Clark Kokich’s Twitter bio reads, “Author of Do or Die, Razorfish chairman, bad guitarist, proud father, mediocre husband, aging baby boomer.”
But the ‘aging’ baby boomer plays in the new web—an exciting, borderless, digital playground brimming with brand-hungry consumers and businesses looking for just right the digital mix to turn social media engagement into sales.
Kokich made history last year as author of the first business book published exclusively as a fully interactive app. Do or Die lays the framework for business survival and success in an age of ever-changing technology and gives insight into some of the world’s biggest brand leaders: Nike, MillerCoors and Virgin America.
After selling Razorfish to advertising giant Publicis Groupe a few years ago, Kokich now sits as chairman of the interactive marketing firm that helps businesses find consumers in the digital world—and develops digital media strategies to creatively engage them.
He understands why emerging digital media scares the daylights out of some business owners. “The technology is complicated and changes rapidly, and there seems to be an endless array of opportunities with no way to know which ones will work and which ones will turn out to be pure hype,” Kokich says.
Yet entrepreneurs are best suited for this digital landscape. “In the past, you didn’t have a shot competing against big business that spent millions on advertising. There was no way to level the playing field,” Kokich says. “That’s not true anymore.”
SUCCESS: In advertising, how can small-business owners compete with big business?
Kokich: Here’s the thing. This is absolutely the best time to be a small business, especially if you’re competing with a big business, when it comes to social media. Now, people listen to their friends more than they listen to paid advertising. Money no longer guarantees success, and lack of money no longer guarantees failure.
S: So social media is the next great advertising medium?
CK: The secret isn’t just to master social marketing. The secret is to do something extraordinary with your product or service, and then let your customers and fans tell the story for you. Big companies have a hard time being extraordinary. They’re usually satisfied to be good, and with the exception of just a handful of brands, they rarely do anything worth talking about. That’s where you can beat them.
S: How should I create content that gets shared?
CK: If you want your customers to talk about your company, you need to give them something concrete to share. Data proves conclusively that social exposure is magnified exponentially when people have a piece of content to share, whether a photo, video, article or chart—as long as it’s interesting, useful or entertaining.
So, you need to have a Content Strategy—a detailed plan on what shareable information you’ll provide your customers on an ongoing basis.
S: I don’t have any formal marketing experience, so how difficult is it to create a content strategy?
CK: For big companies this can get very complicated. In a small company, it’s a simple matter of spending time every day thinking about the connections you hope to establish with customers, then finding the right content to post to your website, your Facebook page and your Twitter feed.
And always remember, this isn’t just about selling. It’s about connections. People who love your brand want to feel connected to the product or service, to the management of the company, and to the people who work for you. Use your content strategy to bring them inside.
S: If you had a Digital Marketing Top Ten for small-business entrepreneurs, what would be your No. 1 tip?
CK: The most important tip would be to stop thinking about social marketing and instead try to become a social company. That means using these digital tools to establish a direct two-way conversation with your customers.
The best way to get good at creating virtual friendships is to do the same things you would do in real friendships. Don’t turn people off by talking about yourself all the time. Care about folks. Be real. Be accessible.
So use Facebook to listen more than you talk. Use Twitter to respond to compliments and complaints with equal enthusiasm. Ask your customers for ideas. They’ll tell you the truth. Pay attention! It’s a completely different way of running a business. Those small businesses that get good at it will thrive. Those that don’t will struggle.
S: Your book, Do or Die, was the world’s first business book published exclusively as a fully interactive app. How did that come about and what does it ultimately mean to readers?
CK: In spring 2010 I had a contract on my desk to publish a book with McGraw-Hill. The iPad was released in April of that year and all of a sudden it seemed inexcusable not to try to practice what I was preaching. I never signed the contract, and instead started working on a new kind of book, one that fully exploits the power of digital technology.
It turned out to be a great decision because the iPad is a far better teaching tool than a traditional book. You can spend hours reviewing links to web content related to the chapter subject and watch video interviews from industry leaders. And because of the built-in social component, you can share ideas from the book to your networks, or engage in discussions with other readers right in the app.
Now that it’s been out almost a year I can think of lots of things I would have done differently. So I know Do or Die won’t be the best-ever business book/app, as I’m sure others will improve on the format. But it will always be the first.