Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

Re: Will Corporate Websites Become Irrelevant?

Alexa Ellis asks the question in a post in iMarketing 2.0 on Techlinks http://www.techlinks.net/component/content/article/43-community-voices/122444 and I thought I would weigh-in….

I believe the future will see a greater importance to the corporate website, but the twist is that it will become a corporate online community include social media components, ability to port identities from Linkedin, Facebook, Google, etc, and will become the collaboration center for the organization.

The corporate website will become the web interface for managing a relationship with the company as an employee, partner, prospect, or customer. There will be the ability to have both public forums for marketing and private areas for internal collaboration and customer interaction.

The technology to support such a corporate online community exists today. The expectation is that as the technology will become more ubiquitous; the price for integrating social media component platforms will become more affordable. As the big social media sites become more open, more organizations will take advantage of the ease in allowing customers to share logins from these sites to their own corporate communities.

The challenge for marketing is that the traditional role of broadcast messaging will morph into a more fluid, multi-directional relationship. This will require a whole new approach to marketing and a rethinking of the idea of a corporate website.

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Online Community Lead Identification – Part 1

A few weeks ago, Michael Thomas ( President of the CRMA & CRM guru at the social media platform company,  www.neighborhoodamerica.com )and I were collaborating on a topic that is of great interest to a lot of Sales and Marketers…

How do you create actionable information from an online community? This is relavent as more companies are integrating online communities into the corporate websites. The challenge that I am hearing repeatedly is “how do you identify leads in your community so that you can get them into your CRM system to begin the sales pursuit?”

In short, how would use the interactions within a community to identify interest that you could then qualify through activity scoring? There are several fine lines that are involved…

1. Difference between servicing a potential buyer and turing off someone who is just “looking”

2. Online communities are supposed to be educational and not for hard sales

Both are valid concerns and I think can be addressed. Online communities, if done correctly, are not about the hard sell, but about creating a thought leadership and evangelism center for your company. Potential buyers know that when they visit your website, you are providing the information to assist them in buying. Potential buyers also do not want the hard sell. Online communities can provide the education AND the engagement if done correctly. We all want to please our customers and have them appreciative of our service. I think it largely is based upon expectations. We all appreciate when Amazon provides a recommendation that we like. We all wish the recommendation engines were smarter.

If you host a branded community on your website, there is a different expectation versus an unbranded, open industry community. Most of us are willing provide our contact information in exchange for whitepaper or webinar access. A vendor provides access to their community with the understanding that, if you look interested, they will approach you to guage interest, but won’t harrass you. If they could do a better job of determining when you were interested and serving up content to assisy you in making a better buying decision, would you mind?

The next several posts will outline the basics of online community lead scoring. I will also outline a community example that we are all familiar with: Linkedin.

I will also ask Michael to weigh-in from his blog: www.crm2.blogspot.com

Part 2 – https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/community-lead-identification-part-2-linkedin-example/

Part 3 – https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/online-community-lead-identification-part-3-corporate-community/

The Triple Crown of Web 2.0 & Online Application Development

From a product management perspective, the three major critical success factors for building online applications are Adoption, Distribution ,and Value. Notice that functionality is not on the list & I will explain why. Also, you may think I am having a product management conversation, but as with any good marketing, it has to be rooted in economics. More importantly, focusing on customer acquisition costs. 

Unless you have are building your online application as free-ware without a way to monetize the relationships (there are a good number of Silicon Valley garage & VC backed companies still doing this, also a good number of IPhone apps), then eventually you have to figure out how to make money from the application that you are building. Even if you are creating a free application to drive distribution, but you assume that at some point that you will sell something, upsell something, or advertise something; then you probably need to have thought though these issues.

1. Adoption – in a previous post, I discussed why adoption trumps functionality in Web 2.0 applications https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/05/21/in-web-2-0-software-adoption-trumps-functionality/ Bottom line is that without users, web 2.0 collaboration cannot occur. You can look at the ecosystem of twitter or facebook apps to get an idea, but it works on a micro-level, as well. If you don’t get a significant percentage of your available population to use your application, it isn’t very valuable. With near zero distribution costs on the internet, the real price is customer awareness. You have to capture their attention and interest; otherwise the value of collaborative applications is marginalized.

