Will Crisis Communications become the New Standard in Marketing?

April 8, 2010

It occurs to me in today’s modern era of communications that we are overloaded with information, and this in of itself causes stress.   Thus I am beginning to employ certain best practices, outlined in a risk communications workshop I attended in ’08, into our marketing approach.  Below I list a few highlights from my notes  (I give all credit for these concepts to Vince Covello and The Center for Risk Communications).

Most important message should always be first
Common sense? Sure, but how often do you send an email to your target market and not insert the call-to-action until the third, fourth or fifth sentence?

Well constructed visuals increases attention and retention by 50% or greater

I typically avoid using image heavy messages when emailing to a large list but I am re-thinking this bias and am certainly focusing on imagery (charts, diagrams, photos) in all our print pieces (yes, I used the subtitle as an excuse to use the photo.  Is that wrong?  It proved a point!)

During times of stress the adult brain processes information at the average level of a 6th grader
Today,  I focus on keeping our communications simple.  We avoid as much jargon as we can (especially jargon that is generated internally).

Rule of 3 (27-9-3)
“When people are stressed or upset, they often have difficulty hearing, understanding, and remembering information …and typically can only process 3 messages at a time.”  Expert crisis communication managers use a total of 27 words or less for all 3 key messages, with each key message averaging  9 words in length.  I love the concept and use this template as a guide in improving the effectiveness of our marketing communications.

27-9-3 in action
“The number of casualties is more than any of us can bear ultimately.
And I believe we will become stronger.
Stronger economically, politically, and most importantly, emotionally.”
– Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sep. 11, 2001

No more than 3-4 bullets on a PPT slide
This is consistent with everything we have learned about great marketing presentations (and the Rule of 3 above).  You want a blog that absolutely sleighs this topic?  Check out  Garry Reynolds blog entitled Presentationzen.  Follow him on Twitter at @presentationzen.

In this crowded world of email newsletters, blogs, white papers, etc. a well thought out marketing strategy using risk communications best practices may be the correct path to grabbing our market’s attention. Email me if you want more info on the topic or how we are employing this approach at CHA.  You can also search “27-9-3 and Vince Covello” to access lots of additional content on the topic.

Keep it Simple

April 5, 2010

Confucius said “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” This rings so true in marketing. The companies who “dumb it down” are the ones who rise to the top and stay there … see Google, see Apple, see USA Today.

We often get fixated on certain terms and phrases, and our personal bias prevents us from clearly communicating to our market. As a B2B marketer you can never assume you are your market.

My firm’s business is predicated on bringing pharmaceutical companies together to work cooperatively to evaluate new R&D technologies. For years we avoided the word “consortium” to describe ourselves. We thought of “consortium” negatively and did not want to be associated with the term. Thus we started our own game of Taboo describing the business with words like “short term, multi-company projects,” “collaborative projects” and “collaborative innovation.” Our personal bias generated complex and inaccurate messaging resulting in confused (and/or unimpressed) prospects. We made our job much more difficult than it had to be.

Today, when describing our service to a big pharma executive I simply say “we manage an industry consortium to collaboratively evaluate new technologies.” It was Winston Churchill who proclaimed, “all the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word.” In our case, this single word is consortium.

Here is a fun and entertaining presentation by David Pogue of the New York Times during TED 2006 ….his focus is on technology …but the message is similar .. simplicity sells!

4 Things to Quick Start A Social Media Lead Generation Program – for Small Business Owners and Practitioners

February 3, 2009

geico-commerical   Quick commercial …join us for a complementary webinar and expert panel: Lead Generation Tactics for Resource Limited Small Businesses.  Register at:  http://marketingstudio.eventbrite.com …I know, not as entertaining as GEICO commercial ….at any rate, latest post below.

 frustrated-at-computer  When I speak with small business owners about lead generation and social media, I am often asked one rhetorical question (usually in a very loud tone of voice): “How can I find the time!?”

There is no doubt that when you are small, and busy selling and delivering your services/products, its lead nourishment and pipeline generation that often gets ignored.  

 desk-with-pile-of-papers   This is simply a fact of life … a fact of the small business owner’s life. Everything takes time. Social media is no different, but before you say “I am too busy to get in involved in social media” take one weekend or a couple of weeknights away from the television to do the following four things:

1. Find 10 blogs or discussion forums that your market may have reason to read – Remember to think of it from a potential client point of view and not your own
Think broader than your business! For example:

* If you are a personal injury attorney with a focus on “slip and fall” injuries don’t look for blogs covering only legal issues and plaintiff’s rights, look for content around physical therapy, wellness, treatment, etc.
* If you are a web design firm, rather than focus on content specific to design, follow blogs that talk abut branding, e-marketing or lead generation.
* If you are a benefits consultant or talent recruiter, rather than focus on human resource issues, broaden the scope to small business strategy.

