Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Would the Talking Heads Say About Twitter?

You start a conversation you can't seem to finish it

You're talkin' a lot but you're not sayin' anything
When I have nothing to say my lips are sealed
Say something once why say it again?

In these lyrics from The Talking Heads 1977 breakout hit “Psycho Killer”, the art-house band could well have been talking about what not to do on Twitter, the social media “Micro Blogging” tool gaining popularity with business-to-business marketers. 

David Byrne and company might mean that when using Twitter, it’s not wise for folks to be talking a lot and not saying anything; not smart to have nothing to say; nor is it good idea to be saying things over and over. 

A Plethora of Postings

Take a moment to Google “Twitter Social Media Marketing Strategy” to see the plethora of postings offering sage advice on how to leverage Twitter for business-to-business marketing.

In post after post, read how to gain influential followers, locate useful Twitter tools, and raise the awareness of a company’s products and services with regular Tweets.

Interact, Engage

It was a Google search that recently led me to an excellent blog posting from Penn State’s Business School’s blog.  The posting talks about the importance of Twitter as a way to interact with customers and attract prospects.

The posting ended with this nugget: “Social media existed long before the Web.  It was often called “conversation.”

Keyword = Conversation.  

I’ve only begun to dip my toe in the social media marketing pool, and am comfortable being in “learning mode” about what potentially is an excellent outlet for engaging b-to-b prospects and industry community members. It's important to keep the concept of "conversation" front and center. 

It’s a mind shift.  Instead of looking at Twitter as another “channel for promotion” or another outlet to “get the message out,”  the key concept is to use the tool as a way to engage.   

This means being intentional in connecting to people where it makes the most sense from a business perspective.  This might include current customers, analysts, media, business associations or others.  

You Are What You Tweet

Once one connects with those specific to the market, tweet about valuable information in the form of links, advice, and posing/answering compelling & timely questions.   

Retweet information of value, but don’t overdo it by “saying something once, then saying it again…”   

After all, reading through a company’s Tweet timeline is a good way to get to become informed about a company’s brand. (Twitter as a branding tool, future blog post!)

Converse, Then Connect

In short, establish a conversation with folks based on topics of value.  

Then it’s possible to reap the rewards in terms of building connections to those in the market community.  

So What Would The Talking Heads Say?  

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what The Talking Heads might say about how to use Twitter.

To paraphrase David Byrne: 
1.     Don’t be a PsychoTweeter
2.     Use Twitter to start conversations
3.     Tweet a lot and say something
4.     Have something to say each time you tweet
5.     If you tweet it once, there’s no reason to tweet it again

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

5 Lessons Tap Dancing Teaches About B-to-B Marketing

A few years back a friend encouraged me to join an adult tap dancing class.   The program is sponsored by the local Recreation Department. 

And before this goes any further, note that we students in Beginning/Intermediate Adult Tap aren’t the Rockettes by any means. We’re just eager learners taught by a skilled instructor who has a sense of humor (thankfully), as she gamely leads us through shuffle ball changes, heel/toe combinations, stamps & stomps.

We assemble most Monday nights to learn steps with such intriguing names as “Falling Off the Log”, “Back to Cincinnati”, “Paddle Turns” and many more. In the spring, we zip ourselves up in sparkly costumes and perform in a recital right along with all the kids and teens.  We make quite the spectacle!

Tap dancing offers specific lessons related to my day job: marketing communications,  planning marketing programs & campaigns, and working with clients.  The way I see it, tap dancing class offers the following five lessons.

1)    Take each step as it happens.   This is another variation of the sage advice “fully concentrate on each present moment.”   In tap class, one can’t master the step one is doing while worrying about the next step to come.  That’s the same in marketing. 
As an example, when planning for a big project like a product launch, a web launch, a newsletter redesign, or a major email campaign, focus on what one action to take now to prep for the next step. Do you need to arrange a team planning session? Draft a key message document? Write a case study? Small steps lead to larger success.
2)    Go about your routines with gusto.  Even a novice tap dancer can perform a routine “with gusto” ...  The key is to make the routine effective. 
In business-to-business marketing programs, there are “routine tasks” to implement each month:  customer newsletters; prospect eNewsleters; website updates; press releases; monthly campaigns; marketing metric reporting.  One must tackle each project systematically and with gusto to maximize effectiveness.
3)    Practice and know your stuff, but improvise if needed  I’m a big believer in practicing.  In fact, I host emergency tap dance practices with the entire class in my garage right before each recital. (It's fun to see the neighbors doing double-takes when they walk by!)

It’s wise to be “well practiced” in terms of marketing.  That means attending webinars, participating with professional groups like IABC Detroit, or attending conferences such as Usability Week conferences by Norman Nielsen Group to keep skills fresh.  Marketers should keep abreast of current thought about social media marketing, SEO and online marketing.  Practice makes perfect!

