Marketing & Public Relations Firm - Verasoni Worldwide

All posts tagged Strategy

Did you know that The New York Times is in the wine business? The Washington Post got into what was perceived to be the power broker business? Until of course someone shed some light on that “business” line. And CNBC is all about not upsetting business by making sure that their programming and prodigious prognosticators move markets ever upward either through sheer will, if not fast talk. Market is up, everyone is happier than a bee on caffeine. Yeah, in a downmarket, the talking heads look like they want to take their ball and go home. Bummer…These guys are the Big & Bad, these are icons of journalism.

So what does this all mean? For one thing, it confirms that content is king, I will explain the what and why later in this piece. Yes, The New York Times has to capitalize on its database to drive more dollars to the bottom line – so, let’s start a wine club! The Washington Post watched it’s circulation drop, so selling access to powerful Washingtonians seemed logical and highly accretive to the bottom line. It makes perfect sense…until it doesn’t.

Core business is critical in journalism – not earth shattering news I am sure. Let’s get serious for a minute about this and ask a critical question, What is the state of journalism as it relates to advertisers? The reason why I am using the word Journalism and not media or some other word is intentional. And while experts in suits are screaming at the demise of “traditional media” – meaning newspapers, television, radio – I submit that they are wrong, dead wrong. Why? Content IS king. The proof is Wikileaks. I mean, if these folks don’t wake up and find out that true, inspired, untarnished journalism sells, they will continue to find other ways of keeping their business relevant, like selling spirits and driving people to Twitter or asking people to pay for their “content.” The world of journalism, has actually become even more serious and competitive, but our Bigs are still asleep at the printing press or the remote control.

When the few who were calling the coming crash in between 2003-2008, the mainstream business media, including CNBC’s fell silent.  No one wanted to ruin the party.  You mean people would not have wanted to get another perspective from someone who doesn’t talk very fast and perhaps doesn’t wear a tie? Check out Jon Stewart’s – all too late I might add, but someone had to do it – undressing of Cramer on the subject…

Julian Assange and Wikileaks are hot topics these days.  From my perspective, for the wrong reasons. Governments rail against Wikileaks as they try to cover information otherwise not easily attainable by the public. The public’s apparent appetite for the information on Wikileaks has been, and I suspect will continue to be insatiable. So when Wikileaks puts out an alert, The New York Times actually promotes the content on Wikileaks and distributes it on its website and in print. While this is part in parcel with the mission of Wikileaks, The New York Times should have identified a business opportunity, one that allows it to be the trusted source for relevant content. Advertisers want and need sticky content. Wouldn’t it be better if the Grey Lady played in the same game as Wikileaks? I am taking The Times at task here, but many fine newspapers and television stations across the United States and world suffer from the same crippling disease. Yes, people are interested in this stuff, highly interested. And if you report on what Wikileaks did, I would rather visit Wikileaks, the source. Our journalists should be the source.

By many, Assange is viewed as a modern day Robin Hood, by others as spoiler and traitor.  The global media titans ought view him as an innovator and disrupter and quickly learn from him.  Wikileaks is clearly a game changer, and has quickly become a global brand, and a trusted source to boot.  Every time a whistle-blower chooses Wikileaks over “trusted” journalistic icons should make people who care deeply about these institutions mad as hell because he/she did not or could not use the traditional route to get the word out.  Content lost!  No, I am mistaken, not content lost! Judging by how many people hit Wikileaks’ servers, relevant content lost and therefore dollars lost!

Which begs another question: does anyone still care about the traditional route?

That’s a topic to chew on another time.

By Abe Kasbo and Kim Reydel

Social media was a huge buzz word in 2009 and the hype will undoubtedly spill over into 2010.  Without a question, social media is now the new mass media (television still dominates…for now), and while businesses are still scrambling to figure out how to maximize their investment, social media delivered the following important points to the market:

1. Aggregation

2. Segmentation

3. Revelancy

As companies continue to embrace social media to grow their businesses, expand their brand footprint, and utilize the medium for PR purposes, some are still struggling to optimize social media to its full potential. According to the Social Media and Online PR Report, 86% of companies plan to more money on social media in 2010. Conversely, 54% of those surveyed say the biggest barrier to better social media engagement is a lack of resources. So, although many are plugged in to various social networking outlets, about half of them see a hurdle in using the tools to their full capacity. In addition 60% of companies say that they have gained “some benefit but nothing concrete” from using social networking. Let’s be honest, when using a tool to grow your business it’s crucial to see the results and reap the benefits. Until you know how to properly engage in social media, it’s not an essential tool for your business.

