Adrienne Lenhoff

The national headlines herald Detroit as a city decimated by financial ruin and urban blight. But the city known as Motown, the Motor City and years ago the “Paris of the Midwest,” is entering an era of entrepreneurial opportunity not seen since the industrial age.

For many business owners and burgeoning entrepreneurs, Detroit’s financial woes create a blank canvas of economic opportunity. The need and promise of urban revival paves the way for the creativity and industrialism that allow the city’s reinvention. It can become a hub for new industries to emerge as well as a bastion for entrepreneurialism.

Resources abound

When you look past the sensational headlines, Detroit has all the elements it needs to create an entrepreneurial mecca. The city and its outlying suburbs offer a host of resources and opportunity needed to help build the next titans of industry.

The foundation for the city’s renaissance lies in the heart of the sheer entrepreneurial creativity of individuals finding and creating business opportunities in the region. These range from the infrastructural foundation needed for an urban renaissance such as retail, housing, office and entertainment to the businesses and services needed to support the burgeoning revitalization.

Just as the city is entering this time of reinvention, so too are many existing businesses in the market. Rather than just exploring introspectively, smart entrepreneurs are seeking the help of outside resources to look at their businesses with a new set of eyes.

The city and its suburbs are teeming with entrepreneurial resources ranging from business and specialized industry specific meet-ups, to incubators, to networking groups, to business partnerships, to funding and venture capital and a variety of what seems to be endless supplies.

The electricity of newfound possibility within both existing and new business enterprises fosters a culture of entrepreneurship, reinvention and exploration of new business ventures. So, how does one identify newfound and unrealized business opportunities?

Here’s a look through several different prisms:

■  Businesses working in and around the city.

>  What will they need in terms of infrastructure, supplies, resources, products and services?

■  People working and living in the city.

>  What will they need in terms of shelter, food, housing, safety, entertainment, lifestyle and convenience?

■  People visiting the city.

>  What will they need in terms of shelter, food, housing, safety, entertainment, lifestyle and convenience?

■  Places and things.

>  What types of places and things does a city need to provide quality of life to its inhabitants and visitors?

Seize the opportunity

For those components that already exist, is there opportunity for your business to provide products or services that offer support? For the ones that do not already exist, what type of business opportunity exists for the invention or creation of such components?

Look at other cities, both places that have remained vibrant as well as communities that have struggled. What works for them? What hasn’t? Are there elements out there that create an opportunity in Detroit?

Look at cities that have gone through a reinvention. What’s worked for them? What hasn’t? What elements, if any, spark your creativity and imagination and create both a business opportunity and also an element that could either marginally or pivotally play a role in the resurgence of Detroit?

What doesn’t exist anywhere, but seems like it could be a great idea for Detroit? Let your imagination and creativity chart new territory.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management, Shazaaam Public Relations and Marketing Communications and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com. Follow her on Twitter @alenhoff.

Does your company employ a multigenerational workforce? If so, your organization might significantly benefit by adopting a reciprocal mentoring program that leverages talents, skills and knowledge to bridge generational gaps surrounding technology — such as social media — corporate culture and team building.

Given the generational divide, older and younger workers often feel disconnected when it comes to adapting to technology, corporate culture and working as a team.

With reciprocal mentoring, workers across all generations individually and collectively play a pivotal role in creating multigenerational buy-in to the workplace changes that accompany the adoption of technological tools such as social media, cloud computing and text usage that will streamline workflow communication, processes and practices.

Reciprocal mentoring takes the traditional mentoring concept of a seasoned employee guiding a worker’s development and transfers it from a one-way relationship to a two-way or team-building relationship in which newer or younger employees also impart their knowledge and guidance.

It can be especially important when it comes to the integration of newer technologies into the pre-existing corporate culture and workflow processes. To create a dynamic program, it’s important to understand the intrinsic generational differences within your workforce.

Consider your longtime employees. When someone has been on the job for an extended length of time, they form ideas and habits that have been repeatedly reinforced by experience and success.

