Monday, May 30, 2011

The Upside to Group Juggling

It's a fast pace in the typical business-to-business marketing department.

New projects and fresh ideas for innovative programs can often fall between the cracks especially when the team is going a million miles a minute juggling regular, monthly marketing programs.

A complicating factor is when the team is large (8 plus people), with some team members working remotely or part time.

A recent HBR blog post entitled “The Secret to Ensuring Follow Through” offers a helpful look at how to help ensure follow-through in this kind of setting.

When a marketing team is juggling a million ideas, as noted in the post, “there is a higher risk of someone, somewhere, dropping a ball."

The post goes onto say:

“… there's another, more positive, side to group juggling: the more people juggling, the more likely someone, somewhere will be able to catch a ball that an otherwise busy, overwhelmed individual would have dropped.”

A New Mindset
The HBR blog author proposes a new tool and "culture" to help a big marketing team manage tasks -- nothing overly formal, but a new mindset and vocabulary as a style of communicating.   

The tool is essentially a list of 7 questions to work through as new projects are delegated.  It stems from a work known as “The Checklist Manifesto” by Dr. Atoll Gawande.

This approach is incredibly valuable for the projects so many of us in marketing manage as a team – keeping websites updated; special event management; direct marketing campaigns; online advertising; sales support; etc.

Here’s the list from HBR, modified here for a business-to-business marketing team.

The (Marketing) Handoff Checklist
  1. What do you understand the overall marketing goals of this project to be? (Lead generation?  Generating attendance at a sales event?  Gathering a certain number of attendees at an online webinar?)
  2. Do you have any issues or concerns with this idea that have not already been mentioned?
  3. What are the key next steps – creative, content development, project management, etc. -  and by when do you plan to accomplish them?
  4. What do you need from the team in order to be successful?
  5. Are there any key contingencies we should plan for now?
  6. When will we next check-in on progress/issues?
  7. Who else in the organization (Creative Team, Sales, HR, Admin?) needs to know our plans, and how will we communicate them?

Coordination Wanted
There is definitely an upside to group juggling. 

Indeed there’s a better chance of success when the team can work together to catch the ball that an overwhelmed individual might drop – but that effort takes coordination.  

Next time your marketing team juggles a new program or project, give the Handoff Checklist a try and let us know how it went.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

5 Lessons Learned from Blogging

The more I read about social media marketing from those many pundits out there, the more I see the following types of content:

  • blog posts that cover blogging
  • tweets that talk about using twitter
  • blog posts that share tips for using twitter
  • tweets with pointers about blogging

Goodness knows this B-to-B blog you are reading right now takes this well-worn approach with several recent posts about managing Twitter for business-to-business marketing.   It’s clear to see that Twitter has captured my attention over the last year, in fact I’ve several more Twitter related posts in the hopper.

And in much the same spirit, let’s turn our attention to blogging.

Yes it’s a blog post that covers blogging!

Through work with my own blog, and client work for other corporate blogs, presented here are….

 5 Lessons Learned from Blogging

Lesson 1: It Pays to Be Consistent
The beast needs to be fed.  That means starting a blog is the easy part, keeping current by creating updated posts is much more difficult.  Case in point:  this blog has the goal of 4 new posts per month.  Take a look on the left side index and you’ll see I’m averaging less than 4 posts per month.  It’s effective to “post when you have something to say” so be sure that the main thrust, focus of the blog sufficiently engages and inspires you to “keep on talking” and posting.

Stuck for ideas?  Those smarty pants at Hubspot give some great pointers on keeping business-related content fresh and “feeding the beast”. (warning, lots of food analogies so best to read on a full stomach)

Lesson 2: Take Time to Engage
No matter what the blog post topic, asking pointed questions, soliciting feedback and engaging readers is powerful.  A recent client project involved inserting an online survey into a blog post, which was an effective way to turn a passive reader into a participator.   There are many great tools out there but Zoomerang is an especially easy and powerful one.

Lesson 3: Consider SEO
Folks write about this topic in much more detail so it’s worth a look at their insight.  For our purposes, be sure to make yourself familiar with SEO best practices like using keywords.  Within a post, be sure to embed links to your website, other blog posts, or other key websites. In the world of b-to-b marketing, a blog is a powerful way to improve search results. Post titles and content should contain the keywords that your customers and prospects search. For instance, this is a blog about marketing, business-to-business marketing communications, and marketing strategy.  Those are words that should be tagged and used as much as possible.  It is worth it to take the time to know which keywords are more relevant to you or your clients. is the premiere source to check for other tips.

 Lesson 4: Remember Nobody Reads
Web users are overloaded with content – and social media posts are getting shorter and shorter.  The Twitter 140 character limit has trained web users to scan, and take short “information snacks” instead of digesting lengthy, complex content.

Keep this in mind when creating blog content.  Chunk out information in easily digestible segments.   Develop information-carrying subheads.   Break out titles into lists, top lessons learned, etc. to make it easy for your blog readers to digest your information.

