Trust and meaningful connection are imperative elements in social strategy, explains Tamara McCleary. When it comes to conversions, popularity and follower metrics are inferior to valuable input and being a part of a larger conversation.
We continue our Influencer Insights series with Tamara McCleary. It is no question that Tamara is an internationally recognized expert in marketing, branding and social media, having been named named #1 Most Influential Women in MarTech by B2B Marketing and ranked by LeadTail as the third most mentioned person on Twitter by Chief Marketing Officers. She is CEO of Thulium, a brand amplification company specializing in B2B social media account-based marketing. Including her affinity for creating meaningful professional relationships, her expertise lies in B2B and B2C marketing, social influence and technology.
You say that trust converts and being a popular influencer is not enough, you have to engage and create thoughtful conversation. Does the same apply to brands?
Popularity has never equalled trust, and in fact, popularity on social media does not equal influence. I absolutely love this question because I primarily work in the business-to-business (B2B) and Enterprise space, and most of us typically think of marketing to individual people when we discuss business-to-consumer (B2C) and retail. However, who are we marketing to when we market our products and services to an organization? For what purpose are we positioning our story, our message, our ad campaigns and social strategy? Who do we hope to influence? The brand? Who is the brand? To grow our businesses, we are all tasked with influencing another human being to take an action.
Human beings make purchasing decisions, not organizations. Whether I'm a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) making a decision regarding Content Defined Networks (CDN) or a Chief Information Officer (CIO) talking with my executive team and my IT team about converting the organization to a Software Defined Network (SDN), I'm a human being working for an organization who is in a position to make a purchasing decision to either buy or not buy a product or service from a human being working for another organization. We are selling products or services to people, irrespective of how we label it... B2B or B2C.
The cornerstone of successful marketing and sales is the creation, and delivery of a foundation of trust. Trust executed well not only converts, but significantly shortens the longer gestation sales cycle typical of enterprise sales. Trust cannot be built without communication, without genuine back-and-forth conversation. Trust that converts ultimately positions your organization within the mind of the prospect as the trusted mentor / leader/ guide and firmly establishes your brand as the "go to" provider of answers to your prospect's most pressing problems, and offering unique solves to their greatest points of pain and suffering.
Popularity is not leadership, yet leadership is what people are most influenced by. If you want to sell, become the leader your target audience looks to for guidance and good information. Leaders are seen as full of integrity, trustworthy, dependable, helpful, available when it matters, engaged, responsive, and a part of the bigger conversation that is happening. Being a part of the bigger conversation happening outside the walls of the organization is imperative for any brand's handle on social media, and yet we see that very few brands are positioning themselves as engaged, conversational, responsive thought leaders. Mostly we see brand handles pumping out self-serving content flimsily positioned as content, yet it's quite transparent to anyone outside of the organization that it's an advertisement dressed up as content. The biggest mistake brands make is using social media as a platform for free advertising – a complete waste of time and resources with zero return on investment (ROI). How do we feel about people who only talk about themselves or their accomplishments? Right, well, delusions of grandeur are not limited to people...brands can appear quite narcissistic as well, and repel their target audience in the process. If a brand takes the "social" out of social media, social media initiatives fall flat and fail to convert – worse, broadcast messaging serves to drive prospects into the hands of the competition harnessing the power of helpfulness, engagement, and genuine conversation on social media.
When I work with clients I have them look at a social media platform like Twitter and think of the platform as a cocktail party. I ask the marketing department to look at their brand handle as a person – give it a personality – then look at how their brand's persona shows up to the cocktail party. Is the brand handle consistently showing up to the party by awkwardly barging into the conversations already going on? Is the brand handle information all over the stream? Or is the handle elegantly weaving in and out of the conversations, talking with (not to) people, meeting key influencers in the space, networking and building genuine relationships with the target audience?
Want that compelling competitive edge on social media? Pay attention to your brand's persona and conduct an honest appraisal of your brand's engagement performance. I love the analytics we can now run with social media and the numbers don't lie. Your brand's engagement numbers (not reach and impression stats...I'm talking about conversations and actual engagement, not "potential views"), can open your eyes to all kinds of missed opportunities. Drop the vanity metrics and courageously look at how your brand's handle is (or more likely is not) being engaged by your target audience on social media. The good news is, course correction now will be worth its weight in gold later as your conversions soar.
What do you think has contributed to the increased necessity for influencers and brands to be more 'human'?