When they are introduced to a new tool, piece of information or technology, some might feel threatened because it changes what they know and how they have become used to doing things, and the immediate challenge will be to figure out how they might adapt this new knowledge into their existing work practices.

As you add younger workers, it’s important to understand that the Y2K generation, or millennials, have a much different set of motivators from many baby boomer, generation X and generation Y employees.

Millennials thrive in situations that allow them to take ownership of their skills, knowledge and work. Challenge and change are key motivators for most millennials.

A successful reciprocal mentoring program will allow your millennial workers the opportunity to impart their technical savvy, to teach seasoned employees how to leverage and navigate the world of social media and the time-saving and efficiency tools available by leveraging mobile, messaging, text and cloud computing technologies.

In my company, we have taken more of a team-building approach to our reciprocal mentoring. We have set up a schedule of twice-monthly lunch-and-learn events. For these lunch-and-learns, we have put together a calendar of topics that my staff and I feel are of interest and importance to our business. We have tapped every employee, from entry-level to executive, with a topic or series of topics that each will present during one of the events. To keep things organized and to provide structure, we have set up the following outline for each presentation:

?  Who is presenting? Give us some of your personal, professional and/or academic background.

?  What is the topic you are covering?

?  Why is it important to our organization?

?  How can it or does it help move our organization forward?

?  How and/or when do we put it into practice?

?  What are some examples, case studies or best practices surrounding the topic?

During the presentation, we ask the presenter to use presentation tools to provide a show and tell of the topic he or she is covering.

By providing employees a forum to share their skill sets and knowledge, we create an environment where individuals feel they are making a valuable contribution to the entire team. By presenting in a team-like atmosphere, we are fostering individual presentation skills and creating an environment of team support, knowledge-sharing and problem-solving.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management, Shazaaam Public Relations and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. Her companies have been seven times named a 101 Metropolitan Detroit Best and Brightest Company to Work for, a two-time Crain’s Detroit Cool Company to Work For and a National Best and Brightest Company to Work For. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com. Follow her on Twitter @alenhoff.

Thursday, 31 January 2013 19:01

Adrienne Lenhoff: Think before you post

Have you rethought your opinion of someone because of something they’ve posted on social media? Social media has blurred the line between business and personal acquaintances, with most people having both personal and professional contacts linked to their pages on social platforms such as Facebook.

Social media creates an environment where many of our social filtering inhibitions disappear, and people tend to feel freer in expressing views they would not otherwise express in real-life social and business settings.

We witnessed the best and worst of friends, family, business colleagues and acquaintances during the 2012 presidential election. In the offline world, most of us would refrain from lambasting someone for expressing their opinion. Most of us, however, would not begin verbal attacks against the individual or the candidates.

The election was an eye-opener

The presidential election shed light on the impact that the things we post on social networks has on our relationships with others. Forty-seven percent of respondents to a poll conducted by Mashable had unfriended someone on Facebook because of election-related issues.

Even if you did not actually unfriend someone, think about those you might be avoiding as a result of their comments or whose update settings you’ve changed to take them out of your active friend feed. Conversely, are your business colleagues or acquaintances taking these same actions against you?

Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project has conducted several surveys about people’s use of social networking sites for politics and personal political interaction. Here are some of the findings:

  • 60 percent of American adults use either social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, and 66 percent of those social media users, or 39 percent of all American adults, have done at least one social media civic or political engagement activity.

  • 22 percent of registered voters shared their presidential vote on social media.

  • 22 percent say they avoid making political comments on social media sites for fear of offending others.

  • 67 percent of those who blocked, unfriended or hid someone on a social networking site did it to a distant friend or acquaintance.

  • 21 percent of those who blocked, unfriended or hid someone on a social networking site did it to a co-worker.

  • 16 percent have friended or followed someone because the person shared the user’s political views.

