marketing

“The Alliance” … a lesson we should learn from Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull

On this day, June 25 in 1876, two mortal enemies found that the differences they had between them paled in comparison to the a threat both encountered.  After the Civil War, the U.S. government turned its attention to the Wild West and the fight against the Indians – or as they called them, “savages.”

Two warring tribes, the Lakota Sioux and the Cheyenne were being relentlessly pursued by the U.S. Army – and specifically, General Armstrong Custer.  After numerous skirmishes with minor military leaders, they learned of Custer’s intention of attacking them in Southern Montana.

Separately neither the Sioux nor the Cheyenne had the upper hand … but together, maybe the result could be different. Unprecedentedly, Lakota chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull met secretly with Cheyenne chief Gall and devised a plan for their mutual survival.

The Sioux encampment of 6,000 plus was set on the banks of the Little Big Horn River in Montana.  Starting the night of the June 23, Sitting Bull moved the Sioux women and children down river out of harms way while the warrior chief Crazy Horse amassed the Sioux warriors in the cover of brush on the river bank.  After numerous skirmishes with with Gall and his Cheyenne on high ground on 25th, the next day Custer moved down towards the banks of the Little Big Horn only to come face-to-face with the Sioux.

The infamous battle of Custer’s Last Stand lasted only twenty minutes with Custer’s army being annihilated.

While the current economic climate and fate of  local business may not equate to the dire situation the Sioux and Cheyenne faced … lessons can still be learned.

Over the last couple month in my series, “The People Have the Power,” I have lamented relentlessly the need for us as consumers to support our local communities by choosing Main Street and local business over Wall Street and their chains and box stores. I’ve tried to drive home the harm that knee-jerk decisions to shop at Wal-Mart can do to your community. And I’ve pushed the need we have to pull our money out of the big banks, like B of A and Wells Fargo and put it in local banks and credit unions instead.

But I’m afraid that us, the consumers, may not be able to it alone. Main Street itself is going to have to hold up their end also.

As small business owners, your enemies of the past, the competition down street – may well be your life line to survival now. It’s time to take some lessons from Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Gall.

It’s time to band together.

It’s time to form alliances with your fellow businesses, even if they’re in the same industry. Who says a pizza parlor can’t co-op with a Thai restaurant.

It’s time to not only support local farmers, but encourage them to produce specialty goods that only Main Street businesses and restaurants can provide.

It’s time to work with local marketers and put together Main Street based loyalty programs encouraging community shopping and participation through combined Main Street wide frequent visits.

And it’s even time to organization Main Street “street fairs” featuring local artists, musicians and fare. While I’m not saying you exclude national chains, they will likely not want to participate in these type of bohemian events.

The Battle of the Little Big Horn

New thinking is not just a luxury anymore.  It’s mandatory.  Business as usual has become no business at all.

If you ever visit the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, you will see scores of small white crosses running down the hill towards the river.  They represent where the Army soldiers fell and died.

While the current times may not deliver your little white cross … it’ll deliver somebody’s. Take advantage of these times to think new and bury old conceptions and archaic business practices.

Do you want to be Crazy Horse, or do want to be Custer?

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg
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The Hunger Games … articulation of the Occupy Movement

Fear is our strongest … our most primordial emotion. It manifests itself in the unknown. Uncertainty generates thoughts of worst case scenarios.

Over the years marketers, politicians and the like have attempted to harness it to their benefit, seldom successfully though. But when they have – the results have been unmistakably effective.

The Occupy Movement started in New York on Saturday, September 17, 2011 as a reaction to Wall Street abuse and the reluctance of the government to do anything about it. Within weeks it had grown into a worldwide movement. In no time people were occupying almost everything. But even though thousands of people were demonstrating in the streets, they received virtually no mainstream media coverage. To most Americans it’s almost like Occupy hardly existed.

