Category: business strategy

7 Steps to deal with business uncertainty in this coronavirus crisis

business uncertainty

Uncertainty can be terrifying. And chronic business uncertainty like we’re experiencing now could have toxic implications for your health, mental well-being, and the ability to make the critical decisions you need to make for your career and your family.

As I compose this post in March of 2020, we are in an unknowable, unprecedented situation. The world that we love will come back from the coronavirus crisis — But when? When do we go back to our lives, our jobs, our friends, our schools? And what about the economy?

I’ve been doing Facebook Live sessions with lessons on “Embracing the Chaos” and have also been posting the videos on my YouTube channel. In my last episode, I covered seven practical ideas to deal with uncertainty and put you in the best possible mental state for your life and your business.

1. Be aware of the panic and respond

When we feel anxiety and even panic, your limbic system responds with a knee-jerk fear reaction. This is the same response we have when we jump because we thought a tree root on a forest path was a snake. It’s useful protection for short decisions but toxic if we have to rely on this for days at a time.

People who are good at dealing with uncertainty are wary of the irrational fear that triggers a limbic system response and quell it as it begins to surface. They realize there is no snake in the path.

In this way, they contain a panic response before it spirals out of control.

One of the things that I saw repeatedly in the research about this topic is the therapeutic impact of positive thoughts.

Finding some small thing to stay positive about turns on a different part of your brain. If you stop your brain from being reactive and afraid, you’ll make better decisions.

Positive thoughts quiet fear and irrational thinking.

There is also a lot of research that shows that positivity spreads to other people. So creating positive thoughts in others can suspend that limbic response on a work team.

2. Identify the facts at hand

When uncertainty makes a decision difficult, it’s easy to feel as if everything is uncertain, but that’s hardly ever the case.

People who excel at managing business uncertainty start by taking stock of what they know and what they don’t know and assigning a factor of importance to each.

Dwelling on something impossible — like trying to figure out how long a recession might last — takes away your power to make good decisions.

What are the factors that are unknowable and out of your control? Let them go. Focus on what is certain.

3. Acknowledge that business uncertainty is not a personal failure.

This is a big one for me.

I come from a proud Germanic stock of people who provide and protect.

I realize that could be seen as an old-fashioned notion but hey, centuries of conditioning are hard to un-do. I’d guess that for you, there is probably some little voice inside of you saying “How did I let this happen? Why wasn’t I more prepared?”

Look, I have virtually no business right now and I WAS prepared for something like a recession.

But this level of uncertainty and loss? This is not on me. This is not my fault. And just saying that out loud is empowering … and true.

I have to live in the real world, not be wedded to some historic sense of responsibility right now.

Don’t be afraid to exert self-compassion and say, “Here’s what we don’t know, but we’re going forward based on what we do know. We may make mistakes, but that’s a lot better than standing still.”

The only thing we control in an uncertain world is our response and the decisions we make.

4. Focus on three known priorities 

When I worked in the corporate world, I used to collaborate with a quality control executive. And he was obsessive about getting people to focus on “The Big Three.” Over and over, he would challenge his colleagues to see if they were focused on the three most important things to their role in the business.

Not four. Not 25. Three.

One of my customers sent me a message last week. He said, “Right now in this crisis, I am focusing on conserving cash, responding to customer’s immediate needs, and taking care of my people.”

Those certainly are three critical goals, and the right ones, no matter what uncertainty there is in the world.

How about you? What are your Big Three?

Is it keeping your children comforted and sane in a lock-down? Exploring new business strategies? Committing to a period of wellness and new habits?

Pick three. Focus like a laser. The uncertainty will fade away.

This is liberating because if you try to respond to every distraction you’ll be completely sapped of energy.

By the way, I’m convinced this is a solid business practice at any time. Every decision contains at least a small factor of uncertainty. So focus on the three priorities you can control.

6. Focus on positive actions – even if they are imperfect

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance.

When you focus on actions, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves mental performance.

In the early days of this crisis, I wrote about how I felt disoriented.

Whether I’m writing a blog post, giving a speech, developing a strategy, or writing a book, I’m a teacher. That’s my purpose. And then BOOM! The teaching stopped. All of it.

I spent a few days in a funk trying to determine a new normal. What is my place in this crisis? What is my purpose?

And then it dawned on me that I’m still a teacher. I just need to teach something new.

I can take action to deeply connect to people where they are right now. I can’t be on a stage talking about the Marketing Rebellion, but I can teach through a blog post. I can teach through live streaming and videos. I can help people through personal phone calls.

I didn’t follow a plan, because there is no plan for this. I trusted my gut.

By immediately focusing on positive action — even if it was imperfect — I felt like I had some structure in a universe of uncertainty.

I have not even tried to be perfect. My videos are so plain, and I even had a minor audio problem with a live-stream. But, I showed up. I applied my skills to the situation at hand.

A friend sent me this message after my last video session:

“My personal life has crashed. My business has crashed. My investments have crashed. And I’m in isolation and running out of bourbon. But your words of encouragement on your video saved my day. Never underestimate your impact, sir.”

Yeah. I’m still a teacher dammit.

Taking positive action, even when you’re winging it — and we’re all winging it — provides footing in an uncertain time.

7. Stop asking “What if?”

“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, and there’s no place for them in your thinking once you’re focused on the Big Three and your plan.

The what ifs will answer themselves. You can’t change that. You can’t dwell on the unknown and business uncertainty or you’ll go nuts.

Every now and then my mind wanders back to “what if” because I’m a planner.  But every time my mind goes there I feel stressed, so it has to stop!

The virus is not in your control. Unemployment is not in your control. The economy is not in your control.

What’s in your control are the decisions you make and taking positive actions on those decisions.

Does this help?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post 7 Steps to deal with business uncertainty in this coronavirus crisis appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

The core idea for your business strategy now, in this time of crisis.

business strategy now

I’ve been hosting a series of Facebook Live videos talking about personal and business priorities as we try to embrace the chaos and make sense of this world. Here is the full 30-minute video of my latest, where I discuss the core idea that should be driving every business strategy now.

Below the video is an edited transcript of the discussion (transcription help from the awesome Would love to hear your thoughts, as always my friends.

