The We First Blog.

2012: A year to remember what we always knew

December 31, 2012 Comments

Image: Giulia Forsythe

This was a amazing year. Amazing because I found myself being forced to relearn everything I knew about marketing. That’s because this was the first time I had the chance to create, produce, package and launch a product of our own (with great help of the We First team and our strategic partners). The lessons it taught me were invaluable and I wanted to share them in the hope that they might help your business, brand or product launch in 2013.

I hesitate to say this, but there are many folks in the marketing world – including yours truly! – that are well-versed in selling a strategy or idea, but don’t the chance to sell his or her own product, day-in and day-out, face-to-face with live customers. Without this knowledge, it’s easy to lose sight of just how hard it is for clients to keep their businesses thriving by selling their products every day. So having stepped into that role myself, it was a fantastic wake up call as to just how important the human part of the sales equation is, rather than strategy or technology alone.

LESSON #1 BE AUTHENTIC, SPECIFIC AND DIFFERENT It’s hard enough to define your brand and have an idea for a product that may sell. But when it comes to executing a product there is a ruthless need for specificity. Plus as your audience becomes more fractured and demanding every day, the demands for an even greater understanding of exactly what your customer wants becomes even higher.

LESSON #2 SOLVE A REAL PROBLEM It amazing how easy it is to have an idea that sounds good in theory or on paper. But if your focus doesn’t include the specific needs of your potential customers and how you solve that problem for them, a product can easily be overlooked. That applies to every aspect of a product and its marketing, from the design to packaging to the language you use to the media channels used to promote it.

LESSON #3 NO TWO CUSTOMERS ARE ALIKE People don’t hang out in defined  verticals, demographic categories or focus groups. Even if they exhibit certain similarities in their personal or professional lives, how those elements combine and interact is completely different. So your best chance of persuading a customer to buy your product is to get as specific as you can about who they are, what the problem is and how to simply and consistently communicate the solution you provide.

LESSON 4: MARKET TO FLESH AND BLOOD With all the attention we lavish on our products and marketing, we would do well to spend as much time deeply understanding our customers. Creating a detailed portrait of who they are and what they need is invaluable and will allow you to adjust your product and marketing to really meet their needs.

LESSON 5: IF YOU WANT ANSWERS, ASK QUESTIONS Too often we are so preoccupied with our idea, product or marketing plans that we don’t engage with our customers during early product development phase. Yet by inviting them to communicate and provide feedback we create a better product and ensure they are invested in its success even before it launches.

LESSON 6: TECHNOLOGY IS A TOOL NOT THE ANSWER Too often feel that new technology alone will ensure the successful launch of a product. In truth, technology is just the delivery system and the product will succeed or fail on the basis of whether it meets a real, human need in your customer’s life.

LESSON 7: TEST, TEST AND TEST AGAIN The true power of technology is the ability to be wrong. That means you can pivot, iterate and evolve your product and marketing even as it launches to better the odds of your success. It’s not fun, cool or sexy, but when you shift your mindset from the single launch mentality to perpetual engagement with your customer community, testing becomes a faithful and rewarding friend.

LESSON 8: YOU’RE IN THIS TOGETHER Whether you’re a solo-preneur or Fortune 100 company, your marketing is no longer limited by the number of employees you have. Your marketing department now includes hundreds or thousands of customers if they are sufficiently inspired by emotional storytelling, shared values or a common purpose. That’s when you unlock the real power of digital, social and mobile technologies to connect people in ways that promote your brand or product.

LESSON 9: THIRD TIME’S A CHARM You never get it completely right. And you never, ever get it completely right the first time. The market, technology and customers are constantly on the move and so you’re always climbing shifting ground. By reframing your expectations and embracing an attitude of constant improvement, every misstep or frustration becomes an investment in a better result the second, third, or fourth time.

LESSON 10: HARD IS NORMAL Having become an entrepreneur and business owner myself, I have spent the last few years having hundreds of conversations about what it takes to run a successful business. The one thing I learned for sure is that it’s hard. It’s hard when you’re starting out. It’s hard when you’re trying to grow. It’s hard when you’re big and trying to evolve. Everyone is doing it tough and its work that deserves respect.

2013 was a year of relearning what I already knew and developing far deeper respect for the work that clients do, for the demands of successful marketing, and for the sensitivities of customers. As we head into next year with a dizzying array of traditional, digital, social and mobile technologies to choose from, we would all do well to focus our attention on the individual customer, what they really need  and how we can help solve that problems. To many this may sound obvious, yet 2012 taught me how much work is involved and increased my respect for those that do it well.

A Happy New Year to everyone from the team at We First and our strategic partners that help make our work possible. We’ve had the privilege of working with large brands like Coca-Cola and small brands including start-ups and solo-preneurs, all of whom are making a positive impact on our world in different ways. For me, this was a year of huge inspiration, discovery and learning for which I am enormously grateful. Let’s continue to work together and make 2013 a year in which our businesses growth builds an ever better world.

