Category Archives: marketing and promotion

social media for business

Mismanaged content meant the wrong kind of reach for this dealership.

Mismanaged content meant the wrong kind of reach for this dealership.

Your Business On Social – It’s Really Not Personal

A six-month social media marketing consultation for a multi-line powersports dealership that reps several metric makes, a domestic brand, and PWC and OHV inventory was the inspiration for this post. Located in a large Southeastern market, a neglected social media program wasn’t producing the growth one might expect given their footprint.

Management depended on traditional automotive push marketing techniques based largely on motivational training and consisting largely of clichéd slogans and a steady diet of overwrought memes. Making matters worse was content posted by employees, one in particular, who didn’t understand that the approach required for a business page had nothing to do with their personal life online.

A Waste of Their Money and My Time

When I got involved the CMS vendor hired for site design and management had set up an incomplete Google+ page and a lamentable blog that immediately failed. These “assets” joined a struggling Facebook timeline and an abandoned Twitter feed that, together with a local weekly bike night, made up a dysfunctional marketing strategy that defied the concept of content coordination.

The social goal was easily defined: increase organic growth, reach, and engagement using proven social media business techniques. In the end it was a waste of their money and my time. Based on my direct experience with this dealer, I emerged with a Five-Step Program for improving your social media marketing assets.

Here are my Top Five Social Marketing Essentials: the minimum elements a social media marketing program needs in order to have any chance of success.

5) Management Engagement

Christmas in july 2

This ad for snowmobiles in Florida stayed up for months.

When management is “too busy” to monitor their own content, they deserve the worst result from a dysfunctional effort. Would you expect to see snowmobiles sold in Florida? In July? This embarrassing post by the client’s CMS vendor and web site IT, a well known powersports service provider, stayed up for weeks because management refused to look at their own channels. I won’t comment on the use of transparent background PNGs against a lime green <IMG> tag background color.

Lesson? Stay engaged or risk the consequences.

4) Coordinate Activities

Social didn’t have a seat at the table when sales, promos, or events were planned by the sales manager. OEM marketing opportunities came and went without generating earned publicity. Result: a failure to connect using basic tools like page event apps to promote engagement and activity.

Further muddying the waters — multiple managers had independent control of multiple channels. Result? A total lack of content direction and coordination.

Lesson? Assign one manager as point-of-contact, with authority for all content and the option to grant multiple contributors access to team functions.

3) Understand Social Stats

Facebook personal page used to drive likes

Personal friends list used by greeter to prop up skewed reach.

Stats can inform or mislead. When they’re manipulated, the result can be deceptive and misleading.

Despite a favorable (chart at top) 68% male-31% female fan mix, the reach skewed heavily towards women, not men. This disconnect is traceable to flawed post content by the lobby greeter’s attempt to pad metrics by polling her personal Facebook male friends for likes. This shifted the ratio alright, but only by creating a false positive that distorts the desired organic results and won’t fool Facebook.

Lesson? Manipulated stats disguise reality, lead to bad decisions based on false facts.

2) Understand How Social Media Works

Social marketing is about pull, not push. Understanding the general strengths and weaknesses is essential.

It’s a unique medium that requires regular care and feeding in the form of professional attention. Audience engagement can’t be forced; only quality content of interest will attract interaction. Google knows this, and you should also.

Lesson? Quality content continues to be the prime ingredient in a successful social campaign.

1) Speak With One Voice

The number one requirement for a successful social marketing program? Speak professionally, using one knowledgeable voice.

The dealership’s in-house voice, a former barista turned lobby greeter with zero motorcycle knowledge and a dysfunctional writing “style”, was allowed to post disconnected content online, without review, like the incoherent example below.

“Off-roading enthusiasts love the adventures and the risks and adrenaline associated with it. Speaking with the novice portion of this crowd, one of the most commonly inquiries is, “Do you know where I can ride these?” It’s a very just question. Now a great place to cross off your bucket list is the Apalachicola National Forest. Located in the panhandle, there is 195,000 acres worth of lush, loamy nature. They conveniently have about 80% of their trails marked very well. However, it is also rumored to have many undiscovered trails with very little traffic. Yeah it’s a bit of a trip, but do ya really plan on staying at home for the rest of your life?”

This sad word salad, intended to boost OHV sales, was posted to the dealer’s Facebook brand page. It clearly demonstrates why writing pros should be responsible for social media messaging. (Subtitle: Don’t write stoned.)

I rest my case. Lesson? Social programs too often see Nike’s success selling shoes as an easily copied meme. Reality? Without professional creative talent efforts aren’t just wasted, they’re counterproductive.