Edited transcript

I think it’s important to briefly review what I covered on the first episode of this series. We talked about embracing the chaos and how the history of business has been a series of chaotic events. The businesses that survive are the ones that transcend these chaotic times.

We talked about the importance of first embracing the chaos within yourself. You should not feel guilty or ashamed that you’re feeling fearful right now. We’re in a period of grieving. These are legitimate feelings. And that’s the filter we need to use in our businesses right now, too.

We need to connect with people as though they’re grieving, like they are at a funeral. How would you connect with somebody … how would you sell to somebody … if they were at a funeral? You wouldn’t offer them a coupon or a discount.

You would say …

  • “How can I help you right now?”
  • “How can my business serve you at this time?”
  • “How can we help get you through this loss?”

… because there is a lot of tragedy going on and it’s almost overwhelming to hear the stories of my friends and their struggles.

Re-framing and relevance

Another main point I made in the first episode that is key to business strategy now was this idea of reimagining your business offering — In this moment.

I provided examples that showed that whatever was our core competency, our skills, however we served our customers … may not be relevant today.

I gave an example in my own life of how I was doing consulting for a business in Miami.

We had a call scheduled to review a social media strategy. And we never got it scheduled and I asked them what happened. And they said well you know our, our supply chain is up in the air now, we’ve lost 50 percent of our business, and we’re in crisis mode.

So I was relevant to them a week ago. I’m not relevant to this company today.

I have to rethink what I do, and rethink what are my core competencies and be relevant to people in this moment of crisis. We all need to consider these realities.

The priority now

Now let’s talk about this new idea of the number one vision for business strategy now.

Some businesses are going to be doing great in this crisis. Amazon’s going to do fine (they’re hiring 100,000 people!). Walmart’s going to do fine. Almost anybody that’s in the medical business, or if you’re delivering food, you’re probably going to be okay.

But if you’re struggling like most of us, what is the business strategy now?

I want to tell you a story from my past that illustrates this concept very well.

Early in my career, I was a sales leader for a big company called Alcoa. At that time, Alcoa was a Fortune 100 company, a Dow Jones Industrial blue-chip company, and a very well-run company. I had a great experience with my career there and learned from great leaders.

One time when I was a sales manager, we were having terrible quality problems with one of our customers. In fact, it was so bad that we were shutting them down. They were missing their delivery shipments.

And so I had lunch with the president of the company. And I said to him, “We are doing such a bad job for you right now. We’re struggling to keep you supplied. We appreciate that we have 100 percent of your business, but at this point, why aren’t you going to a competitor?

And he said, “Well let me tell you about our history with Alcoa. My company was started by my father. And during World War II, we almost went out of business because the products we made were not relevant anymore during that crisis. We had to retool and reinvent ourselves for the war effort.

“We were running out of cash, we were running out of time. And Alcoa, our aluminum supplier at the time, came to our rescue, and they helped us in this moment of crisis. They helped us retool our plant. They gave us the technical support to pivot in this time. They even helped finance some of the equipment that we needed to survive.

“My father, the person who founded this company, as he was dying in the hospital, said to me, ‘Never leave Alcoa. They brought us to the dance. They made us who we are today.’

“And that’s why we stuck with you, even when we were having hard times.”

That was a very powerful lesson to me. Through generosity in hard times, Alcoa had built loyalty that spanned decades and generations.

The business strategy now

I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. I’m not that kind of person. There’s a lot of “rah-rah” stuff out there about, “don’t be afraid and don’t be frightened and if you’re afraid you’re just playing into the victim mentality.” The fact is, there are people who aren’t going to make it to the other side.

But here’s the opportunity, and here is the vision of this time we’re in for any business. We have to put ourselves in this mindset of fighting to the other side but doing it in a way like Alcoa did.

Fight to the other side, but fight with grace.

We have a choice.

We can be greedy and opportunistic, or we can fight to the other side and do it in a way that’s caring and human-centered, full of compassion and grace to our customers.

That’s what people are going to remember on the other side.

If you want to survive and be stronger and be a leader when things turn around, you’ve got to demonstrate that now. We’re in a crisis and we might be in the fight of our lives. That includes cutting our costs, reserving our cash, reassessing our products. We’re making gut-wrenching personnel decisions.

And we need to think very carefully about our marketing. The research shows in a very compelling way that the companies that thrive and survive in this type of crisis, spend more on marketing. This has been seen across different recessions.

Obviously we’ve never seen anything like what we’re in right now. But if you have a business model that is truly relevant right now, it might be time to double down on your marketing, as we fight hard to make it to the other side.

Not in a way that’s greedy, in a way that is sensitive and appropriate and compassionate.

Fight with grace

I have a friend who has to cancel an event with a big hotel in Chicago. The hotel is holding him to tens of thousands of dollars in cancellation fees and they’re not budging.

Let me tell you something. I’m going to be around after this crisis, and my friend will be around, and that hotel will be around after this crisis, and people like us will never do business with a hotel like that again, right?

So part of the survival strategy is, we’ve got to treat people in a way that will help enable loyalty in the long term, help each other fight to get to the other side, fight to enable undying loyalty right now.

Do the right thing, even if it hurts.

Should we offer discounts as a business strategy now?

This was the main message of my session and then I took some questions.

A friend of mine offered a 95% discount on our Instagram course in Spain and man she has had some nasty comments which I can understand. It just doesn’t seem appropriate right now.

We have to be careful about promoting products and services right now in a way that seems tone-deaf.

I need to emphasize that every single person we are working with is grieving. They are in crisis. I mean it’s unimaginable.

This week I’ve been on the phone almost nonstop, coaching people and lifting them up. There has been a time or two where both of us have been emotional because of the profound suffering and loss that’s going on right now.

Our businesses have to know this reality and can’t be tone-deaf in our marketing or advertising when people are grieving. They may not need a discount or a coupon. They don’t need leadership classes if they are trying to find food for their families in the moment. You must be aligned with the context of this day.

We need to be a real human, and connect where people are right now.

I would also say, let’s show some grace even to the people who are making mistakes. Everybody’s just trying to figure it out and stumble through.

The boilerplate emails

Businesses need to be more human than ever right now. From a communication standpoint, we’ve all had enough to have the boilerplate emails, communicate with empathy kindness, which means telling the truth.

That’s a beautiful sentiment and certainly very true.