According to a survey by Econsultancy and bigmouthmedia in the B2B world 11% of respondents were heavily involved in social media while 23% were not involved and 65% experimented only. In the retail business 10% of respondents were heavily involved, 27% not involved, and 63% of retail respondents only experimented with social media. Like any other business strategy you must follow through with a plan, and a short presence on facebook is sure to generate zero business for any company. The concept of social media may have been an experiment, but building your company’s presence on a social network is a business strategy that requires a commitment and understanding of the platform. The majority of companies agree that major benefits of social media include; increased brand awareness, customer engagement, communication with key influencers, and better brand reputation. Additionally 54% of supply side respondents say their clients are incorporating video and video sharing in their use of social media. It’s superb that so many companies have hopped on the social media bandwagon but truth be told, it might as well be obsolete unless you are using it as a tool to engage your audience.

So, although statistics show that companies know how to use social media, there is a lack of understanding when it comes to the value of engagement. In other words, any company has the ability to create a fan page on facebook and populate the group, but often times it stops here. Companies have to keep in mind that those who join your network on twitter or facebook or linkedin are looking for something and it’s your responsibility to give it to them. The social networking platform allows you to offer coupons, contests, news, videos, promotions etc to ENGAGE your audience. It’s important to bring people together via your social network but it’s crucial to keep your site functional and relevant. As another year is about to begin, let’s make a resolution to remember to engage engage engage!

I started my career working for legendary stock picker and investor Mario Gabelli. In my brief stint at Gabelli’s Rye, N.Y.-based firm, I learned much that has stuck with me to this day, including the basics of value investing. Value investing is about kicking the tires, doing your research from the ground up, and carefully evaluating a company and its stock based on its intrinsic value… before you pony up one dime for shares.

Value investing also looks at businesses in their totality and, just as importantly, over the long term. No flipping stocks, no short-term trades; value investors are overwhelmingly in it for the long run.

The era of managing quarter to quarter is over. If you’re in business, surely you’re in it for the long term, right? So your business, including your marketing approach, ought to reflect that reality. No one doubts Gabelli’s success, just as we all love to hear from Warren Buffet, the renowned value investor, pontificate about his latest corporate conquest. Both Buffet and Gabelli run their businesses the same way they invest: with an eye on value and for long-term success.What can we learn from these legendary investors about marketing and promotion? Here are four suggestions to include in your marketing plans that will deliver real value for your business:

Kick the Tires: Do your homework on marketing, including media. Not all media are created equal relative to your products, services, customers, and geographic service area. Take time to review all options before investing a medium. And because media companies are recognizing that we are in the age of engagement, many are providing advertisers with more venues to reach customers. They may include websites, networking opportunities, and direct mail, in addition to its core business offers. So do your homework on media and negotiate a good deal.

Avoid Marketing Bombs: Without a marketing plan, you’re dropping marketing bombs and wasting your hard-earned money. Recently, a CEO of a $500-million firm that sells telecommunications equipment said of his marketing: “Yeah, we got that idea, we tried it, and it didn’t work.” When I asked him about the context of that particular tactic within an overall campaign and why it did not work, he replied, “What campaign?” A tactical approach to marketing is far less effective than a strategic one, so invest in and employ market-driven strategy. Then measure your strategy in its entirety; don’t simply examine one tactic, no matter how important.

Know that People Buy From People: Bring your business out of the office. Target trade shows that have a close affinity to your firm. Investing in trade shows goes far beyond having a nice booth. It’s a great chance to network with other businesses, each a potential client. Trade shows allow you to measure yourself against the competition.

In addition, invest in opportunities to make personal connections, such as the simple act of taking potential clients to dinner. It may sound clichéd, but it’s the blocking and tackling that allows you to move down the field with consistency, and not the 60-yard “Hail Mary.” Very often, personal connections win more business than 9-to-5 sales tactics.

