NAVIGATING DIGITIZATION, DIGITAL MARKETING, SALES AND INFLUENCERS

We can hardly venture onto a news or social media platform nowadays without encountering the terms “digitization”, “digital strategy”, “digital marketing”, “influencer” and “influencer marketing”. We are told “this is the future”, “blue chip companies are channeling marketing spend to influencers” and so it carries on? And being inundated with so much information we tend to get confused and hyped up?

Must I climb onto the band wagon and spend less on traditional marketing and more on influencer marketing?

Then we also read newsflashes that say that Instagram changes to the publication of “likes” will affect influencers and on reading the article, the influencers interviewed actually welcome the move!

Yet again we read of an influencer with two million followers who could not sell a mere thirty six T-shirts!

What is Influencer Marketing?

Before we decide to join this “new” marketing approach we need to understand what influencer marketing actually is.

Let’s start at the beginning and “rewind” to days gone by, before the advent of digital marketing.

Then, we had marketers and sales representatives. The marketers focused on trends, content and platforms, as they do today, with the aim of “throwing information out there”. Printed media (newspapers, posters, flyers, billboards), later radio, then television and then the internet were used to promote brand and product awareness.

The marketers were followed up, or rounded off, by sales representatives physically canvassing and visiting prospective and existing customers or clients.

As far as actual success and influence was concerned, if we are completely honest, people took notice of these efforts but could simultaneously be hesitant to react, because one would expect a marketing or sales employee to puff their brand and product? People knew and accepted that these people mostly earned commission on sales turnover, so they obviously would avoid prejudicing their brand or product in any way.

The best marketing and sales tool back then was undisputedly, word of mouth. The endorsement of someone whom you knew and whose judgment you trusted was what got you sold? But given the restricted availability of such endorsements you ultimately had to venture on blind faith in many instances.

With the advent of the digital era and the internet of things, things were bound to change. And they did!

Suddenly a handful of potential solutions were replaced by hundreds, even thousands, and we can literally buy anything from anywhere in the world! So, my acquaintances often don’t have the exposure and experience to provide the word of mouth reassurance that I might need to influence my choice of a specific solution to a specific need.

That is why “review” sites became quite popular: I can go to one of these sites and see what people are saying about a specific manufacturer, distributor, their products and aftersales service.

But this takes a bit of time and effort – visiting sites, reading reviews and trying to sift (sometimes) unreasonably negative comments from the positive and arrive at a decision. Time is one thing that we are short of in contemporary times?

So, enter the Influencer. Put quite simply, an influencer is someone with a following of people (whom they mostly don’t know from a bar of soap), who is admired and trusted by their following, for some or other reason.

Influencer marketing is consequently digital word of mouth endorsement on a much larger scale than traditional word of mouth endorsements. As such it is nothing new, just an old phenomenon in a new presentation!

Should I join the hype?

This question requires a two-legged reply.

In the first instance we have everyday people, some just socially interacting and others aspiring to be influencers. Never mind which, unless you are digitally dumb (no reflection on intellect but referring to merely taking in information and never expressing an opinion by way of “Comment” or “Like”) you are already an influencer!

To become a “professional” influencer will take somewhat more digital clout than mere “Comments” and “Likes”, which can take time to establish and develop.

That being said, it can be very satisfying developing your digital influence and given the importance of a digital presence, I personally believe that everyone should develop their digital sphere of reach, if not influence – go for it.

In the second instance we have businesses considering a shift from the traditional approach to marketing to digital marketing and especially influencer marketing.

With influencer marketing there are many questions one needs to answer for yourself before you hire. What do you hope to achieve? Is your audience a niche or target audience? Will you require a “general” influencer with wide reach or someone with a more targeted following?

There are several other considerations that you will also need to clarify in your own mind before even deciding to hire an influencer. On deciding, you will need to evaluate the specific influencer too, which unfortunately, is easier said than done.

But first a word of caution, before diving headlong into a digital marketing strategy and campaign.

Generational differences, especially, often give rise to the misconception that a digital presence automatically translates to a digital marketing strategy. Any digital marketer knows that the two are linked but essentially differ like night from day.

Going “digital” is not just about having a website nor about placing an ad now and then on your website or some social or professional platform. It is much, much more and this is why so many digital specialists are advocating a “written” and structured digitization strategy.

It requires an analysis of your current business, planning marketing goals, identifying audience or prospective customers and clients, canvassing such, launching content or getting exposure, analyzing response and the ever important return on investment (ROI), to name but a few.

This sounds more overwhelming than it actually is, but without a thorough strategy you will probably be wasting your time and money.

An important question is cost. Depending on strategy, costs will obviously differ.

With the right strategy it can cost from next to nothing or it might cost a considerable amount of money, depending on your choice. Any strategy should be formulated according to the company’s goals, available internal and financial resources and can even be set out in such a way as to increase investment as and when resources permit.

The advantage for any business is that YOU ultimately have the power to decide how far and how fast you need or want to go.

Conclusion

Whether you would like to be more of an influencer in your social sphere or a “professional” influencer, there are certain considerations that you need to clarify for yourself. The same applies to hiring or firing an influencer for your business.