One of the things that’s been so interesting for me to observe is how long it is taking for these businesses to adjust. Believe it or not, this morning. I saw an ad for a company that will like help you create your fantasy baseball team. I mean dude … Baseball was canceled a week ago.

That doesn’t help.

You know, and the thing is puzzling to me. It doesn’t take much effort to turn off ads. I mean really, I just can’t think of a scenario where you would somehow be encumbered, or committed in a way that you can’t turn off ads.

I think it’s more important to be sensitive than to commit these dollars when your advertising is tone-deaf.

The test of culture

We are fighting hard in Scotland UK getting our people to change pace and it is challenging. Why won’t these people change when they see what is going on?

I see this in every kind of business  — they are locked into the old way of doing business … even in the good times, right?

Sell, sell, sell, even at the expense of relationships or common sense. Always be closing. Abuse the customer with spam and robo-calls.

Marketing and advertising and doing public relations in ways that aren’t relevant to the way our customers connect to the world today was the norm even before this crisis.

I think this time will be a true test of the corporate culture. You know, every company says “customers are the heart of our business.”

Really? Let’s see what happens when times are this hard.

If you’re opportunistic and greedy and tone-deaf, people are going to remember that we are not going to be doing business with those companies when we get to the other side.

Is it appropriate to use humor now?

What do you think about companies using humor with their staff to get through this period?

I think that’s an important part of being a leader right now.

The number one thing we need to keep in our minds is that great leaders dispense hope.

When I was in the corporate world, the president of our company had only thing on his desk — a little sign that said “leaders dispense hope.”

When you get right down to it, in terms of transparency, in terms of effective communication, in terms of you know how you’re connecting to people — even in a virtual world right now — it really gets down to dispensing hope.

And I think one of the important things we can do right now is to use humor.

There are a lot of positive physical and psychological benefits to humor that we, we need right now. We need to make humor a part of our lives every single day and I think it’s not just a part of lifting people up psychologically. I think that’s an important part of leadership.

Should I offer my services for free?

I see many people offering free services and some say you should actually not start discounting your services. Hurts you in the long term. What’s the best course of action?

I received an email request yesterday from someone doing a roundup blog post and the question was something like this, “should businesses continue their Facebook advertising?”

This is an impossible question. The answer to every marketing question is, “It depends.”

There’s never a cookie-cutter answer that fits everybody when it comes to marketing. Everything depends on your business, position in your industry, customers, strategy, etc.

I want you to run your businesses in the world that IS, not the world that we wish it to be. And the world is crappy right now.

But the research shows that the companies that make it to the other end do spend more on marketing right now. Maybe that means advertising, maybe that means discounts.

As a small business owner, I’m cutting to the bone. I have to reserve cash to make it to the other side. I’ve had some of my key business partners offer to change contracts or ignore them. They’ve been very understanding and helpful.

And you know what, they will be the first companies I come back to when things return to normal. They are the companies I will be talking about for years.

The last thing I can say about business strategy now is, just be incredibly emotionally intelligent and think about your customers in the context of this moment.

Let’s embrace the chaos together as we plot our business strategy now!

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post The core idea for your business strategy now, in this time of crisis. appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

Why you need to have a focus on focus

focus never ends

I serve on the advisory board of a tech startup in New York and was reminded of a great lesson about focus at our last meeting.

The company leaders were being pulled in several new directions — it’s hard to say “no” to revenue — but these activities threatened the core focus of the young company.

“Focus never ends,” advised my friend Rachel Orston, CEO of UserIQ. “Sometimes you need to burn the boats.”

This reference to focusing on the future without an escape plan was exactly the right advice and it served as a good reminder to us all. We can’t lose our focus on focus.

Un-focus for the fail

Some of the most heart-breaking business failures I’ve witnessed were due to an inability to focus.

Early in my consulting career, I worked with an extraordinarily talented young man. There was no question in my mind he could make it as an entrepreneur with his determination and skill. I helped him plot an excellent marketing strategy and it rapidly took root.

But every time I visited with him, he had twisted away from the core strategy, chasing some shiny red ball. To him, there was no bad idea and absorbed any suggestion that was thrown at him. Soon, he was wasting his time and money on a dozen different things that took him away from the core strategy. It was chaos. 

I did what I could to reign him in but in a short period of time, he was just flailing about again. Within a year he had crashed, burned and was selling used cars.

Stick to the plan



On a much smaller scale, I had worked with my friend John Espirian on a plan to become known, following the principles of my book. He had identified his story (or place) and was creating new value through a regular subscription newsletter.

Because he was focused and constantly improving on his new plan, John saw steady success and in fact it changed his fortunes in short order.

But then he was offered an opportunity to take over an established podcast. Were there enough hours in a day for him to stay on the current plan and take on a new content venture?

If you’re a small business with limited resources, my advice through the KNOWN book is to pick one content source — written, video, audio, or visual — and stick to it for 18 months. That gives you enough time to establish a competency and an audience. 

Taking on a podcast would mean abandoning this discipline and jeopardizing the plan. In Rachel’s words, John needed to “burn the boat” — get rid of the opportunity and never look back. He listened to my advice and his business is thriving.

Focus on focus

In these two examples, we see how large and small distractions can threaten a business.

I’ve also written about how discipline and focus are the keys to unleashing creativity and new content ideas. 

Of course there might come a time to pivot or even quit but those decisions have to be made knowing that you gave a solid effort and did your best to execute on a focused plan.

Keynote speaker Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of

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Why “resonance” is the future of SEO

future of seo

One of the problems in the digital marketing world today is that leaders are using an outdated playbook — especially when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. I think the future of SEO is taking some pretty wild and unexpected turns right now so let’s explore that today.

Content as SEO fuel

The major innovation with SEO over the past few years is that it has largely become a content strategy. Beginning with the “inbound marketing” concept introduced by Hubspot in 2005 and growing into very sophisticated AI-driven techniques today, creating content that can auto-magically bring qualified leads to your site has been a reliable strategy.

But there are a few trends that are changing that and content certainly does not work for SEO like it used to. The future of SEO is moving in a dramatic new direction.

The changing search landscape

Let’s look at the future of SEO and content as it is unveiling itself through three significant trends.

