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Gini Dietrich

Why Brogan’s Bigger Ear Marketing Is Wrong

By: Gini Dietrich | January 12, 2011 | 
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Chris BroganOne of the last people I want to antagonize is Chris Brogan, but I’ve been thinking about this all week so here goes nothing.

Dear Chris,

You are wrong.

Love,

Gini

On Monday, Chris had a blog post called “Bigger Ear Marketing for Authors.” In the post he extols wisdom about using Twitter and Foursquare searches to find people who are in bookstores. When found, he suggests tweeting those people to see if they can find your book in the store. And hence, a conversation is born.

Admittedly he says this approach doesn’t sell a few thousand books nor that it’s an efficient use of your time (I agree with both of those statements), but the problem I see is that 28 people in the comments section agreed with him. And, of those 28, I know some of them advise business leaders, not just published authors.

You guys. This is not a great idea, nor a great approach. We had the debate internally here. I said the same thing Scott Stratten said in the comments…that some people would think, “OMG! Chris Brogan just tweeted me!” And then they’d run to the business section, find his book, and tweet him a photo of them holding it up. Granted, that person may even buy his book.

But then our conversation turned to the financials of the time, effort, and sale of the books…which also can be related to the amount of time you spend with any sales effort.

The figure in sales is one percent for converting a cold customer. So, with this approach, you have to reach 100 people for every book (or product or service) you want to sell. Then you consider how much you make on each sale. Is it $5? Is it $10?

You track down 100 people through Foursquare and Twitter searches, you research them, and you send each of them a tweet. All to make $10.

I’m a prolific tweeter so I’d guess doing all of that would take me two hours. Maybe more. So I just made $5 an hour. And Chris has celebrity status so he probably makes $10 an hour because there will be a few people who will buy his book just because he tweeted them.

But most business leaders and even published authors are not prolific tweeters nor do they have celebrity status. Most aren’t even known in their industries yet and are busy not only trying to build a brand, but also pay the bills. Most would be lucky to net $2.50 an hour.

You tell me. Would you rather spend time “growing bigger ears” on something that will net you $10.00 or find something to do with your time that nets you $10,000?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

173 comments
RandomShelly
RandomShelly

ok... I agree with you Gini.. but doing my due diligence, I had to go over and read the original Brogan post.. (I am so behind in reading) I agree with him too - because he did state that it was not an efficient use of time, but it was FUN - to HIM...

I think it would be kind of fun to do too - when I publish my book... :) Not as a plan, just as a random thing (no pun intended from my name, or is there?...lol)

I'd rather have the 10K of course, but still the $10.00 he may have made was a cool experience for him and some readers...

I mean he even researched who might like it... kind of cool really... a good marketing plan? Hmmmmm in the big scheme of things, NO... however, he did get a handful of people using social media to probably gush all over the story and now you have 156 comments as I read this - and it is giving him ALL KINDS of nice debate... so you tell me ;)

mitchjoel
mitchjoel

CPA. CPA. Cost Per Acquisition. None of us can even come close to saying that this is a right or wrong technique until we know what Chris (or anyone else) is willing to pay to acquire a new book reader. For some, it might be $0.10 for others it might be $5. He (hopefully) has his own marketing metrics and feels that this type of tactic has ROI. ROI for him might also not be just the sale of a book, but the engagement with one more person and their social graph.

It's easy to shoot holes into ideas. It's easy to take an industry standard percentage and apply it. In my many years of Marketing, I can't remember ever using the industry standard as a guide (it never made sense).

It reminds me of Google AdWords: the people who complain the most about their efficacy rarely have insight into their own CPA and what they're willing to do to achieve it.

dinodogan
dinodogan

I've read that post of his. Keep this in mind. He needs to churn out daily content. He is Mr. $9.95 per month topic wiz. No offense meant by it, its just that it's his shtick to come up with novel ways of gathering customers.

As both of you noted, no, its not the greatest use of one’s time. But I want to latch onto a different point in your article.

You mention that CB is a superstar. That he is. Online anyways. People and businesses I talk to have no freaking idea who Brogans, Vaynerchucks and Godins of the online world are. These names are utterly meaningless to them. Gary to a lesser extent since hes done a lot of TV appearances. …but still.

