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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why the marketing funnel is not dead

The marketing funnel is not dead. It cannot be dead because it is not a thing.

People in social media especially like to pronounce the death of everything old. We have to make way for the new. But we have to be careful that we aren't throwing away what's important just because it's not shiny.

The marketing funnel has become the standard but it is just a representation of marketing's effect on the organization.

The actual thing is measurement. Getting rid of the funnel, as a model, is fine. It doesn't matter. However, if you are going to remove one model, then be sure you have a new one to put in place.

Considerations

Building a new measurement model is going to be unique to your company but some high-level concepts you should include are:
- Raw marketing reach. It is important to know how far your marketing reaches. Or how many people are responding to your outreach.
- Qualified marketing leads. You need to know out of your entire audience what subset of fall within your traget market and are, or could become, sales ready.
- Bottom line. Measure the ROI for your campaigns. It's difficult to track marketing from start to finish but when you can create that path, it helps to show the value of marketing.
- Proxy measurements. Following on the point above. Marketing isn't responsible for the revenue coming in - that's the role of sales. But it introduces some variability into measuring your effectiveness. Attaching revenue amounts to activities that marketing does control, allows you to rate how well your different efforts are doing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Inbound Marketing Summit Wrap-up #IMS09

I took notes during the Inbound Marketing Summit (IMS) in Dallas so that I could post about each of the individual presentations. I also decided to do something that I've feel doesn't get enough emphasis coming out of conferences -- what are the immediate actions you can do to start taking advantage of what you've just learned. These aren't intended to be full plans but just the first thing to break the interia of doing something new.


So, here is my list of the presenters, their presentation, and my action take-away. You can click through to any of the individual posts to see more of my notes.
If you attended IMS09, or have heard any of these presentations, or thoughts on social media, share what you would want someone to know as they try something new.


Giovanni Gallucci - From 0 to Social in 50 Minutes

Presenters: Giovanni Gallucci of Giovanni Gallucci

Title: From 0 to Social in 50 Minutes – Extreme Social Media for Business

Notes:

  • Zappos didn't get huge because of Twitter. They got huge because they changed their culture to trust their employees and providing more customer service than anyone else.

  • Search Engines – especially Google – still love social networks because amount of traffic is still important to them; context is important and soc nets have groups for everything; and search engines link out to other sites.

Jake McKee - How LEGO Caught the Cluetrain

Presenter: Jake McKee of Ant's Eye View

Title: How LEGO Caught the Cluetrain

Main Point: Embrace what your community is doing without your help. Also look at highly-engaged but small segments of your market – they might provide a new way for you to do business.

Take-away Action: Determine if you have customers outside your normal demographic that are high-value.

Notes:

  • Lego didn't accept “unsolicited” product ideas. This turned into a culture that Lego couldn't talk with their customers at all.

  • Lego noticed that Adult Consumers had created a large secondary market for trading/purchasing pieces. And that community had already created tools that the community wanted/needed.

  • When you have community members committed and they come to you for acknowledgment, you should ask what you can do for them.

  • Talking with the highly engaged minority can provide a lot of good information.

  • Changes to social media engagement starts with a change to culture inside the company.

  • Core of Lego community effort focused around their shift from selling boxes to creating a creative medium (i.e. what you can build)

  • Lego has a tool that you can design an object, submit it, and have just the pieces you need to build that model sent to you.

  • Take advantage of consumer evangelists can be more effective than your own PR.

Greg Cangialosi - Extending the Reach of Email

Presenter: Greg Cangialosi of Blue Sky Factory

Title: Extending the Reach of email

Main Point: Look for the low-hanging fruit of email marketing to make it better.

Take-away Action: If you haven't segmented, look for at least 2-3 segments you can create for your lists. If you haven't tested, pick one area you can start doing A/B testing on – subject lines are good to start with.

Notes:

  • 3 Types of Email: Social, Marketing, Transactional

  • Make it easy for people to subscribe. Don't put up barriers or ask for too much information

  • Segment your audience data (demographics). Segment what content your users get. Allow users to manage their own content preferences. Segment on behaviors (especially good for follow-up segments)

  • Email provides an unbelievable opportunity for A/B testing to optimize your marketing

    • Subject Lines

    • Copy & Creative

    • Call to Action

    • Time of Day

  • When people stop responding to your emails, find a way to re-engage them. Or, if they won't engage, start putting them into a drip campaign that is different than your master list. Maybe quarterly, or a specific request to confirm their interest.