2. Join twitter_logo_s

“Leveraging Twitter to Grow Your Small Business” is a topic of our March webinar, and the topic of many, many other blog posts, some written by very knowledgeable and talented folks. Thus I will give you only a few tips to get started on twitter:

* use Twitter Packs to start following “packs” of people who may be your target market.
* use your first and last name as your username and if that is not available add an underscore, middle initial or choose first initial, last name (don’t use your company name)
* upload a photo of yourself, people without photos are viewed suspiciously (don’t ask, they just are)… twitter is casual, so your clothing in the photo should be as well; business casual.
* don’t start promoting … listen, watch, observe …this also can be a great way to finding those 10 blogs you need to follow …
* anytime you see anything of value provided by other people “tweet it” and give the source the proper credit
* Google “Twitter etiquette” and “Twitter best practices” and read up on more details on how to best leverage Twitter (topic for my March webinar)

3. Start your own blog. You don’t have to say anything intelligent, don’t even tell anyone about it …. yet!  Just go to http://www.wordpress.com, sign up and write a simple top 4 list …see how it works, how it feels. ..no commitment …..just a test drive.

4. Start logging your insights in a word document. Before you leave the desk each evening, ask yourself what are the things that came up at work today that others may find interesting or useful to their business? For example:

* I saw a great example of how Starbucks is building customer loyalty and spreading the Starbucks “virus” through Twitter
* I had further confirmation on how simple, inexpensive and valuable industry polls and surveys are for lead generation
* I learned of a great new tool called Blitztime that can help complement web-based, social media platforms.

Within a week you will have dozens of topics for potential blog posts. The challenge will be deciding which ones have the most immediate interest to your market.

one-big-dayIn summary, the above list should take no more than a day to complete. Your effort will result in a basic foundation for you, the busy entrepreneur and practitioner, to generate more leads and further build your brand by tapping into the “groundswell” that is social media.

Another good post on the topic is byRick Burnes at Hubspot.

Email me if I can help or if you have additional questions.

Producing a Free Webinar – Looking to Speak with Owners of Small Businesses

January 5, 2009

i-want-you-for-feedback  I am looking for input from small business owners and marketers.

I am producing a webinar and panel tentatively titled “Lead Generation for Small Business: Tactics to Drive an Inbound Marketing Strategy” to be held February 11, 2009 at 8 PM EST (sixty minutes in duration).    Details below:

Cost?  The webinar is free to attend.  Register here.

Focus?  The session will feature a panel of business owners who will address questions around:

* Do you have a lead generation strategy? 

* What lead generation tactics work best for their business?

* What are the biggest barriers to executing such a strategy?

* How do you overcome resource limitations that often challenge small companies?

* What are tactics you use to overcome these barriers?

* What “proof of concept” or “ROI” is need to convince you that a lead generation strategy is necessary?

* What are examples of a very small business creating an “inbound marketing vortex” in a bad economy?

We will also field questions from attendees.

Who should attend?  Owners and/or practitioners that run and market their small business (loosely defined for purposes of this webinar as businesses that generate less than $15M annually).  These may be lawyers, consultants, software vendors, accountants, insurance brokers, store owners, publishers, etc.

ur-doing-it-wrong   I need your feedback!  Over the next two weeks I am looking to speak with as many small business owners and/or marketers as possible to gain feedback and insights on specific questions and topics we should address.   Please provide your feedback within this blog or simply email me to arrange a brief teleconference so we can connect one-on-one.  Your insights are truly appreciated! 

See you (virtually) on February 11 (I will post confirmed panelists and their bios on this site soon).

Three Keys to Creating a Member-Driven Culture within Your Vertical Community

December 19, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of presenting to the Professional Marketing Forum in Boston.  I outlined a case study on how professional services firms can leverage a vertical community to improve their lead generation and customer-centric marketing efforts.  One of the main points made was “a well managed and facilitated community will enable your customers (or prospects) to derive value by interacting with each other as well as with your firm.” 


How can your firm benefit from these constituents consulting each other?   If leveraged correctly, peer-to-peer interaction between prospects can be a powerful part of your company’s relationship marketing and lead generation strategy, resulting in healthy increases in brand equity and sales.  However, a self sustaining, member-driven vertical community culture is difficult to achieve. 


I outlined for the audience in Boston three proven tactics that firms can employ when tacking the challenge of creating a community where members produces content, feedback and value through peer-to-peer interaction.  I summarize the three below:


Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and Evangelists



Create an advisory board of key opinion leaders within the market.  Allow them to have decision making power as it relates to programming and content within your community in exchange for showcasing their involvement and endorsement of the community.  Use them for advice and gaining credibility.   Encourage their participation but if they are very prominent within your industry don’t expect them to have the time to actively be involved on a daily or even weekly basis.  



To offset KOLs inaccessibility, it is critical to also befriend a group within your market that truly embraces the community-concept and/or your firm.  These individuals must have a certain prominence or stature within the industry but need not be the “KOLs” on your advisory board (maybe their direct reports or two levels down).  Feature these folks around various community content like facilitated online discussions, guest blog posts, webinars and face-to-face events.  Focus on enabling these people to “sell” your community and thus your firm.