When it comes to blocking, unfriending or hiding someone on social media, overpolitical postings are often the reason why. The biggest complaints regarded someone posting too frequently about political subjects, posting something a user disagreed with or found offensive, and arguing about politics with the user or someone they know.

The loss of anonymity

For better or worse, the presidential election opened the floodgates of online bashing and heated arguments. In the early days of online interaction, most sites and media outlets allowed users to identify themselves using pseudonyms or user names rather than their true-life identities. That cloak of anonymity allowed many users to dispose of their inhibitions and interact as they would not otherwise in a real-world setting.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a shift from the use of pseudonyms or user handles to sites that now require comments and engagement be tied to social media profiles on Facebook that reveal our real names, along with potentially allowing viewers access to our personal and professional identifying information — including employment information.

When you see someone boldly expressing themselves across social media platforms, it has the repercussion of not only fragmenting relationships but also making you lose respect for ones you have always respected. It puts people in a different light and has the potential to make you rethink who you would want to do business with.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management, Shazaaam Public Relations and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.  Follow her on Twitter @alenhoff.

Currently, more than half of employers in the U.S. are blocking workplace social media access. They give a number of reasons for blocking access to social media sites.

Most prevalent, those employers believe time spent on social networks is lost productivity that the company will never regain, so when you block social media, you know your employees are spending time doing their work.

But the reality is employees who were time wasters before social media are still going to have productivity issues. A recent survey by OfficeTeam showed that 22 percent of respondents working for companies that blocked social networking, shopping and entertainment sites admitted to frequently using their personal mobile devices as a workaround.

Any employee with a smartphone can access social media sites and the Internet, even if access is restricted via workplace computers. When access is blocked, employees are prone to take more work breaks or spend time finding a way to access restricted sites.

If you block social media access for your employees, it might be time to take a look at your company’s policy. Social media access might not be the problem. Here are some other things to consider.

Increased productivity

According to a study conducted by the University of Melbourne, employees with access to social networks were actually more productive than employees in companies that block access. The study went on to explain that employees who rewarded themselves by visiting their social media pages between the completion of work tasks accomplished 9 percent more than their blocked counterparts.

Increased productivity doesn’t stop in the physical workplace. Employers who embrace social platforms also enable workers to be able to work virtually from nearly any location. From home or on the go, networked employees are completing tasks.

Attracting and retaining workers

According to a survey of 870 employers and employees by recruitment company Hays, almost 20 percent of job applicants say they will turn down a job if they do not have reasonable access to social networking sites.

About half of those surveyed already accessed social media at work, with 13.3 percent accessing it daily and 36.4 percent checking occasionally.

As for employers surveyed, 44.3 percent believed that allowing employees access to social media at work will improve retention levels, and a third already gave their staff access to it.

Only 23.7 percent of employers allowed no access to social media sites.

So how should you define your social media policy? Here are some questions to ask.

  • How do you expect social media to be used during work hours? Define proper and improper use of work equipment.
  • Will you offer full or limited access?
  • What restrictions or parameters will be placed on workplace usage?
  • How will you monitor employee social network activity for any excessive use? Employees will need to understand that they have no right to privacy with regard to social media in the workplace, and as the employer, you have the right to monitor or retrieve data pertaining to their social media usage at work.
  • How will you deal with any employee misuse?
  • Are you going to encourage employees to leverage social media as a business tool or will you restrict its use as a business tool? If you have concerns about the sharing of the company’s confidential information, you will need to outline confidentiality guidelines.

Don’t issue a blanket policy banning all social media speech about the business; it could get you in trouble. Instead, craft a policy limiting use during work hours and banning false statements, circulation of proprietary information and profanity related to management or co-workers. Have your lawyer review all social media policies prior to introducing them to your employees.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria, Shazaaam PR and Promo Marketing Team. Reach her at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.

Sunday, 30 September 2012 20:01

Adrienne Lenhoff: To blog or not to blog?

