Four Ideas to Produce Valuable Content

November 8, 2010

relationship marketing

engaging in productive conversations

Marketing is as much about engaging in productive conversations with your customer base as it is about targeting and messaging.  How do you begin these conversations?  Whether it is through social media or more traditional distribution channels like email or brochures, relationship marketing (and selling) starts with listening and then providing valuable content to your customers.

Good content is often seen by marketers as hard to come by.  Here are four relatively easy tactics to create valuable content for your marketplace.

1. Facilitate a Peer-to-Peer Discussion.  Identify a hot topic and then promote a discussion among individuals at different companies that represent your potential customers.  The platform can vary.  Your options include using a professional online community, partnering with an online discussion forum, producing a teleconference, or organizing a small face-to-face meeting.  Facilitating peer-to-peer conversations among your potential customers can be tremendously valuable for those participating, and also enables you to build credibility and trust within your marketplace.

2. Survey and Summarize Feedback.  Your prospects probably share similar business challenges but their perspectives on these challenges may vary.  These differences can be interesting and enlightening.  Create a basic 10-20 question survey around industry trends, asking your prospects and clients their perceptions on the most pressing external forces, internal factors and overall market tendencies.  Summarize these findings in a one-page executive summary to distribute to your marketplace.

3.  Interview a Customer. Use a webinar tool like MS Live Meeting or WebEx to conduct a five-minute telephone interview with a customer, discussing current challenges or perceptions on the overall market landscape.  Write a brief one or two paragraph summary of the interview and then link to a recording of the interview either on your web site or on a third-party site such as YouTube, WordPress or Box.net.

4.  Summarize Your High-Level Insights.  Undoubtedly your team has a breadth of knowledge as a result of working with (and listening to) customers.  Listing some of these insights in a short blog post or executive brief can be potentially valuable to your marketplace.  See our recent post, Five Points to Consider before Introducing a New Technology, as an example.

As marketers, we must find creative ways to easily and inexpensively leverage the smart ideas within the “heads” of the individuals in our organization.  These ideas ultimately define who we are as organizations and they are critical to our success in becoming trusted advisers in our marketplace.  In closing, listed below are a few of the many blog posts that offer different and useful perspectives on creating or providing valuable content to your prospects and customers.

5 Steps for Curating B2B Content

7 Step B2B Social Media Content Sharing Strategy

What’s Your B2B Content Strategy?

7 Keys to Leading Highly Effective Sales Conversation


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.



Follow-up to Utilizing Facebook for Small Business Lead Generation” held Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 27, 2009

The Marketing Studio hosted a webinar and expert panel entitled  “Utilizing Facebook for Small Business Lead Generation”  on Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 12 PM ET.   A sincere thank you to our panelists! View the slides here and  links to their Fan Pages below.  Visit the Marketing Studio’s new FB page here!

Rachel Levy, Rachel Levy Consulting on facebook


Susan Liddy, AspireLifeCoachng.org on facebook


Hasan Luongo, Hoodiepeople.com on facebook

Mike Volpe, HubSpot on facebook


Panel to discuss: Utilizing Facebook for Small Business Lead Generation

April 22, 2009

I am very excited to be hosting and moderating a terrific panel of experts (via webinar) who will be sharing their experiences around “Utilizing Facebook for Small Business Lead Generation.”  The free webinar takes place Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 12 PM ET and will last 75 minutes.   During the session our expert panel will provide the following, in a case study format:

* An overview of Facebook and it’s elements
* How Facebook fits in with other social media platforms
* Why and how B2C and B2B companies are using Facebook
* The benefits being derived from marketing on Facebook
* The drawbacks of Facebook
* Best practices for small businesses on Facebook
* Summary and Q&A.

Review our panel and register here.