4)    Hang onto something solid if you need to regain your balance. At our last tap class, our wonderful instructor tried once again to teach us a gravity-defying “Jump shuffle” step.  Thankfully we could grip the bar while doing it to keep our balance. 

There’s a lesson here for business communications. Many projects get off balance quickly – whether because of time deadlines, the personalities involved, or internal challenges. The key here is to hang onto a process, a task, or a plan to regain balance and keep the project moving along.

5)    If all else fails be sure to show flair & enthusiasm  Despite the best planning, practicing and preparation, sometimes things don’t work out as planned.  In tap dancing, as in business-to-business marketing, the best strategy is to proceed with as much style as one can muster.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When a Brown Bag Isn’t A Brown Bag

I just returned from a marketing communications planning meeting with a team of execs from a UK-based manufacturing company. It was a great meeting about the importance of a strategic approach to PR.

Specifically, the company recognizes the value of generating “top of mind awareness” within their industry space. With systematic creation and distribution of key industry announcements, press releases, and news, the company can reinforce their brand image of technological innovation.

A regular news stream helps populate other marketing communications programs such as e-newsletters, direct mail, websites and social media.

We talked about how traditional advertising, or even PPC, has its place but isn’t an affordable option right now to meet their purposes. Conversational, or social marketing, in the form of internet content is gaining momentum and effectiveness. PR fuels this effort.

Watch Your Words!

As the discussion turned to topics worthy of announcements and news releases, it became clear that there is a distinct difference between UK and American “business-speak” and other vocabulary.

As an example, one of the company’s execs shared that in the UK, the term “brown bag” has a dramatic difference in definition than in the US. Here in the US, a “brown bag seminar” means a business meeting in which participants bring their own lunch, or “brown bag it” as they view an informative presentation. In the UK, however, the term “brown bag” conjures up visions of a homeless drunk on the side of the road. This is an important distinction when building a press release!

Never Say “Pants”

The term “pants” is also problematical. In the UK,"pants" usually refers to underwear- not trousers. The descriptive term "pants" is also used when referring to something that is of poor quality ("the movie last night was pants").

Business writing is also unique in the UK, where one will see terms like “whilst”; “heretofore”; “henceforth” and other words not often seen in business writing.

For Further Reading

The Project Britain blog on all things British life and culture offers a handy worksheet and vocabulary listing that translates UK and US terms.

As the blog points out, many Brits are familiar with American slang terms and idioms from consuming US media. Still, it pays to be sensitive, especially when dealing with a multi-cultural business communications project.

PR builds trust and credibility. It is cost-effective way to validate a new product or service to the most people possible. The challenge is to get the word out/generate interest/awareness from unbiased, third party opinion, but to use the appropriate vocabulary!

I married into a UK family, so I understand these issues. I’m just grateful the team reminded me of these particular words. So far, I better remember to stay away from “Brown Bag” and “pants”!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ask and You Shall Receive

It’s easy for a website project to get off kilter. Understandably, those on the web team have their own ideas of what works and what doesn’t work in terms of web design, features, navigation, content and so on.

Everybody on the internal team has an agenda, and a stake, when it comes time to building a website.

But for a business-to-business web project, whether you sell software or professional services or widgets, it pays big dividends to keep the typical, average user in mind. Why? If the goal of a website is lead generation, it should be extremely fast and obvious for a prospect to take action (sign up for a newsletter; follow social media; complete a contact us form). It should also be obvious, within seconds, what it is you sell. If it isn’t, your prospect will quickly click away.

What Do Your Prospects Think?

How would you know if your website is easy to use and navigate? You would ask your prospects. That’s right! You would seek out typical users and buyers of your product and ask them a few questions about the flow of the site, the navigation, the content and other key elements. Ask them informally - sit along side them with a few open ended questions and note what they do. (future blog post: ideas for a simple, DIY user testing project)

From design to content, the user can shed light on the following:

· Information architecture that matches the users' model of the information. Would your prospects be more interested in a menu list of your services, or do they want to see a description of how you serve their industry. How would you know this. You ask them.

· An intuitive navigation system to move people around this architecture. How would you know if the navigation was easy to use? You ask them.

· Chunked text, short and with liberal use of bulleted lists and highlighted keywords. Users scan, so content should support scan ability.

· Reduced use of jargon. Are you speaking the prospects language? How would you know this. You ask them

· Prioritized content availability – can your prospects find what is important to them? And how would you know what is important to your prospect? You ask them.

Parting Thought

Websites influence 97% of prospects’ purchasing decision. Doesn’t it make sense to take some time to ask a typical prospect if your website makes it easy for them to evaluate your product or service?