First — voice search. When you search Alexa or Google home by verbalizing a question, you don’t get a list of content sugestions like blog posts or videos. You get an answer. So content has a much-diminished impact in the world of voice search.

It’s impossible to tell exactly how much of the total search pie is going to voice queries, but let’s be ultra-conservative and say 20 percent.

future of seo

When you ask Alexa or Siri to do something for you, you normally don’t get a list of blog posts or podcast episodes in the results. So the implication is that your content is potentially impacting much less of the search market than it did in the pre-voice days five years ago. But wait, it gets worse.

Trend number two — Last month, something very significant happened in the search world. For the first time, more than half (51 percent) of the search inquiries on Google were kept by Google. This means, Google kept the SEO “answers” away from businesses and content creators and directed them to their own knowledge panels, internal properties, and paid partnerships.

Will this continue to grow in the Google direction? The government will have some say over this. Google’s increasing dominance in this space is a subject of a Department of Justice probe. The company owns the dominant tool at every link in the complex chain between online publishers and advertisers, giving it unique power over the monetization of digital content.

So now we have a truer picture of the emerging search world. In the past five years, the majority of organic search traffic that was available to be attracted by your content has been in steady decline.

future of seo content in decline

The main idea here is, the available search inquiries that can be served by your SEO-oriented content has been evaporating over the past five years.

And when we look at the future of SEO … it gets even worse.

Trend three — While the piece of the pie available to organic search inquiries has been in rapid decline, the amount of content competing for that shrinking pie has literally exploded.

When you have more and more content competing for the same search traffic, eventually content marketing is not a sustainable strategy for some businesses. This is an idea I proposed some years ago called Content Shock.

future of seo content shock

This graph from WordPress shows the number of blog posts published each month since the beginning of the content marketing era. You don’t have to be a statistician to realize it’s harder to compete for attention in a world of 80 million blog posts every month compared to one million a month 10 years ago. In fact, your competition has increased by 8,000 percent in a few years. A tough world for an inbound marketer!

Of course, the same thing is happening on podcasts, visual content, and video (there are 300 hours of new video uploaded to YouTube every minute of the day!).

To break through in this environment, you need to either spend more money on quality to win the content arms race or spend more to promote your content. Either way, traditional content marketing becomes more expensive and less accessible for many businesses in this environment.

So is this the end of content marketing?


We just need to think about content and its benefits in an entirely different way.

SEO and the junkyard dogs

I was recently hired by a company in Seattle to conduct a personal branding workshop based on my book KNOWN.

When you think about it, this was an extremely unlikely pairing. If you search for “personal branding consultant,” there are 40 million results. Even if you search for “personal branding consultant Seattle” there are 2.1 million results.

I am not in those top search results. Not even close.

This is not an unusual situation for a small business. I am NEVER going to be in the top search results. Really, the only thing that matters is the top three slots. The top three slots will be won by the biggest, meanest, richest SEO junkyard dogs.

It’s an expensive and never-ending battle that I will never win for terms like “digital marketing consultant,” “marketing strategy, “keynote speaker,” or any of the other jobs that I do.

Chances are, unless you’re the junkyard dog in your industry, you won’t win your SEO battle either. And yet, every company I know is pouring money into content trying to win the SEO battle!

This just makes no sense.

But here I was in Seattle, conducting an awesome workshop. How did my client find me in all this hopeless SEO mess? Through my content. But not through search.

The business case for resonance

The night before my workshop, I had a wonderful seafood dinner with my client. I asked my friend … “Why did you hire me?”

“Your content resonates with me,” he said without hesitation.

Isn’t that an interesting word … resonates.

My content was not at the top of an SEO stack for personal branding. I’m certainly not going to make the Alexa hit parade.

But a person who hired me for this important work chose me because there was an emotional connection that resonated with him on a personal and professional level.

This reveals a more practical and realistic value of content in this competitive environment, and a value that is almost entirely overlooked by marketers today.

At this point, I would like to interrupt myself. Whenever I write a mega-trend blog post like this, I am pointing out an idea that is very broad … and it may not apply to everybody. There certainly is still room today for SEO-driven content, and there always will be as far out into the future as I can see. The numbers I’ve presented here are high level. The true search volume for your industry could result in mostly organic results, especially in smaller niche markets.

The answer to every marketing question is, “it depends,” and that is certainly true here.

But overall, SEO-driven content is probably working less well for most businesses and content that attracts customers due to its authority is becoming more important.

Content and authority

So there are really two basic content strategies you can use to win new business: Content meant to win SEO and content meant to earn authority (content that resonates with readers). And of course, you can have overlap between these strategies:

future of seo

I won the business in Seattle — against all SEO odds — because I ignored SEO. I write for my readers. If I do that well and consistently, I’ll earn subscribers. Eventually, these subscribers will grow to know me, trust me and hire me. I think that is the future of SEO, which is really not SEO at all!

It’s a different way to look at content strategy but for 90 percent of the businesses out there who will never win the SEO battle, content built on authority might be the best and only strategic option.

I’m not creating content to trick you into clicking a link. I am creating content that consistently connects with your hopes and dreams and business needs. I’m building a long-term connection that resonates.

Make sense?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy 

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Why you really should care and optimize for voice search now

optimize for voice search

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

As a digital content creator, I’m using my hands a lot.

Typing stories, writing articles for big marketing blogs, drawing digital artwork for myself and clients while playing games on Steam in-between.

It’s fun unless it hurts.

Hand strain is a growing issue. I know artist friends who had to quit their creative work for months because they hands need bandages and medical treatment. So to ease the strain on my hands, I’ve been outsourcing many online requests to my voice.

I don’t know about Windows users, but voice search on my iMac works pretty well on the Mojave OS and helps me find every app with ease.

And to no one’s surprise, voice search is not only a blessing for German digital artists un-straining their hands. It’s a growing global trend.

Why? A couple of observations and innovations shows us why voice is becoming more important and it’s time to optimize for voice search:

Smart tech needs your voice

I’d never put a smart speaker in my four walls, but then again, I also said I’d never disclose my credit card details on a website. Ehem.

Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s HomePod and Google’s Home are just a handful of smart speakers in the ever-increasing market. And they all use your voice search to function.

Now you might say smart speakers are still too niche to be relevant, but smartphones surely aren’t.

