A Little Social Media Help

September 3, 2010

I have been so woefully absent from blogging. My apologies. For those of you who keep coming back for more, here is a quick but helpful post relating to social media.

The nice people at Constant Contact just published two new resources on social media. These resources are designed for small businesses and small non-profits, but honestly, the info contained in here is helpful for businesses of all sizes.

Social Media Marketing Glossary: Includes definitions for about 80 different social media terms, in many cases grouped by the site they are tied to (i.e., you’ll find “Mayor” under “Foursquare,” “Hashtag” under “Twitter,” and “Like” under “Facebook”)

Get Started Building Your Social Media Presence: This guide offfers actionable advice for businesses using 14 popular social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Angie’s List, Foursquare, etc.) It is organized by type of site and explains what each one is, why it’s useful, and has tips for using it effectively.

Happy reading. And I promise to be back soon. Or at least sooner than 10 months…..

B2B Social Media: Six Months Later

October 12, 2009

When I first jumped into the deep end of the social media pool in March 2009, one of my early conclusions was that social media is about creating dialogue more than it is about pushing marketing message out to the masses. This conculsion holds true.

And it’s gotten even better in the last six months! As social media has taken hold in our society and in B2B companies of all shapes and sizes I have seen a subtle but hugely important shift take place surrounding the importance of and role of marketing in these same companies.

Marketing is Moving into the Driver’s Seat

I have been involved in marketing for more than 20 years. Call me old. Or call me seasoned. I’ve been around the block a time or two, and I’ve always known that marketing was keenly dependent on sales in trying out new marketing messages, ideas, etc.

Now, with the help and power of social media, marketing is moving into the driver’s seat. When we have a new message or new positioning idea to test we can go directly to customers on Twitter or another social network to give it a whirl. When we want to ask customers for input we can post a poll to our blog or ask a question to a LinkedIn group. If we have two customer testimonial videos and we’re wondering which is more powerful we can post them to YouTube and receive feedback very quickly. Social media has given us a more immediate and direct conduit to our customers.

The Olden Days

How did we do it in the olden days – you know, back in the 90s? We were highly dependent on sales. We would create new messages based on customer input and competitive understanding. Then we would teach the inside sales group how to convey these messages and wait and see how they worked. If we were lucky the inside sales team was disciplined enough to test them and provide feedback to the marketing group. Only then would we consider using them more broadly in the market.

Marketing Now Much More One to One

The dynamics have changed. Marketing can now create dialogue more quickly and more directly with customers. As a result, marketing has become more nimble and can add more value to our companies.

There has been an old adage for years that sales is one to one while marketing is one to many. True. But now, with the help of social media those of us in marketing roles can be one to one as much as we can be one to many. I love this!

Let me know if you have any examples of how this changing dynamic is coming to life in your world.

Email Marketing Design Tips

August 13, 2009

A very quick post to point you to some practical advice from Donna Glick of Constant Contact on designing your email campaign. Check it out here.

Microsoft Bing Brand Decision

August 4, 2009

Microsoft brought Bing to market in early June of this year. I can only imagine all the time they spent debating the important decisions relating to their market introduction. One of these decisions was whether or not to associate Bing with the Microsoft brand, or let it stand on its’ own.

Usually when you have a strong brand (as Microsoft does), you leverage it as you introduce new products. Microsoft did not take this path. They are very much letting Bing be a stand-alone brand. Only time will tell whether this was the right decision.

Good or Bad?
I’ll start first with the cynical view (one of my personal favorites) of this decision. Microsoft chose not to associate Bing with their master brand. This may be because Microsoft is seen as some circles as the “evil empire.” A more likely, but still cynical reason may have been to distance itself from the failures of Microsoft search efforts and brands such as MSN, Windows Live and Live Search. Or perhaps the Microsoft brand is becoming too “old school”, too corporate or just too easy to overlook.

Now for the positive view. There are a lot of good reasons to let Bing stand on its’ own. For one, Microsoft is attempting to position Bing as a decision engine and not a search tool. This in itself is a mighty challenge, and having a strong brand will help in the effort.