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Top ten posts of 2012

December 28, 2012 Comments

The sun is finally setting on the year and I wanted to thank everyone for their support of the We First blog. These are the ten most popular posts of the year so I thought they would be of interest in case you missed any. It’s always enlightening to see which posts resonates most with others.

If you want greater sales through social media in 2013, start by building your reputation

Why the most selfish thing you can do in 2013 is think of your community first

Top ten characteristics of brands that will succeed in 2013

What social customers will demand from your brand in 2013

3 keys to social branding success for small businesses

Why your brand’s survival depends on these 3 new charts

Why social media is critical to the future of TV

What a day in the life of twitter reveals about your brand

How social media turns the smartest CMO’s into Chief Customer Advocates

The #1 oversight in social media community building

thanks for the time you take to read and share the posts and here’s to even greater collaboration next year.

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Why Facebook and Instagram have a lesser margin for error with users than ever

December 21, 2012 Comments

Image: Social Magnets

Instagram’s unsurprising back down over changes to its Terms and Conditions is yet another example of the ongoing tension between access and privacy that pervades the social media space. Time will tell whether the concessions made by Instagram will prove sufficient or whether its creep away from prioritizing the user over the advertiser will prove fatal to its success and Facebook’s expensive foray into the mobile advertising world.

What is clear, however, is that Facebook and Instagram users are facing increased pressure to forgo their privacy as Facebook seeks to serve Wall Street and its shareholders especially in light of the roller coaster ride its share price has ridden to the dismay of investors and employees.

It’s a difficult position for both companies to find themselves in, and perhaps even more so for Instagram. Facebook has had years to navigate the landscape of user privacy concerns with varying degrees of success. But Instagram now finds itself under the stewardship of Facebook whose privacy framework comes as quite a shock to the users of the relatively new Instagram platform. In a sense, the half-life of invasions into user privacy is getting shorter and shorter and this poses a very real threat to both the loyalty of users and Instagram itself.

If the experience of users is ultimately subsumed to the interests of Wall Street, shareholders and advertisers, the very emotional bonds on which Facebook and Instagram were built can be their undoing. In short, the advertising that can secure both companies financial success can also destroy them without balanced respect for both users and shareholder interests.

Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram co-founder, Kevin Systrom

No social network – not even one with over a billion active accounts like Facebook – can survive a user revolt spurred by the belief that the company has surrendered the interests of its users to the bottom lines of shareholders.

This issue is at the heart of which social networks will survive and continue to thrive through the next five years, and which will suffer fatal erosion in the face of a more sophisticated and fractured social media landscape. Especially as they employ the cynical tactic of incrementally eroding user privacy and backing down to gradually overwhelm user interests.

As we have seen so dramatically with brands as diverse as Bank of America, Verizon, Netflix, Chick-Fil-A and even Apple, consumer activism rises in direct proportion to the compromise of customer interests.  Social networks such as Facebook and Instagram have established a dialogue with users that can no more be silenced than we can undo the web, and its Boards would do well to heeds the collective sentiment and interests of its users.

Do you think the current back down by Instagram is merely a postponement of a further erosion of privacy? Or will users desert it in sufficient numbers to steer Instagram in a direction that serves users and advertiser?

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If you want greater sales through social media in 2013, start by building your reputation

December 17, 2012 4 Comments

The 2102 Social Media Report from Nielsen is out and one thing is clear – social media usage shows no signs of declining thanks to smartphones and mobile apps. In fact, in July of 2012, users averaged 88.48 minutes, a number that …

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Why the most selfish thing you can do in 2013 is think of your community first

December 14, 2012 4 Comments

It may seem counter-intuitive but major shifts in both technology and consumer behavior have dramatically changed the dynamics that decide what advertising succeeds in today’s social business marketplace. For decades, traditional media like television, print, and radio have been broadcast …

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A must-read on the way social technologies will change our lives from Kleiner Perkins

December 10, 2012 0 Comments

2012 KPCB Internet Trends Year-End Update from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Each year KPCB comes out with one of the most respected reports regarding internet trends and their implications for business and our lives. It was just updated last …

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Of these top ten trend predictions for 2013, one is by far the most disruptive

December 5, 2012 2 Comments

JWTIntelligence has released its top ten predictions for 2013, each of which is worth reviewing and considering not just because all may be relevant to your business, but because all ten trends are connected in this increasingly complex social business …

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Who will win the war for eyeballs between TV and social media

December 3, 2012 7 Comments

Many people are wondering who will win the advertising war between TV and social media. It seems like TV is as popular as ever and yet so many people have their eyes glued to their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts? So who …

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About Simon Mainwaring

We First training and consulting helps the world’s most innovative brands tell the story of the good work they do in ways that build their reputation, employee productivity, sales and social impact.

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