POV: The keys to winning as a healthy CPG brand…

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With Expo East looming, it got me thinking about what I think makes for a winner brand in the healthy CPG (Consumer Packaged Good) space. Everyone thinks they have the best (or at least a really great) product, or they wouldn’t be grinding it out in this vertical. It is so demanding and defeating, so you need to have the underlying belief that you have the goods and ride that horse until the end of the race. The big differentiators I have found between the winning and losing brands are:

1- Good taste and health profile. I have some clients with products that taste good but have too much sugar or just aren’t really all that healthy or good for you. Then I have others with great labels and concepts, but a product that consumers won’t like or buy (more than once). You sort of need to nail both.

2- Good operators. I am such a believer that you need smart, compassionate and driven leaders (and the team to follow) to win in this game. There are so many layers and paths to navigate and it cannot be a B- player making the calls, especially at the top.

3- Funding. Bottom line is you need the funds to even sit at the table and be able to deal yourself into the game to have a chance to really make it. You cannot get by with minimal cash because you cannot invest in the mission-critical areas needed to succeed. If you are always making “either-or” decisions then you are always leaving opportunity on the table and greatly reducing your chances of coming out on

4- Solid storytelling. You need to be able to story tell and explain your USP’s to make people listen. Then your DTP’s (Describe The Product) need to be tight, concise and believable. So much of this comes down to your social media messaging, execution and ongoing dialogue with consumers. Everyone thinks their baby is the cutest, but most aren’t and/or others wont see it like you do. You need to be able to clearly convey your why (and your why they should care) if you want them to become customers and brand advocates. Your branding, packaging, website, label, POS, and story all lay the foundation. Then how and where you spread those messages around makes a big difference. Underinvesting in any or worse, all of those, will greatly compromise your chances of winning.

5- Grit. Finally, with all of the above in the right place, you need a leader, team, and brand with the grit and willingness to stick it out when times get tough or you suffer major losses or setbacks. They will come, so you need to have the mental fortitude to weather the storm, bounce back quickly and keep plowing forward. This game is not for the weak, trust me on that!

I encourage all players in this space to look inward and figure out if they are lacking in any of these core categories. The good news is that most can be course corrected and adjusted, but only if you stop, breathe, assess, and are honest with yourself. It does require reflection, forward thinking and serious commitment

Most of my clients have some of these attributes in place and a few have them all. An analogy I like to use is that I feel like a High School or College Basketball Coach sometimes. Working with all of my clients is important and meaningful to me, but collaborating with those really special ones that come around more rarely (like a true NBA star in the making) is incredibly rewarding and a lot of fun along the way!

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Don’t sleep on August: Take some time to assess and plan your social media strategy…

On this episode, I talk about the importance of taking some time to plan during August. When many brands and individuals slow down and go quiet, I think it is a smart move to lean in and think strategically. Don’t want until after Labor Day to turn the engines on and make sure you are in full stride come September.

When it comes to your social media strategy:
1- Look around at the competition and see what they are doing when it comes to content, cadence, frequency etc. Most are moving towards less posting and higher quality!

2- Remember Instagram/Facebook followers/fans are irrelevant. It is a paid ecosystem now and the faster you get your head around that, the better off you will be. Allocate a budget, force rank your KPIs and GO!!!

3- To that end, take a look at the Ads others are running! In an effort to be more transparent with users, Facebook rolled out the ability to see all of the Ads a page is running even if you are not the intended target audience. This translates into a very powerful tool for brands to learn more about their competition and vertical and to see what other “best of breed” brands are doing.

Bottomline is that social media is not static and as it pivots, so too should you. Spend some time really investing in understanding what you want to have happen and then deploy social media strategies for the now and the future, rather than holding onto the past. Use August to learn, and attack and thank me in September!

 

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Long on LinkedIn right now…

I am long on LinkedIn right now and I think you should be too. The platform has really evolved, while also staying true to its roots.  After taking body blows for a while, they really hunkered down and fixed a lot of the flaws and I think that people should be leveraging it more.