2. Distribution – If you are distributing your application, you would assume ubiquitous distribution, but the problem is that so does everyone else. I had coffee with a CEO recently who told me that there wasn’t a great deal of competition for their application, but when I went online to do research, I found at least 25 or so competing applications. The direct competitiveness was questionable, along with the quality, but even if you gave it away for free; it would be difficult to break through the noise without significant marketing $’s OR a partner that could distribute the application. In essense, you need a “big brother” partner to assist you in breaking through the noise so that you can overcome the barriers to market entry. The partner provides the ability to differentiate from the crowd, gain awareness, and creates an assumption of quality. This can be a technology platform vendor (Iphone, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, etc) or it can be an industry brand that the customers already buy a complimentary offering. Giving away a free application to drive distribution is also a good strategy, as long as it is part of a larger strategy.

3. Value – you have to provide more value than the prospective user will give; whether its there time, money, attention, relationships, etc. This sounds simple, but when you take into account market segmentation, competitive factors, and other market noise, it isn’t as easy. Let’s assume that you are servicing a vertical market with a very cool web-based application that allows the customer to save 20% off their transaction costs & shave 2 hours per user a week on a particular process. No brainer, they should value this application at least $1,200 per user per month, we should charge them $600. We are done, let’s go to market…. right? Wrong!

Pricing the application is more complicated than that when you take into account the switching costs from things they are doing today, competitive offerings, customer acquisition costs, exist costs, etc.

  • You find out they are using an old windows application that they have been using for 12 years. 20% savings doesn’t really mean much to the people using it day-to-day.
  • The business owner has an annual contract for support that has another 9 months left on it so the 20% isn’t as attractive as you would think.
  • The legacy application does not have the ability to easily export the 12 years worth of data to your web application. So, even though you have used the latest technologies for creating your API, it requires professional services to transition them. Wipes out the 20% savings in the first year.

I could go on, but when you begin to think about how to launch a new web 2.0 application, even though it seems like a game-changer for the market, there are legacy issues that need to be thought through. “Build it and they will come syndrome” has tripped us a good many new improved software applications.

It is hard and costly to simplify the adoption, distribution, and value proposition, right? Yes and no. If you ask the market and potential customers, you will incur costs and time to understand and overcome the potential roadblocks, but the risk mitigation is priceless.

Some simple advise to close on:

  • Go where customer is, not where you think they are… Customer perception is your reality…
  • It is easier to sell to companies that have money… don’t be afraid of competition or large markets, but do your homework. Smaller, niche markets also can produce more revenue is the pain is greater.
  • Customers buy from the company that is easiest to do business fromwith… registration, price, package, etc.
  • Distribution on the web is about finding relationships to reach likely customers in buying mode…
  • Value is identifying pain, “must have” versus “nice to have” – we are all overwhelmed with choices, where do we focus is prioritized based on our perceived needs. Even opportunities are based upon perceived pain.
  • Emotional connection play a large part in impulse, attention, switching costs, substitutions, opportunity, & empathy – all of which play a part in buyer behavior

The single biggest mistake I see companies make in launching new online applications is that they do not think through the factors outside of their immediate control. If you had enough warning that you were going to crash your car, you could change direction or avoid a potential wreck. Involving distribution partnerships and customers earlier in the product development cycle is exactly the way to identify potential “app killers” and allow you to make that “killer app”.

If I Only Had $1 for Marketing, Where Should I Spend It?

A question that I have been working on for a number of weeks… Where would I focus my marketing budget at different budget levels? What activities provide the biggerst return on your marketing dollars? What would I recommend for a marketing budget?

These are common questions that I get when I build a marketing organization directly or I provide marketing consulting. It is especially relavent with so many companies slashing marketing budgets, at the same time looking for something to change the rules and build a foundation for growth.