Thinking about blogging? Below are the major topics I discuss with CEOs who are considering setting up a blog.

To blog or not to blog

Do you have the time to commit to blogging? A successful blog, whether CEO- or company-driven, takes a time commitment, not only to allocate to the writing of compelling and interesting topics but to also map out an ongoing strategy of what you want the blog to accomplish.

Consider whether or not you are going to actually enjoy blogging. If you end up considering the blog a chore or burden, you will ultimately abandon the blog.

Before beginning to blog, check out what other CEOs are writing about. There are a ton of lists of CEO blogs that can be accessed by doing a quick Google search, along with reviews of who’s doing it right or wrong — and why.

Done right, CEO blogs help establish a voice for the company, create dialogues with internal and external stakeholders, build awareness and educate about your industry and its trends and challenges and establish you as an intelligent and strategic thought leader.

Blogging frequency

Newspapers are typically published anywhere from daily to weekly. TV news is typically broadcast a minimum of three times daily. To attract readers and grow and retain repeat visitors, determine how fast you want to grow a meaningful readership base.

For maximum growth, many experts say you need to post multiple times daily. The reality is that as a CEO, if you or a ghostwriter is blogging more than one to three days per week, it is a stretch of your time and content commitment.

To ensure your blog doesn’t become an afterthought, map out your blogging topics and posting dates four to eight weeks in advance.

Blogging candor

Social media — whether in the form of a blog, discussion groups or pages on popular social platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and others — is based on the premise of transparency and authenticity. Be timely and candid with your posts.

People might not always agree with what you have to say, so be ready to accept differing opinions. Remember that anything you post is out there for life. Even if later you decide to take the blog down, chances are that posts may have been archived and reposted somewhere else.

What to blog

Your blog shouldn’t be about what you sell. If you do the blog right, it will end up translating to new business. Write about what you know and the platforms and podiums for which you want to be known. Do you have compelling or thought-provoking insights on leadership, lessons learned, industry trends or other topics attractive to your target readership? Get to the point in your blog posts and save fluff and selling for your advertising and annual reports.

Blog posts don’t have to be novels or dissertations. As long as you are publishing content of interest to your readers, they can be short and sweet.

Consider posting some video entries and posting photos to go along with your written word to add variety.

Private or public blog

Are you planning an internal employee-focused blog, or are you planning a blog to be viewed by the world at large, which includes existing and prospective customers, your competitors and the media?

If your focus is to motivate and educate your employees, a private company blog would be most appropriate. Remember that anything you blog whether on a private, public or invitation-only blog has the potential to be republished and shared with others.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.

Your good reputation is your company’s most significant piece of equity. Are you monitoring and protecting its value?

Most brand detractors won’t go to your corporate website, Facebook page or Twitter account to complain. Instead, if aggravated enough, they’re going to tell anyone willing to listen why they should stop doing business with you. Word of your brand’s perceived inadequacies can travel at the speed of light and can destroy your good reputation within nanoseconds.

One in every five people is likely to speak their mind and bash brands through online channels. Research shows that people do not practice as much self-control in their online behavior as they would in person, or through other channels.

One negative social media comment can cost your company 30 customers. Conversely, a positive social media review could lead to 30 new customers.

A study by Convergys cited bad reviews or comments on a social network sites reach an average of 45 people. Of these, two out of every three never rebroadcast or play into the discussion. Instead, they silently commit to avoiding the brand being slammed. It is estimated that companies are losing about 12 percent of their customers that way. This can spell the difference between a company’s success and failure.

Cherry Tree also did research that found that while 22 percent receive a poor experience, only 2 percent actually complain, 98 percent of dissatisfied customers never complain with 55 percent of those customers at risk and 45 percent actually defecting.

The Convergys research focused on the impact between pre-purchase informational browsing by prospective customers, and its correlation to lost business. The study reinforced that the consumer experience now begins when the consumer logs on.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking that poor service, defective products or manufacturing glitches aren’t dissected in the social space. Tens of thousands of social sites with review mechanisms exist and more launch each day. Check them to see what’s being said about your company.