According to Google, 27% of the global online population is using voice search on mobile.

Back in good old 2016, it was ‘just’ 20% on the Google app, so the increase is steady.

Voice search is so freaking easy

Seriously, what’s more convenient when you’re walking down the street in the cold, looking for the nearest subway station–typing the query on the mini-keyboard or simply ‘asking’ your phone?

When the answer is just one question away, we always pick the lazy option.

Even my cousin, who didn’t use a PC until her mid-twenties, is now a zmombie (German slang for smartphone junkies), using voice search when looking for the nearest restaurant.

According to Google, searches for “near me” business have increased by 500% from 2015 to 2017. These were mostly mobile searches with variants of “can I buy” or “to buy”.

So if your business relies on local customers finding you, and you’re NOT optimizing for voice search…well, you better stop reading this post and wait until CD Walkmen become a thing again.

How to optimize for voice search:

I’m diving deeper into the topic myself. These are the current to-do’s, which keep evolving.

Using casual and ‘human’ language
Writing like you speak has been a trend in writing for years, also thanks to the explosive popularity of podcasts and services like Audible. But since voice search is basically a simple dialogue, you need to keep honing your natural language.

Targeting question keywords. This seems like a d’uh moment, but voice search obviously contains a lot of questions. If you want to know who Facebook’s current CFO is, using your keyboard, you’d probably type in: CFO Facebook

Via voice search, however, you’d say: Who is Facebook’s CFO?
So including “how, what, when, why, where” in your keywords makes sense.

Filler words should also be included in questions. They make the requests more conversational. Some filler words are “I, the, of the, on the, to, for,” etc.

Another no-brainer is to make sure your contact info, address and opening hours are up-to-date. But honestly, that counts for every business, regardless of whether they want to optimize for voice search or not.

The traditional SEO principles still apply, so you want to rank well on search engine result pages, making sure you rock your domain authority.

Speaking of which, if you want to check your domain authority, you can try Moz’s free domain SEO analysis tool.


Optimizing for voice isn’t a fad like hip social networking apps that come and go. Remember Meerkat?

Voice recognition, while still acting clunky especially if you use English as a non-native speaker like me, continues to grow. Tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple improve their algorithms to be more accurate in detecting languages and accents.

And while voice search is essential for local businesses, I still don’t know how it’s going to convert into sales if you’re a global content creator like me. But hey, we’ll see.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

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The small business marketing formula to dominate your niche

small business marketing Tracey Matney

Since I wrote an article on small business marketing, I decided to ask my friends to help me out with entrepreneurial photos to “decorate the post.” Have fun on this crowd-sourced post as you see some of my entrepreneur friends in action, starting above with Tracey Matney!

A few years ago, I interviewed a researcher in New York about the most significant marketing mega-trends. Chief on her list was that the most effective marketing was becoming “artisanal,” meaning that it had to be local, conversational, and connected to an individual or community.

I asked her, “How will giant brands like airlines and car companies survive in this environment?”

She thought for a long moment and said, “I don’t know.”

The future favors the small

I believe that small business owners (like rising star Valentina Escobar-Gonzalez) are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the marketing rebellion before us.

Here’s an interesting thing to consider. If you list every negative trend in the general marketing world, you’ll see why big businesses are hurting and small businesses are positioned to win:

  • People are not seeing big-budget broadcast advertising. Ad-free subscription services like Spotify and Netflix dominate our attention.
  • Major digital advertising programs are jeopardized by new privacy laws and moves by Google and others to end the use of cookies.
  • Ruthless cheaters with unfettered access to our customers flood the market with cheap knock-offs, threatening the biggest companies and their hard-won national brands.

Now let’s look at some of the most important marketing trends driving success today:

  • People don’t believe ads and company spin. They believe business owners, entrepreneurs, and technical experts (like Karima-Catherine Goundiam).

  • Increasingly the personal brand Is the company brand as people seek an organic personal connection to the companies they love. You probably love and admire a business owner in your community. Who do you love at Verizon, for example?
  • Big companies can’t plaster billboards around a city touting how involved they are in the community. We want people to show up. You can no longer just be “in” a city, you have to be “of” the city.
  • Direct-to-consumer online models have disintermediated the advantage of shopping mall scale.
  • Platforms like Shopify, Etsy, and eBay are opening up global commerce for even the smallest businesses.

This is why I’m so bullish on the potential for small business marketing success in this era. Every important business trend seems to be tipping their way, at least to those who really understand what’s going on in this dramatic Marketing Rebellion.

Small business on the rise

small business marketing

Kelly Baader shows us a path toward human-centered marketing.

A study found that more than $17 billion in consumer product goods (CPG) industry sales have shifted from large players to small ones since 2013!

Sales among “extra small” brands — those generating annual sales under $100 million — rose 4.9 percent, the fastest-growing CPG segment, according to market research firm IRI.

In contrast, large players saw their combined market share drop to 55.5 percent, from 57.7 percent, during the same period.

Let’s go back to that question I asked at the top of the post … “How will big brands survive in this consumer rebellion?”

The expert didn’t know at the time, but an answer is emerging. The big companies know they can’t adjust and are snapping up the smaller “artisanal brands” at a rapid rate. If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em.

A few examples:

Of course, this is also good news for small company founders who newly-minted millionaires!

The small business marketing formula

There are lots of ideas for small businesses in the Marketing Rebellion book but if I were a small business owner (wait … I am!) here are the key small business marketing ideas to focus on:

1. The customer is the marketer

Two-thirds of our marketing is occurring without us.

How do we get invited into the online and offline stories being told by our best customers? How do we help them do their job? Make the customer the hero of your marketing.

How do we create something so unmissable, cool and conversational that people cannot wait to talk about us and carry the story forward?

2. Show up

People don’t want to see photos of your president handing a check to the United Way. They want to see you involved in the community.

Don’t just lend a hand. be the hand. This is hard for the big companies to pull off so get out there and show your community love. Show up where your customers want to find you. Let them see how you care.

3. Be the brand

For a small business, the founder is normally the face of the company. This is a huge advantage in this marketing environment.

Great branding means building an emotional connection between what you do and your customers. Increasingly, that is a person, not a coupon or a product attribute.