My short list of critical marketing activities are below… budget is harder because you have to take a lot more factors into account; such as  industry, sale cycle, channels, pricing, packaging, type of product, type of services, size of company, growth expectations, etc…

1. Branding – the ability to tell your story, make it compelling, and differentiate yourself is critical.

2. Website – making sure that the website tells the right story, is search optimized, and credentials your organization. Some websites sell, but most are really sales support or customer support. The best sites manage the customer relationship. Depending on the industy, maturity, etc. I would recommend building an online community (social media components embedded into the website) to manage the pre-sales activities (community) and the one-to-one customer account activities (private groups).

3. Demo, Video, Sample, Picture, Flash, etc. – something that is a tangible representation of your offering that communicates the value of the offering which can be syndicated out through social media sites, Youtube, etc.

4. References, Case Studies, and Testimonials – Communicating value in a tangible way, credentialling your ability to deliver the solution

5. Collateral, PowerPoint, Flash, Webinars, Seminars, etc. – Depending upon your industry, there are accepted norms for delivering the pitch… some industries it can be done your website, via webinar, others require a PowerPoint, others still use PDFs. Irregardless of the medim, you have to tell the “visual story”; solution, pictures/imagery, value proposition, differentiation, package, pricing, functions, features….

6. Online Marketing – Search Engine Pay-Per-Click, Search Optimized Press Releases, Linkedin, Facebook, other industry specific social media sites/groups, maybe a banner ad on critical industry sites, etc.

7. Media, Blogger, & Analyst Outreach / Industry-specific Online CommunitySocial & Forum participation – The lines between traditional media, bloggers, analysts, and communities are blurring. You have to have  a strong presence and recognize the contribution those who follow the industry have on buyers.

8. Multi-channel Marketing – Email, direct mail, personal landing pages, drip marketing, campaigns, analytics, etc. You need a good outbound marketing engine as most companies cannot rely on networking & inbound referrals alone. You also should tie it into a good CRM system so that you can make the information actionable.

9.Events, Conferences, Tradeshows – With the economy tight, a lot of the travel dollars have been slashed, but participation is still a good way to get out of your own network. Selection of which to attend is more art than science, but a good rule of thumb is “go where the customers are”…

10. Partnerships – getting a partnership is really only the first step in actually getting business from partners. Nurturing relationships, training and supporting, building solution value, providing sales support, and providing channel marketing are the real challenge in getting sustainable business. “Build it & they will come” doesn’t usually work for partnerships, either.

Bottom line, is this is a generic list of activities, but the secret sauce is prioritizing where you spend your limited dollars. I write about social media a great deal as I believe that done correctly that it can be a game changer, but the real value is focusing on doing the marketing basics really well. You can always build upon a great foundation, but you have to crawl before you walk before you run.

In Web 2.0 Software, Adoption Trumps Functionality

The last several years have seen the greater adoption of social media and other Web 2.0 software components. These component software tools provide users with a more interactive experience, personalization, with the ability to create their own content, links, tags, navigation, etc. Additionally, you are seeing the growth of the “connected web”; web services, RSS, embeddable code, ubiquitous meta-tagging, widgets, consumable data, etc.

The proliferation of these software applications has migrated to every sector; consumer, enterprise, SMB, etc. What used to take NDA’s, sharing and modification of API’s, and endless meetings now can be accomplished with a snippet of code.

As the web transitions to more semantic driven applications and less user-interface driven, you would think that functionality would become increasingly important in applications.

In my experience, the trend is towards the opposite and that ADOPTION trumps functionality. The challenge is that we have too many options on the internet; too much data, content, search results, websites, applications, etc. The word I hear over and over is “overwhelming”.

So, if you have a very limited window of attention from your audience, why would you throw extraneous “stuff” at them hoping something would stick. Instead, take advantage of the Web 2.0 technologies and provide them with a tailored experience with just-enough functionality.

More importantly, focus on what is their motivation and interests. Not all potential buyers are the same. Don’t provide a generic website experience that meets 80% of 80% of the visitors and satisfies none. Instead, focus on identifying what a 100% of a smaller audience that you know will buy and add additonal functionality to support additional segments over time. Customers provide unsolicited referrals when you exceed their expectations and provide them a WOW! experience. This is the heart of word-of-mouth marketing. EXCEED CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS!