Think about it: One bad tweet can equal 30 customers lost. That means, with social media, great customer service is essential to the preservation of a company’s reputation.

Each second a dissatisfied customer is bashing a brand online, are they bashing yours?

If someone posts bad news or misinformation about your brand, how many of the people reading the post will then share it with their contacts? How many people reading the re-posting will then rebroadcast it themselves? The reposting or retweeting possibilities are both frightening and endless.

Think about the impact all that broadcast reposting and retweeting has on your company’s bottom line.

How much is your average sale? Multiply that number by 30 to determine revenues lost by each negative review you receive. How many times have you Googled a company, brand or individual prior to your doing business with them? How many times has your search influenced your purchasing decision?

Before doing business with you, potential business partners and customers are going to want to learn as much as possible about you. In the eyes of the potential customer, what appears in the search results on Google, Yahoo and Bing define your company. False, erroneous or misleading postings found in search engine results cost corporations hundreds of thousands of dollars each day.

It doesn’t matter whether the negative comments are from a competitor, a news site, a message board, a blogger or disgruntled employee – their impact can lead to devastating financial challenges. What will they find when they search?

Perhaps it’s time for you to begin formulating a plan to protect your good reputation.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.

Let’s face it: We all want to be liked. But when it comes to being liked in the social media space — specifically Facebook — many companies make the mistake of measuring the quantity of the “likes” they receive as opposed to the quality.

The reality is that the quality of the likes is often much more important and relevant than the quantity of likes. That fact was driven home to me by the case of one of our clients.

Recently, the client told us that it want to gather more than 1 million likes on its Facebook page. The client’s page receives a steady viral increase of 500 to 700 weekly new likes, and the likes are “quality” likes with relevance to its company. They are coming from individuals who have a special interest in the company, who want to participate in conversations and are actively sharing our client’s posts on their personal Facebook pages and within their social contact spheres.

Looking at the analytics of the individuals who like our client’s page, we’re finding that in addition to being highly activated and engaged, they are also target-market and geographically relevant. The likes are happening because customers are actively sharing the content, pushing new people to discover the page, engaging in relevant discussions and are coming from people specifically seeking the company online in order to socially connect.

Thus far there have been no ad buys and there have been no contests launched to also supplement growth efforts. Their collection of likes — now in excess of 50,000 — has come through social networking efforts.

But internally, our client is facing the same struggle that thousands of companies currently face when it comes to evaluating their social media ROI. Managers within their organization feel that in order to justify the relevance of social media in their marketing mix, they have to obtain as many likes as possible. But getting people to simply click the “like” icon on a Facebook page is not difficult.

There are many ways to quickly inflate page likes. Contests spike likes but most of the entrants are only interested in winning the prize and not in making a purchase. You can buy packages of page likes but the majority of “purchased” likes are typically not buyers and are not geographically relevant.

Facebook ad campaigns, which are similar to Google pay-per-click advertising, can also help drive new likes. Facebook ads allow an advertiser to drill down to target potential brand loyalists and customers by a variety of geographic and psychographic denominators.

The issue is that once you stop the contest or the advertising campaign, your number of new likes will drop off considerably. You potentially will see an exponential increase in likes during the campaign period.

But what good are these new likes if people liking you possibly only visit your page once? If they initially like you and then never come back, they aren’t paying attention to what you’re saying, they’re not engaging with you and they have no interest in buying your product or service — or telling others to buy your product or service.

The relevancy in social media is to have people talking about you and with you, and ultimately becoming your brand evangelists. Statistics have shown that 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations and 70 percent of consumers trust recommendations online.

Companies need to turn their attention away from trying to use likes as a popularity contest. As a company leader, you need to realize that if you have a Facebook community of 1,000 consumers who are actively engaged, with analytics showing huge impression rates, it is much more valuable than a community of 10,000 who visit your page, click “like” one time, then seldom — or never — come back.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.