Do Good, Do Well: In the 1980s, American Express developed a unique campaign for their customers to help restore the Statue of Liberty. A penny for each use of the American Express card and $1 for each new card were donated to the Statue of Liberty Restoration campaign. In four months, $2 million was raised and, more importantly to American Express, its transaction activity increased by 28 percent. So integrating social causes into your marketing strategy will surely allow you to “do good”—while doing well.

PLAN FOR THE LONG RUN: The above are value-based tactics that should be included in your overall marketing plans. Don’t rely on one approach. Delivering value through marketing is ensuring that you integrate your tactics with business-driven strategy. So, if you agree with me that we’re in a new era of customer engagement, you’ll give your marketing plan a second look. If you don’t have a plan, build one around adding value to your business. And remember, that plan must deliver value to your market not just for now, but for the long run.

I am pleased to bring you an interview with Laura Occhipinti, entrepreneur and CEO of New Jersey Young Professionals. With over 800 members and growing, New Jersey Young Professionals takes social networking to a different level, allowing members to meet and connect both on and offline…

AK: So Laura, tell me about New Jersey Young Professionals?

LO: I tell people that NJYP is a social networking group but in real words it is for helping people to make friends.  I basically bring people together, stir them up, and in the end friendships are formed.  It would be impossible to tell you how many friendships were made over the last 5 years but I am sure the number is in the thousands.

AK: How did you get the idea for the business?
LO: I was 27 and living in Bergen County, where I grew up.  Then I got a new job and moved to Somerset County where I knew no one.  I wanted to have friends right there, where I was living so I search online for something to join and nothing came up so I started a group on Yahoo to make friends, and it worked.

AK:  From what I gather, you’re in the social networking sense in the true of the term. Tell a bit about how you build a network like yours.
LO: No one has ever asked me this.  Basically I go to many events and can easily meet 100 people a week.  People then connect to me/and vice versa via email, facebook, twitter, linkedin, and even via the website.  I have a great memory so I bring people together who should know each other.  Being self-employed you also attract others who are self-employed and those who want to “pick your brain.”

AK: Aside from your website, what online properties or websites have your used to grow or promote your business?

LO:  I do not think I’d be where I am today with out craigslist.  It is where I first listed my group and where I continue to post events.  I used Facebook a lot as well as LinkedIn and I just started to use Twitter.  Other than that I post events anywhere I can for free.  It’s easy to get stuff out there for free.

AK: What the main keys to the success and growth of your network?
LO: Word of mouth!  If you provide a good, quality service people will natrually tell others.  Young Professionals hang, almost exclusively, with other young professionals.  They’ll email each other about NJYP, share an event via a link, share via Facebook. It’s great!

AK:  What are the lessons that you have learned about online social media?
LO:  It’s a lot of work to keep up with everything!  The key is to be current and that means daily maintenance, sometimes hourly updating!  One day I’d love to hire a 20 year old intern to take care of all the online social media that drives traffic to  They’d be so much better than me at it and they’d probably have fun too.

AK: What is your personal definition of social networking?
LO: Groups of strangers coming together at a set time/place for no other reason than to meet “strangers” and in most cases food and alcohol should be present:)

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about social networking in a leading New Jersey business magazine. The story quoted several New Jersey based marketing firm execs who weighed in on social networking. The article found a consensus among these folks who opined correctly that social networking is still in its infancy, but wondered about the direct relationship between social networking and the bottom line. The article went on to say the following [editor's note - I have removed the names to protect the innocent]:

  • “I think most people are probably savvy enough to know you can’t draw a line directly from a Facebook page to the impact on the bottom line,” but     building relationships with constituents through social sites will ultimately contribute to a company’s success, he said, in ways that may not be quantifiable.
  • [Name Removed] compares the push to participate in social media to the early days of companies seeking higher ranking on Web search engines. With social media still in its early stages, [Name Removed] said there are no proven methods of how best to reach customers.  [Name Removed] said while many companies want to engage in social media-based marketing, she warns that few know what to expect. Taking time to understand how the new playground functions can save businesses from a few headaches. “Corporate America isn’t quite ready for this interactive marketing highway that we are going on,” she said. “With this two-way street, they can’t control [the interaction] anymore.”