  • Email is the common currency of Web2.0; All social networks require using email to sign up.

  • Email can be a key driver of social content. Convert your email lists into your community on social networks. It is a good way to jumpstart those efforts.

Paula Berg - Nuts about Online Communication

Presenter: Paula Berg of Southwest Airlines

Title: Nuts about Online Communication

Main Point: Establish yourself in social media channels before the crisis hits

Take-away Action: Make a social media fire-drill plan. Practice it!

Notes:

  • Picked 30 employees from all over the company who oozed pride about working at Southwest

  • The blog has continued to increase in readership over the last 3 years

  • We can't control the conversation but we can lead with our POV and facts about what we are doing. Try to make sure we are staying ahead of current news trends so we can talk about what is relevant to people.

  • Being a human being during blogger relations really got a positive response from bloggers

  • Blogs allow the public to share positive views of your company, something that media usually isn't looking for.

  • Southwest posted a video of their rapping flight attendant. They didn't wait for a consumer to put it up, they took the opportunity to show their commitment to flight attendants personalizing the experience.

  • Social media presence has started to boil down to the people who really want to engage with us.

  • You have all the talent you need already in your company.

Greg Matthews - Social Business from the Inside

Presenter: Greg Matthews of Humana

Title: Social Business from the Inside: A Case Study

Main Point: Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

Take-away Action: Start a personal blog so you get familiar with the tools for when your business is ready to jump in.

Notes:

  • We are changing from an information economy to a collaboration economy.

  • Business is like a small town. They are building pieces that help them work better as a corporate community.

  • Use social media (like Twitter) for taking meeting notes. Something that is immediately posted and public for people to check afterwards. (And contribute?)

  • Take what's fun and then make it healthy. That's how Humana approaches making games.

  • “We don't know what the long-term benefits of our projects will be, but we are working to find out.”

Mike Moran - Internet Marketing by the Numbers

Presenter: Mike Moran at Converseon

Title: Internet Marketing by the Numbers

Main Point: Marketers must measure their website and online campaigns. When you measure, you are responsible for making things work. All the Internet stuff you know won't do any good if you don't get ROI from your site.

Take-Away Action: Determine what your conversions are and your current conversion rate for those.

Notes:

  • Internet Marketing is more about marketing than the Internet.

  • Numbers have found you. You don't have to calculate the numbers but you have to be the person that makes decisions based on the numbers.

  • Transactional – If someone buys something, was it profitable to get them to that point

  • Relational – Each customer acquired is measured individually

  • Management doesn't care what goes into the execution; They want to know what the results of the execution were.

  • Know your business to know if you should calculate your conversion rate by dividing by Visitors or Visits.

  • Conversions are the metrics that you should be tracking. “What do you want people to do?” That's the question that matters most.

  • In relation to setting up source tracking “Why did we go through that much trouble?” Answer: “Because it's the only way to measure how your marketing programs are working.”

  • Every sale does not cost the same amount. It costs far less for you to sell more to existing customers. Make sure you understand the lifetime value of your customers.

Mike Walsh - Discovering the Power of your Community

Presenter: Mike Walsh of Leverage Software

Title: Discovering the Power of your Community

Main Point: As you get older, especially when you join the workforce, the noise level in your life increases significantly to the point of overwhelming distraction

Take-Away Action: Look at all your social networks and determine where you can focus your attention.

Notes:

  • Everyone wants to be in the Discovery space. Both Twitter and Google think that they do it but the other service doesn't.

  • Social networks within the enterprise allow for internal discovery – feeds that provide news about what company-centric projects are going on.

  • Be a Kid Again! Simplify, Simplify. Don't worry about what's not relevant to you.

  • Minimize your trusted sources of information to get more signal

  • Communities have two sides – need to be aware of what both need

    • Host

    • User

Rick Frantz - Discover what really works in optimization

Presenter: Rick Frantz of MarketingExperiments

Title: Discover what really works in optimization

Main Point: If something you are doing doesn't work, doing more of it won't change that.

