It’s time to change how you think about video

The use of video marketing has exploded and it’s easy to see why. After all, video allows companies to connect with customers in a more effective and personal way.

However, companies with small marketing budgets often shy away from adding video to their communication mix because they believe that this might be too costly. Fortunately, that perception is increasingly incorrect.

 

Take advantage of video marketing

Nowadays, you don’t need much more than a phone or a computer to get started. Of course, it also helps to get expert advice. That’s why we spoke with Lou Bortone, a veteran in video communication, trusted adviser to hundreds of companies, and author of “Video Marketing Rules,” an essential guide to video marketing.

In this video, Lou explains how anybody can take advantage of video to get their message out with a personal touch.

A marketer’s guide to surviving a recession: don’t slash your budget

Don’t slash your marketing budget in a recession. It is going to make your slump worse and your recovery tougher. As many signs point to an economic downturn, here are some tips on how marketing managers can survive and thrive.

 

Don’t slash your marketing budget in a recession

When a downturn hits, the first instinct of many companies is to cut costs and lay off people. Often, the marketing department is among the first victims of those cuts. It is a reflection of the outdated belief that marketing (communication) is more of a “nice extra” than a strategic function. However, it is in a tough market that you need marketing’s vision on what, how, when and where to sell the most.

The negative effects of simply cutting human and other resources in the marketing (communications) department don’t take long to materialize. A smaller presence in a tough market is going to generate even less in sales. If only because it communicates to your customers and your competitors that you are struggling.

 

The negative long-term effects of a defensive approach

A defensive approach to recession management creates negative effects in the long run, too. Profit Impact of Marketing Strategy studies have shown that companies that do not slash their marketing budgets generally benefit down the road. A study published in Harvard Business Review concluded: “Few prevention-focused corporations do well after a recession, according to our study. They trail the other groups, with growth, on average, of 6% in sales and 4% in profits, compared with 13% and 12% for progressive companies. Whereas in the three years after the 2000 recession, sales for the 200 largest companies grew by an average of $12 billion over prerecession levels, the prevention-focused enterprises among them saw sales grow by an average of just $5 billion. Moreover, cost cutting didn’t lead to above-average growth in earnings. Postrecession profits for prevention-focused enterprises typically rose by only $600 million, whereas for progressive companies they increased by an average of $6.6 billion.”

 

More efficient, not less

Of course, most companies simply have to do with less in a downturn. But if marketing execs have to make cuts, then they should use a scalpel and not a butcher’s knife. In communications, there is always some waste. There is always some money spent on things that don’t generate the intended ROI. Or not anymore. Your customers have changed and so have the tools to reach them. What once worked might not be ideal anymore. So use a (looming) recession to review the effectiveness and efficiency of your communication approach and mix. Maybe you can go all digital instead of using print. Maybe you can shift more of your ad budget to online. There is a good chance you will find inefficiencies that would result in smart rather than blind cuts.

 

Plan ahead

The recession is not here yet, so there is time to come up with a plan. Don’t wait until stock prices plummet, investments decline and consumer spending slows. If you wait until the finance department tells you to make cuts, there probably isn’t time to do anything but just cut. But if you start working on a plan to increase your department’s effectiveness and efficiency now, you will be ready to implement it when you need to.

 

Look for opportunities

Keep in mind that a recession does not mean that people and companies will stop buying things altogether. They will just be more mindful of how they spend their money. In addition, the downturn might create new business opportunities: a new market segment, new ways to outsmart your competitors, a new type of customer, new customer needs, etc. The greatest value of marketers during a downturn is in identifying and capitalizing on those opportunities. Rather than giving into recession-induced angst and defensiveness, do what you were hired to do. Find the smartest way to help your company survive and thrive, in the tough times and the recovery that will follow.

 

Everything is communication

When people think of human communication, they immediately think of written and spoken words. That’s certainly part of it, but humans communicate in so many other ways. A smile can express much more than a formal thank you note. And what a person says can be powerfully contradicted by their body language. After all, everybody who has ever been in a relationship knows that “It’s fine” does not actually mean that everything is fine. It’s the same with business communication. Everything is communication, not just the output of your (marketing) communication team.

