RCM: Business books and resources

A list of business-related books referenced in my recent seminar at The Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden:

  • ReworkJason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

How Social Media Impacts Brand Marketing

Today Nielsen  released graphs illustrating where consumers are getting trusted recommendations. Their charts clearly illustrate the importance of peer recommendations and clear communication and interaction from company web sites. You can view the full post here.

Preferred consumer sourcesWhere are your customers getting information about your products and services?

What are their most trusted sources?

Are your communications reaching your audience?

Is it easy for them to join the conversation and spread the word about your company?

Who Are the Most Valuable Digital Consumers?

Today Nielsen released a potent infographic that visually illustrates current trends in social, local, and mobile media usage.

Nielsen Digital Consumer InfographicWho are you trying to reach with your communications?

How do they use digital technology?

What do you want to tell them?

Focus Your Content With Personas

Children mannequinsBuyer Personas are used extensively by marketers and product managers to test and focus their product designs and customer communications. A persona is essentially an archetypal character who could become your fan or customer. More than just a demographic profile of your target audience, a persona is detailed and personalized, usually based on interviews with real customers.

Product managers use personas to prioritize their features and design their user interfaces. Marketers tailor communications and web pages to specific, segmented personas. Personas can help you understand who your audience is, what their needs are, and how, when and where to reach them. Copywriter Karen Goldfarb compares personas to mannequins for your product. Read more of her excellent tips on creating personas here.

Sounds kind of silly. Why should I bother?

This may seem contrived, particularly for musicians. Either people like your music or they don’t, right? Well, there are several benefits to this practice:

  • You will learn a lot about your followers from the interview process. Creating personas will inspire you to dig deeper and get to know your customers and fans.
  • Personas get you thinking about the real value of your product and the needs it meets.
  • Even for a niche business there will be distinct types of people you are serving, who speak and live differently, hang out in different places, and get their information from different sources. Each group may use your products differently, in ways you may not even be aware of.
  • You may ‘discover’ new product ideas as you get to know your customers and their needs.
  • Artists have a potentially vast, international audience. Helping potential fans find you is an enormous challenge. Personas give you an idea where to look, and help you target your communications.
  • For a small service business or product developer, personas can deepen your relationship with existing customers, strengthen your customer care programs, and humanize your sales strategies.

Have you used personas in your business? What’s working for you?

Photo courtesy of Brandon Fick

What Is the Unmet Need?

Companies are most successful when their products meet fundamental human needs. Focusing on the unmet need creates an environment for product design and communication that speaks directly to human beings.

What I learned from wraparound…

As a product manager I sensed this intuitively, but I really saw it in action when I worked on wraparound teams organized to help at-risk kids and their families. Wraparound is a non-clinical planning process not dissimilar to product management, creative problem solving, and business model design. The process is simple to describe but very difficult to pull off successfully, in part because people are not used to thinking and speaking in the language of needs.

A wraparound team is organized around the family and their natural community. The process begins by creating an inventory of the strengths of each team member. Next the team develops needs statements, and brainstorms strategies to meet those needs. The strategies are filtered to best align with the identified needs and the strengths of the team. Finally, the plan is executed and adjusted.

Sounds simple, but guess what? If the needs are not correctly articulated the strategies are rarely successful. For example, “He needs to finish high school” or “She needs to stop taking drugs” are goals and outcomes not needs. Perhaps the real unmet need is knowing he can take care of himself, or that she can experience joy. That changes the entire conversation.

Business is all about people too…

The same ideas hold true in business. Every successful product solves a problem by meeting a basic human need. Companies that understand this are able speak to customers directly about why they are in business without becoming trapped in describing  what they do and how they do it. Simon Sinek discusses this in his book, Start With Why. As Marty Cagan says in his great book for product managers, Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love:

“I find it ironic that so many of us in the product world come from science and business oriented backgrounds, yet such a large part of what we do every day is really about emotion and human psychology. Most of us may not think of our job this way, but we should.

People buy and use products largely for emotional reasons. The best marketing people understand this, and the best product people ensure that their products speak to these emotions.

… Once you have clearly identified and prioritized the dominant buying emotions your customers bring to your product, focus on that emotion and ask yourself where else they might be able to get that need met? That’s your real competition. In many cases you’ll find that the competition you should be worrying about is not the startup or big portal that’s after the same thing you are, but rather the offline alternative.”