Even though their message resonated with virtually everyone, or as they called it the 99% … the 99% percent didn’t really view Occupy as their representatives. What were they really occupying – and these were injustices that had already happened, and they didn’t happen to everyone.

There is the disconnect. There is frustration, and in even in some cases anger. But is that enough to motivate … to get people to act. Plus there was no central communication point. Nothing to really hang on to.

There was no fear. At least not yet.

That may have changed last Friday due to efforts of Suzanne Collins, Jennifer Lawrence and Gary Ross. On Friday the blockbuster movie Hunger Games opened and proceeded to gross a staggering 155 million dollars over the weekend in the United States alone, setting numerous box-office records. But what does this have to do with Occupy?

Everything I believe.

Jennifer Lawrence (aka Katniss Everdeen)

The Hunger Games is a movie, directed by Gary Ross, based on the bestselling book of the same name, the first of a trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. It is written in the voice of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence), who lives in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem where the countries of North America once existed. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis (home of the 1%), holds absolute power over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle in which only one child can survive.

Do I really believe this could happen?

Did I think Trayvon Martin, a black teenager in Florida sporting nothing but a hoddie, a pack of Skittles and an ice tea – would be shot point blank by a neighborhood watchman? And even though he confessed to the killing, has not been arrested after twenty-nine days.

Did I think after years of endless rhetoric, our declining education system has initiated no substantial reform except more and more standardized testing … testing that only what we don’t teach?

Did I think we would renew this country’s war on women’s rights to the point that the Wisconsin Legislature in their wisdom has initiated a bill that would penalize a single woman for having a baby? And that’s just one of many absurd Draconian measures that are under legislative consideration nationwide.

Did I think, with no media attention at all, our Congress time and time again continues to strip our civil rights in the name Homeland Security and the war on terror. George Orwell is probably rolling over in his grave?

And most of all, did I think I think our Supreme Court (which isn’t going anywhere soon) would make judgements that effectively hands our government, and in turn our country, over to special interests and big money. Soon we’ll be nothing but serfs in the fiefdoms of the all mighty 1%.

And all this has happened in the last two years. At this rate I can’t even imagine what could happen in the next thirty years, or even twenty. How far away are we really  from a Hunger Games scenario.

And it’s interesting that nobody is actually saying anything negative about the Hunger Games. The well articulated message, the extraordinary acting (especially from Lawrence) and excellent production make this film riveting, intense and thought-provoking. Even with the startling unspeakable content, everyone seems to be on board. Both the left and the right identify with it. The movie has been a topic of conversation on both MSNBC and Fox and virtually every other news network in between. Liberals identify with repression of the 99% while conservatives identify with abuse of big government.

Occupy represents neither party. In their minds, both are equally to blame for the problems we face. Seldom is there an opportunity that can help movement more than the one at the feet of Occupy right now. Now is the time grab this opportunity. Occupy can use the Hunger Games to invoke fear, the fear of the apocalypse … to move their agenda.

And the Hunger Games is just the first movie. There are three more sequels to come. That’s four years of “in your face” reminder of what could happen if the 99% doesn’t stand up for their rights.

Why not hang on to Jennifer, Suzanne and Gary’s coattails. It can’t hurt.

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I can found on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Also read: “The People Have the Power”

Can marketing and social media coexist?

I posted this as a comment on a LinkedIn discussion forum in the group “Marketing Your Printing Company.”  I’ve pretty much thought of this as my approach since I started down the social media trail.  It’s kinda nice to have it down a paper though.

I think we need to look at the entire process of a sale. The old adage is you need seven impressions on a prospect to make a sale. When I was a headhunter I tracked the numbers and found this more or less accurate.

With social media however – what constitutes an impression? We know back in the “dark ages,” an impression was a phone call or personal letter. With the advent of the internet, emails were also thrown into the mix. But does an email carry the same weight a letter? Probably not. And for that matter, does a word processed letter carry the same weight as one hand addressed? Again, probably not.

Facebook, Twitter ... oh my, what's best!

