Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

Why this Blog isn’t Like Others

Since the focus on my blog is marketing strategy, most of my followers will be surprised to find me writing on tactical blogging. However, I have gotten a good number of requestsregarding how am I getting such traction with my blog, even more so than most websites. So, this is a deconstruction of my approach for those who aren’t familiar with how to build a blogging strategy.

First, let me outline why this blog is different than most of your traditional blogs: 

  1. More like a corp blog than a traditional individual blog– I am running this as I would if I were the CMO of a company and I needed dynamic content for my website and for direct messaging to the market.
  2. I am playing a specific role as a content manufacturer versus a content distributor – I have written about how I see the the development of tiered content distribution on the web (Search Engines versus Social Media for Marketing Awareness)
  3. Focused on establishing my thought leadership in the social marketing space – hence the original, higher quality content.
  4. My audience is the “C” level executive decision-makers that doesn’t have time to read blogs -Kind of tough to reach people via a blog who don’t read blogs, but my strategy is to leverage indirect channels of establishing relationships prior to engaging. I am getting read, but I am reaching them through other channels and then bringing them to my blog one at a time. 
  5. My blog is obviously integrated with my offline and other online marketing activities -The decision makers don’t care whether the information is offline or online, they just want quality from validated sources. My marketing strategy does both prior to engagement.
  6. My blog isn’t as targeted – I would like to be more targeted, but I am having to balance my desire my long term goal to find a permanent role with my short term social marketing consulting. Hence, it is a bit schizophrenic in switching between broader CMO topics (Web 2.0 product management, product marketing, and lead generation) and more targeted social marketing.
  7. You will notice that I don’t have links – It is not that I do not want to be helpful to assist you in finding additional strategic marketing resources, but they are time consuming to build and, in truth, they distract from the narrative that I am building between posts.
  8. Very little third party content for the same reason – I am showcasing my expertise, building a narrative around social marketing, and focused on building a library of original content. I will occasionally comment on really cool information, but I try to be a destination for original content.
  9. I have turned off the commenting (too much SPAM) – I receive feedback through my social networks, twitter, email, and back links. Please reach me through these vehicles (contact info in the sidebar) as I appreciate people the feedback.
  10. I have a micro targeting strategy versus a macro blogging recognition one – In part, I am more focused on creating a thought leadership center for people to leverage for understanding social marketing, validating my expertise, and providing a call to action around my resume. Hence why I am on a hosted wordpress with poor Seach Engine Optimization. I am not looking to establish myself as a blogger, but rather I am validating my knowledge as a Marketing Executive with some very cool, cutting edge expertise.

My Recommendations for Starting a Corporate Blog

1. Start with the Strategy first. Are you blogging for brand recognition, validation, sales support?

2. Understand the mechanics of blogging – what rules will you follow, which ones will you not. I break some rules because it supports my strategy to do so.

3. Build an editorial calendar – map out the narrative that you want to deliver and manage to that

4. Pace yourself – fewer posts of higher quality is better. On the other hand, make sure that you are at least once or twice a week, preferrably more.

5. Don’t “Build it and They Will Come” – doesn’t work. You need to promote it, get it added to online catalogs, cross promote with other marketing communications channels, and get the word out. It takes a while to build visability and even longer to build a regular following.

Hope this helps.

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Using Baseball Fans to Explain Web 2.0

As a web evangelist, I cheer the widespread adoption of the latest web techniques and technologies. As a business person, I am a little confused by the widespread use of 2.0 label on everything; Sales 2.0, Recruiting 2.0, Pizza 2.0, Beer 2.0, etc. Everything seems to become 2.0.

As a product manager, I cringe when I see a 2.0 label slapped onto something that is vague and unclear. Even worse, many are now moving towards 3.0 to discuss semantic web. For many people, they are still getting their arms around the what web 2.0 is let alone things like mashups, mobile marketing, online communities, social networking, semantic web, etc. For those of you confused, here is my baseball fan analogy to help you understand…

First there was the baseball uniform, then numbers were added, then names. Eventually, the jerseys were mass produced which the fans could take home from the stadiums. This was the equivelent of HTML.

Then the fan favorite jerseys were then sold at local retailers. This was the equivelent of email marketing. This of course led to the development of fake jerseys sold everywhere. This was SPAM.