I will say this. Online world is all about one on one sales. (aren’t sales always that way tho?) And CB’s methodology falls right in line with that.

aeringuy
aeringuy

It would be better if he sneakily tapped me on the shoulder while I was perusing in the bookstore. That would really rock.

40deuce
40deuce

It's an interesting idea for a tactic, but I agree with you, Gini. For all the effort you put it in wouldn't really be worth it, plus it may seem creepy and bordering on stalking.

Rieva
Rieva

As someone who spends a LOT of time in bookstores, I don't want to be tweeted to by an author imploring me to buy his or her books. I would make an exception for Harper Lee. I agree with whoever (Shonali maybe?) said that tweeting me to buy your book is hardly a social use of social media.

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

While I agree that it doesn't seem like it's worth the time, having that personal interaction with a potential reader could mean more than just $10. If they go and talk to their friends about the book and about their good experience, it could bring even more business. But that is a big IF, so you really need to decide that's what you want to do with your day.

With 132 comments so far, I'm still waiting for @chrisbrogan to join the debate.

Nick
Nick

Gini, I have to agree with you on this. You always have to keep in mind the value of your time.

Point being, I think if you are going to target so specific and with such a small audience, you need to make sure that specific sale, justifies the time you spent.

I would say the biggest mistake most people make, is they calculate their ROI based on money alone. The biggest part of that equation is how much time you spent. The time investment is in most cases substancially more important.

Amanda_Magee
Amanda_Magee

Seems to me that if we are talking about using things that are intended to connect and communicate, it's perfectly reasonable to explore different things, be they for fun or financial gain.

Someones posted a Woody Allen quote that said something to the effect of, "If you aren't failing frequently than you aren'y trying enough new things." I think that like striking up conversations in person, what we try in these different online avenues is similar. Trial and error.

I can appreciate the sentiment that it would be creepy or come off as self- aggrandizing to be approached in this very specific way, but it could also be the most memorable thing an author could do. It could also be fun, I think the potential 'effectiveness' of this arena is inherently nestled in how authentic the exchanges are.

sue_anne
sue_anne

Gini, While I have to agree with you when it comes to book sales, for other small business owners what Chris says makes a lot of sense.

How many restaurants and other small businesses could value from paying more attention and engaging with their customers? If a customer checks in to your restaurant, they are looking to establish a relationship with your business. Why not say hi and ask them about how their experience was and whether or not they liked the food?

Why aren't more businesses listening on Foursquare and Twitter to what people are saying? I posted a couple of tweets saying that I was looking for a venue in San Francisco to host a meetup. It was a perfect opportunity for a bar, restaurant, or other location to step up and say "hey, we have space, what night are you looking to host your event?" While I got a few suggestions from a few local friends, no business tweeted me back. Big opportunity lost.

You're right, certain authors like Chris could probably find a better use of their time that would make them $10k instead of the $10 from a book sale, but it might be something worth trying out. (And, you never know ... one of those people that you sell your $10 book to in the bookstore might be willing to pay the $22k figure to have you come out and do a day's worth of consulting with their business. But, you would have never known if you hadn't established the relationship.)

hannush
hannush

I found the point of Brogan's article to be about getting creative with these resources. I agree with Chris that there are some spur of the moment things you can try. This stuff doesn't all have to be formulaic.

I also think he was suggesting that if you touch a couple people individually, it can create a viral effect through the story told. Its slower, but it can work.

Sure, this is not an idea you want to sink your entire budget into, and if I don't know who Chris Brogan is, I'm probably going to ignore him or block him, but it is an opportunity to touch someone and maybe their friends or Facebook followers.

I had a similar situation just by getting a personal tweet from a musician I liked. It creates a "exciting" or "unique" moment. Its like having a celebrity show up at a hospital to see sick kids...it can create a buzz.

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela

Gini, this is a great post. I think it borders a bit on the self-serving. I would feel kind of creeped out if someone just sent me a tweet because I just happened to be in a bookstore. To be honest with you, and I don't care who it is, I would very likey tweet people and say that so and so just tried to sell me something without even know me, etc.

