the other end of the spectrum, we share our gripes and complaints.

What started out as mediums to stay connected with people has turned into a valuable marketing research and analysis tool for companies. In addition to discovering that you prefer Applebee's over Chili's and that you are a huge Radiohead fan, companies are harvesting information that you may not realize is available, for instance:

- Email, physical addresses and phone numbers
- Professional history
- Screen names for various social media platforms and instant messaging services
- The # of friends or followers you have
- Videos you have viewed on YouTube, etc

A Good Reason to Understand Privacy/Sharing Settings

Last week, the investigative journalism website ProPublica released an article that discussed findings stemming from a congressional query about consumer data companies who harvest and sell consumer information mined from popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn, that include much more than your purchasing preferences. Companies like Intelius admit to using social media monitoring to provide employers with information used in background checks, which often includes private email addresses, blog posts and more. Read the article here. It's been said many times before but it bears repeating... Once you put something out into the world through the internet, it is nearly impossible to get rid of it. Some tips for protecting your private information:

- Visit the 'Privacy Settings' tab in Facebook. Here you can control who can see your posts, photos and who can tag you in their posts

- Beware of granting Apps permission to access your data. Every time you access a new App (Skype, Words with Friends, etc) they ask to access your 'basic' info which can include your profile picture, list of friends and user ID. Some even ask for permission to post updates on your behalf

It's easy to tell when your information has been harvested and sold. How many times have you received an email newsletter you never signed up for from a company you don't know or opened your mailbox to an avalanche of direct mail pieces from competitors of products or services you frequently use? Supermarkets paved the way for this by introducing shopper cards that provide discounts or gas points. When the cashier swipes your card, along with your receipt, you get a stream of coupons for products you frequently purchase.

For the most part, data mining is harmless to the consumer but educating yourself on how your 'public' information is being used is a good idea. Companies are using social media monitoring as an effective way to retain or attract consumers, improve products & services and devise successful digital marketing strategies - a perfect topic for the next post.