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Month: May 2010

Introducing The Friday 5 – May 28, 2010

Each Friday I’ve decided to share five things that I’ve tagged in the last week – mostly centered in the world of communication and leadership, but others that moved me in some way and want to share with you here. While I’m always finding or being lead to an abundance of new information, I’m forcing myself to focus by limiting what I list here to just five. And it has a nice ring to it.

  1. We all know the Gulf Oil spill is an environmental and economic disaster of huge proportions. And I’ve been following it since it started. But the photos here showing the impacts large and small – like the dragonfly with oil on its wings and feet trying to clean itself, plus the birds, reeds, grasses really hit home for me. It will be months if not years before we realize the full scope of this spill – and hear the stories of lives disrupted, and the shortsighted greed and lack of oversight that allowed this to happen. Like not installing an extra safety switch which is required of rigs off of Europe or how BP is trying to prevent people from seeing the affected areas as if that’ll minimize the PR nightmare they’re facing.
  2. Apple overtakes Microsoft – I was amazed to hear that Apple’s valuation exceeded Microsoft’s this week to make them the largest technology company. Many had written Apple off for dead just a decade or so ago and Microsoft with it’s Windows and Office Products seemed untouchable. But this article touches on something more interesting to me – how simplicity and creating emotional connections with your customers facilitates building a sticky brand. Apple enthusiasts are a passionate bunch and they’re masters of marketing and simplicity. I think you’d be hard pressed to find Microsoft fans anywhere close to that passionate. Think back to when Apple launched the iPod – they didn’t talk about the Gigabytes of storage but the number of songs you could put in your pocket. Simplicity. Connection. They make it easy for people to get their products. What will be tough for Apple is finding a worthy successor to Steve Jobs
  3. How to write a killer bio. I found this a great read on what makes bios work. A guide I’ll use to give a little more life to my own as I’ve struggled with how to package myself, finding it much easier to talk anything but myself. And I suspect many of you have as well.
  4. I love creativity and creative inspiration. Combine that with a list and I’m all ears. Just as hard as I find writing or talking about myself, I love hearing other people’s stories – the paths they took – some planned, some serendipitous – to find their success. What seems consistent when you read between the lines, is that while there may be a few lucky breaks, these people created their lives – they had focus, passion and worked hard in the process. So here’s Fast Company’s top 100 Creative People in Business for 2010.
  5. Marketing Critic by Mitch Joel. I loved this provocation for marketing pros to objectively and critically look inward in order to improve the relationships people have with brands. I think it builds on the need for Trust made popular by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith in Trust Agents. Mitch urges us to look at the broader perspective – to get away from criticizing individual campaigns – to find ways in which we can all do marketing better. http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/marketing-critic/

Embrace the chaos

Yellowstone National Park - Big Geyser BasinMarketers like control. I’m currently in leadership training and took this test to determine thinking style. Turns out I’m an intuitor / thinker – which didn’t surprise me as I tend to have a lot of curiosity and penchant for learning new things. Apparently many  marketing executives (according to their profiling) are sensors – very competitive, strong need for control. But that doesn’t always work so well anymore (although there are certainly parts of me that really like to be in control).

I also just finished reading Tara Hunt’s The Whuffie Factor which is all about building social capital. The biggest takeaway is how we really need to embrace the chaos – the antithesis of control. We can write detailed marketing plans for each year, set goals and measure our progress – and don’t get me wrong, planning and goal setting is important, but to succeed, we must be nimble and willing to change those plans. Quickly.

We need to adapt to changing markets, unforeseen events. People are not predictable. We DON’T know exactly how the year is going to shape up. Which clients we’ll get, which we’ll lose. No matter how detailed our spreadsheets.And moving into social media, control becomes even more futile. You have to let go. Hold tight and you’ll fail. What you need to do is plan. Plan for handling the positive and negative. and just go with it. See what works. And what doesn’t. But don’t get too comfortable because what works today may not work three months from now.