Take-Away Action: Write down your value proposition. Compare it to your compeition and evaluate if it's a real differentiator.

Notes:

  • Hitting the ketchup bottle on the bottom doesn't work.

    • There has to be a better way to do other things in life

    • When something is not working well, doing more of it won't produce better results

    • Obvious solutions are not the best solutions

    • Measuring and Testing are the only ways to discover what works better

  • Starting an argument doesn't help you persuade, it only helps you hurt someone.

  • Landing Page Optimzation Meta-Theory

    • People don't by from websites, they buy from people

    • You don't optimize pages, you optimize though sequence

    • To optimize though sequence, you need to enter a conversation

    • Then guide the conversation to a value exchange

  • c = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) - 2a

    • C = Conversion

    • M = Motivation

    • V = Clarity of Value Prop

    • I = Incentive

    • F = Friction

    • A = Anxiety

    • Value Prop and Incentive are Value Contributors

    • Friction and Anxiety are Value Inhibitors

    • You need the Contributors to outweigh the Inhibitors

  • If you don't have something that differentiates you (the Value Prop) then you are just getting by on the ignorance of the market.

  • When you advertise on something people are looking for, make sure that you're giving them what they want when they come back to your site.

  • Every page on your site should have a Primary Objective and should stick to it!

Eric Bowzer - Art of Persuasion in New Content Marketing World

Presenter: Eric Bowzer of SiteCore

Title: Art of Persuasion in the New Content Marketing World

Main Point: Tracking and evaluating content leads to success sooner.

Take-Away Action: Pick at least one landing page -- Does the page lead your users deeper into your site? How can you create a path to lead users into your site?

Notes:

  • Land pages need to deliver on ad's promise

  • Keep telling stories as they move deeper into your site

  • Understand what your sales process is

  • Learning to Listen

    • Score your content – Give scores to content so you can start building different profiles of your visitors.

    • Score your actions – Lead Scoring

    • Test and Validate with content and score engagement

  • The show isn't over after the first dance

    • Episodic delivery of content

    • Build assets that can be subscribed to

    • Us the crowds to help filter info for other users

  • Traditional segmentation doesn't work anymore

    • Use community as magnet and microscope to understand what your segments should be

    • Allow self-segmentation

    • Match content to emerging segments

    • Find ways to bring people in past the landing page of your site

  • Pick Your Pitch

    • Understand your intimacy level with customers

    • Understand how to make that window of consideration longer

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Panel - Listening and Monitoring: The New Way to Market

Presenters: Amber Naslund of Radian6, Blake Cahill of Visible Technologies, Gabriel Villablanca of Brafton

Title: Listening and Monitoring – The new way to market

Main Point: Just because you aren't listening, doesn't mean people aren't trying to talk to you.

Take-Away Action: Find a conversation that is happening about your company in a space you haven't been monitoring before.

Notes:

  • Amber – Companies are getting dragged in to SM whether they like it or not.
    Social Media is like the phone, people are trying to call you and you wouldn't just let your phone ring and ring un-answered?
    Use listening to inform the content development strategy. Customers don't necessarily want to hear marketing that “align with your core brand messages.”
    What is the language that your customers are using when talking about themselves and your company/products.
    When you can't act on the flow of information coming in, you need to scale up to a better tool.

  • Blake – Companies are seeing the transparency of the negative experiences customers are having and that scares them.
    Companies have had access to this kind of data for quite a long time but may not have known what to do with it.
    If there is no conversation, that's a huge opportunity.
    Most of the conversations are neither positive nor negative. They are just neutral. Companies are mining the neutral to determine why people don't have a stronger opinion.

  • Gabriel – We do end up being like therapists because we uncover areas that company doesn't have strengths and isn't sure how to handle those areas.
    Big companies can put the resources behind doing more listening. But smaller companies need to be flexible with the tools and roll with shifts in the market.

Bill Tolany - Q&A with Whole Foods

Presenter: Bill Tolany of Whole Foods

Title: Q&A with Whole Foods

Main Point: Be in-tune with your customers as close to person-to-person as possible.