When a buddy organizes a trip to the park and buys a 10 pack of cheap outfield tickets for his friends to tag along and drink. This is a social network. As an aside, when he bought them online, this was ecommerce.

Now, Major League Baseball does not allow you to build and order your custom named jersey(imagine a couple with Chug-a-lug & Beer Goggles on the back), but if they did, the jersey would be XML and the experience would be Web 2.0.

Imagine if MLB would imbed RFID tags in the jersey tied to an acount that would allow you to just walk into the stadium without tickets. This is RFID. If you don’t know RFID, there is the technology they have been using to track packages, groceries, and warehouse pallets. If the ticket was on a phone that was bar coded, this is mobile commerce. (Yes, they are doing it now)

Take this further and imagine that MLB took your online account of when you came to the stadium and combined it with a weather chart to figure out if you were a true “fair-weather” fan. This is a mashup.

If MLB, then took this information and sent you a 50% off promotion on your phone inviting you to attend on the next rainy day, that is mobile marketing. 

If they took that information and the next time that you came to the game, they ejected you from line because the system automatically figured out that the team had lost the last 4 games that you came to the park, that is semantic web.

You could call all of the above Baseball 2.0…

In all seriousness though, web 2.0 and the like terminology is confusing for a lot of people. I know first hand how hard it is for people, who spend their every waking working minute immersed in developing a new technology/product and/or company, to remember that everyone else doesn’t have the vocabulary or the frame of reference to “get it”. For many in the technology business, it is hard to imagine that AOL still has 6 million dial-up customers. For those of us who run marketing & product management organizations, our jobs are first to build a fantastic customer experience and then make sure we make it easily understood. Of course, it should go without saying to get it widely adopted, but that is still more art than science.

Virtual Relationships Still Need to Get Physical

As much as I advocate the value of social media and online communications, these still don’t replace the value of face-to-face meetings. Body language aside, most of us grew up in a world without the heavy influence of our computers. TV and radio were the primary electronics of our youth…. well, Atari was prevalent in mine, but despite the disproportionate amount of time that I spent chomping on little strings of dots, most of my childhood was spent offline.

As an adult, I now spend a disproportionate of my time on my computer. My relationships are going virtual as well. It is much more efficient to fire off three emails while working on a presentation than to stop pick up the phone or trek over the nearest Starbucks. I do business online  and collaborate with people that I have neither met over the phone or in-person. I have just shy of 3500 Linkedin connections and 550 Facebook friends along with 334 Twitter Followers. I am so “online” that I don’t print out white papers to read anymore. (Yes, I still read them.)

In truth, my technographic profile fits more of the much younger generations that are growing up online. Kids are a little ahead of the adults in that they don’t recognize the difference between interactions online versus offline. I am seeing more of the adults becoming the same way.

We will organize an introduction via email to meet at a local Starbucks. After we meet, we will follow up by email with other virtual introductions, some phone calls, and even a PowerPoint or two. Some may even tweet about it… and then repeat the cycle.

As a social marketing evangelist, I advocate building online relationships as a effective and efficient way to reach broader audiences. I actually believe that this will eclipse many of the traditional methods of relationship building in business  over the next couple of years.

As a marketer, I realize that you need to reach people in the ways that they want to be found; email, phone, meetings, introductions, events, social media, direct mail, advertising, PR, search, etc. Many people aren’t comfortable about building relationships without meeting face-to-face. Look at past Ecommerce trends; people weren’t comfortable giving their credit card to unknown merchants. Until there were protections in place that prevented the loss from unethical merchants, Ecommerce was the wild west. We can’t discount the need to build a way to establish trust online for many people.

As a product of my generation and the generations that sandwich mine, I miss the live interactions. With all due respect to the empowered pajama workers, I need the human interaction. Even if I spend all day on the computer, I need a human connection.

I actually like trade shows and conferences. For exactly the same reason I like bookstores, I like to browse the shelves and pick up books. Cover art, book heft, back cover descriptions, immediate gratification, and in-store promotions are still a part of my book buying DNA. Yes, I have bought books online, even online books, but I still will go to a bookstore. There is something to be said for finding a new vendor or meeting new prospects at a conference or show that you would never have met. Even better, a whole lot of them at once.