When we bring social media into the equation, we have to also look at the weight factor. If you’re receiving the same tweet as 400 or even 4000 other people – what’s that worth. Minimal at best. If the tweet includes a @yourname, then it’s worth more. And if the tweet gets your prospect or customer to go to your site or blog (and hopefully stay there for a few minutes), it could be worth as much as a phone conversation. Social media is just another avenue to make impressions. And after enough quality impressions, the goal of gaining or retaining business … should be realized. But quality isn’t about tweeting to the universe and expecting magic.

I’m not a big believer in social media as a lead generation tool. But then again I’m not a big believer in any campaign that doesn’t start with a targeted prospect that you know at least some information on. But with social media, you can gather information on your prospect. For example by using Twitter, you can find out an awful lot about someone. From their tweets you can see what they’re interested in, and if they blog – you find out what they’re passionate about. I’d be hard pressed to find a better avenue into someone’s head than this. But you must have the patience and desire to use this information constructively.

My social media methodology is not to generate random leads, but to build relationships and credibility with people I enjoy spending time with. Through my blogs, comments, tweets and other content I put out there – I hope to come across as someone who people will entrust their business with. That’s assuming what I was offering was pertinent, and that’s assuming I was offering something at all. Most importantly, I hope I would attract the type of people I share interests with and who I want to do business with.

Now my business is different from most. I would suppose the more unique the company is, the more applicable my methodology would be. Heck, I’ve been working on an “elevator speech” for four years trying to succinctly describe what I do – but still to no avail.

Regardless – as in any marketing effort, results from social media marketing take time. It’s no short cut – no matter what the “gurus” profess. Whatever the road you take to your company on, it’s going to take work and persistence. It’s kind of like Thomas Edison said, “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

All this bring’s up a bigger question. What is the purpose of social media? Is the purpose of a blog different from that of Twitter or even Facebook? Much attention is made of the financial implications of marketing “socially.” But is that really why we do it? Is marketing the reason why we stay up way later than we should, and wake up saying good morning to our Facebook friends and Twitter followers before even our family, just down the hall.

I’m willing to think … probably not.

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If you like what you read … please Tweet and follow me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Would you follow your own firm’s social media site?

Currently, the next  “great thing” – is marketing your business on Twitter and Facebook.  Being in the direct marketing arena … it’s no different here.  But, I really don’t see a whole lot of benefit for a lot of a these companies that have jumped on the bandwagon … at least how they’re doing it.

Social media ... the Holy Grail?

Social media is really nothing other than another vehicle to communicate with and deliver content.  Now, because of the interactive nature of it … it has enormous potential.  But to realize that potential, companies have to be creative and deliver content that is conducive to interactivity.  Now let’s see what going on and what could go on (at least from my observations).

Current situation:

  1. Basic talk about what the company does and what their services are.  This could be done on a web site since it doesn’t change very often.
  2. Announcement of events / press.  I see companies announce things going on with them and things going on in their communities.  Not bad I suppose.  But most of this content can delivered via print or email assuming they have contact info (which they should if they are followers).  In fact, that would be more effective since a message could be altered to fit the recipient.
  3. Announcements of internal blog posting.  This a good use due to the hot links and the potential to inform your clients and followers of new information and advice that may help them.  Unfortunately, very few printers have blogs and write any original content.  There is great opportunity here to present your firm as the expert.
  4. Referring other relevant industry information.  The key word here is relevant.  This can be a good use of social media.  It can keep a company’s customers and prospects abreast of  “stuff” going on their industry (i.e. trend, tips, etc.).  The problem I see here is that everybody mentions the same articles.  And most of them are about how “print isn’t dying.”  Enough already.

I summary – a couple of the above applications make sense and are probably worth the time and effort of the social media upkeep.  But aside from blog comments, they don’t accommodate any interactivity, thus missing the real potential of social media.