Take-Away Action: Give guidelines/direction in social media to the people closest to your customers.

Notes:

  • Stores at the local level have their own blog. It's difficult for corporate to be relevant to local audiences.

  • Shorten the distance between customers and employees (team members).

  • Engage as brand advocates for local producers.

  • Cannot measure individual purchases at stores based on Social Media but do notice trends in how much people are thinking/talking about Whole Foods.

Chris Kieff - Best Practices for Listening and Engaging in Social Networks

Presenter: Chris Kieff of Ripple6

Title: Best Practices for Listening and Engaging Consumers in Social Networks

Main Point: Social media isn't a broadcast medium, it's designed for community engagement.

Take-Away Action: Pick a community and find a way to engage with them.

Notes:

  • Be Relevant, Authentic, Responsive (That's the foundation, you hear it all the time.)

  • Beware of the mean (the middle, the average). Beware of the extreme.

  • Allow Feedback and responses from the people; respond back to them.

  • Don't Be Creepy

  • Talk to them in their backyard

    • 85% of consumers feel companies should be present online to interact with customers and help solve problems

Tim Marklein - Advocacy, Badvocacy, and Upsetting the Apple Cart

Presenter: Tim Marklein of Weber Shandwick

Title: Advocacy, Badvocacy, and Upsetting the Apple Cart

Main Points: Companies need to be prepared to re-think how they are approaching their customers.

Take-Away Action: Inoculate your legal team against the shock of using social media.

Notes:

  • Advocacy is the new wave of marketing. This goes beyond influentials or elites.

  • Marketers need to re-think channels, reach and influence.

  • Apple Cart #1 – Customer at center with different hubs:

  1. Inside – Day to Day interactions
  2. Outside – Expert sources
  3. Mega – Media/Celebrity/News
  4. Social – Online and Offline groups they consider themselves a part of
  • Apple Cart #2 – Engagement Methods – Not just the same mass media channels

  • Apple Cart #3 – Legal and Regulatory Controls

  • Apple Cart #4 – Measurement; Advocacy isn't all digital but it can be measured.

  • Apple Cart #5 – Budgeting; Most marketing budgets are not designed to fully embrace social media. Social media requires more headcount.

  • Apple Cart #6 – Organizational Structures; Change from hierarchy by silo'ed function and switch to community-based roles

Mike Volpe - SEO 101

Presenter: Mike Volpe of HubSpot

Title: SEO 101 – Why everyone should know the basics of search optimization

Main Points: Know which battles you should be fighting over keywords

Take-Away Action: List the terms you want to be found on in Google. Be realistic! (Remember the ninjas)

Notes:

  • Don't fight ninjas when you're not fully trained.

  • Google is smarter than you. Don't try to trick it. Make sure your copy matches what you say the page is about.

  • Meta-Data Description is what Google shows when presenting results. You should customize this per page on your site.

  • Google figured out how to understand which pages people will want to look at, more than just keywords on page. Links are the currency of the Internet.

  • If you have more content, you tend to get more links into your site.

  • SEO is like the lottery. The more tickets you have, the better your chances to win. In SEO, the more content you have (optimized for different keywords) the more likely you are to get links into your site.

  • Re-purpose your content and publish in as many places as possible.

  • Create content that can be shared. The more people can share, the more links will get pointed back to your site.

  • Don't be afraid to be polarizing. Have an opinion and get people talking -- on both sides of the issue.

Chris Brogan - You Shall Know Us By Our Dialtone

Presenter: Chris Brogan of New Marketing Labs

Title: You Shall Know Us By Our Dialtone

Main Points: Understand how to allocate people in your organization to get involved in social media

Take-Away Action: Create a main, central location that you own to use as the call to action

Notes:

  • It doesn't matter what your customer is doing with your product, they are still your customer. Even if they are using it ways you didn't expect.

  • Listening is the new black. Marketers aren't used to listening, they are used to collecting surveys and market research instead.

  • You don't control facebook. If you pin your marketing strategy on those tools, you are constrained to what they let you do.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Panel: Innovative Marketing Programs Using New Media

Presenters: Tim Walker of Hoovers, Bernie Borges of Find and Convert, Nick Koudas of Sysomos

Title: Innovative Marketing Programs Using New Media

Main Points: Understand what you are trying to accomplish and what strategies support that

Take-Away Action: Discover what niche communities your customers are already participating in.