It has really become a great place to distribute and consume content on a wide range of subjects and it remains the best way to get real context on people you wish to do business with in any capacity.  I can learn so much about those I am engaging with and lean on my own network to help me with introductions, references after the fact and/or research about what makes people tick.

I find that my University of Michigan degree it probably the strongest asset I have when it comes to this. There are just so many people I come in contact with that went there as an undergrad or to The Ross School of Business and Wolverines seem very motivated to help one another. #GoBlue

Second to that, is my reputation in the work that I do. If you are great to collaborate with and put out solid products and services, then people will be inclined to want to put in a good word for you. Remember it is very easy to look you up and see a connection in common, so it is mission critical that when that mutual relationship is contacted, that they endorse you.

“Doing the right thing is always the right thing” (couldn’t agree more @garyvee) and your legacy will matter in the long run and the short term too.  Your actions create a living resume and you want that resume to be stellar!  Act as if…

 

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On supporting retailers with paid social tactics…

On this episode, we talk about the importance of supporting your retail relationships with smart paid social media tactics. Landing a big order with a retailer is awesome, but once there you need to spring into action to make sure you stay there. We have talked about different ways to influence velocity reports before and it is a major factor in a brand’s success.

You cant just post an announcement and then hope and pray. You need to create compelling assets highlighting the partnership, push that content out via paid social and influencer support and create awareness that drives foot traffic into your partner’s store(s).  Plan ahead and have a campaign ready to launch as early as possible to have an immediate impact. Remember it is not about just getting on shelves, it is about staying there!

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On using Twitter Search to your advantage…

On this episode, I talk about using Search.Twitter.com to your advantage more for business. I think brands have given up on Twitter and/or have really demoted it in favor of Instagram (proper and Stories) and Facebook. That is fine, but it most certainly should not be abandoned.

Whether you use it personally or not is irrelevant, what matters is that a ton of people do use it religiously and are often using it to seek information and recommendations about a range of topics. The search feature is incredibly powerful because within seconds you can take a peek at what conversations are happening and chime right in.

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A simple search for “Vegan Protein Powder” will give you a breakdown of all people who are talking about that topic on Twitter. Not only can you find other brands to collaborate with, competitor brands to monitor and influencers to engage as secondary benefits, but more importantly you will find customers looking for advice.

For a brand looking to sell a product online and to introduce something new to a niche market this is everything.  As you can see below, these are three inquiries for recommendations on this exact topic in the past week.

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For me, this is gold. I can easily see who is talking about the itch that my product can scratch and I can chime into the conversation from the comfort of my own home?  Sign me up…

 

 

 

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Facebook Advertising hacks, for April 2018…

On this episode, I talk about Facebook Advertising in April 2018. With all the news and concerns about Facebook as a platform right now, we are seeing some excellent pricing on Ads and really solid metrics across the board.  Our suggestion is to lean in when others seem to be leaning away and reap the benefits.

I break down two types of Ads that are really performing very well right now. One is a Video Views campaign, which is fairly straightforward. Create some simple, but catchy videos and then run them on Facebook with the intent of targeted reach and consumption of that video as the engagement metric. The second is re-targeting users based on having engaged with your Instagram Account. This is no longer new, but I have found it is underutilized by any brand I work or speak with. Some tips:

Head over to the Facebook Ad Manager and go to the ‘Audiences’ tab. Once you’re on the Audiences screen, you’ll need to click the blue ‘Create Audience’ button and select ‘Custom Audience’.

Select ‘Engagement’ from the list of Custom Audience types.

Instagram engagement ads

You can choose to either create your new Custom Audience based on people who have engaged with your Instagram business profile, OR who have watched one of your videos on Instagram!

Instagram business account engagement or video engagement

Choose the ‘Instagram Business Profile’ option to create a re-targeting audience based on people who’ve interacted with your Instagram account. Facebook gives us a range of options to choose from when it comes to targeting our Instagram audience.