Our objectives for the call are as follows:
* Provide an overview of Facebook for the beginners
* Explain how businesses are leveraging the various elements of Facebook
* Outline some challenges and/or drawbacks you may encounter
* Provide examples of “wins” from businesses who have “been there, done that”
* Answer your questions

The All Star Panel is as follows:

Rachel Levy, Social Media and Marketing Consultant; Blog: Rachel Levy Blog


Susan Liddy, Life Coach and Founder, AspireLifeCoach.org; Blog: AspireLifeCoach.org Blog


Hasan Luongo, Co-Founder, Hoodiepeople.com; Blog: Hooodiepeople’s Blog

Mike Volpe, Vice President, Marketing, Hubspot; Blog: Hubspot’s Inbound Internet Marketing Blog

Register here.

Who should attend?  Owners and/or practitioners that are responsible for marketing their small business.  (For the purpose of this webinar, small businesses are loosely defined as businesses that generate less than $8M annually).  These may be lawyers, consultants, software vendors, accountants, insurance brokers, store owners, service providers, publishers, etc.


Small Business Case Studies – Leveraging Twitter!

March 8, 2009

Over the past year, more and more businesses of all shapes and sizes, are investing time to explore what all the hype is behind “Twitter.”  What many have discovered is that this microblogging phenomenon presents a great opportunity for their companies.  I list below links to four great posts/case studies on how different types of business are successfully using Twitter as a tool to ultimately …make ….money!

Leveraging Twitter as a lead generation, customer service, or overall branding tool takes time; a precious and scarce resource when you are running your own small business.  Time and lack of expertise are barriers preventing most small businesses from successfully utilizing Twitter for lead generation and networking.  According to a recent Marketing Studio poll,  79% of small business owners avoid Twitter because of: lack of expertise, not enough time or insufficent understanding of how it can make an impact on their business (i.e. no proven ROI model). 

Well here is a quick public service message to small business owners: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” (Derek Bok, former Harvard University president).  Bottom line is this: if you are not making an effort to learn more about Twitter, you may be costing your small business an incredible opportunity.  

eventbrite   I have the privilege of hosting a live webinar Wednesday, March 11 at 12 PM EST where four experts in social media will not only answer the question “what the heck is Twitter?” but also outline three real life examples on how companies are actually leveraging Twitter to grow their business.  Join us (it’s free).  Meanwhile as a prelude to our discussion on March 11, I list below four interesting case studies/stories.

case-studies4 Four Case Studies

Zoomdweebie’s Tea Bar How Twitter saved a small business in Wichita, KS.  Now they may relocate because they need bigger space!

CoffeeGroundz Cafe Blog post by @ericaogrady discussing how Twitter has changed the way they CoffeeGroundz Cafe in Houston, Texas conducts business.

The Big Guys A Business Week article outlining how some of the biggest companies in the world are using Twitter to communicate with their customers.

BBGeeks A great, must read on the trials, tribulations and “results” of a self proclaimed “Non-Big Brand.” 

 

usa_dream_team  During Marketing Studio’s March 11 webinar we will feature three additional real life examples of how people are leveraging Twitter to Grow Their Small Business.  Below is our “dream team” of panelists with links to their latest blog posts:

Aaron Strout, VP, Marketing, Powered

Becky McCray, Small Town Entrepreneur

Kyle Flaherty, Director of Marketing, BreakingPoint

Monica Valentinelli, Social Media Expert, Musicnotes.com

 

*** Register for the March 11 webinar here (registration is free) ***


Lead Generation is Old and Boring!!

February 10, 2009

sexy  New Marketing, Social Media and Web 2.0 are the new “sexy” terms marketers love to use today. But what do those terms really refer to anyway?

chris-brogan  Chris Brogan writes on his blog today about the “The Rise of Microfame.” His point is that social media platforms have provided all of us the opportunity to become mircofamous. He is spot on!   Becoming “microfamous” should be at the core of any business’s marketing strategy.  

godin-image     hubspot-with-heartlogo    However, at the end of the day, whether you are building your own “Tribe,” (thank you Seth Godin), creating an Inbound marketing machine (thank you Hubspot) or becoming Microfamous you are doing that same thing the very best marketers have always excelled at: “generating leads to build brand and grow the business.”