Growing Your Social Channel – A Job for Professionals

Don’t be this dealer. Commit to using the power and prestige of social media. Make it count. Engage your qualified market, enjoy the benefits of a comfortable public relationship.

aimexpo set to launch

Powersports Gets New Show

Recent news from Advanstar that the Dealernews February Dealer Expo, held in Indianapolis after moving west from Cincy in 1998 but suffering badly from lagging attendance and exhibitor disinterest since the high water mark in the mid ’00s, will move to Chicago in 2014 means the newly formed AIME consumer show faces a much lower bar to overcome as a cross-channel powersports industry marketing event.

Orlando has enjoyed major motorsports industry success as a destination for years. Ironically, after welcoming thousands of exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of attendees since moving the event south, the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) expo, held in OCCC’s North-South venue since 2001, returns to Indy this December as part of a SEMA brokered reunification with the International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS, aka, hard core racing).

I’ve enjoyed many industry events in Vegas, Indy, Cincy before and after, and in Orlando – in both the West Building hosting AIME’s inaugural outing and the massive North South venue across the street. Considering Orlando’s in my back yard – midway between where I grew up on Merritt Island an hour south of Daytona and where I now live on the Gulf shores – it’s with some amount of satisfaction that the move I’ve long recommended to the powersports industry has now come to pass.

“We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here!”

SEMA registrationI’m proud to identify myself as an advertising and PR professional who attended his first powersports industry event in the lobby of a long forgotten Daytona Beach hotel while studying Journalism and Communications as a PR major at the University of Florida in the late ’60s.

So yes, it comes as somewhat of a rude shock to discover that the critically important marketing professions have been explicitly excluded from the B2B portion of the event by way of a regressive, considered, exorbitant admission fee. In my own home state no less.

“Non-exhibiting manufacturers and service providers can obtain credentials to attend AIMExpo during the exclusive trade-only days on October 16, 17, & 18, 2013 by paying a mandatory $400 registration fee per person.” (Emphasis added)

This, despite the occupations’ marquee status as a major advertised component of the event’s announced educational sessions. Well that’s just stupid. Nothing like slamming the door in the face of an industry you’re only too happy to promote from a short list of insider presenters.

Unfortunately, AIME management seems content to continue to fail to grasp the critical role pr and marketing communicators play in the age of global social media or the technical nuances that go with. Note to organizers: the hot topic in mar-com these days is the merging of journo and pr as creators of much coveted retail content.

  • Exhibit A: Google “AIME” – discover why product and event naming is an art, not a commodity, in an SEO ruled universe.
  • Exhibit B: a Facebook invitation to this pr pro to “like” the event’s Spanish language page. Uh, yo no hablo español.

“Please note: Media credentials will be provided to reporters, writers, editors, videographers, photographers and producers. Advertising, sales & marketing and administrative staff are not considered working media and will not be provided with media credentials.” Ok, got it. Marketers are pariahs. Insult to injury, message received, message understood.

In the all important social media promoted message sweepstakes (including blogs), organizers have said no and no again to any WOM publicity on behalf of their aftermarket and OEM clients – the exhibitors.

For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.

As a content manager for a powersports dealer and other aftermarket clients, say so long to any professional mar-com generated event coverage or mentions. For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.

So with that not so slight slight out of the way, here’s some of what you might expect, might need to know, and might want to discover if you make the trip.

One Booth You’ve Got To Visit

For first time – and nearly all will be – powersports visitors to the massive OCCC facilities on International Drive, here’s a little insight into what you can expect compared to Indy’s mid-winter experience.

Weatherwise, October comes in as our second most active month for major storms, including hurricanes, behind September – which right now is pretty soggy. Just saying, come prepared for the occasional raindrop and although it’s early Fall for us it may still seem like the height of Summer, depending. Here’s what else you might want to know.

GoPro is an announced exhibitor, and based on past experience not only is their booth a blast, it’s the best chance you’ll (probably) have to score an on-the-house camera. They always bring game, and theirs is one of the hippest and smartest booth marketing efforts you’ll see. Free beer’s a definite possibility, but even if it weren’t the show and tell theme makes this big dog and pony a must see.

Where Ya’ At?

When it comes to a place to stay, the sky’s the limit. Metro Orlando is second only to NYC in lodging. One of Indy’s major draws was the ease of pedestrian access between downtown lodging and the convention center. OCCC? Eh, not so much.

Odds are you’ll want to stay reasonably close by on International Drive, and there’re plenty of options to choose from, from lux to how many can we cram in a room.

Who’s Driving!