We are living in a great period of reclamation juxtaposed between futuristic technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and a craving for being touched and moved in a deeply human way. What we all want is to feel meaning and significance while finding our place in the shifting sands of an uncertain future. Consumers are more awakened, aware, and conscious of advertising and marketing tactics than at any other time in history. Why? Because we're all talking to one another and sharing information on social media. There are no secrets anymore. How many of us actually read a company mission and vision statement these days and believe it? Aren't we all just a bit skeptical? We don't believe what someone (or a company) shares about themselves. We, as a society, demand social proof before we hand over our trust, (and our wallets). We voraciously read Amazon product reviews before hitting the "add to cart" button, but even then we are skeptical so we check only the "verified purchaser" reviews to tease out the truth. It's not our first rodeo and we know all too well that "likes" "faves" and positive reviews can be bought. What we believe are "real" people. In a world where anything can be manipulated we crave authenticity.
Being more "human" brings a level of authenticity and the ability to connect and create community and sharing. Influencers and brands who are looking to build genuine relationships must share a certain vulnerability, an honesty that delivers something to connect with. Human beings connect around faults, disappointment, and challenges because we trust that to be true in comparison to our own experience as a human being. Influencers and brands that always appear perfect and flawless wield far less power and experience less success than those influencers and brands who share all that they are and all that they're not. Let me just pose the question to you – are you more attracted to and influenced by leaders and brands that are transparent about their failures as well as triumphs or are you more attracted to and influenced by those that only share their triumphs?
To build relationships that convert, influencers and brands must reveal and display "human" qualities in their communication online. What makes you different? What makes you interesting and worth paying attention to? Imperfection. Imperfection is extremely interesting to us, and it's the secret success sauce of reality shows. Human beings identify with imperfection and we bond with it, we love watching it, we deem it honest and trustworthy when others admit to it. How can you or your brand capture marketshare by becoming more human-like on social media? Develop the quality of interestingness. Interestingness comes from creating the textures and quirks that humans have...it's called a personality.
We are attracted to personalities. Think of your favorite brands – they have a "feel" to them, you've come to expect them to not only deliver but entertain you in some way either through their uniqueness, intelligent wit, common sense, or some edgy banter that reassures you that you're not receiving a formulaic response that has been vetted through the legal department first. I work with many companies in the Fortune 100 who certainly must vet their digital communication through legal first, but having worked with marketing and sales departments at global organizations for over two decades, I guarantee you there are ways of positioning communication so that it does not appear completely sanitized of a personality. When I encourage brands to build a more human-like persona, what I'm supporting them to do is create a brand persona that has human-like texture, dimension, depth, and a quirkiness that consistently pulls their target audience in, positioning the brand as memorable. In an overcrowded marketplace, being memorable is a distinct competitive advantage.
What do you think is the biggest mistakes brands are making when using influencer marketing?
The three (3) biggest mistakes brands make when using influencer marketing are:
1. Focusing on the wrong metrics.
2. A fatal lack of clarity around who is most influential to the target audience.
3. Attempting to micromanage influencer messaging, or shape messaging to fit the corporate voice rather than the influencer's voice.
The Wrong Metrics: Beware the allure yet empty promises that vanity metrics deliver. Never judge a book by its cover or influencers by follower numbers. Substance means delivering value not appearances. Look beyond the vanity metrics, skip being bedazzled by follower numbers and instead become keenly focused on deliverables. Does the influencer have engaged conversations with your target audience? Are conversations increasing? If not, keep shopping.
Lack of Clarity: Marketing departments are familiar with the importance of creating buyer personas, but most have not done the due diligence necessary to capture an accurate influencer persona. The key to securing the most robust return on influencer investment dollars is drilling down to the specificity of right influencer for the right channel, with the right messaging to the right audience, and most importantly, an influencer who is actively engaged and vibrantly an integral part of the conversation happening around the target topic. Tap into the key thought leaders that your target audience already knows, likes, and trusts. Trust being the keyword here that ultimately leads to conversions. I encourage the brands I work with to invest in social listening and research to correctly identify the influencers that are most capable of helping them move the needle.