While the article suggested, correctly, that social marketing efforts ought to be tied into integrated marketing efforts, it completely ignored certain business driven realities of the medium and went on to substantiate the experience of those quoted in the article.  I called the reporter to let him know that, indeed, you can quantify the contributions of social networking to the bottom line. I provided the reporter with several cases from our firm showing him the direct correlation between successful social networking efforts and the bottom line. Other firms who work within, and understand the nature of the medium have done the same for their clients.  The reporter rationalized that the purpose of the column was simply to point out that social networking is no panacea, that there are still miles to go before we perfect the medium for business.  Agreed and if you read my previous posts on this blog, you’ll see how much I agree. But as much as I agree, I cannot accept the fact that the other side was not told.

The truth is that social networking takes work. It takes time, it takes strategy, and moves in real time.  This is not easy, and not easily explainable. And yet, we have the other extreme where the corporate business media make it sound like you can sign up for Twitter and make a million dollars.  The blinding speed in which people adopt, and are attracted to social networking, certainly does not help.  Which means, that as marketing/advertising/PR/communications professionals, we have to stay not only on top of what is happening, but provide meaningful interpretation for our clients in order to best leverage the medium to advance their business goals.

But there are certain realities that marketing and PR folks will not speak about in public. Frankly many traditional marketing firms are very, very afraid of social networking, because social networking, if done right, is a game changer, an eminent threat to their bottom line.  Much like the Internet decimated newspapers because of their their head in the sand rigidity about protecting their revenue stream, newspapers were like the proverbial frog who hangs out in a slowly boiling pot until it’s too late. Traditional marketing and PR firms will soon suffer the same fate, unless they begin to change their business model, and delve deeper into social networking to uncover real value and meaning for their clients.

Take a look at the last quote above from the article. With all due respect to the depth and breadth of the experience of the marketing executives who were quoted, but, have these people been on the Internet? Have they looked around to see how “corporate America” is utilizing social networking and the web? Have they seen major international / national brands direct people from TV commercials straight to their Facebook, rather than their own websites?  Do they realize that “marketing and advertising” or a very good portion of it, is so 20th century, and engagement is about today and tomorrow. Have they heard of the iPhone and it’s billion dollar earning apps?  I am sure that these folks have heard the calls of major brands like Procter and Gamble, American Express, Verizon, who understand that their businesses indeed do not have control of their brands, but they’ve adapted by developing strategies to engage their customers to proselytize for them and advance their business.  Have they attended the many leading conferences, where the Global marketers have called on Madison Avenue to stop wasting their money and their time?

Head in the sand strategy seemed to have worked fine for our banking system, right? I make the same analogy here, marketing and advertising firms have a responsibility to their clients rethink and reshape the way they do business. Because like newspapers, if they keep the old model close to their vest because they don’t understand the realities of the day…well, need I say more…

I’ll post about the imperfection of social networking in my next blog…more to come.

The internet as a medium is old news. Yes, it’s the most revolutionary medium in the history of man, but it’s old news. The good news is that we continue to discover how to use the internet to connect with consumers, build businesses, expand brands, and engage markets.  The 800 lb gorilla is content distribution strategy, which is how business get as much relevant exposure as possible across markets and demographics on the net. And why is that important? Well, think of your website as space sitting on your URL. And while you’re promoting the site in various way on and offline, there are ways to repackage your existing content and position it across the web.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say your site has video and 15 pages of static content. Think about the high value of relevant link-backs and create a channel on Youtube and upload your videos there, create a blog on blogger and recreate your content there…and use that blog as a platform going forward to update your customers on your products, business etc. Now, with a little effort, your site’s exposure just got exponentially more powerful.

Most importantly, continue to look for new ways to get your content out there where your customers aggregate and where you can get those valuable linkbacks…it’ll keep you one step ahead of your comeptition.

Today, I am starting a new series of interviews with some of the leading business minds in the nation. Today’s interview is with Jim Barrood, Executive Director of Fairleigh Dickenson University’s Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies.

AK - Jim, you’ve interviewed some of the world’s most successful CEOs and entrepreneurs, can you identify for us 3 common elements that these folks share?