So how do you manage the good with the bad online? It depends on your specific situation, but here’s how I’d recommend you start:

  1. Talk in advance how you’ll handle negative comments. Don’t think you’re never going to get them. It’s not all happy out there. Know who in your company needs to be kept informed and who’s the point in responding in a timely manner. Remember that the web is open 24/7/365. Just because you’re not working on the weekend doesn’t mean someone’s not talking about you.
  2. Respond quickly, publicly and decisively. Acknowledge the negative commenter and evaluate whether they have a legitimate gripe or they’re just looking to stir up the pot to grab the spotlight. Let them know they’re being heard and what you’ll do about it even if it’s nothing. Give the reason why – perhaps you can’t but appreciate the feedback. Be as specific as you can about your reasons. Whatever you do, don’t spin.
  3. Always take the high road. Never let someone drag you down into the muck. Your audience is watching you – and even if the negative individual doesn’t like what you have to say, others will see that your intentions are sincere. And that’s what matters. Do make sure you’re sincere and authentic. Don’t fake it. We can smell fakery and won’t be kind about it.
  4. If in fact your commenter just wants that attention and persists, ignore them. Don’t give them the air time. Focus on the positive and spend your time engaging with those more constructive. Eventually they’ll likely realize they’re not getting any attention and go elsewhere.
  5. When you do have a real problem and are working to fix it – follow up and let everyone – not just the individual(s) affected know what you did. Again, you’re being watched. Whatever you do, don’t shut down the conversation, close the thread or delete it. People will simply take it elsewhere – and there are always “elsewheres”.

Control is an illusion. For those with kids, when did you really ever have control? So keep planning. Keep setting goals. And keep measuring. But be human. And to be human is to give up control. Marketing is messy. Communication is messy. It involves emotions. And feelings. And egos. The online world is relatively immature and we’re all still figuring it out. We are however, all naked online. You can’t hide behind a firewall and that’s why you need to embrace the chaos.

Is trust a fad?

Trust seems to have become the hip buzzword for the past couple of years. At every conference and in many new business books, you’re reading about how important it is to build trust to succeed and win business. From the sounds of things, you’d think this is a revolutionary new concept! It seems trust is the new trendy thing to do.

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith took trust mainstream with their book Trust Agents, which is all about how to build trust and why you should. At several points in the Marketing Profs B2B forum, trust was brought up. So was authenticity. But what is trust really? And will marketers embrace the true meaning of trust or fake it and give it lip service to generate more leads and earn a few more bucks?

To build real, bonafied trust takes time. It takes sincerity. Authenticity. After years of spam and spin, can marketers really be reformed? Will you take it to heart? Or try it for awhile and go back to your old ways because change is painful? Fortunately, we all have the means to call out those who spin. We can spin the spin.I must say I’m getting a bit tired of hearing about trust. It seems that the desire to build trust with others – customers and colleagues should be built in. I’m not naive enough to realize that many have selfish motives – read the news – the examples abound – but is trust so foreign a concept that it’s now trendy?

What I worry about is that people will try trust on as the flavor of the year until the next shiny concept comes along. Several years ago I was listening to an incredible talk by Chuck Ferguson on Leadership. He mentioned at the time (2003) how difficult it was to find many books on leadership just a few years prior. Then the floodgates opened. Type “leadership” in Amazon’s books section and up pops 61,235 results. Much the same is happening with Trust: type trust and you get 52,234 results. Now many of these are author pages, different editions, form factors, but you get the idea: There’s a lot on leadership and trust.I like the concept. I like doing business with people I trust. And having friends I can trust.

But must confess it takes awhile for me to trust someone. Why? Because I’m skeptical. So many people are talking trust. Are they faking it or really sincere? When they are sincere, it’s the coolest thing. It’s refreshing. About as refreshing as getting good customer service from a big company. (Now that’s rare) And I’ll go to the mat for such people. How about you?

Mobile as Marketing Platform: Just hype?

I really was knocked over the head last week at the Marketing Profs B2B Forum about the impact of mobile on marketing – and business for that matter. It’s the next big opportunity for B2B marketers was the pitch. And those that didn’t integrate mobile into their marketing mix risked not being there at the point of sale because executives ALWAYS have their mobile devices with them – and expect immediate access to information when inspiration strikes.

CK made an incredibly sound case for mobile and provides a most comprehensive overview of both it’s potential and strategies for getting started. In addition, a panel moderated by Chris Koch of ITSMA with Bob Gold of Gold Mobile, Jeannine Rossignol, Vice President, Marketing Programs, Xerox Global Services—North America and Dawn Cochran, Director P&C Solution Labs, CSC reinforced what she articulated. I was hooked.