Unfortunately a discussion of these is far too extensive for a mere article and therefor I invite you to download my booklet “NAVIGATING DIGITIZATION, DIGITAL MARKETING, SALES AND INFLUENCERS” on Amazon, get it here.

FOUR PILLARS OF COMMUNICATION

4 PILLARS OF COMMUNICATION LEADERS (AND ANYONE ELSE) NEED TO SUCCEED

The first thing we do at birth, after taking our first breath, is communicate? That first cry is essentially an expression of being. Breathing is a natural and involuntary act, whilst communicating is our very first willed act!

Our options for communicating are initially very limited: crying expressing discomfort or discontent, silence suggesting comfort or contentment and later smiling or giggling to express joy.

As our verbal and non-verbal communication options develop we have more and more need to communicate. We communicate to satisfy basic physical needs, like hunger or thirst, but we also increasingly desire to communicate other needs such as preference, acceptance, dislike, rejection and the most difficult of all – emotions.

Given that communicating is the very first voluntary act that we perform and that it is the primary way of communicating our being, isn’t it strange that we find too many people who aren’t very good at it?

The reasons for this inaptitude towards the foundation of being are many, but primarily the ability is seen as so “natural” that, apart from language training, very few people really focus on how to do it right!

We are apparently expected to work it out for ourselves by taking cognizance of many, many factors such as good manners, cultural and age differences, religious differences, etc. If we are bold enough, have the time and wanted to improve our communication skills, proposed techniques are often so complicated (technical) or diverse (often contradictory) that we tend to give up on them at some point and settle for the status quo.

My submission is that we should use the simple yet proven principles taught to people communicating in arguably the most difficult of circumstances, suicide negotiators, which principles are summarized by the acronym: EAR.

The acronym is quite easy to remember, because apart from speaking, the very basis of communication is listening, actively listening, and therefor EAR is perfectly applicable.

This acronym divides into three pillars:

Empathy

To empathize simply means to put one’s self in someone else’s shoes. This pillar should oscillate between speaker and listener. When speaking you need to empathize with the listener and when listening you need to empathize with the speaker in order to understand and respond effectively. Failure to apply this first pillar will ensure that you hardly ever communicate productively, period.

Acceptance

The pillar of empathy already paves the way for acceptance and acceptance reinforces empathy. Because every person is unique, when communicating you absolutely have to accept that the other person probably differs from you in some or other way. These differences can be minimal or extreme and can vary from gender, persuasion, orientation, religion and culture through to personality differences, not to mention either of the persons communicating being mischievous or just insisting on being stubborn.

Real

Despite our apparent inability to express ourselves effectively, by way of  verbal communication, we often have the ability to sense falsity by interpreting various signals borne out by body language together with verbal expression, especially tone and word choice?

It is an undisputable fact that this ability is heightened in stressful situations where several of the subject’s senses are hyped and consequently the communicator needs to be real or lose any and all credibility immediately on being caught out.

So, I have referred to four pillars and highlighted three?

Reflection

The fourth pillar is a technique rather than a principle, reflection. With this technique we are not only able remove or delay any personal pressure to provide input in any conversation, but to indirectly suggest to the subject person that we understand, that we are on the same page, which is especially important in emotionally charged communication. Isn’t it so much easier communicating with someone who, at least, appears to be on the same proverbial page?

Reflection merely means mirroring the person whom you are speaking with or attempting to speak to. It is especially useful when speaking with someone you don’t know, someone who is emotionally charged or someone reluctant to communicate for some or other reason.

It essentially entails allowing this person to initially direct the conversation by mirroring their expressions (verbal and physical) that you are able to collect and interpret, thus allowing them to expand until you have enough information at your disposal to contribute to a constructive conversation by applying the other three principles.

Conclusion

As a leader, whether in business, some institution or your own home, there are many external pressures that you bear and many expectations that you are required to fulfil on a daily basis and it often seems that you simply don’t have the time to hone basic skills, like communication?

You don’t have the time to do an online course spanning several weeks or to read a book several hundred pages long, to get lost in terminology and definitions only to realize that the proposed solution just doesn’t work for you?

These four principles are simple to remember, easy to practice and on seeing the results you will want to practice them increasingly. You will be surprised how quickly they become part of your “communications repertoire”, increasingly requiring little to no intentional recall to apply. You will also be amazed at the response from your audience(s) whether they be colleagues, superiors, subordinates, friends or family.

You will suddenly be seen to be someone who always and actually does understand and always responds in a fitting and constructive manner, albeit corrective, a capability that we all should appreciate and aspire to?

Furthermore it will add to the wholeness of your being: serving to check unnecessary outbursts, making it easier to initiate and curtail what could be a heated discussion or argument and thus contributing not only to receiving respect and the approval from others, but contributing to an increase of your own self-esteem!  

Given that communication is the second most basic and important expression of being, after breathing, and the positive influence that improved communication skills can have on us personally and those that we necessarily come into contact with every day, shouldn’t we all focus on improving that skill, especially if it is really quite simple to achieve?

Get your copy now for a more complete discussion of these principles with some practical examples here.