 There is no more effective avenue to showcase your insights and expertise than social media platforms (blogs, communities, twitter, facebook, etc).   Brogan further explains “fame isn’t trust, and the real goal, in my estimation, would be to develop trust, build relationships, and earn the attention of people in our circles of interest.   That’s what matters.”  

As a small business, freelancer or sole practitioner you can leverage these new platforms to quickly build relationships with your target market.   Every single resource spent on marketing (time exhausted and dollars invested) should be focused on building credibility and trust within your market.  Once more, lead generation programs must be designed to identify who out there may have reason to purchase your product or service one day (aka Lead Generation).

stage-with-audience Social media platforms, even in today’s economy, present a great opportunity for the little guy to grow their business doing the same ole, same ole…..generating business by building trust and credibility within your marketplace ….this is at the core of good old fashion Lead Generation.  So jump on the social media stage and become Microfamous!

webinar-globe   Join us Wednesday at 8PM to discuss these topics further. I am moderating a great panel of experts (via webinar) who will discuss the most important of these tactics ….it’s free so register now! Details at: http://marketingstudio.eventbrite.com


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.


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

 

KOLs

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.  

 

Evangelists

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. 

 

Results

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.  


An Example of How Web 2.0 Can Make a Real Life Impact

November 4, 2008

Since my post on October 29, I have received a number requests for examples of organizations that have already Untapped the Power of Web 2.0.

What companies are making a real impact in their vertical B2B market?  My quick answer is look no further than your own doctor’s office!   A very tangible example of the Power of Web 2.0 is doctors collaborating with other doctors online.

Today social networks, like Medscape and Sermo, provide a valuable platform for health care providers to advise each other on treatment options and share new insights on medications/medical devices. Like anything in life, we are better equipped to apply a successful solution to a problem when we have seen the problem multiple times in the past. Medical care is of course no different. Communities, where true physician-to-physician consulting takes place, help improve patient care by enabling collaboration around cases when the doctor is unfamiliar with an array of symptoms or when the best treatment practices around a specific condition may yet to be established or are varying.  The result is better patient care which benefits all.

The pharma industry has been ahead of many other industries in leveraging social media to both build relationships with their core customer and gain market research intelligence.  Companies like Physicians’ Online (now a part of Medscape and Web MD) have been providing online, peer-to-peer forums for over a decade (yes, pharma marketers were involved in online communities before LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc).

Don’t be too concerned about the pharma “evangelists” on the payroll as most physician communities where doctors present, post or blog regarding treatment options do require “disclosures” of their affiliations. For example, “Dr. Smith has received research grants for clinical research and has served as an advisor or consultant for Abbott and Merck. She has received grants for educational activities from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Lilly, Pfizer and sanofi-aventis.”

There remains much opportunity in the physician community space, and it goes beyond simply patient care.  The information and insights generated by a physician community can also be used to gage adoption trends and market perceptions around drugs, medical devices and technologies. This knowledge is of course gold if used appropriately by various stakeholders (i.e. the financial and investment community, drug companies, device companies, etc).

The core components of what make these doctor communities so powerful and impactful, can also transcend to other B2B communities.  Unleashing the true Power of Web 2.0 involves bringing peers together, in any profession or industry, to address areas of shared concern.  This enhances knowledge, improves efficiencies and ultimately has a positive impact on profits.

What companies do you know that are Untapping the Power of Web 2.0?

                                                                                                                                                                           

Examples of Physician Communities who are Untapping the Power of Web 2.0:

DoctorNetworking.com - the premier professional networking site for physicians.

iMedicor - offers medical records, Physician CME and collaboration, patient record sharing, practice management.

Medscape - offers specialists, primary care physicians, and other health professionals the Web’s most robust and integrated medical information and educational tools.

SpineConnect - the leading collaborative knowledge network for spine surgeons to collaborate on difficult and unusual cases.

Sermo - the fastest growing community created by physicians, for physicians.

(Please Note: I am presently not affiliated with iMedicor, Medscape, Sermo, SpineConnect, a pharma company or financial institution.)


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? 


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