It's like getting approached by a salesman when you just want to browse. Now, don't get me wrong, Brogan has his following and he is a great guy on Twitter. But sending out this advice to people who aren't established brands really doesn't work. It's best that you start with your initial network and work out from there. Why do people want such instant return on social media? Don' they know that this takes time, a lot of it?

Great post.

J

jackiewolven
jackiewolven

I agree with you - it is a small strategy that isn't going to get many results. I would MUCH rather have the author working on writing new books, articles, etc then zipping me a quick tweet. I guess I am more into the big picture. Good for you for saying something - I think even Brogan can stand up to the heat ;)

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich @Danny Brown @mitchjoel For once an inter-canadian battle vs the cross border skirimishes I get into on Twitter.

I do wish to address Mitch's original post. Because it falls in with the ROI you brought up Gini. And also explains why many businesses have zero need for Fan Pages and Social Media. If I sell Yachts one sale could be huge. If I sell pencils I might need 1000's of people buying and converting a few from high effort makes no sense. In fact retailers themselves (many brand's middleperson) could prove much more value to a company than any direct marketing effort.

So really it all starts with the 'What is a customer worth to you' not just revenues but margins as well. What Chris proposed could work really well in real estate or selling Boeing airplanes. one relationship could mean a lot. On that note isn't that EXACTLY what Twitter is? Is what Chris proposing any different than talking to the same type of person outside of the book store? Isn't that what Twitter Search is for? Seems like he stole something that exists, repackaged it and claimed it as his won 8)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Danny Brown @mitchjoel Not sure I have more to add to this that is different or of value. BUT! It is fun to see the two of you debating over here!

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@mitchjoel I agree with the "try before you buy" mindset, and we've had to help companies escape that thinking. Though I'd put that down to either poor management or a misunderstanding of what something can achieve (and that may have come from crap advice from an online blog or news source, or a poor previous agency or consultancy).

With regards indsutry standards, you need to start somewhere to gauge where you want to go. You need to have the client know why Approach A (standard) didn't work versus Approach B (brand new way of thinking). Otherwise, you're just going in and saying, "We will do it this way" without the client having the faintest idea why you chose that way.

Standards are good, because they've either worked (which is why they're still standards) or they haven't (which gives you stats and figures to use on why you're not going the standard route).

And yeah, I'm always concerned when someone just wants to beat "that" - but then that's my job to find out why not a different win, and how we're going to get there. It's why we get paid, after all.

mitchjoel
mitchjoel

@Danny Brown I think a lot of companies just try things long before thinking about what they're willing to pay for a net new consumer. I see it in small, medium and even large businesses. I see agencies running programs without that detail... and I see brands doing it too.

Chris is experimenting and blending platforms... that, in and of itself, makes it interesting (to me, at least). He may derive value from it... others may not... that's what makes Marketing so fascinating to me.

As for industry standards... they work if all you're trying to do is benchmark your results against everyone else. I am sure the many breakthrough online advertising campaigns we've recently seen (Apple and The New York Times or Old Spice and YouTube) didn't pay much attention the industry standards of online advertising. If the average CTR is 0.05 on a banner ad and you're just hoping to beat that, it would be concerning to me as the agency of record.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@mitchjoel With regards Google AdWords, Mitch, that's more to do with crappy ad companies scamming customers out of money because they don't understand the intricacies - it's not the people, necessarily, because they trust their in the hands of "experts".

It *is *easy* to shoot holes into ideas; Chris has shot plenty holes into ideas before, as have I, as I'm sure you have. It's called opinion, usually backed up with reasons why.

Where I see people questioning the idea is right here in the comment stream, and much of it is very valid.

Interesting exercise? Yes. Worth it? Perhaps. A more scientific approach and reasoning behind it could have been added to the original post. Most probably.

I'm surprised you never used an industry standard as a guide - even using a guide to form the complete opposite of what's recommended has use, no?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@dino_dogan I'm sorry. Do I know you? :) You know, it's funny you say this. My mom asked me the other day when I'm finally going to write the book I've been talking about writing since I was 10. I told her that everyone has a book these days and I want to use that dream for something that is different. She said, "I know you live in this bubble where it seems like everyone is writing books. But in the real world, it's a big deal to write a book."