If you cannot exceeed the whole group, then focus on a small enough group that talks to each other and build from there. You see countless blogs and articles about how to launch products on the interet. This is the reasoning behind the axioms. You need a critical mass of associated happy customers that will tell others about it.

It is about numbers. If you satisfy 1% of a large group, that doesn’t make much of a market impact. If you satisfy 80% of a small group, you own the market. Bottom line, adoption of your solution is more critical than providing everything, including the kitchen sink.

Of course, the secret is prioritizing the “right” functionality to satisfy the customer which takes someone asking them….

Leveraging Linkedin for Business Development and Marketing

I was at a networking event on social media strategy this week. One of the networking topics was how to leverage linkedin for networking. When I shared my approach to managing my linkedin profile with an account manager and a CEO, they were shocked to find out I was doing some things radically different and getting much better results.

We first compared numbers of contacts. Mine is close to 4000, theirs were approx. 100. I shared with them that I get unsolicited consulting requests because my profile is searchable by about 1/3 of the Linkedin network, approx 15,000,000 people.

Secondly, I solicited requests for recommendation from all of my contacts that I have worked with; colleagues, partners, employees, and customers. I had 25 or so recommendations, they had 1 or 2 each that they got for giving a recommendation. I give them appropriately and I request them appropriately. If you have a couple of people saying nice things about you, may or may not be true, but my feeling is that if you have sufficient volume, it speaks much more clearly about your abilities than you could ever tell. You don’t ask, you don’t get….

Next, I put up links to my blog and I put up powerpoint presentations. My goal is to credential myself so that when people find me they can evaluate my thought leadership. Obviously, I want them to think highly of me and want to reach out to engage me. Very similar to your marketing strategy; have an outbound marketing outreach program, but also make sure that when they are inbound that you provide them with a compelling interaction when they arrive. How would I know I want to do business with you if there is nothing on your profile to interest me. So, here are basic recommendations:

1. Fill out your profile completely, including jobs, roles, interests, contact information, etc.

2. Use key words liberally. We all do searches for key words to find people, make sure you are found by your key words.

2. Link to everyone you know & meet. Keeping a closed database works if you want to stay closed. If you want to be found, then make sure you connect and help others connect.

3. Join Linkedin LIONs – Linkedin Open Networkers – you have to accept requests with LION in the invitation, but if your goal is visability in Linked, this group of “connectors” is the very spirit of business development

4. Join Groups that are relavent to you – all about visability & making sure that you are accounted for in the markets where you play. Also, there are some groups that are great sources of information on markets, technologies, and connections.

5. Create content – Q&A, status updates, add powerpoints, add your blog, video, etc. for all of the reasons stated above.

6. Dont’ assume a linkedin contact is a “real” contact & don’t assume they got your message. I get SPAM messages all of the time from people who asked to connect and then assume I am fair game… you have to make sure that your messages to your contacts are respectful, reintroduce yourself even though you are a 1st level contact, and also assume that you will have to reach them another way. Almost a 1/3 of linkedin messages get lost in a SPAM filter so don’t just blast and assume they are interested or not.

7. Along those lines, I make it a point to also reach out to my contacts outside of linked if I really want a response. At the end of the day, people are open to connecting, but you have to still make it relevant, make it personal, and get there attention.

Linkedin does work… I know one of my contacts who makes 80% of her sales through her linkedin database. She built it up and then reduced it to just the “right” contacts, but if you are connected to her, you are a player. That is the exact perception she wants to create and does it extremely effectively. CMOs know that she has an exclusive database of other CMOs and they feel like they are a part of an exclusive club. When she calls or reaches out to them, they respond because they recognize the value she brings beyond just the immediate offering she sells.

At the end of the day, social media is about giving more value that you get…. but then again, that is the secret to networking in general…

Decoding Marketing: BtoB CMOs Integrating SM, SEO,Lead Gen, CRM, MCM, and M$trics for Success

What? Let me translate…

B-to-B = Business to Business

CMO = Chief Marketing Officer who has responsibility for Strategic Marketing, Product Management, Product Marketing, Channel Marketing, Marketing Communications, Lead Generation, & depending upon the nature of the company Customer Service.