Notes:

  • Koudas: Intrigued by companies that are successful using media that isn't branded until the very end. But, also interested in what is the return on the social media success. If people watch your YouTube video, what does that mean?
    Strategy doesn't have an end. You need to take what you learn at the end and start over to go forward.
    People will know if you are not honest. You don't want to get caught being dishonest.

  • Borges: Two companies without huge brand name are making social media work for them in the space that is important to them.
    Niche doesn't mean that you can't find success. If you can own that niche, you can still do well.

  • Walker: It's easy to pursue meaningless numbers in social media if we aren't thinking about what our objectives and strategies should be. Ask first: Where are our customers already congregating online?
    I don't agree that there is a limited pool of dollars for the social media pool. They will continue to bring in more dollars, and customer bases will grow when you can show quality of product/company versus your competitors.

Aaron Strout - I'm Your Customer and I Can't Hear You

Presenter: Aaron Strout of Powered

Title: I'm Your Customer and I Can't Hear You

Main Point: Marketers are trying to use new tools to overcome the hurdle of media disintermediation that has entered into business-to-customer communications.

Take-Away Action: Listen to how and why your customers are talking (not just what they are saying).

Notes:

  1. Listen
  2. Join
  3. Ask
  4. Engage
  5. Build

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Role of Content and Action in Social Media

The social media breakfast in Austin this morning focused on content development and creation. Lionel Menchaca at Dell, Simon Salt of Incslingers, and Natanya Anderson of Powered spoke from different perspectives on the value of content.  

The underlying message consistent through each presentation was that content cannot be about your company.  I'll quote the speakers, they said it well this morning.

Natanya: The best content is created in service of others.

Lionel: Your company has to be committed to action in response to social feedback.

Simon: If the content is "push" it's not social media. It's just media. Social media is all about interaction and sharing.

What struck me today is that one of the most talked about foundations of social media -- listening -- is really only getting you halfway. The other foundation that must also be in place to support a successful social media endeavor is 'action.'  The content is not the end (after listening), it is the means (to taking action).

For the consumer, especially when dealing with what was termed 'lifestyle content' the consumer is typically looking for information to help them do something. It's not often just to inform them, it's about an action they want to take. And when they are able to take that action, users will start generating their own content around those experiences.

For the producer, the content needs to be a way to encourage the audience to take the actions they want -- and that's usually not 'buy my stuff.' But, as Lionel said, the content producer also needs to be ready to act on feedback they receive. Those responses will help shape the understanding of what your audience cares about and how to help them achieve it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You Aren't Selling Content

The market for content is huge and unsatiable. It willingly spends its time consuming and responding to content. It willingly searches and scours out new content. It willingly ignores quality in favor of quantity.

And that works when everything is free.

But when you are trying to make money, content is cheap. It's not want of more content that makes people pull out their wallets.

What you are selling is access to context. Both the expertise and the attention to a topic that allows your audience to know you'll be able to provide them of something with real value.

How can you provide context rather than just adding more content?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Social Media in Your Job Search - A Case Study

Tara Weiss, the career reporter for Forbes.com, was writing an article about using social media for conducting a job search -- specifically Twitter. My friend Kyle Flaherty mentioned that I'd been successful in finding work -- both full-time and freelance -- through Twitter and that she should reach out to me.

Speaking with Tara about Twitter was an interesting experience -- giving her both a primer on the service and how to use it for job searching. I analyzed what my own actions had been and considered the principles so that other people could benefit from my experience. 

Overall, I think the piece is very strong. Both for people that are familiar with Twitter and those that are considering Twitter as a way to help with a job search.

While you're reading articles about job searching, I also recommend a recent post by Heather Strout about what you should do first if you lose your job.

What has been your experience with using social media for job searching?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

SXSW, Content, and Monetization

It might be overstating the facts to say that I went to SXSWi this year. Rather, SXSWi happened and I managed to position myself in it's vortex as it frantically rushed through Austin -- fueled by free drinks and Twitter.