Many of us have become tethered to our businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week because of technology. Look around any restaurant, meeting or social function and watch as those around you check their texts, e-mails and social media activity.

For better or worse, we have become slaves to technology and in many cases have reached connectivity overload. Think about the times you have caught yourself at family or social functions discretely sneaking glances at the messages pouring into your smartphone. Is the smartphone outsmarting us or making us smarter and more efficient?

Recently a colleague was lamenting the fact that he can no longer escape work because whenever there is trouble, he gets the call. It doesn’t matter that protocol has been put into place to have others handle after-hours situations. My colleague is still most often the only one who is called.

Why? Because everyone knows he always has his phone with him and he always picks up. My colleague’s constant connectivity has completely obliterated any work-life balance he and his family once had.

Conversely, recently I visited my daughter’s school for parents’ day. As much as I try to balance my connectivity, I was thankful that I had chosen to have my iPhone with me.  Our office Internet and e-mail provider had a hardware glitch that knocked out connectivity at my office. Thanks to technology, an employee texted me about the problem. Had I not been connected, I would have been paying for 15 people to sit around, unable to work. Within minutes of my office plugging in my mobile hotspot, everyone was back to work and reconnected.

So what’s the perfect balance? As businesses owners, CEOs and managers, we need the connectivity to know what’s going on and to be able to respond instantly when needed. That connection and ability to immediately respond can be the difference between winning a customer, contract or losing one. It can help you troubleshoot when there is a problem from wherever you may be. It allows you to take advantage of situations where work and productivity would be lost as you wait in reception areas for appointments, airports for planes, or, in my case, even car lines as I pick up my children from school.

But it can also cause us to miss out on so many things in our lives that we sometimes deem more important that work. To determine if you’re too tethered to technology, consider the following questions:

1. Even after you unplug, do you crave the stimulation you get from your electronic gadgets?

2. Does the distraction of technology cause you to forget things such as dinner plans, birthdays and special occasions?

3. Do you have trouble focusing on family and friends because you’re more focused on your electronics device?

4. When you’re with friends and family do they often comment that it seems like you can no longer be fully in the moment?

5. Are you carrying around multiple devices to help you stay connected?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be addicted to connectivity. In recent studies, scientists say that juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information. The scientists go on to explain that these bursts of information play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation causes an increased production of dopamine that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

Next time you reach for your gadgets to plug in after hours, ask yourself: are you the boss or is your smartphone?

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.

When was the last time that you sat down with your marketing specialists and really discussed your company or brand marketing strategy?

Too often, when I meet with CEOs, they tell me that they’ve been remiss at taking a hard look at marketing. For many, they either have rested on the laurels of their brand or company’s reputation or have been distracted or juggling other more pressing issues of running their business. The fact is, more than ever, it’s time to pay some close attention to your company’s overall marketing strategy and ask some hard questions of your marketing specialists in the process.

Before you can rely on your team to help guide where your company’s marketing direction is headed, you first need to determine if they truly understand where the company has been, where it is today, and if the team understands where the company needs to go. When CEOs start asking the tough questions of their teams, it’s amazing how often they discover that there’s disconnect between the C-level suite, the marketing team and even the sales team.

From exercises as simple as asking your team to go through an updated SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, a competitive analysis or asking for your team to describe your company’s ideal customer or prospect, the next step is asking your team how they’re gathering their information.

Every company and brand goes through a continuous and accelerating market change. How is your company determining the changing and varied needs of both your existing and target customers? Markets are becoming increasingly segmented into smaller and smaller sizes, some of which are worth pursuing, while many more are not. What’s your company’s marketing strategy for reaching, engaging and ultimately converting these groups into customers and brand evangelists? If your customers have been leaving, what have your marketing and sales teams been doing to determine why your customers are leaving and where they’re going? Why is a customer choosing to do business with your company over your competitors? What is being done, or needs to be done, to realign your marketing and branding to maintain or regain a competitive advantage in these changing marketplaces?