Apple and eBay

Apple is in the business of empowering individuals. This mindset enabled them to invert the carrier/hardware equation for the entire wireless industry. I recently caught a Harvard Business Review podcast with John Donahue, CEO of eBay. He described the company as being in the business of ‘connecting buyers and sellers’. Each acquisition and product development decision is measured against this simple mission, which clearly describes the basic need the company addresses.

Imagine your company makes electric chairlifts for the elderly living at home. Think how your products and communication would differ with these two perspectives:

The elderly need to get up and down the stairs when their mobility becomes limited.

The elderly need to know they are independent and can stay connected with their family.

In the first case you might talk about the features of the chair, reliability of the motor, ease of installation, etc. In the second scenario I imagine the conversation would be quite different.

If you are not used to thinking of products, and services in terms of the needs they meet, you might want to take a look at this needs inventory courtesy of the Center For Non-Violent Communication.

The idea here is to continually ask yourself, “What need does my business meet? What problem does it solve?” It is  easy to be swept away by particular strategies and technologies. If you lose the human focus you may also lose your customers.

What do you think makes products and businesses successful? Join the conversation!

Tips for Musicians: Creating Great Online Content

Interesting, valuable, content is the heart of communication with fans and followers. Using social media effectively requires planning and commitment.  Here are a few tips to get you going:

Develop an Integrated Strategy

Be realistic about the time you can commit to online communication. Find the right partners to help you. Develop your approach from the Big Ideas that make you unique; the ‘Why’ of you as an artist. Connect your online and offline strategies.

Understand the Tools

Each social media platform and channel (and there are many) has a unique flavor. Your blog is a personal command post, Twitter is a cocktail party, Facebook is like a neighborhood pub, and so forth. Determine where your fans hang out and develop a plan that uses between 2 and 10 different platforms. Don’t overwhelm yourself at first, but make sure you understand how each platform works; it’s strengths and weaknesses. Tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck allow you to manage several communication channels in one dashboard and send Tweets and status updates to multiple services with one click. You can also delay posting times so that you can ‘pre-publish’ outbound communications.

Share Your Passions

So how do you create all this content? Be real, have fun and share your passions. Get a little outrageous and controversial. Your music generates a slew of byproducts that can help you build a community of active fans. If you are a guitar player in search of the ultimate tone, talk about your rig. If you are a foodie that samples every regional cuisine when you’re on the road, share the love. Keep it interesting and surprising. Mix it up; short, long, funny, informational, photos, writing, podcasts, & video.

Listen to Your Audience

Make time every day to listen to your fans. Comment on other blogs. Ask followers what is important to them. Use Google Alerts and Twitter Search to keep track of what people are saying. Google Reader is my tool of choice for following multiple blogs. Most importantly make time every day to thank your fans personally; for a comment, a purchase, for following your blog, Twitter or Facebook feed. If you are a musician you are a fan too. Ask yourself, what would you like to hear from the artists you admire? Make a list and try those things out with your fans.

Create a Publishing Schedule

This seems like a lot of work, right? Well, it is but you can streamline your time management in a number of ways. Set up a regular publishing schedule. Break it down into daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly activities. Tweets and status updates every day; blog posts 3 to 7 times a week; email newsletters monthly, etc. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. You can take one central thing that defines who you are and extrapolate all sorts of shorter pieces of content. For example: the record you just recorded or a tour; you can talk about the songs, the players, the recording process, pictures, videos, and on and on. If you document everything you are doing with pictures, down and dirty videos and recordings you will find that have more content than you know what to do with. Content Rules by marketing gurus Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman is a great book filled with specific ideas and approaches. Music marketing veteran Michael Brandvold has written a great post on managing social media overload. Check it out and add your comments.

Set Goals, Measure & Tweak

Before you jump in, ask yourself why you are doing this and, specifically what do you hope to accomplish? Are you looking for more Facebook followers, email addresses, blog subscriptions, page views, download sales? It takes takes time to get a viral loop spinning. Review your stats and measurements at least once a month to see what’s working, and make adjustments.

And of course, the most important thing is to create extraordinary music.

I hope this helps to get you started developing social media content. Have fun! Please share your successes and tips here. What’s working for you?

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Photo by Jerry Wong