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@aeringuy LOL! It makes me want to find where you are and sneakily tap you on the shoulder!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@FollowtheLawyer I love that you came back here and strung together those thoughts. I think that's a guest post in the making. Care to write it?

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@FollowtheLawyer I get what Chris was experimenting with, per @Danny Brown and @mitchjoel conversations about different marketing approaches. Chris refining his list is sorta the heart of direct marketing: you don't shotgun, you narrow your pitch to specific people: those most likely to buy your product. It's why I always think Apple and Coke overspend on advertising: I see too many ads, will buy their products anyway so on me, it's wasted marketing; IMO they need to go after those on the fence.

You're right about consumers, how much do they really care about engagement when they know they're being "sold." I fall for clever marketing, upsells of the bigger size is only a few bucks more, blah blah. The backlash, I just saw a funny bit about fighting text spam (which I've been lucky enough to elude for now).. I just think the harder marketers force their way into our presence, the more we'll push back. So spoiled by the DVR am I, it's rare I don't timeshift my viewing.. just to skip commercials. I can ignore or block out almost any popup ad. I see the tools developing so I can block pitches like Chris' before I even get them. FWIW.

FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer

Some unrelated thoughts strung together:

1) Any time you have to create narrow, highly specific scenarios under which an activity might yield limited theoretically favorable results, you're in trouble.

2) Why do we think that consumers are as eager to be reached, engaged -- pick your friendly sounding term -- as social media marketers are to reach and engage them?

3) With so many well-intentioned merchants reaching out through multiple online and mobile channels to create meaningful connections -- or just because they think it would be "fun" -- at some point in the not-too-distant future will we be at risk for a backlash (e.g. If you want my opinion, what's it worth to you)?

JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

@ginidietrich @jennalanger If you don't have the star power like Chris, what gets you closer, or even just some light-in-the-sky power is to engage with the customer throughout the customer journey (not JUST the sales funnel). That includes 1) When the customer isn't even talking about yorur brand, but is discussing how to build trust (if we're talking Trust Agents), 2) when the customer is considering a resource to help him/her build trust, 3) when the customer is ready to purchase and 4) after the purchase to see if the book helped the customer build trust.

Now, that's a lot of work and it may not be all humanly possible with only 24 hours in the day. But I'll take 1, 2 and 4 before No. 3 anyday. In other words, I'll take a relationship over a cold sales push -- for what they hopefully deliver today in the bookstore and for the WOM they hopefully deliver over time.

I think it would be hard to blog if I were Chris Brogan. So many caveats you have to throw in because you are not like the majority of your target audience.

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

@ginidietrich True, good point. That's one thing that makes me question a lot of the "social media mavens" and what they preach. It's really hard to move from just another tweeter to someone with 50,000 followers that makes an impact on the web. Who was the target audience of his original post, or for the rest of his blog for that matter? (sorry for the extra reply, darn test account ;)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jennalanger Are you disagreeing with me?! Gasp! :) I still maintain that this tact totally works for Chris. If he tweeted me while I was in the bookstore, I'd buy the book and talk about it. But it doesn't work for anyone who doesn't already have star power. Then you're just seen as creepy and weird. Even desperate.

Nick
Nick

@ginidietrich Yes. Our entire relationship is based on rolling our eyes at each other (most of the time when the other is not looking). I feel very uncomfortable now.

Amanda_Magee
Amanda_Magee

@HowieG @ginidietrich I suppose the gamble I make by saying I'd be ok with it, is that I think there are very few people who'd actually make that effort. Listening, monitoring, executing, waiting...way more than a lot of people are willing to do.
I am sure I've just jinxed myself to a day of spam.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@Amanda_Magee @ginidietrich But Amanda imagine if 20 authors contacted you this way in the span of 15 minutes to your phone? I think the 'Be Creative' 'Be Unique' 'Stand Out' tactics are great. I love guerrilla marketing as long as its respectful.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Amanda_Magee What?! You don't like the social media echo chamber?? Hrumph. :) You have a great night, too!