Nobody drove to and fro in Indy. Make that virtually nobody, as downtown parking was a sparse commodity. Whether you were holed up out by the airport or in more recent years downtown, private show shuttles and the connected airwalks were the way folks got around.

Orlando’s different. Unless you’re staying across the street from the West Building in either of the Rosen properties or the Peabody, best bring your hiking boots.

In fact, even if you did snatch a room at one of those facilities, the walking distance still might come as a shock compared to, say, Indy’s Hyatt.

PRI, to its great credit, put together a fleet of convenient and timely hop on board show buses that operated around the clock during event hours and included the (understatement) popular Beer On The Bus after each day’s close. AIME hasn’t said, but the difference in scale probably precludes anything similar.

If you’ve got a car, you’re in good shape. Parking’s plentiful at the OCCC – $15 at the venue lot. On street? No and no. Otherwise, you’re likely marooned and will have to depend on public transport and private taxis to get around.

What’s For Dinner?

Unlike Indy – very unlike – you won’t find a dense downtown collection of closely connected destinations reachable – weather permitting – within easy walking distance. And also unlike the business oriented downtown Indy vibe, Orlando – make that Florida – is mostly indifferent, what with close to 70 million annual visitors tracking up the front hall.

If there’s going to be one major complaint, it will be the lack of memorable and/or quick dining options. Forget anything like St. Elmo or Palomino, although Tommy Bahama offers an interesting menu – the crab bisque in particular. Orlando is home to the Darden (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) Group, and that means you’ll most likely end up at a theme inspired franchise, take a number, and wait for your server to hustle up touristy drinks and mostly mediocre fare.

If over the years spent at Indy you’d grown accustomed to making a dash, quick or otherwise, outside Expo to grab a burger at Steak and Shake, a Happy Meal at Mickey D’s or one of Palomino’s fabo pizzas, well hang on to those memories. You wish.

I can say this without equivocation: OCCC food is nothing if not expensive, considering it’s mediocrity. You’re pretty much a captive audience while at the event – $15 for the cardboard inspired All American Cheeseburger, fries and a soda may have you begging for mercy after a couple of days.

What To Do Besides

Wellllll, besides Biketoberfest, there’s Disney some miles west or Universal just up the street – where you can grab a Duff beer at the brand new Simpsons’ Springfield attraction. Just around the corner there’s Sea World and dicey off-road adventure can always be had on S. Orange Blossom Trail (not on any tourist map or ticket kiosk). Or you could head 45 minutes east and spend some time hanging out at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp for a taste of the kind of food I grew up on, finishing up with an airboat ride around the St. John’s River fed Lake Poinsett.

Then, if you haven’t been yet, continue your journey up to NASA’s excellent Kennedy Space Center (KSC), then out to Cocoa Beach and a run through home boy Ron Jon’s original Surf Shop for a memorable dude experience before heading home.

Welcome to Florida!

choosing your content platform(s)

Brian Solis' conversation prism shows social media relationships

Brian Solis’s latest Conversation Prism illustrates the increasing complexity of Social Media content management.

conversation prism displays social media relationships

Brian Solis recently updated his hugely popular Conversation Social Prism which charts the best known channels in the social media spectrum.

Dozens of major social channels have been categorized under 26 distinct headings representing social’s broad range of interests. The list includes the best known, not every social channel on the web.

It’s an eye-opening experience trying to comprehend the near limitless opportunities he presents while deciding on priorities. To get an idea of how far digital media has come, you might want to compare his prism to my web universe sketched only four years ago.

how successful your rank is depends a lot on where you publish

The two most popular platforms for individualized content publishing are brand-here-dot-com websites and/or blogs.

Blogs are dynamic, while publishing as a straight html web page tends to be more cumbersome even though it allows greater flexibility. It’s a trade-off that should be considered with an eye towards time management, creative skills, and frequency.

Social sites are also widely used for content, but are restricted in one form or another as to length and type of content. To put all your eggs in one basket, i.e. Facebook, places the cart before the horse. Pinterest, SlideShare, YouTube, Behance, and others offer a wide variety of options as well as optimized content management. But none offer the overall flexibility of a native domain. Further, crawling and indexing social sites may not be as optimal as a dedicated site.

using only social media has its limitations

Publishing Content Management System (CMS) web site or blog usually means a one-look theme that’s template based. I publish to both platforms: HTML material to my site, and this blog for short updates like this. What this means is that my dot-com web platform maintains a consistent look with the option of inserting one-off pages if desired.

Most small businesses should find blogging only very well suited to establishing a reputation for customized content, especially if that blog is self-hosted.