The analogy between SXSWi and Twitter is apt because I constantly felt myself pulled by different currents in the stream of people. Anyone who tried walking with me from Point A to Point B knows what I'm talking about because I was constantly detouring, sidetracking, or just plain wandering off to Point C instead.

But that's how it had to be. If I had tried to control the flow instead of moving with it, I would have only ended up frustrated and (probably) alone. Instead of trying to set plans, keep people together, or have expectations, I relied on my cell phone to loosely wander in and out of what was happening.

That's the impression of my personal experience. But I also want to look at the conference from the business perspective.

One of the oft repeated points about SXSW is that you attend for the hallways and parties. This year, while inside the convention center, I heard that point repeated but with specific stories about why people felt the keynotes weren't as valuable as they'd hoped, or how the panels were disappointing them. One particularly pogniant quote was that nothing the person had heard couldn't already be found on a blog or by going to a Barcamp panel.

But SXSWi is 5-days packed full of speakers, panels, round-tables, and generally more content than you can possibly hope to consume (regardless of how many Red Bulls you have).

SXSWi isn't selling content, it's selling access.

If you work in new media, social media, media 2.0, or any other moniker, you are paying for face time with a large contingent of people in your industry. You're paying for the flow of people that allows the serendipitous meetings during the conference, over lunch, or at an after-hours party. And SXSW has been very smart in making sure they keep tight control over all the venues that are going to be used. Your badge is your passport into that access, that's what you paid for.

I'm going to wrap this up now but I have more thoughts around this topic that I'll continue to ponder.

What are you throughts on SXSW? Did you go for the sessions or the people? And what cues should online social networks take from this experience?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Innovators Roadtrip

It's getting late but I wanted to make a quick post that I'm on the Innovators' Roadtrip organized by Colin Browning of New Marketing Labs. 


We started off in Detroit yesterday and had the chance to talk with Scott Monty of Ford about what one of the world's biggest companies is doing to innovate.

Then we made three stops in Ohio: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. It's been an interesting trip so far and we have a couple more packed days ahead of us.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Blellow -- Twitter goes vertical


I was invited to the Blellow Beta and my interest was picqued in examining another Twitter-like application.  The recent history of microsharing is littered with past attempts to improve on Twitter. Pownce and Jaiku were both acquired... but not supported. Plurk hit a chord with it's threaded conversations, but then Twitter figured out how to stay up more consistently. And recently, Yammer and identi.ca are working to bring microsharing inside the Enterprise firewall.


With all that context (baggage?) I joined the Blellow Beta.

First, let me talk about them in their own right. They are building a community of creative freelancers that can share ideas amongst itself but also act as a location that companies can post jobs/projects that the community can fulfill. This is a bold implementation that puts to the test the concept of collaborative competition. The community will be acting as a support group but also trying to compete for the jobs that get posted. How this dynamic plays out should be one of the major trends the Blellow community manager should watch for.

Now I feel comfortable starting to do the comparisons. I was talking with Heather Strout, Connie Reece, and LaniAR (what, she has a last name?) about how Twitter was so disruptive when they launched but quickly locked themselves into their feature set and let third-party apps take care of covering their weaknesses. 

This is the first place that I appreciated Blellow. They've taken the steps to incorporate some of the main requested features back into site. They allow threaded conversations by allowing you to open-up all the replies to a specific post right from your stream. You can also create actual groups and reference them (with the % symbol) which acts like a more formalized hashtag system. You can include files (especially pictures) right in your message meaning that people don't have to open up a new window to see what you're sharing. And, your home page dynamically updates (without constant refreshing!).

Why is this important? Because despite the familiarity of the early adopters, the concept of microblogging is still new. And innovation is still important. Blellow isn't trying to compete with Twitter in terms of user-base. They have taken the concept and applied it to a niche. But, they've also shown how the horizontal application could be improved.

My review of Blellow is postive because I want to see more companies take the approach of improving microblogging without trying to be the next Twitter. But I do also see a couple of downsides.

Any division of attention is going to create a barrier to entry. It's not impossible to maintain a presence in multiple social networks but when dealing with real-time networks like Twitter and Blellow, it is certainly more difficult. 

