See How Clients Rate Our Passion for Their Business

Surveying your customers in order to gauge their satisfaction with your products or services is nothing new—and applying that same principle to a PR, marketing and communications agency such as ours makes perfect sense. And we’ve been measuring client satisfaction for 11 years. The results, as you might expect, help us assess our strengths and weaknesses, and they form a strong foundation for determining the agency’s to-dos, whether that’s to build on our ability to drive new sales for our customers or polish our storytelling capabilities.

Instead of purely bragging about our results, however, which you can see a select sampling of here, we challenge you to assess your own PR/marketing/communications agency on the following criteria:

1) Is your agency an extension of your own team? By this I mean does your agency work efficiently and effectively with your staff? Do the two teams have a solid rapport and bullet-proof communication? Does your agency enhance your own capabilities (versus creating redundancy) and complement your existing skillset (versus replicating key abilities)? If it didn’t violate any contracts or policies, would you hire the staff at your agency as employees? Do they have the same (or complementary) core values, work ethic, personal style (and even sense of humor) as your strongest team members?

2) Does your agency demonstrate a passion for your business? Let’s face it—it’s difficult for anyone to know your business as well as you do—but a good agency can come damn close—and should. Your perfect agency should demonstrate complete immersion in your industry, including knowing your competitors, understanding the key issues and having a familiarty with the major players, trends and developments. We’re not talking about a quick refresh before your next in-person visit or conference call—we’re referring to a deep  and ongoing knowledge of all your strengths, weakenesses and paint points—internal and external. In a word, your agency should be a subject matter expert in your company and your industry.

3) Does your agency work proactively on your behalf? Someone once said you can’t teach people to be proactive—they either are or aren’t. In my opinion, the best employees are wired to take charge and think ahead—they try to solve problems ahead of the curve. The flip side, naturally, is less desirable—the reactive (versus proactive) employee waits for your orders before they move. Seems pretty clear which type makes a better partner, don’t you think?

4) Last but not least, and perhaps most importantly, does your agency help drive new sales? Is your agency connecting you to qualified leads? Yes, a large part of PR, marketing and comuinications work involves building a brand, whether that’s through thought leadership (contributed articles), social media (Facebook likes) and/or media coverage (Wall Street Journal). But is your agency working from a strategic point of view, directing, managing and integrating all the efforts, from content creation and media outreach to social media, ongoing measurement and reliable follow-up, in order to drive new business into your hopper?  At the end of the day, just answering that one simple question may be the truth you need.

Barbara Call is director of content at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraCall1

5 Steps to Applying Stimulus/Response Thinking to Social Marketing

How many of our Twitter followers are real buyers? What percentage of our tweets do followers actually see? Are those new Facebook likes really valuable over time? Certainly you’ve posed similar questions to your marketing team or agency. Getting answers to questions like these is challenging work—and well worth the effort. But even with access to so much data, we can still tell very little about customers and prospects by observing their relatively passive social network participation. To really understand behavior, we must rely on a concept that is both so simple yet so poorly applied in social marketing that it borders on stupidity: stimulus and response.

Most classically-trained marketers understand the concept of introducing an offer (stimulus) and waiting for a response. And over the years we’ve learned to not just measure uptake, but also to understand more about why and when a prospect actually becomes a real marketing-qualified lead. Significant investment is made in refining this process, but I hear too many stories about this discipline not finding its way into social engagement.

Before I go into five discipline-building tips, I must offer one strong caveat: I’m not saying that you should simply treat social networks like any other channel – these are venues for strategic brand storytelling, not lead gen repurposing. So, with that said, I offer five steps for bringing stimulus/response into your social marketing strategy:

  • Listen first. Take the time to understand your audience before engaging them – it’s okay to listen for a while. Don’t even think about promotion until you’re sure you understand the community’s vibe.
  • Earn your way in. Don’t think offer first. That will probably deliver new followers, friends, members and circle joiners who are undoubtedly there for the wrong reasons. Share, help and tell stories before you even think of asking for something.
  • Tailor, don’t generalize. Why not segment your followers, friends, members, etc., for more targeted, relevant campaigns. Sure, it takes more time, but you’d be surprised at how much more lift you get when you really understand what makes different segments unique. Generalize and you’ll just be another marketer to your audience.
  • Stimulate in bites, not batches. A campaign within social networks needn’t always be a fully-integrated, highly-structured program that relies on aggregated metrics alone. This is especially true in B2B marketing where five well-nurtured social contacts could actually make a salesperson’s quarter. Try to understand a few prospects better through bites of engagement and tailored offers and see what that yields.
  • Study responses by hand. If you’ve listened, earned your way in, tailored your campaign and taken the extra effort to engage in bites, you likely have a good idea of who’s who in your strategically-expanding social ecosystem. Look at who they are, study commonalities and refine your content strategy to match your ideal prospects. Don’t simply generalize anymore.

We love data at Greenough. We pore over it daily, but we also understand that social marketing isn’t driven by data alone. Yes, stimulus and response works well with highly-structured data analysis, and you should have a plan for that too, but don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and use it like a conversation instead of simply a scientific probe.

Scott Bauman is executive vice president at Greenough.

Boston Bruins Score With Digital Content DEN

3-28-2012 2-23-26 PM
3-28-2012 2-23-26 PM

I‘m a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, so it pains me to write this. The Boston Bruins just launched a new “portal” inside the NHL.com Network and there are things I like about it and things I don’t. Mostly, begrudgingly, I like Bruin’s DEN, and here’s why: It’s not a traditional website. I’ve said for years that websites, as we knew them, are anachronistic. Not that they don’t have value, but they are often too static, uninspired and, for the most part, are used sparingly by prospects and customers. Think digital brochure. The DEN feels dynamic and pulls in content from other dynamic platforms such as Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr. The story isn’t dictated by the Bruins exclusively – as is true of traditional websites or team sites – it’s co-curated by fans. That's forward-looking and a lesson that is relevant to any brand in any industry.

It’s multichannel without feeling contrived. The Bruins understand that people are different, communicated differently and share liberally, especially when they are acting as “fans” (whether it’s inside a bar, outside the Garden or at a beach barbecue celebrating the Stanley Cup). Offering multiple channels for sharing different media types gives a more comprehensive view (feeling!) of what it means to be a Bruins fan.

It says, by its design, that “we do this for you,” and that builds affinity. This one’s hard for me since I don’t actually feel the affinity. A brand – or team – should feel like it’s yours. By featuring fans and making them central to the story, the Bruins make it less about the league and more about each individual Bruins fan. Is your brand connecting this way with its customers and prospects?

What I don’t like about the portal is where it features the branded content. The location of the Ice Girls and The Bear and the Gang takes a little away from the affinity-building mentioned above. I’d like it more if this content was featured less prominently than true fan content (maybe the carousel can rotate fan content instead).

The “Bruins Mobile” content doesn’t add much either – it’s an afterthought. Maybe I’m the only skeptic who sees this as just an ad for another ad revenue platform. Perhaps the Bruins can think of an innovative way to create/capture dialogue through mobile and feature that too.

Overall, this is a win; at least for now. I hope they don’t focus inward on the portal, however, but instead continue to focus outward on building the kind of multichannel engagement and affinity that makes DEN possible in the first place.