Amanda_Magee
Amanda_Magee

@ginidietrich Agreed on the remarkable author front. However, I was just wishing that I could find a new blog to read and a couple of fresh perspectives on Twitter. I am to the point where I welcome connections that happen in different ways. So, providing the author (or small business person) was behind something that in someway interested me, I would, for at least a trial period, pursue learning more about them.

Have a great night!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Amanda_Magee We actually agree, which was my initial point...if Ayn Rand (for instance) tweeted me while I was at the bookstore, I WOULD FREAK OUT! But my point is that, while this tact certainly works for Chris because of his star power, it doesn't work for the rest of us.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@charityestrella I think it's kind of funny that my blog post went from "this doesn't make sense for businesses to try" to "it's creepy that people stalk others online." I actually agree with you that there are ways to use LBS to engage customers. And the examples you use work for me! But that wasn't the point of the blog post. This has been totally fun...lots of people weighing in and providing LOTS of ideas!

charityestrella
charityestrella

@ginidietrich @sue_anne @Danny Brown Really? I love it when Wildfire or Wow Bao tweet me because they saw my foursquare check-in there. If I put it out into the public ether that I'm somewhere, I don't find it creepy when a brand or just some random person comments on it. In fact, Wildfire and Wow Bao's engagement makes me enjoy my experience there more. They know who I am. Goeff Alexander (Pres of Wow Bao) comes down from his office to chat if I'm at their Jackson location. This turned into them being one of the sponsors of our 1 year anniversary event, White Sox Bats For Big Love. AJ Bombers in Milwaukee has done such a good job of tweeting me after I've checked-in to Chicago restaurants and mentioned something like fries or burgers in my shout that I'm determined to drive an hour and a half to Milwaukee just to have a burger there.

I think what Chris' post was meant to do was show us how HE was using foursquare check-ins on twitter (and this way makes sense for him) and suggest that his readers who are like him might enjoy doing the same. His readers who aren't like him (most of us!) should have just taken that as an opening to think about how we could adapt that to our own business.

Of course there are all sorts of creepy ways people can and will use listening to the location-based things we put out there to try to gain us as a customer, follower, donor, etc. Hopefully you know your audience well enough to avoid being creepy. This also entails having common sense. I think Chris and other people like him, Danny included, expect that their readers possess this.

However, if you know your audience, there are certainly ways to use them successfully and respectfully. Last year I noticed that many of my facebook friends in the heart defect community were commenting on a specific persons Foursquare check-in to Children's Memorial Hospital here in Chicago (that she had linked to Facebook).

One of our programs is to deliver care baskets to children undergoing procedures related to their heart defect at Children's Memorial. The baskets aren't pitches for donations - they're a sincere service and we have a strong reputation in our community because of it. I friend requested her and included a message letting her know about our program and asking if she wanted me bring one to her and her son.

Was she creeped out? No. She was happy I had reached out because she hadn't known about us. After personally bringing her the basket and meeting her son, she and I had coffee - she has not only become a very close friend, she is my most active and committed Board Member.

Not for all, but for many industries, there are ways to employ LBS listening to engage and produce results, whatever those desired results may be (different for everyone). I think we all agree on that :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@sue_anne Boy I just don't agree. If you used LBS like @Danny Brown outlines, then we're in total agreement. But if you're stalking people who are in your restaurant on Twitter, from the back room, I just think that's a whole hunk of aggressiveness. But there are ways to use Foursquare and Places that doesn't come across as creepy and stalkerish. In that we agree.

hannush
hannush

@ginidietrich I could see that. The creepy factor is definitely a possibility. Thanks for making us think.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@hannush Yeah, I totally agree that if you know who the author (or other artist is), it works. My issue is there are lots and lots and lots of people who look up to Chris who own businesses and don't have his star power. If they try this, they're just going to turn away people.

amvandenhurk
amvandenhurk

@ginidietrich @dino_dogan Gini, we do live in a bubble. A bubble we share with some pretty cool people who have set expectations high. As it should be. I'd rather reach for the bar then bend over to pick it up. Our Moms are correct: It is a big deal we wrote books. 

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