 

Everything is communication

Corporate and marketing communication often gets narrowed down to intended communication. Our customers come to us for a website, video, brochure or press release that is just right. Of course we are happy to make those for you. However, engaging press releases, informative videos, glossy brochures, insta-ready photography, and a website with all the bells and whistles are just a part of how you interact with your stakeholders. These days, everything is communication. It’s…

  • how you (don’t) engage with your customers on social media
  • the free coffee for customers waiting in your store
  • how your office looks
  • the typos in your PowerPoint presentation
  • how friendly your store manager treats customers and team members
  • the long time people have to wait before someone at HQ answers the phone

Your brand is multidimensional and your intended (marketing) communications efforts are just one of those facets. You don’t want it to be the fake-looking one. Everything you do and say as a company sends a message. You need it to be the message you want to send.

 

Consistently awesome

If your intended and your day-to-day communication don’t match, you run into the issues of brand consistency and authenticity. A “professional-looking” website is useless if your customers go to your office and find it a mess. If you want to be known as a fun and friendly company, then be a fun and friendly company. If not, your customers will quickly realize it’s all just a front. Of course we will make a beautiful brochure for you. We just want to make sure it is part of a 360-degree brand experience that is authentic and consistent and that just connects with your stakeholders.

 

Map your brand impact

All of this means you do have to broaden your communication horizon. One of the first steps is to understand how your stakeholders experience your brand. Not simply to structure your sales funnel or build your website, but to get an idea of your overall communication footprint and impact. Does it reflect the experience you want your stakeholders to have with your brand? If not, structure every aspect of the way you work (and communicate) to reflect that image. Controlling every bit of communication within your organization might be a mission impossible. But understanding the scope of what and how you communicate will go a long way. Especially because customers and other stakeholders will realize and appreciate that you made an effort. And being known as a company that tries is never a bad thing.

Business stock photos: no laughing matter

Business stock photos have become a joke. Even celebrities have gotten in on the act. It’s easy to see why people make fun of them. The sterile business settings and staged situations as well as all those fake smiles simply lend themselves to ridicule. However, to businesses with a limited marketing budget, stock photos are no laughing matter – they are a necessity. Because many companies can’t afford to hire a photographer – for some or all of their marketing projects. Sometimes you just have to go with stock images. However, there are ways to make them work for you without ending up as the butt of a joke.

 

The problem with business stock photos

The reason why people make fun of them is that many stock photos are ridiculous. They completely lack authenticity and often seem sooooo cliché. Whether it is everybody having a good time in a meeting (and we all know that those meetings don’t exist), lots of handsome young people pointing at a laptop screen for some reason or those phony smiles, it all just seems so fake.

 

That is why maintaining authenticity is one of the most important things you should do when using stock photos. Fortunately, you don’t need to have a huge photography budget to pull it off. However, you do have to invest some thought and time into picking the right stock photos (I’ll spare you an image of an office worker staring off into the distance while pondering a problem here).

 

Make stock photos work for you – a few tips

Most importantly, the stock photos you choose have to illustrate or support your story. You have to figure out what you want to say or represent and then keep looking until you find the perfect stock photo. Because you won’t be able to fool your customers. They know exactly what real office look like, or factory floors or construction sites. And they also know what type of people work there. So let’s forget about picking that stock photo in which a bunch of smiling people stand around in spotless lab coats with ill-fitting hard hats in front of an immaculately clean desk or a machine that has clearly never run for a single day. It should go without saying, but you can’t fake authenticity.

The stock photo you choose doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be perfect for you – and you may need to take your time finding it. If the image looks familiar to you – or like a cliché – then keep searching because customers will likely feel the same way.

That is why it helps to think outside the box. Is there a creative way to illustrate your point or highlight your product? Maybe you can use imagery from nature, etc.

 

Get help

If you think that you can’t do this alone, then find an expert to assist you. While you may not have a big budget to hire your own photographer, it pays to work with a good graphic designer. They have an eye for images and how to make them work, which allows them to see things from a completely different perspective. They can find the photos that most effectively tell your story, can highlight details, add a special effect, etc.