Keep Things Simple


Assume your market has very little familiarity or comfort participating in online communities.  Thus the user interface or “UI” needs to be simple.  Copy templates off common sites that your users are already familiar and comfortable.  Specifically, the communication tools within the community must be easy and simple to use, whether it be interacting with each other through blinded email (see LinkedIn), well designed online discussion forums or blogs, these applications must have a clean interface and be self explanatory to use. 


Event Driven-to-Member Driven


You may have a robust database that enables you to quickly fill your community with members, but it is quite a different leap to assume your members will actively utilize the community to interface with you and other members.  To avoid having members be anything other than a dormant e-mail address in your database, focus on value-added events that tackle subject matters that are both highly relevant to your members and can be tied into your firm.  Get the membership acclimated with the community culture through regularly scheduled live, synchronous events like webinars and complement these with asynchronous events like featured online discussions.  Ask members to sit on panels during the webinars, ask members to “facilitate” an online discussion and ask members to be “question askers” or “posters” in the audience.  “Assigning” member involvement is tedious but critical during the first 12-18 months of a community’s life.  The ancillary benefit to your hard work is it allows you to nurture relationships with your most important people. 


In Conclusion, if your firm has a clear objective behind a web 2.0 strategy (see the five “objectives” in Groundswell) then it is likely that building an organically grown, member-driven community can be at the core of your lead generation and nourishment strategy.  None of the above tactics are easy and each has it’s own intrinsic benefits and inherent barriers to execution.  However, nothing I recommend is rocket science (I can address questions or dive into each tactic in more detail in a future post or via email if there is demand for such  a discussion).  Practical thinking and practical applications of a sound relationship marketing strategy will enable any smart company to successfully deploy each of the above three tactics. 



Ultimately, your members will begin showing initiative in organizing their own online discussions and contributing their own insights via posts or document uploads.  This can result in a number of self explanatory benefits to firms (dramtic improvement in lead generation, better relationships, building brand, market research, customer service, etc, etc).  In extreme cases your members will start “Embracing the Groundswell” (the fifth objective outlined in the book) and seeking you out with ideas on how YOU can generate more sales around your services.  The valuable peer-to-peer forum or member-driven community you have created may end up being your firm’s most valuable marketing asset.


See this recent article in Bio IT World on our community the Drug Safety Executive Council as case and point.  

The Untapped Power of Web 2.0

October 29, 2008

  Marketing is about building and growing relationships.  Social media serves as an attractive avenue to accomplish important marketing objectives.  If leveraged properly, a company can improve their communication with leads, prospects and customers through social media outlets. 


However, the real untapped power in Web 2.0 is creating forums for productive interaction between your leads, prospects and customers (i.e. peer-to-peer consulting between your constituents).  Four top line tactics to that have been successful in facilitating peer-to-peer consulting amongst your market:


  1. Initially treat online discussion forums as a single event and promote it as such (i.e. October Forum on “How the Recent ABC Regulatory Changes Impact Widget Production Process and How Companies Can Capitalize”)
  2. Choose a topic that is controversial, topical and/or particularly important to a large portion of your customer base
  3. Invite customers to serve as “KOLs” or key opinion leaders in facilitating a specific forum or discussion, asking them to post 1-2 times per week for a month
  4. Don’t self promote your company or service within the fourm


  Social media has presented companies with a unique opportunity to harness the “Wisdom of Crowds” and gain recognition (and revenues) by brokering relationships between members of that crowd.  If managed properly, facilitating peer-to-peer consulting between leads, prospects and customers can increase client loyalty, retention and the overall perceived value of your service.


How has your company untapped the power of Web 2.0? 

Event Marketing is a Six-to-Twelve Month Lead Generation Program

October 27, 2008

   Arguably the most under-utilized marketing tactic in professional services is around conferences and events.

If you help lead marketing efforts at your organization and you are reading this sentence I trust you are already questioning my credibility so let me elaborate before you close your browser on me.

All too often marketers target conferences, both large and small, based solely upon the demographics of expected attendees. They then plop down tens of thousands of marketing dollars and tie it to the two to five days of the event. A far too risky proposition if your job performance is tied to successful marketing ROIs, revenues and brand building.

The problem with the traditional approach to event marketing is that it is focuses far too much on the event itself. Event marketing, if executed properly, is a six to twelve month “lead generation program.”

When partnering with an event organizer or conference producer make sure the agreement goes beyond a simple exhibit or even a speaking slot. Include items like:

*   distribution of your white paper or recent case study

*   promotion and/or hosting of a pre-event web conference featuring your organization (make sure you review “don’t pitch to sell“)

*   an online poll around the conference topic that will enable you to distribute the results to all participants

And there is a whole lot more including market research, VIP dinners/lunches, recruting of talent, etc. !

Event marketing, when utilized correctly, can be at the core of your lead generation efforts and enable your organization to convey your expertise and capabilities to a targeted audience more effectively than any other tactic available to you.

And the cherry on top is if these tactics are planned and implemented property, they also serve the conference organizer in generating more excitement over their event …. increasingng the paid attendance and thus creating an opportunity for you to negotiate a less risky economic agreement for your organization!

  It’s the quintessential win-win arrangement!


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