Jon Ferrara, pictured here, is a role model for this idea. Jon is so gracious, generous, and accessible, that you can’t help but love his company, Nimble, because you simply love him. In everything he does, Jon puts his family, customers, and employees before his own interests.

My book KNOWN teaches you how to build a strong personal brand in the digital age. This is an essential tactic in the Marketing Rebellion era!

4. Engineer “peak moments”

Build exciting, unexpected delights into mundane customer interactions. When you give people something to talk about, they will.

Jessika Phillips — that’s her in the blue suit in the front — engineers peak moments into every customer engagement and event. Somehow she has made Lima, Ohio, the summertime epicenter of the social media marketing world through her fun and inspiring event.

She creates so much positive buzz that people can’t wait to attend or speak there. The customer is the marketer!

Think about how you can build peak moments into every customer touchpoint.

5. Bring people together

In the end, The Most Human Company Wins™

How does a small business do that?

By showing your face, your smile, your heart, and passion at every opportunity. One of the best ways to do this is to bring people together. Celebrate something. Teach something. Connect people and let them see how amazing you and your employees are!

Julia Bramble, shown here, is becoming an evangelist for helping people “belong” as part of a marketing strategy. Obviously I agree with her. I think it is one of the most powerful things we can do!

There has probably been no better time in the history of the world to start a business. Small business marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just focus on one thing: Be the most human company in your niche.

Make sense?

That is the end of my post. But let’s keep going with my cool entrepreneurial friend photos. Every one of them is trying to make a dent in the world! 

small business marketing

small business marketing small business marketing small business marketing small business marketing

small business marketing

small business marketing

small business marketing

Keynote speaker Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.


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The cookies must die.


There are about 615 million devices in the world using ad blockers. This easily represents the biggest civil rebellion in the history of the world. In a loud, clear chorus, our customers are saying “stop interrupting me with these ads.”

The ad industry’s response has been to try to get around these ad blockers and show people more ads. Which, is the dumbest possible response.

As I was doing research for my book Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, it dawned on me that consumers have been in rebellion against marketers for more than 100 years.

I thought it was poignant that the first TV remote was invented in 1950.  As soon as there were TV ads, there was a device invented to get around them!

Here’s the lesson we can learn from the history of marketing. The consumers always win. Always.

And the latest battleground is cookies.

Cookies must die

In the digital world, cookies are small pieces of data sent by a website and stored on the user’s computer by their web browser to perform many essential functions. They can be used to verify the account a user is logged in with, record the webpages a user has visited, compile long-term records of a user’s browsing history, and build up a profile of our customer’s interests, preferences, and habits.

Cookies have become the backbone of the digital marketing and advertising industry, enabling tactics like targeting, retargeting, behavioral marketing, programmatic advertising, and much more.

Studies show that ad targeting has been worth more than $25 billion by allowing advertising to more effectively reach relevant (usually) consumers. Many of my customers and personal friends have built their entire companies through the benefit of cookies.

Undeniably, ads that follow you around the web have created a powerful economic engine.

But they also creep people out.

And these spooked consumers have said “no.”

The U.S. Congress, the European Union, the California attorney general and dozens of state governments have said that the cookie-based digital economy cannot stand as-is. This is a violent disruption to our world of eCommerce, much like the rebellion we saw with the ad blockers.

Resistance is futile.

Recovering from the cookies

Last week Google sent shock waves across the industry when it faced reality and announced it would phase out third-party cookies for Chrome over the next two years. This, of course, followed announcements by Apple, Firefox and others.

A post-cookie economy will cause a lot of heartache to retailers and perhaps destroy some business models. As panic sets in, there will be efforts to fight against the changes, or at least find ways to get around them.

Predictably, the advertising trade organizations went ballistic.

“Google’s decision to block third-party cookies in Chrome could have major competitive impacts for digital businesses, consumer services, and technological innovation,” Dan Jaffe, group EVP of government relations at the Association of National Advertiser, and Dick O’Brien, who has the same title at the 4A’s, said in a joint statement shared with Marketing Dive.

“It would threaten to substantially disrupt much of the infrastructure of today’s internet without providing any viable alternative, and it may choke off the economic oxygen from advertising that startups and emerging companies need to survive,” they wrote.

Once again, fighting to keep something in place that consumers hate is an understandable but short-sighted response. It delays the inevitable. The consumers will eventually win.

One possible alternative to cookies is contextual targeting. But if this becomes another way to abuse consumer privacy, we’re just going down another hole that will eventually be legislated away.

We have to get ahead of the curve and learn to go to market in a way that not only respects privacy but helps guarantee it.

We will figure it out.

We’ve all been down this road of disruption before.

I was in a marketing leadership position with a Fortune 100 company the first time the internet dramatically rocked my business world.

I was responsible for selling huge volumes of packaging products to beverage companies such as Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, and Coors. These contracts ran into the billions of dollars and the high-stake negotiations could run for 12 months or more.

All that went away in a single day.

In the early days of the internet, our customers started using reverse auctions (also called Dutch auctions).

All of the packaging suppliers would log into the same computer account and place their bids for the annual contract. There was complete transparency. Everyone could see every other company’s bids. And then we watched the price drop like a rock as competitors lowered their bids, minute-by-minute.

Competitive and panicked sales managers countered with desperately low prices as the clock ticked down — an emotional reaction as their high-volume business evaporated in the closing seconds. In a span of 20 minutes — not months of negotiations — an entire annual contract was completed before our disbelieving eyes.

A century-old business model had been disrupted. Sales and marketing in our industry had been re-invented. I literally didn’t know how we could stay in business under those conditions. Maybe that’s how you’re feeling now with the Google announcement.

But we did stay in business. Eventually, we transcended the chaos and adjusted to a new reality. And that’s the way it’s been with every business disruption in the history of the world.

The consumers always win

The lesson is, the best marketers need to get ahead of the consumer curve. The consumer rebellions always win, so stop doing what people hate.


Robo-calls? Stop it.

Piles of unwanted direct mail litter? Stop it.

Lead nurturing (a friendly way to say you’re spamming people until they block you). Stop it.

And cookies? Well, our customers generally don’t want to be creeped out and tracked anymore.

So we’re going to have to stop that too. It may seem impossible, but we will find alternatives.

The new mindset

I recently wrote that the new marketing mindset must move from “change our customers” to “come alongside our customers.”