Once you’ve decided on a workflow and have begun publishing, the next step is promoting that quality content. Today, that means social media and email.

While it’s obviously impossible to cover the entire spectrum of social media, the trick is to focus on a half-dozen or fewer sites and make sure they’re well integrated into your prime channel.

harley’s project rushmore touring upgrades

how much did Harley borrow from GM's Corvette dynamics?

corvette’s c-7 out to change marketing dynamics

In an USA Today article titled “Chevrolet Seeks Younger Buyers For New Corvette,” that other iconic manufacturer clearly states how they view the future potential of their aging clientle and how they hope to change course. Object of GM’s desire? Porsche, of course. And Audi, BMW, and (gulp!) Ferrari.

Although still the leading seller of sports cars in North America, those Vettes are driven on the backroads surrounding Indianapolis and Lexington, not L.A. and New York.

“The average age of a buyer of the current Corvette has been climbing each year and now is in the high 50s. It wants more of the upwardly mobile buyers in their 40s and even younger looking to reward themselves.” Hello, Harley.

et tu milwaukee

If that doesn’t sum up The Motor Company’s highly visible problem with a rapidly aging demographic nothing does. Yesterday Cycle World took an online look at Harley’s 2014 Project Rushmore touring lineup. Why it was important to include the developmental code name isn’t really clear, but pieces of the overall marketing puzzle are beginning to take shape.

“Project RUSHMORE (all caps) is a pure expression of our relationship with our customers and a shared passion for riding motorcycles,” according to Harley’s CMO Mark-Hans Richer and senior Vice President. That cryptic comment, coupled with the dual challenge of an invigorated Polaris Victory and a resurgent Polaris Indian as Made In America competitors, means the task of remaining number one in hearts and minds in a lackluster two-wheeled touring category has become more complicated.

papal prayer part of h-d marketing strategy

It appears as though management is tackling the problem with an aggresive marketing strategy that focuses on a combination of social media and what passes as evolved product placement for a global market. Having the Pope bless your top of the line models meant a prime-time mention across the broadcast and cable news spectrum. And it’s a far cry from the loner zeitgeist of that ’70s show “Then Came Bronson”, Milwaukee’s answer to the threat posed then by Honda’s goal of meeting the nicest people on one of their rides.

Meanwhile, salting new model year press releases with language that includes “bold graphics,” “Boom!™ (sic) Box” infotainment system, and a Beatle’s quote, it’s clear that style mostly precedes substance. But that probably works just fine for a hoped for market in the process of discovery, as opposed to the graying elders who’ve heard it, seen it, done it before.

google rewards creative content

Page one rank out of 5 million plus for "powersports advertising"

creative content best approach for page rank

Cute names aside, Google’s algorithms known as Panda, Penguin and who knows what’s next, are getting smarter. That’s good news for site operators who value creativity in their quest for SERP rank.

It’s important to keep Google’s goals in the proper context: their consumer is the person who enters a search term and expects to find a quality site in return. Google’s concern is not about individual sites, or the size of those sites.

Attention is focused on the individual consumer and how satisfied they are with the results of their inquiry – in short, how well does the search result match up with the consumer’s anticipated result.

there is no magic formula for success – but quality content is a key element

My own site, Siebenthalercreative.com, has been well received by Google for a number of years for search relating to powersports marketing. The SERP results are fairly consistent, and seem to support the general consensus that quality content is recognized and rewarded by Google.

My site is nowhere near the largest nor the most active within the power and motorsports community.

It also doesn’t get any advantage from having a sought after search term – in this case, “powersports” – in the domain or page URLs, or even in site directories. If that’s been the major thrust of your search strategy, Google has indicated it may not be enough in the future.

My goal since launching the site back in 2002 has been to create an easily navigable property within which is stored a variety of generalized information and industry specific updates, using a combination of individual pages and self-hosted blog posts.

concentrate on content for the best long term strategy

The result, after trying to pay attention to the hints and suggestions Google shares with their audience of webmasters, is consistently ranking on page one for searches involving the main marketing functions within the powersports community, including social media.

For more on the role of creative content’s importance to B2B and B2C marketing, review Slideshare’s “50 Stats You Need to Know About Content Marketing.”

marketing essentials: point of contact info

grow financial's earth day promo

I celebrated Earth Day 2013 by dropping by the local branch of Grow Financial, a local federal credit union, prompted by their attractive back page print promotion in the Tampa Bay Times offering free slash pines (limit five – while supplies last.)