Lesson 5:  Share  and Share Alike
Blogging is a powerful way to elevate you or your client’s brand, showcase industry leadership, and raise overall visibility of products and services.  Don’t just post, though.  Share!  

Use Twitter to link back to the post.  Showcase the blog post content on the home page of your website.  LinkedIn offers several ways to share links to blog posts by topic, either on your profile or within LinkedIn groups. Add your blog post to directories like technorati for maximum exposure.

What are the lessons you've learned from blogging?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Marketing Perspectives: We We Text vs. What’s in it For ME!

A few years back at a “Writing for the Web” workshop sponsored as part of NNg’s “Usability Week” series of events, the facilitator introduced the term “we we” text and the “We We Calculator”. 

We We text refers to the practice of writing company-centered marketing content that’s all about the “we”. 

Think of the “We We” as a website or brochure that stresses front and center when a company was started (“we have been providing services since 1988”  “we are proud of our long heritage in the widget industry”  “Since 1994 we have lead the market in fully integrated widgetry”), a laundry list of services (“we do this and we do that, and to top if off we also do this and that”), a thorough listing of the team members and their stellar backgrounds.

But your prospects have other things on their “important” list.  They want to know how your services or product can meet their needs.

It’s the old What’s In It For Me concept. 

Also note: your prospects are busy.  Web users have short attention spans that are getting shorter.  Thus, making prospects work to find useful information that pertains to them on your website isn’t the best strategy.

Is a busy prospect vitally interested in how much your company has grown?  Do they want to know about every facet of every widget you have produced from day one? Is it critical to put front and center what year you started in business, or the number of clients you serve? Do you force folks to wade through the photos of your buildings, work areas and an officer or two? 

If you met with this message in a one to one sales meeting, you'd zone right out. Yet corporations (and corporation-speak) assume that people have been waiting all their lives to hear this type of self-focused monologue.

It’s proven that the opposite approach is more effective. 

Focus on your customers and their needs and wants.  Don’t have a clue?  Then ask your customers or prospects to help you figure out:
                 What are their problems, pains, needs? 
                 In what way does your product or service solve their problems?
                 What are the real benefits your product or service delivers? 

Once you have a sense of this perspective, use your communications to show an understanding of your prospect’s needs.  Make it about them.  Connect with the "pain" your prospects suffer—then describe how you can ease that pain.

(PS:  When I first heard about the We We Calculator at a UsabilityWeek presentation, I recall it was a stand alone website – now it is part of FutureNowInc.)    

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Marketing Two-Step

Here’s another blog post about marketing and dancing.
Gaining Insight
One of the advantages of contract consulting is the opportunity to team with business-to-business companies in a variety of industries -- learning about each company’s challenges.  This provides valuable perspective and insight into common marketing challenges most organizations face in the marketplace. 
While most of my background is in manufacturing and technology, a significant number of projects and clients come from the professional services and non-profit/educational sector.  

Common Goals
Despite the type of business, many of the marketing issues these organizations face are the same. 
At the most fundamental, most organizations want to:
  • expand market awareness.
  • seek out prospects likely to buy.
  • entice prospects to make a purchase decision.
In pursuit of that goal, decades of experience have revealed that the following two-step process is key, despite the company type.  Think if it as a “Marketing Two-Step”.

The Marketing Two-Step
Step 1: Who’s Your Prospect and What Do They Want?   

Most organizations have not taken the time to develop a solid understanding of who the company is trying to attract, and what motivates them.
It’s all very well and good to make assumptions about the marketplace but that approach can be quite ineffective.  The marketing two-step begins with a commitment to allocate resources to get inside the heads of prospects. Instead of designing and creating marketing campaigns, ads, lead generation programs or other marketing programs based on the internal team’s existing understanding of what they think their buyers want, the first step is to ascertain resonating messages, tone and features of campaigns that appeal to what ideal buyers want – not what we think they want. 
This can be accomplished by teaming with reputable marketing research groups, conducting market surveys or focus groups, or even surveying recent wins to determine the most compelling buying decisions of recent closed sales.

Step 2) Set Clear Goals and Targets.    

The two-step also includes a process to team with sales, finance, and other internal team members to calculate the number of leads needed to achieve revenue goals. Then here's the kicker, communicate that goal to the entire sales/marketing team. 
What’s the company’s revenue goal?  Tie that annual goal to leads and sales. How many inbound prospects turn into qualified leads?  How many qualified leads from marketing turn into sales?  What’s the average revenue from a closed sale?  An aggressive program depends on these figures. This target needs to be front and center.

Elegance Despite Difficulty
This marketing two-step sounds deceptively simple, but it is in fact extremely difficult to achieve.  (Fred Astaire sure made those routines look easy! He even makes dancing with a coat rack look elegant!
Like any dance choreography, this key step has to come first to “set up” the rest of the dance.
The trick is to make it part of the routine, do it as elegantly as you can, and go about the step with gusto.