Micromanagement: Interfering with the magic of an influencer's voice and style is like flushing marketing dollars down the toilet. Influencers are already influential so allow them to take your messaging and make it their own in the way they know how to do it with their audience. If your influencers need your direction and your assistance with crafting the messaging, then I would question whether they are influencers at all. A real influencer intimately understands their audience, and is trusted by their audience so let go of the reigns and allow your influencers to get the job done. Influencers understand quite intimately what works and what does not work with their audience. You are paying for thought leadership so allow them to do their job and lead.
In some of your keynote speeches you highlight the strategies for marketing towards millennials, gen X, baby boomers and women - what are the main differences in marketing towards these demographics?
The main differences in marketing to a specific cohort is understanding how each demographic processes information. Generational differences, as well as, gender differences are extremely relevant to successfully positioning marketing messaging for maximum impact. We are not all the same – in fact, the generation in which we were raised, the experiences that shaped our formative years has a direct influence in whether we are moved or repelled by certain messages. Our perceptions are shaped both generationally and by gender.
I absolutely LOVE not only the study of generational and gender differences, but more enthusiastically, I love implementation specific proven strategies around the wisdom of honoring these differences to move the needle on the business bottomline. For instance there are massive (and measurable) differences between what closes a Baby Boomer and what seals the deal for a Millennial. And it's not entirely generational, there's a whole other layer to consider such as gender differences.
I'm still amazed that in 2017 most brands are missing enormous opportunity by not tailoring their marketing message to appeal to the wealthiest demographic. Guess which demographic holds the purse strings? That's right, women. Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases including everything from autos to healthcare. Over the next decade women will control two third's of consumer wealth in the United States, the largest transference of wealth in our country's history. We are talking up to forty (40) trillion dollars in the hands of women! If brands are not investing in marketing that is tailored specifically to women, they are walking away from securing a hefty slice of the marketshare pie. I work specifically with companies to shift and align their brand messaging to include storytelling that connects deeply to the female demographic.
Women are tired of being ignored or having the female box checked by a brand simply by offering a product in pink. As I've been quoted repeatedly for saying again and again on-stage during my keynotes around the world to a global audience, "Pink is not a strategy!" When I'm speaking about generational marketing, I love reminding brands that the #1 group that will top the luxury space in the next 5 years will be the Millennials...and guess what? 64% of those high earning Millennials are women! You heard that correctly--Millennial women are reaching higher positions of leadership and earning more money than their male counterparts who may be exploring other avenues of professional expression. And don't ignore the female Gen X middle child generation or those female Baby Boomers-- women aged 50 and older control a net worth of Nineteen (19) trillion dollars and own three-fourths (3/4) of the nation's financial wealth! Am I passionate about generational and gender marketing? A hearty hell yes and for good reason too. If you're looking to disrupt your outmoded way of doing things and shake-up your organization's old paradigms to spice up your messaging, content marketing, print advertising, radio and TV spots, as well as, social media marketing for unique solves to capturing more marketshare – let's talk!
You trademarked the RelationShift Method® - where do you see this and brand amplification headed in the future? What single principal will you continue to instill in your message to clients and readers?
My trademarked RelationShift® method transforms business success, marketing messaging, storytelling, brand identity, persona creation, sales conversion, thought leadership, influence, and more through extraordinary proven relationship-building techniques. Just as there are no shortcuts to business success, there are no shortcuts to relationships and their success. However, relationships have a massive return on investment, ROI, so invest wisely. Relationships, quite literally, have the power to make or break our experience and our bank account. It's the quality of our relationships that determines our success, personally and professionally. Think about it, if you are experiencing success professionally but your relationships at-home are suffering, you're not happy. If your relationships at-home are flourishing, but your professional relationships are challenging, you struggle. To balance and harmonize both aspects and create success in your personal and professional zones is what's required for achievement of ultimate success. Everything boils down to relationships. Sales is relationships. Marketing is relationships. It has been and always will be this way.
From the "old fashioned" mom-and-pop shop down the street that always knew your parent's names and remembered their favorite cut of beef to the "new personalization marketing approach" touted by modern high-end hotel chains addressing customers by name, and remembering their preferred drink, having it ready and available at check-in. We human beings love this stuff! "They know me. They remembered me." The need for human beings to feel seen, heard, acknowledged, and significant is what drives us to connect. Tap into this deep seated need for recognition and deliver it to your customers, your partner, spouse, child, friend, family member, boss, co-worker, direct reports, board members, stakeholders – any human being, and you're well on your way to striking a vein of gold so rich and so penetratingly deep that surely even you will begin to believe that you indeed have the relationship Midas Touch.