Finally, while there are some major providers of stock photos, such as iStock and Shutterstock, don’t just try to find your image there because they have the largest selection. While they may have exactly what you are looking for, there are many smaller providers out there that make their money by being particularly creative or cater to a niche audience. Their stock photos might be much better suited to tell your story and promote your brand.

If you do all (or most) of the above, there is a good chance that your stock photos won’t be a joke but rather give you the last laugh (cue to an image of a group of 20somethings sharing a laugh in a meeting room).

The influencer fail

Ah, the influencer fail. You know one when you see one. The second my eye caught this Brabantia Facebook ad, I knew I had to check out the comments 🙂 And they did not disappoint.

About hanging your laundry while maintaining the perfect Lolita pose. About the yeah-right practicality of hanging laundry while snuggling a baby. About why dad wasn’t helping with either the laundry or the baby. About moms really looking like that and being depicted like that. And, girl, about needing to do something about those weeds in the garden. All of which set off a good old-fashioned Facebook bitch fest between posters.

 

The influencer fail

Dear Brabantia, influencer marketing can be a powerful tool, but you still have to get it right. Influencer marketing seems to fall into two categories. Either it works because it is authentic in the way it shows real people we admire because of their authenticity. So no baby snuggling while laundry juggling. Or it is superfake, showing a polished reality (just like ads always have) we aspire to. Think Kardashians. But then you need to pull out all the staging and make-up and Photoshop stops. This Brabantia is a sad-looking in between.

 

The influencer fix?

Unsurprisingly, there was do-over. I would have loved to hear that briefing: “Yeah, so less Daisy Duke. And ditch the baby, but throw in the dog. And maybe roll in the barbecue? And a tray of food! After all, a mom who takes care of her family, feeds her family!”. The result? Well, I guess we’re not laughing anymore. Now it is just meh.

 

Of course, there is a good chance Brabantia will sell more products because of the snickers the first ad got. No publicity is bad publicity! After all, we have given the Wallfix more attention than we ever have before. But in the long run, you really don’t want to be the butt of the joke. Oh well, in the land of social media, every day is a do-over. Let’s see what Brabantia comes up with next.

 

 

The real & important difference between a feature and a benefit

“What is the difference between a feature and a benefit anyway?,” a manufacturing product manager asked me recently. His question implied that there is none and that the entire concept is corporate BS invented by smooth-talking communication professionals. Let this no-nonsense communication professional assure you: there is indeed a difference between a feature and a benefit. What is more, when talking to your customers and other stakeholders, you very much want to focus on benefits. Here’s why.

 

The difference between a feature and a benefit

When I went to pick up my new car a few months ago, the Ford salesperson sat me down in my beautiful new vehicle and showed me its standout features. Among them, the car’s seat heaters. I asked, “you mean the butt heater?”. He laughed. Belgian car salesmen don’t use the word “butt”. Still, heated seats are a feature. Why should I care about them? Because they make me warm and toasty from the bottom up. And to me, that is definitely a benefit on all those frosty days. To stay in the automotive realm, a parking assistant is a feature. “The car parallel parks for you” is a benefit for those who suffer a panic attack just thinking about having to parallel park.

 

Go with your benefits

Your customers are looking for benefits. They want cheaper, faster, better, easier,…. They want an answer to their needs, wants, worries, goals and ambitions. If you communicate in terms of the benefits that matter to them, you are speaking their language. Customers will not only appreciate you putting them first, they will also be more open to what you have to say.

When you only talk about features, you only talk about yourself. Plus, you run the real risk that your customers don’t understand why your product or service is perfect for them. Because they don’t know how the feature translates into a benefit for them. Going back to our car manufacturers, saying that a new model has a new type of passenger and side-impact airbags is much less effective than saying that the car will “keep your entire family safe.”

 

The feature-to-benefit switch

Selling features to customers in a way they can relate to is a mindset that often doesn’t come naturally in the (technical) B2B world. Companies and their product managers often spend years developing a new product or service. They are enamored with their innovations and, to them, their benefits are apparent. To customers, however, those benefits are much less clear. Before a product is launched, it is imperative that the translation of features to benefits is done. Even when customer needs form the basis of a new product or an upgrade, the focus tends to shift to features during the product development process. Before going to the market, (re)focusing on customer benefits is imperative. It often helps to have an outsider come in who is not as familiar with the product. The first question they should ask is “how does this meet the needs of your customers?” The answer to that question should be the starting point of your marketing campaign.