Guiding the community to focus on the right content. One of the axioms of social media is that you can't control the community. You don't own them, you can't make them do what you want. But, Blellow isn't asking "What are you doing?" they want to ask "What are you working on?" Keeping the community engaged in collaborative discussions about freelance work is going to take visible leadership from the Blellow team. If users slip into the more comfortable, more conversational, routine of talking with each other about what they are doing at the moment then Blellow hasn't differeniated itself from Twitter. The result, people migrate back to Twitter

Finally, while I like the inclusion of features into the website, I am also a big fan of having a desktop client. I use my browser all the time, if I have to keep flipping back to a separate tab or another browser window, I just don't get around to it as often. Allowing this to be created (or making it themselves) will again help with the adoption and retention of their members.

Would you use a vertical microblogging site?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Tale of Two Job Searches

I've had an interesting experience in the last week with my job search.  I'll leave the company names out of this because it's on-going.


A friend of mine gave me a contact at a company I'm interested in with an open position. I had a chance to speak with that person and find out more about the company and role. On their recommendation, I went ahead and submitted my application through the company website.

A day or two after submitting, I received a form email saying they appreciated my interest and they would keep my resume on file but that the position required a different backgroud.

That was about a month or so ago.

Then Rachel Happe interviewed me for her Deep Bench series. (Again, let me tell her thanks!) And just yesterday morning, I received an email from the hiring manager at this same company letting me know that someone had pointed them to my Deep Bench interview. He said that after reading the profile, he feels I have much of the experience they're looking for, and wanted a copy of my resume.

What's the moral of the story? Well, you've probably heard it before but sending your resume to HR isn't likely to get you a job. Where you should focus your energies instead is building, helping, and using your network to connect you with people that need what you can offer.

Where have you found the most success in your job search?


Monday, March 2, 2009

Deep Bench Interview

I was asked by Rachel Happe, writer of The Social Organization blog, to particpate in her Deep Bench series of posts about people in the social media space who are available for new job opportunities. 


I've followed Rachel on Twitter when she was an analyst and then when she made her move to Mzinga. Her insight into the social media space, especially as it relates to enterprise, has always given me perspective. I'm humbled that she'd add me to the list of people she wanted to interview. 

Without further ado, here are my rather long-winded answers.

John is a social media buddy - I haven't met him in RL (i.e. real life) and I still think of him more as jljohansen - his Twitter handle - than by the name John. Funny how that works. But while I have not worked with John directly, he's been in my circle for quite some time. John was a Bostonian that is currently in Austin...part of that trend last year of some of Boston's brightest moving to Austin...what is up with that?!?!  To me, John exhibits all the best behavior of a community manager - even though that has not been an explicit role - he shares his knowledge and information freely, engages in conversation, and is not into gratuitous self-promotion.  I would guess that those qualities are what make him so plugged in.

If you are in the Austin area and looking for an interactive or social media marketer, you should snap John up quickly.  Here's his response to my questions - I love the Speedo incident!:

What part of the social web world are you most fascinated by and why?
I'm most fascinated by how the social web continues to change. Not only is it changing everything it touches but it keeps changing itself. It's nearly impossible to keep up with everything that's happening but the broad trends are starting to emerge and you can see how they start applying to specific situations in social spaces.

I'm also fascinated by the change in search and discovery using the Internet. I had an instance this morning when I was using Google for a search and switched to Twitter Search because I wasn't getting results that were useful to me. Real-time search is a powerful tool.
 
What are you passionate about and what motivates that passion?
I stopped to really think about this question and came up with some very interesting answers. Part of what I'm discovering in my re-assessment of my career path is that I'm passionate about solving problems. I thrive in situations that need me to be creative and innovative. Keeping up with my blog is an example of this, I post sporadically because once I find a topic that I want to explore my single post quickly grows into full-blown series

In the arena of social media, what drives my passion is that I have the opportunity to be exploring the space before the 'rules' are defined. There are a great many smart people that I respect in the social media arena. I read their blogs or follow them on Twitter because I'm interested in what they have to say and want to be influenced by their thoughts. But, I'm also doing my own thinking about the gray areas. I absolutely feel that the 'answers' to social media can come from anywhere and I want to be a part of that.
 