As much as I do business online, I feel more connected after we meet face-to-face. Breaking bread with someone is still a way to validate the measure of a person.

I am not a look-back type of person as I really like the direction that technology is going, I enjoy social media, and I think we are seeing a fundamental shift towards online relationships. Just saying that virtual relationships still could use a cup of coffee now and then.

Wanted: Passionate Advocacy in Response to Cynical World

Ever seen a really creative ad that has no connection to the product brand. Chances are that the real reason is that the creative director had no connection to the product that they were selling and decided to showcase their creativity instead of communicating passionate advocacy of the product. Welcome to the marketing equivalent of “the paycheck player.”

We are seeing it show up everwhere in marketing… earnest promotion of products and services intent on connecting with potential buyers replaced with snarky, cynical, disconnected, shock marketing. I am not saying that humor doesn’t have a strong place in marketing; it is critical. But, humor without the central components of marketing is cynical: passion, authenticity, empathy, & connection.

Passion –you need to believe in your product or service. We all struggle with tasks that we need to do, but don’t feel passionate about. Changing diapers was definitely that for me… but, when you string together a series of client or projects that you cannot emotionally connect long enough; you can wake up one morning and no longer be passionate about anything that you do in work. You are a mercenary with no loyalty or connection, but doing it for the money. Hence, the creative director scenario above. The movie Jerry Maquire was about that… “Show me the money” and “We live in a cynical, cynical world”.

I have been “lucky” in my career to have chosen the path sometimes less travelled focusing on being passionate about the product, sometimes to the detriment of security or financial success. But, I can’t see just going through the motions of marketing and then saying “Let’s throw a clown into the ad, people like clowns…” I think this is why people are gravitating to social networking and away from advertising. They are looking for authenticity.

Authenticity– As a father of a young child (with one on the way), I am constantly reminded of the wonder of the world through a child’s eye. I also feel the constant tug for delivering a really great experience, but cognizant of how commercial children’s marketing has gotten. There are some shows that I have seen with him that look like one big product placement. I have begun to appreciate the trade-off between polished production and authentic experience. As an adult, I get tired of the canned ads, fake testimonials, and the clearly manipulative “buying process”.

Empathy – I think sometimes that the science of buyer behavior forgets that the buyers are actual people. I am for automation and buyer behavior modelling, but I reject the win-lose value proposition behind some of the science. I think that there is a difference between optimizing the shopping cart process to make it easier for buyers to check-out versus pop-ups to “convince” them that they really wanted to buy.  My fundamental belief is that if you have done a good job of understanding your target audience, understood their motivations and circumstances, clearly articulated a value proposition that they understand, and developed your offering to meet that buyer’s needs; you will close more business than if you had missed the mark, but follow all of the “buyer behavior” techniques. Connection is the art that I still believe trumps the science.

Connectivity – Part of the rise of the social networking sites is that search engines are logic based and people are emotional based. Search is algorithmic; eventually everything has to get back to 1’s and 0’s. We, as humans, don’t think like that. We are messy, inexact, curious, and irrational at times. “Social search” allows for the emotional side to take over. When you ask a friend for a recommendation on a product, you are weighing that person’s opinion over all of the experts that you can find out on the web. Rational, not really. Authentic, trusted, connected, and passionate; definitely. Search engines can be very efficient, but the force ranking of items does not take into account the different motivations or the intelligence of the individual.

In my opinion Social “Search” fills a hole in search that search engines cannot fill. It works for a basic reason; finding a passionate evangelist who has already done the unbiased research for you is priceless when it comes to buyer support.

Social (Marketing) Must Evolve to Survive

A friend of mine recommended yesterday that I rewrite my BIO to reflect my expertise in social marketing. I appreciated the feedback, but it also highlighted an identity crisis that I have been struggling with since before I started this blog.  

I am looking for a strategic marketing role that leverages my experience over the last few years in product managing, evangelizing, and consulting around social media platforms for marketing. I have also been consulting in social marketing and I am getting considerable recognitition for my thought leadership in the space, but I never saw my future as an independent social marketing consultant. I haven’t figured out the consultant’s dilemna; balancing sales with delivery.