SM = Social Marketing; both the external Social Media properties like FaceBook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, etc, as well as, the branded online communities built as a part of the corporate website that leverage social media components and generate a ton of user content.

SEO = Organic Search. SEM is Search Engine Marketing whereby you pay-per-click for placement. SEO is better, but you have to be on the 1st page of organic search to really get placement. There are some really effective strategies leveraging online press releases, PR, cross-linking strategies, user generated content on your website, targeted meta-tagging, and more focused website content.

Lead Gen = Lead Generation, meaning the qualified stuff, not the “IP address 123.345.128 visited your page at 12:35am”. I mean the stuff sales organizations appreciate; qualified, interested, and clearly identified, preferrably educated, but ideally a referral. Inbound leads are a reflection of your outbound activities. If you are scatter-shotting your marketing activities, throwing stuff up against the wall, without a clearly coordinated call to action, you will have trouble with leads. Good marketing aircover involves multi-channel, clear value communications, and targeted to potential buyers where they buy. As a friend said the other day, “one message is ok, a campaign is better, a relationship is the best”. Relationships take time, multiple interactions, and can’t just be about the transaction….

CRM = heard about a new company doing Social CRM which brings all of your online social media contacts from multiple sites into your CRM. COOL! Now, take it one step further and find a way to bring those contacts into a dialogue on your website about attributes of your offering that is of interest to them… priceless…

MCM = Multi-channel communications, an essential tool in today’s world. Not the end-all, but a significant, important tool to managing your outbound marketing. The ability to coordinate marketing communications, target market specific interactions, and tie all of that into your CRM system is a strong foundation. I am talking with a leading Multi-channel Marketing firm this afternoon to find out there strategies for integration social media components into their lead scoring systems.

M$trics – A cute way of saying metrics. Marketing cannot get quantitative enough in my opinion. We need to make sure that we have clear ways to measure the impact on the business; whether through a direct ROI or the ability to affect the conversion from one stage of the sales process to the next. At the end of the day, Branding disconnected from the Business is hard to justify.

Success = Integrated marketing strategy that helps position the company & the product above the competition, drives awareness in the market, generated leads, and help position the company to get referrals and repeat purchases.

Plan = Without a destination, it is hard to figure out if you will arrive….

A Social Media Marketing Primer for People Who Don’t Blog (and Never Will)

Imagine a typical CEO, late 40’s – mid 50’s, has one of the bright young guns, 3-4 layers removed in the organization, comes into a meeting and proposes that the organization do something in marketing around social media. The CEO’s only experience with “social media” is linkedin, possibly logging into facebook to monitor their tweens behavior online. Twitter? Google X application of the week? Invitation to X,Y, Z community every week? Blog? Nope. “They are lucky I check email on a regular basis with as busy as I am”

Sound like someone you know? Sound like you?  Sounds like most of us. At this point, you are saying, yep, so why should I pay attention to this social media stuff if I am not going to use it?

The short answer is…. because it is changing the face of marketing and business in general. Remember they said the same thing about websites, ecommerce, online applications, web hosting, etc…  Some of these you were leading the charge and some you were dragged kicking and screaming. The real question that you should be asking about social media is not whether there is value, but what is the risk if I am an early adopter….

The reality is that most of the people I speak with about social media will never blogs, but the real value in social media is not in getting all of your customers to chat about your product 24X7, because they won’t unless they are really, really angry, but how do you get the 10% of people who sign up, which is 10% of the people who visit to interact on your website about topics that will help your business… by the way, translates into about 1% of people interact… means 99% of us won’t on a regular basis (note: I can discuss technographics and real numbers with the best of them, but I am making a point about the value of having a small percentage actually engage to create value)

Anything is a better experience than the stale, 3 year old, and boring website you have today…. anything that differentiates your company, explains why people should buy from you versus the competitors, drives SEARCH ENGINE traffic to your website, and creates credentialling in the sales process is a tool that you should be embacing to club your competitors over the head… AND yes, you can get trememdous value from a small number of people interacting.

The how it works, how you manage risks, and how you go about getting your team to figure out how to make it work for your organization is the details that can be worked out. The question is whether you can see value in social media even though you will never blog….