Today’s customer possesses the accumulated knowledge of the human race in the palm of their hand. We should trust that they can make their own decisions.

So let’s find a way to come alongside them and help them have a life that is meaningful, healthier, more profitable, less stressful, more fun, awe-filled, adventurous, delicious, loving, joyful, and beautiful.

There are lots of ways to do that without violating the privacy of our customers and angering them. Just watch.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of

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Why branding is rooted in evolution. We brand to survive.

brand to survive

By Evelyn Starr, {grow} Community Member

In Mark Schaefer’s book Marketing Rebellion, he states that consumers are now in control of brands and that this is the new order of marketing.

From an industry standpoint, this is certainly an unsettling new order!

But from consumers’ point of view, nothing has changed.

The disparity between the industry’s “a-brand-is-what-we-say-it-is” perspective and consumers’ true perception of a brand comes from the industry’s misunderstanding of how brands form in the minds of consumers.

Let’s explore that today.

The changing idea of “brand”

Marketers have long thought of “brand” in the cattle-marking sense. We are marking this entity in the manner we want you to see it.

Marketers rationalized that consistent marking and repeated impressions over time would make their conception of the brand actually become the brand in consumers’ minds.

The problem is that companies were only factoring their one-way communication into consumers’ image of a brand.

How brands form today

Consumers – humans – are wired for survival.

From our earliest days we’ve had to make decisions to keep ourselves alive.

Our early decisions included whether an encountered animal was a predator or prey. We used our past experiences and those we gleaned from others to categorize animals in our minds so we knew quickly whether to flee to safety or to pursue dinner.

Today’s challenges are less about bodily threats, and more focused on managing the thousands of messages that come our way each day.

We don’t have time to consider each message anew.

Instead, we do what we have always done – we accumulate experiences with an entity to formulate an image that helps us decide quickly whether we want to give our attention to that entity or not.

We brand to survive.

A sum of experiences

This is how brands form in consumers’ minds. They are the sum of all the experiences the consumer has had with the brand.

Some of those experiences are marketing messages from the company. But many experiences occur without the company’s knowledge.

Product usage experiences at home, out-of-stock situations in store, tales of good or bad experiences with the brand from friends, experiences working for the company…these and more get stored in the folder marked for that brand in that consumer’s mind.

Coca Cola’s Brand Image in Advertising and in Reality

In Mark’s recent post about the idea of brand, he featured an 1890 Coca Cola ad where the company portrayed the brand as sophisticated, youthful and vigorous.

brand to suvive coke

By the 1950s, Coca Cola was still promoting those attributes in campaigns with the taglines “Almost everyone appreciates the best” and “Sign of good taste”.

My father worked for Coca Cola in New York City for two short stints in the late 1950s.

In June 1958 he was one of many college students Coca Cola hired for long shifts stacking bottles as they came off the line. The company paid overtime, welcome extra funds to college students.

The second stint was after he got out of the army in December 1959. The company paid overtime then too, and honored his union card meaning he got paid for the December holidays though he only worked a few days.

My father felt grateful to Coca Cola for the opportunity to earn much needed money. The jobs proved to be fun because the young people working there enjoyed being together.

My father’s brand image of Coca Cola is generous, fun and youthful from his experience working for the company. Not sophisticated though as the ads were saying.

When I was a child, Coca Cola was saying it wanted to teach the world to sing. Still a youthful and vigorous portrayal of the brand, though perhaps less sophisticated.

My parents did not keep Coca Cola in the house, however. My mother was health conscious before it was fashionable and did not want us to have the sugary drink.

My brand image of Coca Cola was that despite catchy TV commercials the product was not good for you.

As you can see, Coca Cola’s image in my mind and in my father’s mind came more from our experiences than from messages the company conveyed. We made choices about the brand and talked about it from our own perspective.

We controlled the Coca Cola brand in our lives.

Consumers Brand to Survive Every Day

According to Beverage Industry magazine, in 2018 the top 100 beverage companies accounted for 221 products in 15 different categories.

No matter which beverage category we want, we are still deciding among several brands.

And this is just a beverage choice.

We make hundreds of product and brand choices daily.

That is why we brand to survive.

We use our past experiences to shortcut the consideration process and decide quickly so we can move on with our lives.

Social media wake up call

Before the internet, we mostly kept our brand experiences to ourselves. Maybe we told a few people in our innermost circles.

Only a few souls were motivated to complain or compliment the brand wrote or called the company. Once the internet arrived, a few more emailed companies their thoughts.

Then came social media.

In the mid-2000s as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube launched, marketers discovered that not only could they advertise there, but consumers could express their feelings and share their experiences with brands there.

Suddenly consumers had the same kind of broad media platform that brands had enjoyed for years.

Social media reversed the communication flow of brand messages and turbocharged it.

Marketers felt like consumers had wrested control of their brands from them as thousands of consumer brand messages flew at them on social media, dominating conversation about their brand.

But what really happened is that they were finally privy to consumer conversations that happened in private before but now happened in public with a megaphone.

What does brand to survive mean for marketers?

Marketing isn’t going to override thousands of years of human evolution. Consumers’ branding-to-survive modus operandi is the reality that companies must face.

With social media, companies can’t feign ignorance and risk flak for disingenuous, inauthentic or inappropriate messaging, as Peloton learned recently.

The way to cope is to switch marketing’s focus from messaging to experience.

Every brand experience matters. Brands are constantly evolving in consumers’ minds. Recent experiences can loom large.

Marketers should be listening to customers via all channels available to them – social media, customer service lines, in-store, website help chats, market research – to understand their brand’s current image from the customer’s point of view.

With a benchmarked starting point, marketers need to articulate what they want the brand experience and image to be and then map a course to get there.

The course reaches beyond the marketing department into all areas of the business. Employees’ experience with the brand and how they talk about it is a significant contributor to brand image. Same for partners, vendors, anyone who comes in contact with the brand.

Even with perfect execution, you can’t control your brand. With careful execution you can influence it though and also build much goodwill that can buffer some less-than-ideal experiences.

If this effort seems daunting, remember that the humanity that causes consumers to brand also promotes understanding, forgiveness and enthusiasm.

Working toward exceptional brand experiences can be rewarding and give your brand a true competitive advantage.