Here is my real dilemna… although I am consulting on social marketing, I really see that social marketing as an independent discipline will eventually go away. If it is succssful, I believe that ALL marketing disciplines will be socially enabled thus social marketing as a term will become redundant. I suspect that it will take a while. So for my social marketing colleagues, you can rest easy that you will have jobs for a while.

I see that Social Marketing will be elevated in the marketing portfolios to become a strategic discipline reporting to the CMO akin to Product Marketing, Product Management, Marketing Communications, Marketing Operations, and even Web Marketing. But, I also see that each of these discpilines will need to become proficient in social marketing and understand how the changing dynamics on the web will impact their individual disciplines. I think that social marketing represents a fundamental shift in buyer behavior which will require a rethinking of the marketing function at large. Social media is a catalyst, but it isn’t the actual change. Buyer expectations around information, relationships, and the very nature of transactions are evolving. I see this as another phase (in a long line) of the changes driven by deeper internet integration and evolution.

Product Marketing & Brand Management – Today, the product value proposition is designed for multi-channel, but how do you design for user generated content where you cannot control the location, context, or delivery? Social media and marketing represent a shift in the direct communications of marketing messaging to the indirect. Product Marketing will have to package product messaging to become more compact (sound bites), reusable, and repurposable to ensure sufficient distribution through social media channels; ie. blogs, social networks, digg, delicious, Youtube, etc. 

Product Management – We are already seeing the trend in Web 2.0 product management to build “lite”, component applications that are driven more by adoption that overwhelming features. These applications are built to be a point solutions, but can be scaled easily and as modules. The reasoning is that for many potential users, more is less… attractive. We are so overwhelmed with information that taking time out to learn a complicated application  is not attractive. Building just-in-time functionality to meet specific pain with the ability to add more functionality later is attractive. In reality, you are seeing agile manufacturing of web applications. We are also seeing that happen in manufacturing, services, and distribution across society. This puts more pressure on Product Management to understand the customers, identify the segments, build targeted functionality prioritized to their needs, and delivery the right experience. A much more complicated and fluid environment made more difficult when the potential markets can self identify and congregate virtually. You can miss the mark and it will be much more readily visible.

Marketing Communications – Advertising is in full retreat from the recession, but also from the fact that more messages do not translate to more sales. Actually, the inverse. SPAM has overwhelmed our email infrastructures. The key to marketing communications now is multi-channel, targeted, and coordinated messaging that catches attention, engages, and provides a specific call to action. Social media empowers the audience to tune in or tune out the message as they see fit. Marketing communications needs to adjust to the power shift in this relationship. Marketing Communicatiosn firms are even more vunerable as many of them are transaction oriented (campaigns) where the newer channels are relationship oriented (long-term, one-to-one mass customization of relationships). Marketing communications needs to evolve to more of a pull strategy versus a push strategy.

Marketing Operations – CRM, Multi-Channel Marketing, Enterprise Content Management, Measurement and Reporting, etc. all get impacted. When does a lead start? How do you measure a fluid environment? How do you manage corporate information assets that aren’t in your posession which are designed for reusablility and redistribution (blog posts are an example)? How do you measure all of the activity to develop an ROI? (This one I can answer: you should build the ROI based upon your traditional metrics. Force social marketing to justify why these activities will lead to more effective marketing, not create justification as to why you should do social marketing)

Web Marketing – Where does Corporate Online Communities come into the equation? SEO and SEM? How do you balance the shift from search to social media? How do you manage the transition from social networks to your own onlne community? Engagement, Interaction, Adoption, Momentun?

Ironic that a social marketing evangelist is advocating the end of social marketing as a discipline. However, as a marketing executive first, I believe that social marketing is really about applying the fundamentals of marketing to a new environment.

Mashable.com’s Chart on Social Marketing Benefits

Check out this chart from www.mashable.com below which provides survey results of the benefits companies are seeing in social marketing. I think it provides a great overview of the potential for social marketing. The only thing that I would add is the value of connecting with influencers (call it indirect communications) to reach a broader audience is not captured. I would add that as a category the next time they run this survey. I think they will be surprised how well this category results.

