LinkedIn Groups have a bad rap. Often times, they are filled with useless information, people you don’t actually want to connect with, and for businesses, look like they offer less value for broad engagement.
However, the way we market to consumers on LinkedIn is different.
In the way that Twitter and Facebook give us the broad audience exposure, and Instagram engages the consumer in a creative way, business should think of LinkedIn as a forum, the online place of meaning.
A place for meaningful connection that can generate business, new employees, partnerships, leads, and even research! Sharing content creates meaningful engagement with your audience (and for entrepreneurs, that meaningful connection is your competitive edge – FYI). You can also use that group to generate ideas and learn more about your demographic.
Creating a LinkedIn group isn’t hard – it only takes a few simple steps.
1. Go to LinkedIn.com/groups (and login to LinkedIn).
2. Click “My Groups.”
3. Hit the “Create Group” button.
4. Breathe, the easy part is over.
5. What’s the goal of the group? A user group? Engaging with brand ambassadors? A way for you to find leads? Sharing ideas? Collecting data? Think about that so you know what content you’re going for.
6. You need to make your group a good place to be, so encourage welcoming posts. Propose an introductory post (share your name, how long you’ve used a product or service, and how it benefits you, for example).
7. Set group rules that facilitate professional and meaningful interactions (and hold people to it).
8. Engage with comments and messages to create meaningful relationships with the purpose of your group.
9. Read LinkedIn’s tips on growth – always think of how to use this tool.
11. Maintain the group – it’s part of your job now, leader. And not managing well hurts your brand, and you don’t want that.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool, and LinkedIn Groups aren’t the grandma way to engage your people. We want meaningful contacts on LinkedIn, and you want to build a reputation as a thought leader and a meaningful engager.
So get a group started, run it properly, and don’t treat it like another public page. It’s all about the value here, friend!
Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales
(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?
Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”
The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.
The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.
A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.
Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible; if your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.
This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.
When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.
The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.
It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.
In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.
What skills do marketers need to survive the AI takeover?
(MARKETING) Quality marketers are constantly evolving, but getting your head around artificial intelligence can be a challenge – let’s boil it down to the most relevant skills you’ll need.
When Facebook and Twitter were born, a new era of social media was ushered in, opening the gates for new areas of expertise that hadn’t existed before. At first, we all grappled to establish the culture together, but fast forward a decade and it is literally a science with thousands of supporting technology companies.
So as Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes over marketing, doesn’t that mean it will replace marketers? If you can ask your smart speaker in your office what your engagement growth increase was for your Facebook Page, and ask for recommendations of growth, how do marketing professionals survive?
Marketers will survive the same way they did as social media was introduced – the practice will evolve and new niches will be born.
There are 7 skills marketers will need to adapt in order to evolve. None of these are done overnight, but quality professionals are constantly grooming their skills, so this won’t be stressful to the successful among us. And the truth is that it won’t be in our lifetime that AI can quite process the exact same way a human brain does, even with the advent of quantum computing, so let’s focus on AI’s weaknesses and where marketers can perform where artificial intelligence cannot.
1. Use the data your new AI buddies generate.
In the 70s, the infamous Ted Bundy murders yielded the first case that utilized computing. The lead investigator had heard about computers and asked a specialist to dig through all of their data points to find similarities – a task that was taking months for the investigative team. After inputting the data, within minutes, they had narrowed their list of suspects from several hundred to only 10.
We’re not dealing with murderers here in the marketing world (…right, guys?), but the theory that algorithms can speed up our existing jobs is a golden lesson. As more AI tools are added to the marketplace to enhance your job, experiment with them! Get to know them! And continue to seek them out to empower you.
Atomic Reach studies your content and finds ways to enhance what you’re delivering. CaliberMind augments B2B sales, Stackla hunts down user-generated content that matches your brand efforts, Nudge analyzes deal risk and measures user account health, and Market Brew digs up tons of data for your SEO strategy.
See? Independently, these all sound like amazing tools, but call them “AI tools” and people lose their minds. Please.
Your job as a marketer is to do what AI cannot. Together, you can automate, do segmentation and automation, beef up your analytics, but no machine can replicate your innate interest in your customers, your compassion, and your ability to understand human emotions and predict outcomes effectively (because you have a lot more practice at being a human than the lil’ robots do).
2. Take advantage of AI’s primary weakness.
As noted, you have emotions and processes that are extremely complex and cannot be understood by artificial intelligence yet. Use those.
