He runs New Marketing Labs, a new media marketing agency in Canton, Mass.
And he’s had speaking engagements throughout the United States, including his recent appearance at the Green Building Focus Conference & Expo, a sustainable building trade event held at the BJCC in late August.
But Brogan, a seemingly down-to-earth Maine native, didn’t mind making jokes about his field of endeavor to amuse 50 or so attendees at his presentation here, which was held in a conference area in the BJCC exhibition hall just off the busy expo floor.
“What happens when you Google Google?” he says, after telling a woman how she could find Google Local. “It’s an infinite loop. Have you noticed that all these Web 2.0 words are so stupid? It’s not enough that we already feel bad about what we’re doing, but we have to say words like Twitter and wiki? Blog and Google? You know, I feel like we’re talking 3-year-old talk.”
Brogan is fluent in this strange talk, however, and he expresses his strong belief in the usefulness of social media. “These tools are allowing us to connect in ways we never used to do before,” he says. “Can you imagine if your phone suddenly had 200 new numbers in it? That’s creepy, right? But through social media, that’s sort of the way we’re doing it. We friend people we don’t know. It’s allowing us to build a network. A lot of this stuff is like networking in the old days only with better tools. We now have the opportunity to listen [to customers] at the point of need.”
According to Brogan, he began his career working for a traditional telephone company, then for a wireless company, before finding his calling. “I quit and joined the circus and started running conferences,” he says. But the road warrior told me prior to the event that he is gradually cutting back on his travel, in part to spend more time with his family, but also because he’s thinking green—appropriate conversation fodder for a Green Expo, I suppose. “I’m worried about my carbon footprint,” he says. “That’s why I fly all over the place telling people that the Internet’s a great place to talk to people.”
The following are some of the highlights from Brogan’s presentation.
GROW BIGGER EARS
Brogan repeated his popular meme “grow bigger ears,” telling the attendees that social media provides an unprecedented opportunity to not only reach their customers, but to allow their customers to reach them. “We as consumers and users choose how we’d like to communicate with you, which has never been the way it was.” Brogan says. “You have to start allowing for things like the smart phones of the world. You can listen when people are giving you the opportunity to serve them.”
According to Brogan, people are listening all the time—certainly during his visit to New York. “I asked the question on Twitter, ‘Where are all the cool kids staying in New York for hotels?’” he says. The first two guys who answered told Brogan he should stay at the Roger Smith Hotel, and the third person who responded was the Roger Smith Hotel. According to Brogan, “They said, ‘You should come see us. We have a blogger special.’ ‘Well, a blogger special,’ I thought. ‘I am a blogger. I shall go there.’ I’m a little gullible. I know now that if I had said ‘I love ice water,’ the hotel would have [had] an ice-water special. But they made me feel good, and they heard me.”
RETHINK EMAIL MARKETING
Brogan suggests that email still has possibilities, even in the world of Facebook and Twitter. He cites a Citibank study showing that 93 percent of people opt-in for a daily email from a major brand. “Email is alive and well if you do it right,” Brogan says, citing the success of Groupon.com and DailyCandy. com. “So I’ll give you a couple of pieces of advice,” he says. “One is, if you’re phoning it in, hang up. Don’t waste people’s time with an email newsletter that’s not worth anything. Write about stuff that your clients or wouldbe clients could actually use, even if it’s not about your product. You buy the trust and respect of those people because you’re not always pitching your thing.”
Brogan says that it’s not hard to make your email distribution more flexible and personal. “You can segment and send bits and pieces of emails to three or four different people,” he says. “This is way old-school. This is 1990s talk. And yet, that’s where I’m seeing impact happening, because [with] all this email social things, if they like your message, there’s buttons now at the bottom—share this on your LinkedIn, share this on your Twitter. You want your stuff to be so compelling that [recipients] market it to their friend base. These are the tools for word of mouth.”
BLOG—BUT NOT JUST ABOUT YOU
As with email, Brogan recommends that you don’t blog just about you and your products. “The opportunity is to blog about the person you hope buys,” he says. “If you write about something useful to people who use your products, then they have a reason to come back more often than just to buy stuff.”
According to Brogan, web sites should be about effective sharing and communication, not the proverbial bells and whistles. “If your web site has a whole lot of Flash and it looks cool because somebody sold it to you, people can’t see it on their new mobile phones,” he says. “People spend more time on their mobile phones than their laptops. If your email marketing is a bunch of pretty HTML formatting, have you looked at your site on a Blackberry? Go a little more old-school, more plain text, then have a link at the bottom.”
MAKE USE OF YOUR MEDIA GADGETS
Brogan suggests using video in non-traditional ways to draw sales. He cites Blendtec, which used video to go viral on the web. “If you think you have an unsexy product, this guy had to sell blenders,” Brogan says. “He decided that he would blend crazy things, like golf balls and two by fours. It’s when he blended the IPhone that suddenly this guy got two million views. Their business went up 500 percent. They started selling t-shirts and DVDs. Don’t think your product is too stupid to put in a blender, I guess, is my take-away.”
He mentions an HVAC systems builder in Detroit who, on Brogan’s advice, had video clips produced of his installers talking about the genuine pride they took in their work. The campaign worked, according to Brogan. “People said, ‘I feel like I know your guys a little better and I would like to talk to you about getting this done,’” he says.
REMEMBER—BE NICE TO PEOPLE
“We buy from people we like,” Brogan says. “A lot of this social media stuff is about reconnecting with people again. Photos matter. Telling stories on a human scale matters, which is kind of fun to tell a [large] company like Coca Cola. If you don’t like people, you’re kind of screwed. Even if you’re not going to get involved in doing this, [if] your customers make a negative statement about you, it’s on the web. It’s going to cost you more money to fix that than it would for you to get up front and actually be positive and personable.”
CHRIS BROGAN'S BEACH READS
Ah, the venerable book. Even in this high-speed, online world, it still has a place. Brogan recommends the following recent tomes to those who wish to learn more about using social media to connect with people, create networks and build businesses.
The Referral Engine, John Jantsch—“It is a really actionable, good book,” Brogan says. “Don’t just read it and put it down. Keep writing notes in there, and try to do parts of the book a little bit at a time.” For details, go to www.referralenginebook.com.
Switch, Chip and Dan Heath—Brogan recommends this new title by the authors of the popular marketing book Made to Stick. “It talks to you about how to visualize and explain things so that people will really take an action,” he says. “It’s about change and how to make things happen.’’ Learn more at www.heathbrothers.com.
The New Community Rules, Tamar Weinberg—“This is a real sleeper book, and it’s about the mechanics of how these social media tools move stuff around,” according to Brogan. Read all about the author and her book at www.tamarweinberg.com.
A Million Miles in a 1000 Years, Don Miller—“This is one of my favorite books of 2010,” Brogan says “He writes a Christian books, and I don’t view myself as a Christian reader. I just like Don Miller a lot. It’s a book about how to tell stories, and how to view your life as a story, and how to live your life a little bit better by thinking of it as a story.” Learn more at www.amillionmiles.com.
LinkedWorking, Lewis Howes & Frank Agin—According to Brogan, this book will help you make more effective use of the professional networking site LinkedIn. Read all about it at www.linkedworking.com.
Attention! The Book That Will Make You Money, Jim Kukral—Brogan also recommends Kukral’s book, which is described at the author’s web site as a primer in the use of “attention-getting online marketing” to increase revenue. Check it out at www.attentionthebook.com.