Also, social marketing is not just about social networking, but developing an online community into your existing website, building social profiles into your CRM efforts, and extending your multi-channel communications. Finally, it is about rethinking the customer experience to better orient around the 360 degree referrential buying process this is becoming the norm.

http://mashable.com/2008/12/29/benefits-of-social-media-marketing/

Why Fortune 1000 (All) CEOs Needs to Understand Social Media and Marketing

The reality is that very few Fortune 1000 CEOs (or even Divisional CEOs) will read this post. Actually, very few will read any posts. BUT here is why they should…

  • Marketing – Traditional marketing activities are getting diminishing returns; social marketing leveraging social media represents a shift to lower cost, higher return activities. Ecomomics is the driver. Mantra should be “Find more cost effective ways to drive revenue”.
  • Competition – The competitor that can figure out how to leverage online social relationship networks to drive customer acquisition at a faster rate grows faster.
  • Employee Productivity – Your employees can be much more productive leveraging these web 2.0 tools. Problem is that most organizations approach these tools at a tactical level and therefore only get marginal results. Some of the real innovators are using it to rethink and realign their value delivery systems.
  • Cost of Sales – Used to be that vendors that could short circuit an RFP could command higher margins. If your prospects are doing research on the web, you need to short circuit that process OR at least get in early enough to influence the process. You will lower your aggregate cost of sales.
  • Customer Relationships – Customers are demanding better information and better interaction throughout their lifecycle. Every major company has customer retention and referral programs. How is your organization trying to provide a better customer experience?

Could you cut lead generation, customer acquisition, or customer support costs leveraging social media? Can you demonstrate a ROI?

The short answer is “yes”, but having a Corporate Facebook page is probably not the right answer when someone on your board asks your CMO about how you will leverage social media …. or how you will drive sales growth over the next 2 quarters when you are also cutting marketing budgets. You could probably flog the troups to work harder to get the short term results, but the reality is that a lot of smart companies are crafting strategic approaches to social media to help change the market dynamics. If you are not getting the sales growth that you would like even in the face of a myriad of corporate initiatives, you may want to rethink “Social Media is a Fad” or isn’t really for <insert your market here>.

Why? Social Media represents a fundamental shift in the way people interact on the web. As a result, this impacts the way customers and employees interact in business. We all have B school case studies where innovative companies leveraged innovative technology challenge the established market order. There are just as many examples of where the established market leader crushed an upstart competitor by leveraging the same innovative technologies to maintain their market lead.

Your organization spends a great deal of money and time around preparing strategic plans, why aren’t you taking the same approach to social media? Could be a game changer for your business… or your competitor…

If you don’t have people in-house who can build and articulate real strategy with a Roadmap, Business Case, and ROI around social media & marketing, then I suggest that you acquire that talent post-haste. Even if you decide that you need a slow-roll approach to leveraging social media; having a strategic gameplan that is well thought out and justified is priceless. Especially if social media represents a fundamental paradigm shift in the way businesses interact with customers.

Social Marketing Needs Collaboration

The title sounds a bit redundant, but if you are like me, trying to maintain the volume of content for my blog, twitter feeds, linkedin groups, and facebook chats is difficult at best. Social marketing activities need to be collaborative to produce the quality and volume sufficient to “move the dial”. I will share some anecdotes:

  1. I made a recommendation to a handful of personal contacts that they needed to create a blog to give their marketing efforts a boost ( a mix of marketing and management professionals who were either doing it for their company or doing it for a job search). They needed to demonstrate their thought leadership in their particular domains. Out of the 5, they produced a grand total of 2 posts….. I couldn’t reasonably expect all of them to produce content, but I was curious to see how difficult it was for them to get started. I will share my alternative recommendation to them below.
  2. I read one of Guy Kawasaki’s posts about leveraging 4 assistants to research news to produce his twitter tweets. First, I have twitter assistant envy. Second, his name is really is a brand at this point. Third, he is leveraging a small community to produce sufficient content because there is no way a single person could produce that volume of content, let along original content.
  3. I have had coffee as of late with a number of people who are active participants in in social media, but choose not to produce original content, but rather are comfortable with the relationship building and redistribution of content. I think this is the right way to get started in social marketing. You can always introduce your own commentary and content once you have established a relationship network.