What a company should do:

  1. Don’t push your services.  Unless a service is new, your following probably already knows what you do and what equipment you have.  Save this for the website.
  2. Announce your events, relevant community items and your blog postings.  Social media is a targeted efficient way to show that your firm is alive, from a personal sense.
  3. Create a Twitter or Facebook forum pertaining to the business they do with you.  Best Buy does it and they answer every Tweet.  In the digital printing industry, it could involve a discussion on gathering and  preparing data for 1:1 marketing jobs.  Having your followers interact with each other creates a community … a place that they will come back to – giving your firm more opportunities to stay in front of them.
  4. Create a mini job board.  Again, this could be as easy announcing opportunities your clients have on Twitter and Facebook.  Nothing provides you with more kudos than helping advance somebody’s career or helping your clients with an important employment need.
  5. Create a “Doing good things” forum.  Have your clients post causes near and dear to their heart.  This creates camaraderie amongst your followers and let’s them “take a break” from just work issues.  People do have lives outside of work.

Social media like Twitter and Facebook is not there to boost your short-term ROI.  It’s about building relationships, a community, one that will benefit you in the long run – especially at times when the market is not so great, like now.

Your online community needs to be a place where your followers and clients will go back to again and again.  Be a conduit for help.  The more you give, the stronger your bonds will be.  Look at your community as a “general contractor,” for building your clients and followers businesses.

Also, involved members will help you in your “construction” efforts by getting the word out and referring people your way.  You will be considered the expert – somewhere someone can go to get their printing problems solved … whatever those may be.

Your social media presence is a living, growing organism.  If you feed it with the right food and nurture it … it will give great rewards and satisfaction.  But remember, it takes time and attention – and if you don’t give that, it’ll wither and die.

And most of all ask yourself:  Would you follow your own firm?  If so, you’re on the right track.  Just be patient.  If not … well, you have some work to do.

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I can be reached on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Why after only one try … we quit?

It seems we live in a world of black or white.  Either we’re all in or not at all.  Most of us treat our marketing and sales like this too.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but this last year I’ve seen a awful lot of customer and loyalty marketing.  For every credit card transaction, I have a loyalty card.  “You’re our customer and we love you.”  Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all into loyalty programs.  Even if most of them are poorly designed and poorly executed.  They’re still an attempt.  Better than nothing.

We also still have the same old ‘throwing up whatever and hope that something sticks’ marketing.  It doesn’t matter if our targets don’t have any idea who we are or have any intention of buying what we have to offer – we’re sure going to get in front of them.  Hey, one in hundred better than, well - I actually don’t know if it’s better than anything.

It has to be one or the other.  Wrong.

A couple of months ago, I went stopped into a printer in Billings, Montana, here where I live, to get a letterhead and business card quote.  They will remain nameless.  Now they have a good reputation, very nice facilities and were pleasant.  I met them in person – not over the phone or online.  I even showed enough interest to ask and receive a plant tour.

A day later I received my quote via email.  I decided not to pursue the job, but they didn’t know that because I never heard from them.  No call.  No further emails.  Nothing.  I can’t believe that business is so good that anyone who doesn’t buy upon first impression is not worthy of doing business with.  But it seems like that.

They say it costs between five ten times more to get business from a new customer than from an existing one.  Does this also apply to a prospect who has made effort to find who you are and ask for quote?  I rather doubt it.

How many companies out there have drawers full of quotes that never turned into live jobs.  What’s being done with them?  Maybe a follow-up call … maybe?  Or if a call is made, is it just a message? On that note – check out my post on leaving a message: : “The Eleventh Commandment.”

Here’s my holiday project for all you:

Take a few minutes away from your driving around town delivering presents and cheer to those valued clients of yours.

Go through that quote drawer, that pile of business cards, that outdated contact list on your iPhone or BlackBerry and find those that made that made the effort to give you a chance, a chance to do business with them.

Give them a little cheer.  Who knows, once 2012 rolls around and everyone pulls their head out of the eggnog bowl … maybe they’ll give you another chance.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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