Show, don’t tell

Last week, I attended the breakfast meeting of the local BNI chapter as an invited guest. I am an introvert and definitely not a morning person, so these types of early morning network meetings are very much out of my comfort zone. Luckily, BNI Lokeren Durmestad is a lively and welcoming bunch.

Eggs, bacon and a hairpiece

Still, I was happy to have my pitch ready, as us guests only had 1 minute to present ourselves and our business. I was pretty pleased with my ability to condense the full.stop consultancy and agency offer and put a verbal bow around it within one minute.

The real star of the morning, though, was Ingrid Berckmoes, owner of Altijd Mooi and the new LILBHair. She simply stood up, reached up to the top of her head and pulled out a hairpiece nobody realized she was wearing. While the crowd literally gasped, she quickly explained the benefits and while talking, put the piece back in. Without using a mirror and looking as perfect as she did before. Everything she could have said, we could see for ourselves. How beautiful, natural and seamless her hair looked. How safely the hairpiece was attached and how easily it could be put in and removed. I think just about everyone in the room was making a mental note to remember her name for future referrals. It is a beautiful product that will make men and women, often going through trying times, feel better about themselves.

Show, don’t tell

Aside from her product, Ingrid also demonstrated the power of simply showing something. Why try to convince your audience with words when they can just see it for themselves? Seeing is believing. Instant credibility and buy-in.  I know, we are all excited about what we do well and love to talk about it. But if you have a product that basically sells itself, focus on communication that showcases rather than promotes. Think video rather than brochures, live demonstrations rather than a PowerPoint. Or as fellow Shankminder and owner of The Mogul Mom Gabriella Ribeiro reminded us the other day: Show, don’t tell.

 

Advancing the battle against AMR

Sometimes we get to work on truly meaningful topics, such as communication on antimicrobial resistance. AMR was one of the main issues discussed when Maggie De Block, Belgium’s Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health visited the BD Benelux Experience Center on February 15, 2019.

Read the article here (in Dutch): https://www.nieuwsblad.be/cnt/blvva_04191992 

Read the article here (in Dutch): https://www.hln.be/regio/aalst/minister-maggie-de-block-open-vld-op-bezoek-bij-erembodegems-bedrijf-bd~acbf714a/

 

 

Just say no to the SEO press release

There is only one good reason to issue a press or news release: when you have actual news to share. Well, um, isn’t that a given? Why would that even merit a blog post? For one, because the frivolous, irrelevant or just plain dumb press release is an age-old problem. They were the bane of journalists’ existence when I talked to them every day as a media analyst in the early 2000s. And that was –gasp! – almost 20 years ago. Most still get bombarded with hundreds of releases and pitches every day, very few relevant and well written. Now, there’s also the SEO press release adding insult to injury.

The SEO press release

Don’t get me wrong. I am obviously all for SEO. It is an absolute requirement in today’s digital world. If you want people to find you, people need to be able to find you. And a good press release will certainly help your SEO. It generates press coverage, which results in the very elusive, SEO-boosting high quality backlinks. Everybody wins! Unfortunately, this has inspired too many to use press releases as just another tool in the never-ending SEO battle. Hence the SEO press release. No real news to share. Just a block of copy stuffed with just the right keywords, parked on distribution services just to get the backlinks. Somewhere, somehow, the one and only reason to issue a press release got lost in the shuffle. It isn’t just making journalists keel over in disgust. Because you’re not impressing any living person much with your actual “news”, especially the ones that can generate valuable media coverage for you.

What is the real message of your SEO content?

The content you put out there in the vast expanse that is the interwebs, does much more than prop up your SEO. It communicates something about you. And a vapid SEO press release is a great tool to make you look like one. Never mind getting that quality backlink. We’re pumping out so much pointless content, it is clogging the online universe like the plastic debris in our oceans.  With any content you create, ask yourself the question: does this do anything for me except boost my SEO? If the answer is no, keep working on finding that relevance. Taking a step back and creating more judiciously will give you the quality that rises above the ever-increasing quantity.