Archive for the ‘Tradeshows’ Tag

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.

Social Marketing Changes Everything Part 2 – Theory

Continuation of Part 1 – Introduction

Continued at Part 3 – Business Case

The fundamentals of marketing are changing with the mass adoption of RSS. RSS allows the repackaging and redistribution of information into components which can be reused, reassembled, mashed-up, etc. RSS also allows each piece of content to have its own URL. As we transitioned from domains to pages to feeds to tweets, you are seeing increasing componentization of information. 

Social Marketing is a direct response to this changing landscape. Social Marketing is the transition away from pre-packaged messaging to evangelism (education before engagement) with focus on user interactions, relationships, influencers, & experiences. Social Marketing represents a continuation of the shift from broadcast messaging to interactive. There are some contributing factors underlying this shift:

  • Sheer Size of the Web –According to Nielsen Netview, 168,670,941 active domains
  • Volume of SPAM emails – My email example: 715 spam messages caught as of Monday, June 29, 2009 10:22 AM
  • Need for Social Search– Search engines are still in their infancy (Google: Results 110 of about 590,000,000 for marketing)
  • Rise of Social Networks – Nielsen puts the interactions on social media larger than web mail as of February
  • Amount of Blog Posts– According to Technorati, close to 1M a day that also get pumped into the search engines

Through the linking, repackaging, and sharing of content;  Social Media is playing a key role in bridging the information search challenge on the web. My blog is a perfect example of this. I started this blog as an vehicle to provide thought leadership and credentialling in finding a position as a marketing executive. About a month into building the blog, I realized that my traffic had transitioned from primarily being driven by the people that I know and met to inbound links from social media, other blogs, directories, social bookmark sites, etc. Because I am on a subdomain for wordpress, I don’t get the benefit of branding my own domain so search engines really don’t do anything for me. Even if I had my own domain, my posts on marketing show up in the middle of the 590 Million indexed pages on Marketing.

Without the the linking, repackaging, rating, and sharing of content that people do on sites like Twitter(tweets), Facebook(content and people recommendations), Delicious, Digg, News Aggregation sites, Industry hubs, etc, or the blog-rolls or even the large connectors on Linkedin with the LIONs (Open Networkers); how would anyone really find anything on the web.

Hence the challenge to marketing as the traditional ways that you reach potential buyers are being overwhelmed with the amount of messaging; telemarketing, email marketing, direct mail, tradeshows, webinars, etc. A large part of this is that the internet has enabled near-zero distribution costs for messaging, so it is almost as easy to send 10,000 as it is to send one. 

The people who repackage and redistribute content or build relationships hubs play an equally important role as the creators. If you have 50 creators of content on a subject, you need one person to assemble, rate, and aggregate this content into meaningful information. The content and relationship distributors really play the equivelant role of market makers for the stock market. Without a market maker, you couldn’t have exchanges. Without exchanges, you can’t get a place to conduct the scale of trades needed to keep a market fluid. This role is going to continue to drive the market for information; in return, drive the impact on marketing. The bigger the size of the information market, the more importance the role of market makers.

That is why social marketing is so critical to marketing at large and why social marketing is changing everything. Think of information as a product that needs distribution. If you now need to make sure you have the widest distribution of content, you need to build relationships with the distributors. The manufacturer with the biggest, strongest distribution network wins. Traditional broadcast models for marketing presupposes a direct relationship. Social marketing presupposes an indirect relationship. If history is an indicator, then the indirect channels have more scale.

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.