How? Compile all of the data that AI offers and then strategize. Duh. AI can offer recommendations, but it cannot (yet) suggest an entire brand strategy. That’s where you come in.
And more importantly, it cannot explain or defend any such strategy. One of the core problems with AI is that if you ask Alexa a question, you cannot ask how it came up with that information or why. This trust problem is the primary reason marketers are in no danger of being replaced by technology.
3. Obsess over data.
AI tools are young and evolving, so right now is the time to start obsessing over data. What I mean by that is not to use every single AI tool to compile mountains of useless data, but to start studying the data you already have.
The problem with new tools is that marketers are naturally inquisitive, so we try them out and then forget they exist if they didn’t immediately prove to be a golden egg.
Knowing your current marketing data inside and out will help you to learn alongside AI. If you aren’t intimately familiar, you won’t know if the recommendations made through AI are useful, and you could end up going down the wrong path because something shiny told you to.
Obsess over data not by knowing every single customers’ names, but be ready to identify which data sets are relevant for the results you’re seeking. A data scientist friend of mine recently pointed out that if you flip a coin five times and it happens to land on tails every time, AI would analyze that data and predict with 100% certainty that the sixth flip will be tails, but you and I have life experience and know better.
Staying on top of your data, even when you’re utilizing artificial intelligence tools will keep you the most valuable asset, not the robots. #winning
4. Don’t run away from math (no wait, come back!)
One of the appeals of marketing is that math is hard and you don’t need it in a creative field. But if you want to stay ahead of the robots, you’ll have to focus on your math skills.
You don’t have to go back to school for data science, but if you can’t read the basic reports that these endless AI tools can create, you’re already behind. At least spend a few hours this month on some “Intro to Data Science” courses on Udemy or Coursera.
5. Content is God.
We’ve all said for years that content is king and that feeding the search engines was a top way to reach consumers. You’ve already refined your skills in creating appealing content, and you already know that it costs less than many traditional lead generating efforts and spending on content is way up.
Content can be blogging, video, audio, or social media posts. Artificial intelligence will step in to skyrocket those efforts, if only you accept that content was once king, but is now God. What is changing is how customized content can be. For example, some companies are using AI tools to create dozens of different Facebook ads for different demographics, which would have taken weeks of human effort to do in the past.
Because content is what feeds all of these new smart devices, feeding your brand content effectively and utilizing AI tools to augment your efforts will keep you more relevant than ever.
6. Get ahead of privacy problems
Consumers now understand what website cookies are, and know when they’ve opted in (or opted out) of an email newsletter, but to this point, humans have made the decisions of how these data choices are made. Our teams have continually edited Terms of Service (ToS), all done not just with liability in mind, but to offer consumers the protections that they want and have come to expect.
But AI today doesn’t have morals, and consumer comfort is not a factor unless humans program that into said AI devices. But it still isn’t a creature of ethics like humans are. Ethical challenges going forward will be something to stay ahead of as you tap into the AI world. Making sure that you know the ToS of any tool you’re using to mine data is critical so that you don’t put the company in a bad position by violating basic human trust.
You’re smart, so you already knew that the robots aren’t taking your job, rather augmenting it, but adding AI into your marketing mix to stay ahead comes with risk and a learning curve. But seeing artificial intelligence for what it really is – a tool – will keep your focus on the big picture and save your job.
Why your being the ‘Uber of’ or ‘Netflix of’ is bad for your business
(BUSINESS NEWS) Comparing your company to one of the big ones could actually hurt your business. Let’s dive into exactly why.
Know Your Analog
An elevator pitch is a quick description of what your company does. It is so named as it should be short enough to be spat out at a moments notice and take no longer than it would take to ride between floors on an elevator. The goal of this micro-pitch isn’t to tell your listener everything about your company but instead to share just enough to get them to want to know more.
There are several ways of doing this – which I discuss in this post – but the most effective method has to be the analog. Using a well-known analog to create an association between your napkin idea and an existing, well-known company is a convenient shorthand to say a lot without having to explain a lot: “Litr.ly (a made up company) is like Dribbble and Google docs for writers; allowing social feedback, editing, and collaborative creation.”
Know Your Audience
As a potential investor, team member or elevator passenger, I now know that like the design-focused portfolio site, Dribbble, Litr.ly combines sharing of creative work with a peer community. I also know that like Google Docs, Litr.ly allows real-time contribution and editing. As you can see, drawing an analog to your fledgling idea can be very helpful, particularly when talking to a sophisticated or relevant audience (My Mom would have no idea what either Dribbble nor Google Docs do). But it can be overused and is often done very lazily.
