Archive for April, 2010

It’s time to unleash your blog

Check out this quote from Patrick CraneVP Marketing, LinkedIn

“We started the LinkedIn Blog almost three years ago when we were a 60 person company.  Now we are a 600 person company … Promoting your blog front and center is a massively efficient way to promote your business and achieve multiple nosiness objectives — launch products, hire talent, proactively address issues your company faces, tap the evangelism of your customers … Management was dubious in the beginning, but Kay Luo our PR lead pushed it through. Nobody doubts the power of our blog now. In fact they depend upon it.”

It seems like every day I see research, testimonies and case studies like this supporting the idea that blogs are not only creating new business benefits for corporations, they’re rapidly filling an information need for customers throughout the sales cycle.

Yet, many companies have been sluggish to climb on board.  At others, the intiative may be misunderstood, with only half-hearted management support. And despite the fanfare of Twitter, Facebook and their much-hyped cousins, meaningful guidance on establishing and nurturing a blog in a corporate setting has been incredibly rare.  

Clearly the time is right to re-think the role of the company blog and figure out how to unleash its potential.

If you’re a blogger, thinking about blogging, or struggling with blogging, I’d like to alert you to an exceptional opportunity.  Billy Mitchell, a frequent contributor to the {grow} community and leader of MLT Creative in Atlanta, asked me to spend some time studying the opportunities and challenges of the business blog.  The results will be presented in a free webinar and the release of an accompanying eBook Wednesday, April 14.  This unique one-hour event plows  new ground for corporate bloggers, examining questions like:

  • Positioning a company blog as a point of competitive differentiation
  • Dealing with company politics and blogging 
  • The myth of community building
  • Using your blog to “sell me softly”

I’m really proud of how this presentation developed in terms of the uniqueness of the information and the quality of the materials.   This will be a fascinating, fast-paced event jammed with new ideas. I hope you can attend this event with me and join this timely discussion about unleashing your blog. Click HERE to learn more!


Research shows young procurement professionals embracing social web

Planning on using the social web to market to B2B decision-makers?  According to just-released research from London’s Base One Group, you might consider the age of your target audience.

In a comprehensive study of 503 UK B2B purchasing decision-makers, those under 30 years of age were twice as likely to be fans of the social web and use it actively as an information-gathering tool.

The report does a nice job breaking out the information channels used by B2B decision makers by demographics and industry, but also by the stage in the decision-making process.

For example, decision-makers under 30 counted on blogs, Twitter and Facebook at the exploratory stage of a supplier search about 30% of the time compared to about 6% for those over 30 years of age.  The one exception was LinkedIn, where both age groups found equal utility.

Important implication of this —  the upcoming generation of professionals is relying heavily on new media as an information gathering tool.

Blogs rule?

Another thought-provoking nugget in the study, is that when B2B procurement decision-makers were finding potential new suppliers, Twitter and blogs were considered as a more influential source of supplier information than any other information channel, including word of mouth, seminars and industry publications.

However, the most popular sources of information across all ages remains decidedly “old school:” web searches, supplier websites, seminars, and the industrial press.

In fact, when asked how their information gathering behavior had changed, procurement professionals cited the greatest increased use of web searches (up for  64% of respondents) and supplier websites (up for 61%). Social networking sites Facebook and Twitter experienced 6% and 10% net increases respectively, and LinkedIn saw growth of 19%. Online videos/webinars/podcasts were also a strong source of information with an increase in usage of 36%, consistent with other B2B research that has been featured on {grow}.

Base One Group commissioned the new research in association with B2B Marketing Magazine.  The study had a diverse industry profile including manufacturing, business services, financial, public administration and healthcare. About 50% of the respondents had 1,000 employees or more.


The email marketing classic FAIL

“The essence of an exceptional technology public relations agency is not something that can be captured with words. Rather, it is something that must be experienced.”Tech Image website

Well, I sure had an “experience” with Tech Image — and not a very professional one.

I get “pitched” by authors and publicists every week who are trying to get a mention on {grow}.  As you’ve noticed, I don’t normally advocate products or services here. To me, the blog would start looking like one of those jackets the NASCAR drivers wear. But I’m polite, especially when the folks think enough to write a personal note or even mention my blog. Even though I may not be interested in a product, I’m always interested in the person and building new connections.

Likewise, I also get tons of spam like everybody else, which I politely dump.

But this week I got one of the worst pitches ever … from a notable PR company (the aforementioned Tech Image) because it was spam … publicizing an eBook on email best practices from a company called Campaigner.

The irony of this is just too great to ignore.

So let’s use this as a lesson on how NOT to promote yourself to a blogger.

