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Why I’m the Marketing Guy and That’s OK.

Marketing is Business

Image courtesy of GapingVoid

I've been an entrepreneur for many years, it's chaotic, hectic, painful, stressful, fun and rewarding - if I'm lucky I might even make some money at it. That's where I'm personally at today, and again it's ok.

After one of those extremely hectic days recently, me and one of my partners decided to grab a drink in the local watering hole where we ran into a local business figurehead who will remain nameless.

It was an interesting exchange since I had met this individual no less than 5 times in past 6 months and was quite quickly forgotten. That's OK as well 🙂 I'm busier on a daily basis than even I can imagine and spend a significant amount of time awake until 2am or 3am on what I like to call my night shift.

Back to the story. After re-introducing himself the light blub then came on and I was greeted with "Oh yeah, you're the marketing guy".

You could call it insecurity (I don't) but I quickly replied that I'm not specifically a marketing guy, although I do believe marketing in new companies and start-ups as a critical element that is quite often overlooked.

Marketing is business, it's how you sell your product and how your clients and prospects feel about you. It's also a way to get the world to know who you are, what you are doing and to create a mindshare with the world-at-large.

It's business, and it's critical to the success or failure of any new venture.

Back to the story: apparently (according to our good friend) I was insecure about my abilities. Which I both found amusing and ridiculous at the same time.

So why tell the story?

I do a hell of a lot more in any given day than marketing. I'm working to make all of my ventures succeed just like any other entrepreneur. I'm doing it without investment, all of my companies are (currently) cash flow positive and growing.

I'm happy with that. Marketing is key to the success of all of the ventures, particularly at the early stages. Marketing is also a whole lot more than some perceived bolt-on that happens after you've figured out financing, an office, a product, a message and a team.

From day one think about your marketing, how the world will see you, what they say and what they will believe about you and your company.

Even more fundamentally it's about who are you selling product to, will they purchase it, what are you saying to sell that product and how do we make these companies viable, profitable and long lasting.

Develop your business plan and execute with those elements front of mind. It will make a world of difference much more quickly than you may realize.

Yup. I'm the Marketing Guy. Hell, I'm the Twitter guy as well. I also get coffee, clean the office, don't take a pay cheque when needed and stay up all night whenever needed. I love it. I'm an entrepreneur and I wouldn't have it any other way (although my wife and family may sometimes disagree!).

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Social Media and Common Sense

I used to live in Vancouver. I lived in Toronto for a bit. I even lived in Europe for a few years. I always find it strikingly interesting when I look at smaller population centres and how business owners, media outlets and others embrace social media marketing channels.

Wednesday January 26 Update: Interestingly enough, whoever is curating the KW Record Facebook page deleted a comment I placed in response to Wayne Gretzky's birthday. All I said was that I wished him a happy birthday and congratulations on  having almost all of his NHL records still standing (only one of 61 has been broken). Hardly a reason to delete a comment on a social network. Clearly common sense isn't a part of this strategic plan.

It's not only fascinating it's almost a sociological case study in real time. Please don't get me wrong, I don't mean to insult anyone who puts hard work into any project, I just wanted to point out what I recently observed from my local newspaper, The Waterloo Region Record.

They're a great publication which I in fact subscribe to locally. I get my paper each and every morning, in fine old pulp format, sip my coffee and browse through the local daily events. Low tech and enjoyable.

Even though I am a subscriber (and often read The Record online) they never made a case to follow their Twitter feed or Facebook page. Gripped with a new found curiosity, I went on a minor hunt and *gasp* I found my friends at The Record both on Twitter and Facebook.

Their Twitter feed wasn't bad. Although alot more could be done with this, they were using it as a news feed. For a newspaper this does makes sense. I wouldn't begrudge them that at all (engagement with readers, authors and peers is always good though).

Feeling a sense of satisfaction and local pride I moved on to the Facebook page and was horrified to find:

KW Record

Oh No. Please Do Not Do This. Ever.

In a state of shock. I tweeted:

Ok. Not the worst "ever". But Still.

To which I received a very nice and measured reply from a representative of The Record, looking for input and suggestions. I found a bit of time to reply to them and I thought it was appropriate and maybe helpful to post my reply here as well.

Hi There,

I made a comment about your facebook presence on Twitter and I have a few suggestions for you:

  1. The attached screenshot illustrates a key problem with the call to action. It is extremely overwhelming - users are saavy enough to understand the "Like" option on facebook at this point. An extremely large, visual call to action is akin to banner ads which would in fact drive users away from engaging with The Record.
  2. I would suggest you remove the banner call to action and make your Wall your default tab when visiting the page. This will make news and communication the primary focal point.
  3. As you are a news organization it might be an idea to incite discussion and engagement through the facebook page. A social network like Facebook is founded on open communication and discussion so reinforcing that is a natural step. News items can always be layered on top with opinion and insight, this is the perfectly natural venue for such communication.
  4. Focusing on engagement as the primary goal through your facebook page I would invite Facebook only editorial content from your readers, reader facebook discussions on hot topics such as the LRT, Municipal spending and similar content. These extremely important local discussions would benefit greatly from an interactive venue such as facebook.
  5. As it seems you're already using Twitter as a 21st century new feed which is fantastic (and extremely appropriate) I would integrate Twiiter as the feed into facebook and augment that feed with user opinion. That would now layer the up to date news (via Twitter) with the quorum you will create on a highly engaged social network like Facebook.