With new technologies being developed at lightning speed, how is your team incorporating these innovations into your core marketing strategies, to not only reach customers but to conduct intelligent market research to help your company keep ahead of the curve and give your customers what they really want and need? The reality is that markets are changing faster than most companies’ marketing practices. Past marketing practices are more likely than ever to misfire in these new and emerging marketplaces. How is your company incorporating tried and true marketing practices with these emerging micro-markets and changing technology?  If your company is like most, you’re probably finding that many of your traditional profit channels are eroding or yielding diminishing returns. When CEO’s go back to the fundamentals of asking the hard questions of the marketing and sales teams, everyone is forced to take their blinders off and step out of their internal corporate silo to begin looking at the company and its brands from the eyes of the external environment that impacts where your business is today and where it needs to go. It’s the old adage of getting out from behind your desk to shake hands, kiss babies, and to ask your customers and prospective customers what most influences their purchasing decisions.

Once these initial questions have been asked, you, your team and your company will be much better equipped to continue to ask the hard and probing questions needed to determine the best marketing strategies to move your company forward.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.

Monday, 31 October 2011 20:01

Adrienne Lenhoff on becoming socially savvy

Often I’m asked, “What is social media?”

For businesses, social media are where technology and social interaction merge. It leverages Web-based and mobile communication tools to allow for the creation of conversations and the content between consumers and brands. Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Yelp and blogs are some of the tools businesses and consumers use to create and broadcast content and engage in social interaction.

These social media channels allow individuals and brands to shift fluidly between audience and author roles. Content generation and conversations within these channels utilize what is termed “social software,” to enable anyone without knowledge of coding to post, comment on, share or mash up content, and form communities around shared interests.

Think of an old-time malt shop at the mall. Conversations at these places typically took place on a one-to-one basis or within small groups. If a company wanted to “shake hands and kiss babies,” social engagement typically occurred one consumer at a time.  The hope was that they’d leave the conversation empowered, with brand recognition, and wanting to evangelize the actions the company was looking to generate.

Whether the dialogue took place between brand and customer, within social cliques or simply on a one-to-one basis, someone would eventually break away and begin pollinating other conversations with the information they just gleaned.

Fast forward to what I’ve coined “the pollination effect.”  Remember the shampoo commercial: “I told two friends, they told two friends, they told two friends,” and so on and so on?  Harnessed properly, the pollination effect will create lightning in a bottle. 

Don’t think that social media is going to be your business’ silver bullet. It takes time, dedication and strategy to create powerful customer relationships. Half the battle will be breaking through the noise bombarding your target audience for its attention. Today’s consumer has constant partial attention.

Imagine your target market. On the Web, they probably have multiple pages open, perhaps their iPod, TV or radio playing in the background, friends instant messaging and texting them, phone distractions, someone talking at them in person, browsing mail, and engaging on multiple social media channels — and you’re trying to attract their attention yourself.

Like a restaurant, social media has an endless menu of options. To reach your target market, the specials of the day change with hundreds of new social media channels developed daily.

The trick is figuring out which menu items will get your target markets telling their friends and returning for more.

Social media is public relations on steroids. Social media allow you to take your message directly to the masses and receive instant feedback. The tools to broadcast your message are endless.

Look at channels such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Sign up for accounts on most platforms and they’ll offer communication tools such as the ability to send e-mails to and from their platform, messaging, blogs, polls and content aggregation from other platforms such as Twitter.

To be successful, manage your time, have a solid game plan about what you’re going to say, whom you’re trying to reach and effective ways to reach them. Some platforms work well for one type of business and completely bomb for another. Blogs and LinkedIn typically work better for B2B businesses and platforms such as Facebook have higher B2C success rates.

To help determine the best platform for your business, research where the conversations relevant to your industry and target markets are taking place.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at getpr@shazaaam.com.