1) If you’re sincere in trying to make a connection with me, don’t send a form junk letter pretending to know me. Then I have to figure out if I really know you and that just takes up time that I frankly don’t have. It would be much better to say upfront, “we’re sending this out to a list of marketing bloggers who might be interested in …”. At least then I know you’ve done a little homework … which is good … but that I don’t have to figure out where we’ve met before.

2) Don’t send me unwanted spam to tout email marketing best practices. When I send out my email newsletter through Constant Contact it takes me through a series or prompts to remind me that people I am contacting have actually opted-in for the mailer. Isn’t THAT a best practice?

3) If this is important to Campaigner, why isn’t Campaigner sending out the email?  So let’s get this straight, I’m getting a promotion on email marketing best practices, published by an email marketing company, who can’t send out their own email marketing? Having a third party send out your emails. Hmm, is that also one of the best practices I should note?

Now compare this to a note I got last week from Chris Houchens.

Hi Mark —

We follow each other on Twitter (@shotgunconcepts) and I’m a reader of your blog.

I was wondering if you would be interested in a comp copy of my latest book, “Brand Zeitgeist: Embedding Brand Relationships into the Collective Consciousness.”   The book reinforces basic marketing and branding principles and illustrates how businesses can use fundamental aspects of human nature to develop a brand strategy.

Also since I’m so close to Knoxville, I was wondering if there was a possibility of some sort of event we could partner on. I could give a 30/60 minute presentation on the basics of branding, do book signings, etc. You could invite current/potential clients of your agency to the event and use it to develop your business. Just a thought. If you have another idea, I’m open to all.

Now isn’t THAT how it’s done?

P.S. “Brand Zeitgeist” is a short, sweet little book on brand evolution using examples from some of the world’s most enduring icons. The book can be found HERE. Support the community : )

Is technological complexity just covering up your other business problems?

Complexity has been a theme through many posts on {grow}, most typically connected with the word “STRESS!”

I had a fascinating discussion with one of my ex-professors about technological complexity and why it is often making business life more difficult, instead of easier. A fundamental idea we explored was that often, technological systems are implemented to try to make up for a loss of business experience.  Let’s see what you think.  Here’s an example, comparing two real companies I have worked with:

The case for experience

Company A is a mid-sized tech firm whose newest senior manager joined the company eight years ago. Most of the top executives have been in the same company, in the same market, for 20 years or more. Even during the recession, they have made it a priority to retain experienced managers.

Company A has a simple CRM system to keep their sales pipeline straight but for the most part rely on their cumulative industry experience and intimate customer knowledge to serve their market and respond quickly to opportunities. Do they rely on Twitter and social media monitoring to “listen” to their customers? No. They KNOW what’s happening because of their deep personal relationships.  Their customers typically pay more for their services and demonstrate incredible loyalty due to these long-term bonds.

Now let’s turn to Company B.  Over the past decade, this company has rapidly replaced people who fail in a job. So even an experienced “superstar” who goes into a new job and doesn’t knock the lights out right away is replaced by an outsider who has zero experience in the company and probably zero experience in the industry. Within a few years, only one out of their 12 most senior executives was “home-grown.”

Implications of tech versus experience

To make up for the rapid experience and knowledge drain, many of the new executives instituted their own management systems, often carrying over a familiar application from their previous company.  Workers at Company B are almost constantly learning a new “process.”  To make matters worse, if a rumor begins that an executive is on the way out, all progress comes to a halt because they know that the replacement manager is just going to change direction on technology again any way.

When Company B was faced with a contract negotiation with its largest customer, all of the managers who knew the customer and had been part of previous negotiations were gone.  So they hired a consultant to build a computer model that considered supply, demand, competitor capacity, pricing scenarios and every possible angle to produce a can’t miss negotiation strategy.  The result?  Company B lost the customer entirely, an event the computer model predicted could not possibly happen. The computer couldn’t account for trust and business relationships.

Now I know there are a LOT of managerial problems with the Company B scenario I’m presenting, and obviously some level of complexity is inherent in any business.  But the point is, too often we …

  • Rely on software to mask over deeper management problems.
  • Focus on data instead of information.
  • Take comfort in analytics instead of common sense.
  • Minimize the value of real business wisdom and (gasp!) intuition because we feel the latest tech hype must be infallible.

Most likely, relying on software in place of real business experience results in personal stress, bloated costs, wasted resources, and excessive complexity.

As you try to stay ahead of the mounting technological tsunami, perhaps it is time to pause and consider whether there is a true business case for that new app or if this is just an attempted quick fix to bigger problems.

What do you think? Does this idea about complexity make sense in your company and your life?

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