Maybe it can even teach the world to sing!

Evelyn Starr is a brand strategist, writer and Founder & CEO of E. Starr Associates which specializes in marketing help for brands in adolescence, brands that have stalled after their initial success. Connect with Evelyn on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Illustration courtesy

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The surprising math behind a growing social media community

growing social media community

I often get asked about the art and science of building a healthy and growing social media community and today I’d like to introduce an unusual concept — the surprising math behind building your online tribe.

Here’s an example to illustrate the lesson for today …

Let’s say you’re having wonderful success building a growing social media community, whether that means a blog, YouTube channel, or Facebook Group. You’re creating a safe and meaningful environment, adding unique value, and engaging with an active audience.

For argument’s sake, I’ll assume you’re doing so extremely well that you’re adding an average of 20 new members to your community every single day. Good for you!

Now comes the surprising part. Here is a chart that shows the expected total growth of your community over 600 days if you add an average of 20 new members every single day:

growing social media community

At this point, you might be thinking that I am really bad at math.

This is simple right? 600 days x 20 new people means you should have a total audience of 12,000 people, not 2,000!

How is it possible to have zero growth over time? This should be a straight line up into the atmosphere, right? You’re adding 20 people a day!

Well … yes and no.

The growing social media community

When forecasting your community growth, you have to consider a very sad fact of life. People leave the community.

growing social media community

My daily struggle!

It might not be your fault. People leave their jobs, move away, they become disinterested in your good work and move on to something else. There are a lot of reasons, but people come and go.

How many people can you expect to leave a community? As you know, the answer to every marketing question is “it depends!”

But for me, I average an audience loss of about three quarters of one percent, week in and week out. Let’s round up and call it 1 percent. So, for every 100 people active in my growing social media community, one of them leaves.

Here are the reasons I lose subscribers in a typical month:

growing social media community

UNSUBSCRIBE — Means people just don’t want my content any more. When people unsubscribe it might because the content is no longer relevant to their job or they are simply getting too many emails.

HARD BOUNCE — A hard bounce indicates that the subscriber’s email address is no longer any good. They may have changed email provider, switched jobs or moved.

PERSISTENTLY UNDELIVERABLE –These subscribers have been marked as undeliverable for at least two weeks and more than three delivery attempts. They appear to be unresponsive, unreachable or abandoned email accounts.

Like any proud papa, I hate it when people leave the tribe. But it’s a fact of life. You will keep gaining people, but you may also lose about 1 percent for whatever reason. On the first chart, we observed that once we hit about 2,000 people in our vibrant, growing social media community, we are also LOSING 20 people (20 is 1 percent of 2,000) every time we add 20 people.

So, at that community size, gaining 20 people per week or over whatever timeframe, means your growth had flatlined! There are weeks I get 70 new subscribers and have a net gain of one!

Building a buffer into your plans

To compensate for the natural attrition in your community or content audience, you actually have to set a target to grow your followers at an increasing rate.

In this example, when you reach 2,000 subscribers, to keep a growing social media community going at a steady pace you actually have to add 40 people, not 20!

The implication is, the more you grow, the more you have to grow.

The bigger your audience, the better you have to be just to stay even.

A common social media problem

Maybe you have not considered this little dilemma before, but when you think about it, it makes sense, right?

I see this dynamic happening all the time in my client work. They don’t understand why they are working so hard yet don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

The simple reason is, good enough today isn’t good enough tomorrow if you want to keep growing.

Make sense?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy 

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Why there is no first mover advantage in social media

first mover advantage

One of my readers left this comment the other day as she advocated that you should establish a foothold in every emerging social media channel — a first mover advantage:

“If you’re among the first on a new social network, it will be easier for you to become big there, compared to arriving there after everyone else. Assuming the network survives, you’ll be set up for success.”

This seems to make sense, and we have certainly seen this “first mover advantage” play out in many marketing strategies over the years.

But today I will take a contrary position and offer a more realistic strategy when it comes to approaching social media channels.

The impossible risk of first mover advantage

Here’s the first challenge to a first mover strategy — finding the energy to do it all!

Here’s a popular chart that illustrates some of the most popular social media networks (please don’t strain your eyes!):

first mover advantage

Don’t even bother trying to read it or understand it. I’m just making the point that there is a lot of stuff out there.

Trying to keep up with it all and place the right business bet is hazardous duty.

An example … One of my friends bet the ranch on a streaming video channel called Meerkat. He became an advocate and spoke at Meerkat events. He wore Meerkat t-shirts. He pushed tons of content on the platform and indeed became the undisputed Meerkat stud.

In less than a year, Meerkat was dead. His content went poof. His status evaporated. He had dedicated a good portion of his life to a social media channel that is now a memory.

There are not too many people (or businesses) that can afford to make that mistake over and over with every new platform that comes along.

No focus equals no excellence

Challenge number two: If you’re trying to be everywhere, you will be great nowhere.

There is only one way to stand out on any social media channel — earn an audience through consistently valuable and entertaining content.

Unless you have a huge team of people working on that for you, there is simply no practical way to maintain an excellent presence everywhere.

A better strategy is to be superior in one or two carefully-selected places.

Nobody cares

Eventually, the best content wins, not the person who was there first.

Let’s look at TikTok as an example. This is the social media rage right now. Simply being first means nothing if you’re not relevant, interesting, entertaining and superior according to the high school kids who love it there.

Nobody cares that you were there first. Why would they?

Be a fast follower

Here’s a better strategy: Let other people be the pioneers and figure things out. Then, be a fast follower.

In the history of business, the first movers almost never win.

One small example — the Apple iPod.

The iPod was one of the most successful product introductions in history but it wasn’t the first portable MP3 player in the market, or even the second or third. Apple let the others make mistakes and build a market and then came in with something that was more relevant and superior.

I think this same philosophy works in the social media space, too.

Being a first mover and maintaing a presence everywhere on social media sounds like a good strategy, but honestly, I can’t think of any practical reason to do that.

Think of that Meerkat example — It would have been a lot smarter to wait to see if it actually worked out before going all-in!

So when it comes to social media, take the first mover advantage advice with a grain of salt. Be patient and place your bets in the channels that emerge as important and relevant to your customers. The fast follower wins.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of

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