As a subscriber of you newspaper I think the above additions would greatly enhance the local news experience and strongly reinforce the idea of a "local" and engaging newspaper in a growing community.

I'm going to leave this post alone at this point but your comments and input are welcome and in fact encouraged. Am I off base here? Do we all know what we both like and "Like"?

I don't *think* I'm far off base here but then again I've been wrong many times before.

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Ontario Legalizes Online Gambling – Kinda

ontario-government-stupidSo yesterday was an interesting day for me as a resident of Ontario and having been involved in the internet marketing side of online gambling for the past 10 years via clients who operate in the offshore space.

The Province of Ontario and specifically "Premier Dad" or Dalton McGuinty announced that online wagering on Casino, Poker and Sports (via ProLine) will be offered in 2012. Now beyond the fact that I'm 100% sure that the OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming - the overseer of all things gambling in Ontario) will royally screw up the implementation of any online gaming site there is the higher level issues I have with Dalton McGuinty.

Specifically in Ontario:

  1. We're not allowed to host Mixed Martial Arts events - meaning they can't be held in the province. Ed. Note: Yeah I know. *sigh*.
  2. If you're under 22 you can't have a drop of alcohol in your system if you're driving a vehicle. Ed Note: I'm all for this actually let's just make this simple and make it zero tolerance for everyone.
  3. Cigarettes cannot be on display in any convenience store. They have to be covered in these massive grey cabinets, see teenagers are dumb, they even even cover their eyes and when they do they think they disappear.

In Ontario under the McGuinty government we're coddled and treated like morons. I say this as a pretty consistent supporter of the Liberal party - although I would say I'm a fiscal conservative (ie don't waste massive amounts of money) and social liberal (ie universal education for all, public support for the most vulnerable in the community).

Also keep in mind this Ontario Liberal government is scandal plagued. Here are few notable examples:

eHealth Scandal - the Ontario government hired a completely under-qualified Sara Kraemer to digitize all public health records in the province. It's a daunting task and as I predicated when the project was started they screwed it up royally. Not only has nothing been accomplished but there was also a nice contractor scandal to go alongside with it.
OLG Expense Scandal - In Late August 2009 the entire OLG board resigned over inappropriate expenses. Now we're not talking about a cup of coffee, these were ongoing an high ticket price expenses from corporate douche bags that made 6 and 7 figure incomes. Some examples include:

  • gym memberships worth $250
  • Weight Watchers memberships
  • club link golf fees
  • a $1,500 bar tab at a $3,700 dinner for 38 people
  • a $500 nanny fee so that a vice-president member could attend meetings, an amount since repaid

OLG Insider Lottery Wins - yeah you heard me right. If you're from Ontario you know about this scandal but if not then you might need a bit of background. It comes down to people who were selling tickets were claiming their own winning tickets to the tune of $198 Million over a 13 year period. Scandals will hapen, I can imagine that retailers get greedy as they only get a small percentage of sales. But 13 years!?

This basically tells me the OLG is either incompetent and filled with highly paid, bureaucratic, do nothing greedy corporate douche bags or their just as greedy and corrupt as the insiders performing the fraud. Maybe a little from column A and a little from column B.

Learn more about the OLG Insider Lottery Scandal (via CBC News).

Ok, so you might be wondering what my point is here. I'm not simply ranting about the incompetence of my Provincial government or the scandal plagued OLG (or my personal opinion of the agency which as you can tell isn't very high).

I'm saying that:

  1. Legalized and regulated online gaming makes sense - simply put prohibition doesn't work. It's been proven over and over again.
  2. Government run gaming agencies should not be the sole provider of gaming services. It should be a regulated and licensing process to let actual competent organizations run profitable and fair e-gaming websites.
  3. A government monopoly on the egaming space is going to be rife with:
    • Really really bad sports betting lines. This is in the house's favor (obviously) but the lines on ProLine are simply so far out of whack with any other competing lines it's ridiculous. Wanna lose parlays and be offered bad lines? Play ProLine.
    • Poor customer service and not a clue from an operational side what makes an online casino thrive. Frankly they can contract it to a private sector company here in Ontario and they will not know what they're doing either. They simply haven't operated in the space.
    • Online Poker will suffer from a lack of volume (always a problem in the poker space for upstart sites) unless they plug into another network like Cake but they won't and they can't since these operators are currently violating UIEGA and I don't think that is politically correct.
    • Poor security - yeah yeah you're gonna secure it. So was the BCLC with their PlayNow online gaming site.
  4. Create a licensing system and let third parties operate legally in Ontario. Let's not make this yet another LCBO scenario, but who am I kidding I've lived here all my life and I'm predicting it'll never change. This will ensure a legitimate group of operators who will then provide tax revenue to each of the provinces offering their services in that locale.

