Saturday, March 31, 2012

There’s Power in Our (BtoB Marketing) Habits

I have been thinking lately about the power of our habits – those habits that contribute to “negative” outcomes, and those that help us to meet positive goals.

A Shared Definition
After checking a variety of sources, here’s a working definition of the word “habit.”  It is something:

·      we do automatically without thinking
·      we repeat often as a routine

Good, Bad, the Ugly
Good habits in our personal life include brushing our teeth upon waking; clicking our seat-belt when we get in a car, or saying "please and thank you.”

Good habits in business to business marketing might include taking time each week to review relevant metrics related to marketing programs, monitoring key industry blogs and publications for trends, or a weekly update meeting with the customer service team to pull compelling customer testimonials.

Bad habits include biting our fingernails, late night snacking in front of the TV, those afternoon candy breaks at work, and more.

Bad habits in business to business marketing might include forgetting to keep a customer mindset in programs, ignoring key metrics like web visitor behavior, not regularly scheduling sales team project updates.

The Power of Habits
The bottom line is that habits have a lot of power in both our personal and work lives:  power for good, or power for bad. 

As marketers, we are wise to build a set of routine behaviors that deliver the best business outcome for our clients.

  • Routinely checking customer service for mini success stories is a powerful habit that fuels content marketing programs.
  • Regularly posting comments on thought leadership blogs and articles helps your client “get in the conversation.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Not So Humble Press Release

I ran across an interesting white paper from PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) and the lead sentence hit home:

“The humble press release is working much harder these days….”

The paper does a wonderful job of making the case for the power of the once lowly press release. 

Multi-Purpose for Maximum Benefit
Press releases are now much more than a method to announce corporate news. 

In business to business communications, online press releases now serve as a powerful means to increase Web page traffic, event registrations, online inquiries, paper downloads, and other measurable activities which add business value. 

This PRSA paper is worth the read.   Many companies might shy away from issuing press releases, but that’s not a wise tactic.

Bottom Line Benefits
Press releases should now be crafted and measured to benefit the bottom line. 

The paper notes that it’s a best practice to target press release audiences and measure lead generation performance using internal CRM systems, social media monitoring analytics and tracking codes for insight into the number of people clicking on a link, downloading content or registering for an event.   

Notes the paper:  “Companies are creating their own branded, helpful content for their community of customers and prospects and using press releases (along with social and other media) to drive engagement with that content.”

PR Best Practices
Any sized business is wise to issue a regular cadence of news and releases, for all the reasons cited in this excellent paper, and many others.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Praise of Twiangulate: Graphing Twitter’s Hidden Networks

Twitter offers tremendous business value to b-to-b marketing communications programs, but as in many things, it pays to be strategic.

I advise my clients to first set goals for a Twitter program – is the goal to direct more traffic to a website, engage with key audiences, or connect with targets?  Once business goals are set, it's critical to track key metrics to see if the program is successful. 

Twitter delivers the biggest business benefit via engaged participation.  To that end, we turn our attention to an extremely useful application called “Twiangulate” – yes it’s very fun to say!  But what does it mean?

“To triangulate: create a short list of interesting people by comparing two or three target Tweeters’ followees.”

I’m just starting the management of a b-to-b Twitter program, and Twiangulate is one of the first and most effective ways to build a successful program.

How does it work?
By doing a bit of research on Twitter itself, one can easily see the most active Tweeters in any given industry.  Once that information is known,  Twiangulate helps uncover hidden relationships with other key players in an industry.  

The application analyzes influential Twitter followers, and provides social network mapping.

It’s not the fanciest looking user interface you’ll ever see, but looks aside, this is what Twianglate does:

1.  Establishes Twitter metrics for influence. Simply enter in a Twitter name or two or three, and Twiangulate finds out how influential someone's follower base is. Influence is more than the number of followers, influence looks at number of engagements, replies and retweets.  This is the same logic Google uses when they rank web pages so it makes sense that this Twitter app considers these factors to help judge influence.

2.  Uncovers common intersections. It's not hard to find a list of the top corporate trainers active on Twitter, or the top HR bloggers, but it can be tough to narrow down the list of bloggers who also talk often about corporate trainers. This research is possible with Twiangulate. Find one Twitter username for each category and then just highlight the people they commonly follow. This helps to find new people on Twitter without just evaluating their username or their bio.

Why bother finding common Twitter followers, you ask?

As the Twiangulate blog notes:  This search can help reveal who cares about the same set of ideas, domain of information, or corporate structure.  This can be a good place to find new people follow.  

The people on this list may not be stars, but they've made follow decisions that suggest they feel strongly about a person or topic.
3.  Provides competitive analysis.  Twiangulate helps discover the common followers of your three biggest competitors on Twitter and then build relationships with them.  It also displays mapping graphics to analyze connections among followers, and even insight into conferences and events.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

7 Things it Took Me Over a Decade (or so) to Learn about B-to-B Marketing Communications

It’s funny how the same truths reveal themselves over and over again.  Before this wisdom escapes me, noted here for posterity are seven things it has taken over a decade to learn about business-to-business marketing communications. You likely know about them already.  I'm a slow learner.... 

1) Hit the books   Heading into a website relaunch or redesign?  Encourage everybody on the team to read Steven Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” (first edition written in 2000; most recent from 2006).  At the very minimum, by reading this seminal book, the team gains an introduction to usability basics like considering the main purpose of the site (lead generation?  information sharing?); types of visitors that will use the site (target audience); and what those visitors hope to accomplish when they visit the website (product orientation? downloading resources? setting up a product trial?).

2) There’s Power in PR.    Remember that PR doesn’t stand for Press Release.  Team with a reputable, results-oriented Public Relations agency to get the most benefit out of a PR program, like expanded awareness and engagement with key publics.  Or, do some reading about PR and take the time to be strategic in a public relations effort.

3) Go Outside the Organization. Redoing a website, a brochure, or direct mail template design?  Organizing an event? Take the time to run the concept by 3 to 5 relevant folks outside the organization.   As Krug says in the book mentioned in point 1 “testing always works, and even the worst test with the wrong user will show you important things you can do to improve your site." (or event, or newsletter, or brochure, etc .)

As an example, tap into free tools like  to help optimize things like landing pages. This tool, and many others out there, help fine tune landing pages and calls to action.

4) There’s Wonder in Wordpress. Setting up a blogging program or a new website? Take the time to familiarize yourself with Word Press and basic WordPress plug ins for SEO.  The platform is much more than a Content Management Systems.  Nobody expects you to be an expert developer, but know your way around this powerful and industry-leading web tool.

5) Set Meaningful Measurements. As possible, make marketing programs about metrics and results.  Meaningful metrics put the focus on business outcomes and help drive improvements.  All communications should be measured by their effectiveness in meeting business goals. For instance, track the success of a Social Media program with metrics like increased inbound web traffic or increased “mentions” of the company.  More about metrics here.

6)  Nail Down SEO Basics  Online marketing is all about being discovered by likely prospects and target audiences.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical.  Team with a reputable SEO expert because this stuff is both an art and a science.  SEO experts like those smarty pants at WebSavvyMarketing will steer you right. 
There’s value in self-education. As an example, here’s a simple SEO tip:  look at your competitors and see how keywords are used in their online content in the following areas – this is powerful stuff people!
                Page title
                URL architecture
                H1 tags
                Copy's keyword density
                Image alt text
                Use of internal linking

7) Have fun  Seek out positive (fun) work experiences.  As somebody once said: fun at work enables one to bring skills, grace, & enthusiasm to opportunity.

If you aren’t having fun, or you want more fun out of your work life, see what you can do to arrange conditions so you are!