You have the choice of creating an audience of Instagram users including:

  • Everyone who engaged with your Instagram profile (this includes visiting your profile OR engaging with your content or ads)
  • Only people who visited your Instagram profile
  • Only people who engaged with your content or ads
  • People who sent a message to your business profile
  • People who saved any of your posts or ads

I suggest you allocate some funds and experiment with all of these to see what works best. If you have spent time developing your Instagram profile and that is where you are seeing the most engagement and awareness, then this is a way to really leverage it across platforms and see additional benefits.  Get involved!

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On trusting your “trainer” when it comes to social media…

I wrote a blog post last year about sometimes feeling like a personal trainer when doing my job as the owner of a Social Media Strategy. The post actually received some positive feedback and I wanted to get into the topic again. On this episode, I took it a bit deeper and added my thoughts via voice which is a more popular format it seems these days. However you choose to consume it, I think it is a simple yet important one to hear.

If you are hiring a trainer for something as serious as your health OR an expert for something as serious as your business’ marketing success, it is imperative to choose a good one and then let them do what they do. Dont second guess or undermine along the way, especially in areas you might not be super well versed in.  Remove the hedge, follow blindly and see what comes from it.

I know for certain it will lead to better results with Sircle Media…

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Instagram POV – Q1 2018

On this episode, I talk about the current state of affairs on Instagram. Organic reach in the feed is way down and brands need to be smarter about how they are adjusting to that fact. Some quick takes:

1- Posting more, is not the answer. In fact, it seems to accelerate the fall off in organic reach and impressions.

2- Stories are the jam. If you want to post more, just post there instead and watch the numbers.

3- Video View campaigns are cheap and effective.

Instagram is the place to be for brands, but the game has changed a bit for sure. Don’t be romantic about what got you here (i.e. Instagram Follower count, measuring likes and comments per post) and instead, go to where things are moving.

 

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POV on Instagram Stories – March 2018

On this episode, I talk about the compelling stats behind Instagram Stories.  Some compelling stats:

- 300 million active daily users

- Over 1/3 of Instagram users are viewing Stories daily

- Snapchat Story views have declined 15-40% since Instagram launched their Stories product

- Major Snapchat influencers are now posting 2x more on Instagram Stories than on Snapchat

- 1 in every 5 organic Stories earns a direct message (proving consumption is happening)

- Daily consumption of Instagram has skyrocketed since the launch of Stories (raising the tide for the whole platform)

If you aren’t taking Stories seriously, you need to recalibrate. This is a real platform in and of itself and should probably be the first focus when using Instagram and not in the second position. Experimenting with organic and paid Stories efforts will prove out the be far more beneficial than sweating the organic reach and like count on each Instagram post. That serves a purpose too, of course, but is less of a driver than before.

Invest in Stories more now and take advantage of the good times, before that starts to change for the worse and they less value. Don’t sit on the sidelines reading yesterday’s news. Grab your phone and start telling your brand’s story…

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On cutting out the term “blasts” from your email strategy…

In this episode, Chris talks about the term email “blasts” and why all marketers need to remove it from their vocabulary.  Not all prospects or customers are the same and many are in different stages of their relationship with your brand or business of course. Therefore, they shouldn’t be spoken to in the same way.

There are lots of different emails that should be in your rotation. Some emails are promotional (though not every promotion makes sense for your entire audience), some are content laden (such as newsletters or ongoings of the business) and some are behavior based in nature (based on a profile, an action or inaction etc.). Within those categories, there are many different variations and messages that should be used. Think about what you would say to each person receiving the email on a one to one basis and attack accordingly.

Email marketing is such an important part of your digital footprint and one that brands have abandoned or even worse, never really invested in the right way. As things evolve and you want to start controlling your own destiny and margins, it is a must-have part of the equation. Thinking about new ways to tactically communicate with your prospects and customers is very rewarding and even enjoyable. Not a blast though – we are not using that term here! ;)

 

 

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