A few days have passed since then and I’ve started to immerse myself further into the mobile opportunity. But then there’s the argument that mobile may not be that big of deal for advertisers afterall. With any new platform, marketing opportunity, or shiny tool, there’s going to be a lot of hype. There’s going to be a flurry of OMG I gotta have this madness. Toss everything out and start over! But once the dust settles, those who are more thoughtful – and less reactive will see the true opportunity with mobile.

The key fact about mobile is it’s personal. No other device do people take on vacation. Or literally sleep with. That means you need permission to reach people with mobile. Spam and you’ll be kicked to the curb. Good luck getting back in the door afterwards. But get permission – through a double opt in – offer a ton of value and always respect an individual’s time – and you’ll likely find success. And that’s why mobile may not be the biggest thing for advertising. Because advertising does not easily get invited to the table. You have earn your seat.

Those most apt to find mobile useful are those focused on building real relationships – which is what B2B is all about and why mobile is worth more than a cursory glance. People like Keith Ferrazzi – one of the masters of building lasting relationships and forming meaningful connections along with Tim Sanders are likely to find success. They know what it takes to get invited in. Being invited into one’s mobile world is like being invited to a dinner party. Or inner circle.

So ignore the hype and take a step back before jumping in. In any trend passions run deep on both sides. Find the middle ground and know that there’s not a scientific formula for mobile marketing. Borrowing from Steven Covey, begin with the end in mind. Determine what you want to accomplish. Have clear goals and most of all respect the people you’re connecting with. Make their lives easier by being there.

Think about you you’d feel having a company ping you while you’re relaxing by the fire. You certainly wouldn’t take kindly to an annoying ad or an uninvited sales pitch. But forge the relationship, get their permission to connect on the go and if you’re lucky, they’ll think of you when they’re ready to buy – and you’ll be ready to respond.

Showing the ROI in Social Media. What I learned at the Marketing Profs B2B Conference

Dedicating the time to attend a conference on the opposite coast creates the expectation that I’d receive a lot of value in exchange. I thought long and hard about which conference to attend this year, looking at both the content, speakers and thinking about what I’d be able to learn and then apply in the work I do every day. My company expects the same: I need to show the ROI of attending. I was not disappointed.

It was tough to choose between the Social Media ROI training day versus Lead Generation because both are critical to our company – and I’d say most companies today.  But as many people struggle to define the ROI of the social media – because you don’t see the direct leads or instant data – it’s more long term. And that’s where I went. Christina “CK” Kerley knocked it out of the park. Had I only gone to that one day of training, I’d have considered the conference a huge success. I saw, through powerful examples of many different sized businesses exactly how to measure ROI.

But the big a-ha for me was mobile. I must confess to having not even considered the potential let alone importance of mobile.   But that there are currently 4.6 Billion mobile subscriptions and that mobile will overtake PCs for accessing the Web within three years according to Gartner research was a wake up call. While fairly tech savvy, I must confess to not yet owning an iPhone, Droid or Blackberry – however, that’ll change soon.

A few of the Case studies demonstrating tangible ROI:

  • Kinaxis – since launching their private community in July 2009, they’ve doubled traffic and number of leads. In fact 75% of their community members are prospects. What a great way to build credibility, awareness and trust – not to mention stay top of mind when it’s time to buy. Social Media now makes up 90% of their marketing plan.
  • Expert Laser ServicesEveryone at one time or another has wanted to throw their printer out the window. They created a contest to do just that: offering awards for the most innovative way to destroy your printer – that’s now become an annual event and they’ve increased their inbound links, web traffic and gained significant PR exposure.
  • Equation Research – using crowdsourcing through blogs and Twitter to develop a survey that demonstrates their core expertise. Result? 200% increase in web traffic and a 400-prospect database.
  • Caturano & Company – Here’s an accounting firm that used a Linkedin Group to bring New England CFOs together for Q and A. After 6 months, their company ranked on the first page of Google for over 20 targeted terms, traffic to their site doubled and they receive 15 to 20 leads from the web each month. This translated into $650K of new business for an ROI of over 2000%.