So for these reasons I wouldn't say that this is a huge revelation or earth shattering event plus any additional revenue garnered by the Ontario government will blown in absolutely ridiculous and ludicrous scandals and programs (all day Kindergarten anyone?)

Stay tuned. I'll definitely be updating this post with any new (and stupid) revelations in the Whacky Wild Dalton McGuinty Gambling Extravaganza!

Update August 12,2010: Looks like the Alberta Government is also seriously considering online gambling offerings. (via The Edmonton Journal)

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Promoting Your Facebook Presence

I’ll bet you have some great Facebook Strategies you’ve implemented like the ideas below. Add a comment below and the best suggestions will be added to this list with a link back to your site.

I know social media marketing is a hot topic these days and there are a lot of companies attempting to get their foot in the door with social networks. The appeal of these networks is incredible, mainly for the viral and exponential nature of the system.

My network is a connected graph with exponential growth possibilities. My 400+ friends all have approximately 350 friends (on average and informally) if any company can get their foot into the door and illicit a response from my friends and their friends then the brand spread and effectiveness of that “sharing” can be astounding.

Does your Social Media Strategy Make Sense?

Social Media Strategies

In addition to that it’s much more than the one way conversation that Television, Radio and even a Landing Page can provide. I get feedback, I gain key influencers, brand advocates and it’s the consumers doing the marketing for me. This dynamic is much more than a shift, it’s a paradigm shift in the way we consumer, promote and self market to each other.

So what does this mean for the average company and internet marketer?

Well to be quite honest it means that you’re not likely doing anything with your social media presence. The fact is that the vast majority of companies out there are not effectively utilizing their Facebook presence.

Having said that I have informally seen a great deal of excellent brand identities on Facebook. I’m also going to ignore some of the more popular examples here like Ford, Starbucks and Heinz.

I’m looking at smaller operations that have actionable changes you can make that will help you make more of your page, presence and ROI. Some of my personal favorites are:

Northern Edge Algonquin Park
Echo Valley Ranch and Spa

Looking at these three, and yes all of them come from my casual usage of Facebook rather than any in depth digging. These are quite simply excellent pages that keep me interested, returning, visiting and interacting. This is isn’t a massive empirical case study, this is me looking at things that just “work”.

Let’s break it down what do these people do that most people do not do on Facebook?

  1. Mention users by name. They thank new members and reference them directly. This is a great way to start a 2 way conversation.
  2. Utilize events. I’m always surprised at how few brands actually maintain the events on their page through the events application. It’s not only a great way to determine participation, it helps to organize the event as well.
  3. Allow user submitted photographs. This is a key for the travel and tourism sector since it’s so applicable but it’s something that many brands can leverage. Think about it, lots of room here for innovative ideas.
  4. Respond to comment threads without sounding impersonal. By actually naming the commentor and responding like a real live human being rather than a 2 dimensional drone then there is a ton of opportunity to interact directly with your users and build strong relationships.
  5. Asking questions. This doesn’t have to be exactly polling per say. Just update the status and ask a question, you might be surprised at what comes out of it, like lots of comments and even more visitors and people interacting with your page which is the goal here.
  6. Exclusive Facebook only Offers. I get alot of grief for ever bringing this up but it’s a key way to get new users. I know you have users on your main domain already, maybe they are members of your facebook presence, maybe not. But do not offer the same thing to both, welcome them to join you on Facebook to become eligible - exclusivity is important, plus joining you doesn’t cost a thing.
  7. Nifty, groovy, neato Facebook applications. Now obviously if you have the budget creating an extremely useful custom Facebook application is preferable here since it makes you stand out from the crowd in a big way but for those on a shoestring budget consider adding even the most simple applications like Social RSS which will automatically post your content from your blog or news site onto your facebook page without human intervention. It’s simpe, it’s free and it keep your content flowing on Facebook. There is nothing worse than a stale page.
  8. Add notes to your Facebook Page. This means unique Facebook only content. Yeah that’s right, only on Facebook. This increases the exclusivity of being a member, if you clone your current efforts then you will severely reduce the attraction and interaction on your page. What is the point after all of having members who do not interact? Nada, zip, zero.
  9. Use videos. Not high production quality videos. I mean grass roots real live videos, simple, fun and engaging. Think about a walk through of your office, handheld videos from events. This is Facebook and Social Media Marketing is not the same as traditional marketing. You don’t need a fancy intro, a bit of camera jiggle is fine and non scripted videos make people like you more, you’re real. You are after all real, aren’t you?
  10. Incite conversation. This means being controversial but not rude. We don’t want to get people angry (unless your goal is to rile people up into action) but you do want to get them talking on a controversial debate. Why not? Play the referee, being on either side of a debate will alienate people to you and we definitely do not want that.

That a pretty basic actionable breakdown of things you can work into your social media marketing strategy without breaking the bank or hiring a team of 10 people to manage. This stuff is easy, so get on out there and start optimizing your own Facebook presence, these actions have a huge ROI and lead to many many good things.

Anything else that I’m certain I’ve missed? I’ll bet you have some great Facebook Strategies you’ve implemented like the above - comment below and the best suggestions will be added to this list with a link back to your site.

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