Secondly, Microsoft is attempting to alter the category definition. If they can help the world see that they need something beyond a search tool and if they get them to buy into the thought process they actually need an advanced decision engine, then Microsoft may have an opportunity to change the market dynamics for Google.

Third, Microsoft is competing with a formidable competitor in Google. Amazingly Google has become a verb, and more amazing – a verb that my 70-something mother uses on regular basis. (It creeps me out every time.) It’s hard to picture someone using “Microsoft Live Search” as a verb but I can imagine people using Bing as an action word.

Is the Bing Brand Taking Hold?
In evaluating this topic I’ve discovered a few interesting things:

  • I conducted a totally unscientific and statistically unsound survey with my Facebook friends. (My apologies to Shaun, my statistician hero.) These friends vary from a geeky Silicon Valley crowd at one end of the spectrum to stay-at-home moms who are most concerned about nap schedules and feedings at the other end. Almost all of them are familiar with Bing, and 75% of them know it comes from Microsoft. Surprising to me, and impressive that their awareness is that high already.
  • Until a few days ago, when you searched Wikipedia for Bing you didn’t find it. Instead you found a barbershop in Germany, a Power Systems company in Germany and some info on Bing cherries.
  • News reports indicate Microsoft is spending between $80 and $100M on advertising Bing. This will help, but for the brand to truly stick, they need more than a hefty ad budget. They need a strong and persistent PR strategy, and they need the entire Microsoft employee-base behind it.

Time Will Tell
Good or bad decision? Time will tell. Are you going to start “Bing”ing info on the Web, or continue to Google? Let me know your thoughts.

Making it Work: Email Marketing

July 14, 2009

Now that I am immersed in the world of email marketing I look at the topic with a fresh set of eyes. It’s fascinating to think about what makes “it” (it being email marketing) work and what doesn’t.

You have one ultimate goal when doing email marketing and that is to get people to read your emails. eMarketer published an interesting article in early July on email marketing open and click-thru rates. The article got me thinking and I wanted to share some of these ideas here.

eMarketer reports that emails sent to small and medium sized lists perform better than those sent to lists with more than 1,000 people. I’m thinking this is, in part, because you can have a better understanding of what people on a smaller list will want to read about. The smaller, more homogenous lists will have a clearer set of topics of common interest.

The Up Side
The article also provides insightful data on open rates by vertical industry. Guess what industry has the highest open rates? Religious and spiritual organizations. Having recently worked in the financial services market, I am somewhat surprised to also see Banking/finance at the top of the “open rate” list. Maybe the religious folk are praying for financial recovery…. who knows?

Also performing well on the vertical industry open rate list are restaurants and the travel industry. The travel industry doesn’t surprise me based on how many emails I get from United, Delta and others. Restaurants do give me a slight pause. In my neighborhood I can’t say restaurants seem like big users of email marketing (although they should be.)

The Flip Side
By comparison I also had great intrigue in those vertical industries who have abysmal open rates. I am surprised (and a bit dismayed) that consultants like the Wilson Marketing Group have very low open rates, especially those that have small (fewer than 100 people) on their list. Yikes! How can that be when we have such great expertise to share?

As a take-away, it’s worth thinking about these email marketing topics. Be sure to consider the size of your email list. How well do you know them and what they want to read? The more you know them, the better you’ll do at creating content to keep them opening future emails. Also, realize that open rates vary by vertical industry. As you’re designing your campaign think about which vertical industries the people on your list belong to and how likely they will be to open your email.

Twitter Advice

June 15, 2009

If people within your company are debating (like most out there) what is the best use of Twitter for you business, take a look at this post from David Berkowitz of Social Media Insider. Very helpful advice.

Lucky me! I’m a Customer Detective

May 31, 2009

I’m about to go visit Texas where I will spend time with customers and prospects of my new employer. Now that I work for a company that caters to small businesses and non-profits I am given opportunities to interact with customers or prospects almost every day.