Social Media is a big SEO opportunity – frequently updated content is a good thing in Google’s eyes and companies that create communities, lively blogs and engagement rank better than those who rarely update their content.

The other big opportunity for B2Bs is the ability to repurpose content in several different forms. Taking those white papers and creating a series of blog posts, a podcast, videos on You Tube, and presentations on SlideShare enhances your ability to reach more people the way THEY want to be reached. And most B2B companies have a lot of content they can reuse – much more so than consumer companies.

But Mobile was really the big takeaway from this. From the importance to how you can integrate it into your marketing. From the basics of creating a mobile friendly website to optimizing your content for access with a 100-word summary connected to the full article available on your website. After all, who wants to read 5,000 words on a mobile phone? Think short, helpful videos, SMS alerts and even the use of foursquare to enhance your connection with prospects and customers. Key is to connect your mobile efforts with your other programs and always remember that because mobile is so personal – you MUST get permission before sending anything. Who will take kindly to spam on their phone? Mobile is where I’ll be spending significant time going forward.

Social Media isreally another tool in the marketer’s toolbox. You have to think differently about it – it’s not a bullhorn for spouting messages, but a way to build relationships. And that’s why it’s perfect for B2B companies. They’re all about relationships. It still requires a strategy and you need to use traditional marketing techniques to let people know where to connect with you. And while the tools are often free or cost very little, it takes time. A LOT of time. And that’s not free. So be smart about it. Know what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to feed your efforts to keep it going.

When you think about creating a Community, take note, as LaSandra Brill of Cisco Systems said, you only have one chance with your brand. Start a community without a clear plan to keep it going and make it worth people’s time, and they’ll leave, and your brand will suffer. It’s also far harder to convince people to give you a second chance. Create an editorial calendar to seed your communities and blogs with rich content. And remember that these aren’t marketing campaigns with a beginning and an end.

The conference was two days of rich B2B brain food on top off the in-depth training on Social Media ROI. I wish I could have cloned myself to attend more sessions, but alas, had to make some tough choices (a nice problem to have at a conference).

Outside of the great sessions, I was lucky to have a one-on-one with Ron Ploof to discuss ways to use Twitter, which while validating that I’m doing most of it right, I received a couple great tips including using Tweetreach to see how my Tweets spread (or not) and searching bios for keywords to find relevant Tweeps to follow and connect with.

That said, my 9 key thoughts from the conference are:

  1. Think publishing. Goal with content marketing is to become the best magazine in your industry.
  2. 20% of searches done in Google every day have never been done before. Always think about SEO and how you can be found easier. Because people are always looking. And being easy to find leads to more business.
  3. Mobile allows you to reach executives at the point they’re ready to buy – are you providing the information they need when they need it to choose you? Every executive has a mobile phone. But always remember it’s personal.
  4. Know the mobile platforms your market is using and develop for those. Need to consider iPhone, Android, Blackberry (which has more than one), Win Mobile and Nokia. And don’t forget the iPad.
  5. Email is really effective, but you need to personalize it with dynamic content. eNewsletters sent from a sales person rather than generic address increases open rate by 7% to 10%. Volvo Construction uses dynamic content  where watching a video triggers an email to download relevant case studies or articles. In one year, generated 285 sales of used equipment for $58 million. Key is to automate the interaction at the beginning – but make it personal and drive the funnel towards connecting with sales.
  6. In 1990 there were just a couple ways to reach people: print and broadcast, direct mail and phone. Today there are 31 different ways to spend a marketing budget, making our job significantly more complex.
  7. Always think about how I can measure this. But know the data you need and how to take action once you get it. Remember that not every interaction can be quantified. You need to embrace the chaos.
  8. There are over 100 social media tools available to track, measure and engage with 20 to 30 more coming out soon. It’s tough to be everywhere and always stay current. Find out the key tools you need, places to connect and focus there. You don’t have to use them all. Use Namechk.com to claim your brand at each. But these are just tools. Focus on your strategy and how you’ll integrate social media into your total marketing plan.
  9. If you spin it, it will be counterspun. Stock messages will get shut down. Think the new ROI – Relationships, Opportunities, Involvement.