Instead of truly understanding the company they are piggybacking on, many entrepreneurs simply pick something popular and force a tortured comparison to make their potential seem as great as the greats. The most overused and misunderstood example of this these days has to be, “We are the Uber of mattresses/musicians/photographers/music discovery/wedding planners/lawn mowers etc.”
If you’re not empowering the sharing economy nor on-demand services through technology, this analog is probably wrong.
Not everyone can nor should be the Tom’s Shoes, AirBnB nor Spotify of [fill in the blank]. Unless it’s true, it’s indolent and does more harm than good.
Don’t Hide Your Differentiation
Another problem with just picking the biggest name in tech or in your market is that everyone else is doing it too. If three-out-of-five music tech startups were “Facebook for Music,” which one of them is truly innovating? If you are lazy with your analog and others are too, you essentially hide your differentiation. The natural response after hearing the third, “we are the WordPress of potato farming,” is to tune out. Even without hearing your idea, your analog can draw an “I’ve heard this before…” response out of the gate.
Another common mistake is neglecting to specify which part of a product of a large company you aspire to be like.
Saying that you are the “Google of” anything leaves more questions than it answers because Google (or Alphabet) is a LOT of things: IoT (internet of things like Nest), search engine (Google.com), email (Gmail), social network (Wave or Plus), self-driving cars (Waymo), augmented reality (Glass), maps (Maps or Waze) or any number of other pies the $600 Billion giant has their fingers in.
Be specific and be relevant – if you’re referencing Wave, Glass or Plus, you might not be up-to-speed with those products’ current state of being (although Glass will be back albeit with a probable rebrand and redesign).
Know Multiple Facets of Your Comparison
On the topic of being up-to-speed, beware of hitching your wagon to a known company without understanding their business model, current news and/or revenue numbers. While you are trying to implant success in the mind of your audience, you could also be invoking unintended risk. You may be referencing a flattering characteristic, “It’s a universal marketplace, like Amazon on steroids,” but the wrong person could focus on the fact that Amazon uses a loss-leader strategy (losing money on an initial purchase) on many of its hardware products with the expectation that it can make it up by getting you hooked on content and toilet paper subscriptions. So be ready to draw a new analog if and when you need to.
Keep the Knowledge of Your analog Current
Equally, if you pick a parallel, you need to follow that company on anything and everything that you can to make sure that a good analog doesn’t go bad.
Companies get sued, tweet unsavory things, support unpopular causes (or presidential candidates), unjustly fire employees, lose value on their stock, or get acquired by the wrong company overnight.
You DON’T want to be “the Zenefits for…” the week after they were taken to court for malpractice, or the “Zirtual for…” after they laid off 400 employees without notice. Despite their ubiquity, now is probably the worst time to call yourself “Uber for…” after the CEO, Travis Kalanick stepped down following numerous misdeeds, including threatening to stalk Bay Area tech reporters. Some of these things can eventually blow over or be bounced back from but you’ll be caught with your pants down if the pantheon of success you are pointing to just became a laughing stock.
Look Beyond the Biggest Names For a Better Fit
If you are reaching outside of your market for an analog, be sure that the glove fits. The Lyft model works amazingly well for cars in ways that it might not in other verticals. While “Lyft for massage” startups, Zeel and Soothe, are both promising companies with great growth, inviting strangers into your house to put their hands on your half-clothed body is a greater risk than getting into a stranger’s GPS-tracked car. While it may be a good comparison, the person you are pitching may agree with Inc. Magazine’s Will Jacovitz who said on the Inc. Podcast, “The Uber-ization of anything but cars could get creepy.”
All of that negativity aside, picking a company role model for that quick elevator pitch is not all potential pitfalls.
Drawing an analog remains a great way to anchor your company’s potential in the mind of your audience and succinctly explains how you will dominate your market.
You just have to be sure to:
– Know your audience
– Not overreach
– Don’t be a “me too” company
– Specify which product/feature of a large company’s portfolio you are like
– Be ready to draw a new analog if and when appropriate
– Know the current news and past struggles of your analog company.
– Look beyond the biggest startups and companies for ones that are a better fit
So go and build the next great Warby Parker for dishware or AirBnB for bronies, just don’t let your description be the Titanic of analogs.
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