Having done a significant amount of consulting around building corporate online communities as an extension of the corporate website, I have had lengthy discussions around content creation. Most of the issues were of the “how do we actually create enough content?” with a close second in “How do we encourage participation?” The short answer is participation begets more participation….

I call it the empty restaurant syndrome. You go into a large, cavernous restaurant with multiple rooms with a  capacity for hundreds and you see a small cluster of tables in the middle of the restaurant with more staff than patrons. Your impression is that the caliber of the food isn’t good. Take the same number of patrons and line them up outside of the hole-in-the wall pizza joint AND you are congratulating yourself for this amazing find.

It is the same with online participation. If you go into a group and there hasn’t been any post updates in months, you assume that the content isn’t worth your time because no one else is participating. The alternative is you see a long list of posts, but no real threads or connectivity. Volume does not equal collaboration either.

Very few people on the web can sustain the volume of unique content production to build a momentum and readership. Even fewer can do it part-time while maintaining a full-time position or run a business and personal life.

Beyond the basics of needing other people’s input to spark the creative juices, we also need the real time feedback to give us that tactile response and immediate gratification from someone commenting positively about ideas that you express. Whether you do it in 140 characters, in groups on the social networking sites, in your own corporate community, or as collaborative post swaps with other bloggers. The reality is that it is easier to respond to someone’s commentary than sit at a computer and toil away on your own.

I will also add that in my experience with building online communities, it does not take a large core group of participants to create a large volume of compelling content, but rather a leader who provides the evangelism, focus, and leads the topic discussions. Rather like a good MC on a panel discussion; seed the conversation, encourage participation, moderate discussion, and summarize the discussion to bring out the major points.

Now back to what the people above should do alternatively to starting a blog…. the short answer is that it depends. I would recommend that they participate in relevant topic groups in the various social networking sites (communities), provide commentary on the content they find online through twitter, and get comfortable with participating and writing versus trying to maintain the regular production schedule of a single publisher blog.

Or alternatively, if there is a sufficient number of internal people in their company, I would recommend that they create a group blog (mini-community) until they have sufficient content and discussion to warrant opening up to outside direct participation in a larger community. They should bring in articles, blog posts, tweets, videos, white papers, interview customers, etc all focused around the key messages and take-aways that you want to communicate to your target audience.

Bottom line is that we all need inspiration and collaboration for writing whatever form it comes in.

 

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Search Engines vs Social Media for Marketing Awareness

Most companies’ websites are not on the first page of an organic search in the category. Probably half don’t even show up in the first couple of hits on their company name. This is the fundamental reason that social media is becoming more important to those companies. It is about distribution.

In the brick-and-mortar world, manufacturing and distribution were two well defined roles in business. Manufacturers created the products and then went to distributors (VARs, wholesalers, or even retailers) who distributed. The reason was economics; cost of sales and cost of distribution. Distributors broke up pallets, combined products into solutions, provided consulting, marketed, and managed the relationship with the customer. Manufacturers made the product and managed the relationship with the distributors.

I see the same model evolving with content on the web in marketing. Content manufacturers create the content (on websites, blogs, tweets, social networking posts, Youtube videos, and pictures) that is then redistributed (linkedin, referenced, clipped, forwarded, emailed, etc) to others on the web. Two critical roles are emerging; content manufacturers and content distributors. There is a whole class of  bloggers and twitterers who don’t create anything, but play an incredibly important role of cataloging, annotating, and redistributing content for the particular interest of their networks. You need both.

I think you are seeing a fundamental shift in the way that people distribute information via the web from a traditional direct distribution model (My website is cataloged, I invite people I know, or emailed to a list) to an indirect distribution model where you need a distribution network to reach and influence the right audience. These distributors ( really influencers) are critical to getting the “word out”, but you better have something compelling, interesting, and relevant if you want distribution. They “pay” for the privilege of distributing your content with a real currency… “their attention”.

At the end of the day, SEO is still extremely important for all companies. If only for optimizing your site for secondary and tertiary key words, you still can pick up traffic. Pay-per-click also helps. Search engines are still the leading way to find information on the web.

The “but” in that sentence is that social media is increasingly becoming a strong distribution channel for generating marketing awareness. As in the real world, those manufacturers (marketers) who have the stronger distribution network…. win.