I planned my pickup to coincide with a local account pitch that morning, and was relieved at the lack of cars in the parking lot, indicating a short wait time. Their new branch office was a pleasant blend of refreshing graphics and smiling faces.

grow-financial-IMG_0132Waving their ad in my hand I walked towards the receptionist to claim my prize and was surprised when the only interaction was her announcement that instead of the promised five seedlings the promo was limited to two. Still very much worth the effort. To me, if not marketing.

Because that’s where my point-of-contact began and ended. Directed to the box of pine lifts bagged and ready for retrieval behind her desk, I grabbed my reward for showing up and left just as quickly as I entered. No registration kiosk, form, or social media signup. No harvesting of email or local address. Not even a card drop. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, far from it. Just a big surprise from the standpoint of someone who sees opportunity unfulfilled.

On my own I grabbed their services brochure from the take-away wall board on the way out, but in the meantime this well intentioned promo fell surprisingly short on the followup.

critic questions future of electric bikes

 

Zero's 2013 S model

(above) 2013 Zero S from Zero Motorcycles

despite eco-promise of evs, shortcomings still outweigh strengths

An article in last week’s New York Times, while leaving the door slightly ajar for the channel’s future, makes a reasoned case against a present marketplace that features electric motorcycles humming around the urban landscape in silent flocks of environmental uber responsibility. (See earlier post on Mercedes Benz plans for a 2014 market entry.)

Reporter Dexter Ford writes in the paper’s Automotive section about the challenges facing the nascent industry, not least of which is cost. Far cheaper conventional alternatives, eco-friendly and offering the same or better mileage per comperable fillup, are getting top billing as the major Asian motorcycle brands begin to flex their muscles in taking on not only high-end electrics but cheap, disposable Chinese scooters as well.

styling overhaul resets brand

Compounding the confusion over electric’s future is a same-day post on the NYT’s Wheels blog on Zero’s 2013 lineup just introduced at Intermöt. In what’s seen as a responsive reaction to marketplace concern, the Santa Cruz, CA, company is moving away from the mountain bike inspired initial design towards a more familiar traditional look courtesy of former Buell designer and now Zero’s chief technology officer Abe Askenazi.

Between the high performance Lightning, the gyro stablized LIT Motors C1, or the mainstream (for electrics) bikes from Zero and Brammo, interest isn’t going away. And neither is the significant cost differential, or the lingering comparisons to Segway’s marketing rationale.

Whether that same interest will translate into sustainable sales for complete bikes or morph into a niche industry of DIY builds sourced from frame makers, engine manufacturers, and battery suppliers might be the unanswered question.

google forces seo strategy upgrade

seo strategy a must as sophisticated algorithms become more selective

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

Trying to achieve page rank by relying on a domain name stuffed with keywords just got a lot harder. In an update unrelated to Panda, which puts more emphasis on well designed and written quality content, Google’s latest algorithm begins to make the practice of keyword-defined URLs obsolete and thus encouraging (forcing?) content managers to develop rank organically by adding meaningful content.

siebenthaler creative consistently earns page one rank

It works for me. Googling “powersports (advertising – marketing – pr)” usually results in page one rank for Siebenthaler Creative. In September 2012 screen grab below Siebenthaler Creative is the only SERP that doesn’t have “powersports” in the URL. This query returned two of my pages based on “powersports advertising,” more on subsequent SERPs. Bottom line: if the goal is to be seen by as many as possible, you need a strategy that doesn’t depend on shortcuts, and one that can survive and adapt over time.

 

parts, drag specialties don life vests

dealer expo fights image problem

traditional event partners vote with their feet

One thing the troubled world of powersports trade events can’t survive and still maintain a credible industry presence is the abandonment of anchored floor space by major distributors.

The increasingly anemic dealer turnout that’s plagued Expo in recent years takes another hit as the persistent rumor of Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties departing Indy in favor of building their own corporate footprint apparently has legs.

move will affect dealer attendance, manufacturer exhibits

LeMans is expected to announce a budget reallocation that shifts marketing funds from Dealer Expo to expand their own self-hosted Showcase dealer show to include bi-coastal (CA and PA) additions, each with up to 200 vendor slots, in a move that further suppresses aftermarket manufacturer participation in traditional venues.

new google search challenges content

to earn google rank, get busy with content

Google’s latest product is their highly engineered search algorithm Knowledge Graph. Exactly how it works is a mystery, but best guesses are a wide ranging capability to reference major data sites, including Wikipedia, using a predictive intelligence that intuits a user’s intent beyond the specific search query. I’m just assuming this thing’s got artificial intelligence down cold and am preparing new content accordingly while retrofitting the archives to conform.

Read If Google Can’t Find You, Your Market Never Will for tips on how to upgrade your content and create a strategy for search success.