JB – Determination and passion to follow through, whether in a new venture, difficult economic periods, merger, it’s about execution. 2. Building a team of loyal and smarter people than you are who can be trusted with implementing your plan / vision. 3. Ability to lead and motivate people via strong relationships.

AK – With regard to business growth and the current state of the economy, what are you seeing right now in terms of how businesses are faring?

JB – In general the picture is grim. We are amidst a perfect storm of negative factors ranging from high energy prices, higher costs, depressed real estate, rising foreclosures, stock market turbulence, lower net worth, higher debt and thus lower consumer confidence, resulting in economic insecurity and less spending by consumers and businesses alike, resulting in a domino effect that is slowing the economy. Everyone is tightening his belts. However, it is important to note that some sectors are faring well, like those relating to the energy sector and to a lesser degree healthcare; exporting companies are also seeing increased opportunity with the devalued dollar.

AK – With the fragmentation of media and with respect to advertising, how are businesses leveraging new communications models to grow market share?

JB – Most are not investing as they should in new media. Granted companies must be willing to take a few limited risks and engage in trial and error experimentation. As the economy continues its downward spiral, I expect more small companies to dedicate the time, if not much money, to try to leverage the marketing opportunities in this sector because it’s important to stay out in front of your customers and markets during times like this. Customers will remember that when the economic climate turns and will likely choose you over the competition, if your competitor chooses to be out of the market during this time.

AK – Where does innovation fit in this equation?

JB – Companies will need to continue to invest in innovation efforts to introduce new products and services to stay ahead of the global competition as well as a way to cut costs on their back end operations. Marketing and public relations is undergoing a radical change due to the internet, and many businesses will need to figure out how to innovate in this space or risk loosing market share.

AK – Let’s talk marketing in specifics here. What can businesses do to stay relevant and perhaps increase market share in a slowing economy?

JB – Take this opportunity to better understand your customer needs and see what else you can offer them in the way of new products and services. Also, investigate if there are other avenues of reaching your market. If you can diversify your offerings to target an under served market or leverage your brand, reputation, etc. to upsell or cross sell your current customers, that may ultimately be a successful strategy and yield more revenues in the short term and contribute to significant long term growth. Also, study your marketing efforts and see what is truly working; modify your plan and invest in what is working best.

AK – What business book are you reading right now?

JB – The Execution Premium by Kaplan and Norton

By Abe Kasbo

So I’ve received many reactions to my previous post branding is bullshit…they range from skepticism to outright hostility…either way I stand by my position. Look branding is a powerful thing and we all know it. However, small businesses have looked at branding through the lens filter of Coca Cola, McDonald’s, IBM, and others who have not only been in the market forever, but have the necessary resources to spend on advertising, conferences, public relations, and other marketing communications avenues to deliver and extend their brand. And the usual way of looking at this type of branding is through the filter of advertising – the most visible of any branding element. And that’s where small and middle market companies ($5 million – $500 million in revenue) get into a false sense of what branding really is and how to brand their companies.

It’s fashionable for marketing communications people position themselves as brand champions, or branding companies – not to say that these folks do don’t good work – but it is what the market wants to hear, rather than what the market needs. In essence branding has become a Brand with a capital B. I’ve participated in seminars about brand DNA, core branding, brand extensions, and inevitably at the end of these sessions, participants walk out with the following collective thought “we need better branding.”

But what does that mean? My branding is BS position comes down to these things:

1. Branding has become it’s own brand…it’s easy to understand. Advertising people and marketing types use it because it’s an easy sell and let’s face it, if you do it right, can deliver a sharp competitive advantage.
2. Branding is a mélange of elements that have to be executed over time and is rarely achievable in the near-term
3. Branding is hard work and it may mean anything from exploring cultural phenomena and its affects on your business to your key marketing messages and value to the market place.
4. Branding is a result of what you do, not what you.
5. Branding is about your customers, more than it is about your business.
6. Branding is more about execution of targeted activities than concepts…so draw up the play, but then put the ball in the basket.
7. Branding is about integration of values that you project into the market place and then embraced by your customers, and therefore you must tell a story that forges lasting emotional connections.

So if you’re a small and middle market business, branding ought to be at the forefront of your marketing goals. Be sure to start with an integrated marketing communications plan, and execute against it…only then will you be on your way to brand nirvana.