Take yesterday for example. It was a Saturday, and here in my hometown I went to the local YMCA to exercise, went to my hair salon, the local hardware store and out to a small Mexican restaurant for dinner. Every one of these establishments is or could be a customer of ours.

What this means is I am constantly thinking of ways small businesses can benefit from using our solutions. I’m constantly asking them questions. I’m always trying to understand what is on their mind from a business perspective, even if it has nothing to do with the services we offer them today. It’s fascinating. I feel like a detective out solving the latest small business marketing mystery. I love it!

It brings me to the point of this post. If you are a marketing professional in a high tech or low tech company. If you’re a person responsible for designing, building or marketing solutions the best way you can spend your time is with customers. Go see them. Invite them to come see you. Meet up with them at conferences. Do it casually or do it formally. But above all, make sure you do it.

More than once in my career I can remember joining a new team and asking the existing folk when was the last time they talked with customers. Or I would ask how, when and where they talked with customers. If I was greeted with a blank stare or a roll of the eyes I knew I was in for a challenge. There are many marketers who do not have regular interaction with customers. And if you don’t have this regular interaction you’re never going to be as good at your job as you could be or as you may want to be.

You may be reading this with a smug look on your face, thinking, “we conduct research studies from time to time so I rely on those to understand our customers.” I argue that research reports while necessary are not sufficient.

You need to be able to go out where the customers live. Where they work every day. Where they service their customers and where they are faced with their toughest challenges and opportunities. And you need to watch them, talk with them and take it all in. Because this is where you will find the golden nuggets. This is where you will find the small, subtle clues that will help you solve the mystery.

I feel fortunate to be working for a company focused on small businesses. I’m interacting with our customers and potential customers every day. Lucky me!

Know Your Audience and Your WIIFY

May 24, 2009

Today I am reflecting back on a tried and true lesson I’ve learned through the years. One that is important to any person in a marketing role within any size company, big or small.

When you are selling an idea to an audience, know who’s out there. Know who your audience is. Know what they are thinking, and where they are coming from.

Why is this critical? Because it is critical when preparing an important pitch or presentation that you must focus on a WIIFY – What’s in it for you (the audience.) I learned this lesson from a book that I have relied on time and time again in my career – titled Presenting to Win and written by Jerry Weissman.

By understanding your WIIFY, and understanding where your audience is when they enter the room (Point A), and understanding where you want them to be at the end of your pitch (Point B) you can create and deliver an outstanding presentation.

A few important take-aways from this book:

  • Only include topics in your presentation that are mandatory to get your audience to Point B. For example, there are times when you’ve done a lot of background work to prepare for your presentation or recommendation. While this work was critical to you (and sometimes painful and sometimes veryyyyy time consuming), the details of this work may not need to be included in your actual report-out or presentation.
  • To get the audience to act, the motivation must be from their perspective – not yours (the presenter).
  • Continously bring your audience back to the WIIFY by using WIIFY triggers such as “why am I telling you this” and “this is important to you because”.
  • Grab them from the first slide and the first words out of your mouth.  Use a question, a fact, an anecdote, a famous quote or whatever else can capture their attention and get them focused on moving from Point A to Point B.
  • Schedule time to practice.  Even if it’s a presentation to be used internally within your company, plan time to practice your pitch, what you will say on each slide, which WIIFY triggers you will use, etc.

Know your audience. Know what’s in it for them. And stay laser focused on moving them from Point A to Point B. Happy presenting!

Having Fun Again

May 13, 2009

I’ve started a new job and have gotten busier than a cowboy at a rodeo. I promise more “No Random Acts” posts before too long.

In the meantime, one thing is for sure. It feels good to laugh while at work again. I left a company that had a heap of troubles and have joined a healthy, growing company with nice, welcoming and funny people. Just like that cowboy, I’m back in the saddle!

Actively Monitor Your Brand on Social Networks

April 8, 2009

As social networks expand and become more influential it is critical to regularly monitor discussions related to your brand. Some of these discussions you will want to actively engage in while others you will just want to read from afar.

So how do you get started and how long will it take? Hubspot offers great advice on How to monitor your social media presence in 10 minutes a day.