If you could construct your own job who would you be working with? For whom? On what problems?
Moving to Austin was a conscious choice for me. I came down here before I had found a job in the area. (I was fortunate enough to keepmy job back in Boston.) One of the main reasons I decided to come to this area was because of the industry in the area. Austin has its share of large companies (Dell anyone?) but it's also got a significant number of smaller companies and start-ups.

I want to work for a small- to mid-sized company that is looking to improve its marketing program. When I look at job postings, I don't take them literally. I make sure I meet the requirements (I don't want to waste my time or theirs). Then I look at the essential functions but I read them as the starting point for what I could do. What ideas are sparked when I look at what they're hiring for? What improvements can I make in the areas that I'd be responsible for?
 
Let me get back on track here. I don't see this as an "if" question. I take it as an imperative that if I get hired by a company, I am going to construct my job role in such a way that will push both myself and the company to learn new things and do them better. With that reference, it makes it very easy to answer the rest.

I would be working with a company that has a solid business model with objectives that marketing can support. I would be working in a department, or for a manager, that respects my ability to perform my responsibilities but also supports my initiative to branch out beyond those. And I would be solving problems related to demand generation, measuring marketing results, developing effective lead nurturing -- in other words closing the marketing loop.

Since you can't always make up a job that will support you - what are you looking for next?
Hmm. I think I wrote myself into a corner with the answer above. Maybe I can side-track again. I've had a wandering path through the realms of marketing. I began my career with a PR degree and a position at a PR agency. I've explored direct mail, project management, web design, webinar production, email, search, web analytics, marketing communications, and social media. Up to about a year ago, I probably would have considered myself an Internet Marketer because I'd been taking more of a focus on online tools. But, I don't agree with all the connotations that Internet Marketing conjures.

What I've realized is that I can use another handy marketing label: Demand Generation. I've been responsible for bringing in leads, in the B2B space, for about 5 years, so I think it's a reasonable space for me to continue looking.


What project/activity from past jobs gave you the most joy?
I had a wonderful opportunity back in Boston to roll up my sleeves straighten out the online marketing for Snowbound Software.

One of the first projects I took on was a major re-focus of the newsletter. Rather than using it to re-hash our press releases, I began writing in-depth articles related to our industry (document imaging and viewing).

From there I took a serious look at our Google AdWords account and discovered a significant amount of spending on keywords that were unproductive for us as a business. I took drastic measures in the short-term to cut our spending by nearly 40%. Then spent the next two years tweaking the campaigns and was able to bring in more qualified leads from SEM while keeping our spending down.

I also implemented and monitored Google Analytics for our site. I learned so much about the value (and limitations) of web analytics. We were able to shift our focus off the pages we thought we should be spending time on and started making improvements where our visitors were spending their time.

And, finally, I researched marketing automation systems and implemented Marketo for use with lead qualification and nurturing. This was also the spark that triggered my passion for lead nurturing. I believe that it's going to have a major impact on marketing and, again, I want to be part of that answer.

Now, I know that sounds pretty self-aggrandizing but what brought me joy in my role was seeing how my projects were affecting the business. It wasn't just that I got the newsletter out on time (which I did) but that customers were telling my CEO how much value they received from it. That's hard to beat.

What non-work related activities make you the happiest?
The ocean. Seriously, the ocean makes me happy. I grew up near the Pacific, it's a major factor in my childhood narrative. I could be quite happy going swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving on a daily basis. 

When an ocean is not available, I like to read. Most of what I read is fiction or science fiction, it's engaging and easy. But when I have time, I enjoy picking up a real piece of literature. My most recent read in that genre is probably East of Eden by Steinbeck. And if I can carve out some time, I've got my sights on One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
 
What's your most amusing work-related story?
My wife is a big proponent of looking professional. When I know that I'm going to be doing a job search, she always makes sure that I have a nice suit to interview with and wear to work if appropriate. Each time that I've bought a new suit at the beginning of a job search, I've ended up working at an office with a casual dress code.

At one company, when I was making sure to get an explicit definition to bring back to my wife, I asked what the dress code was. The HR person told me, "No Speedos."
 
Needless to say, I was always in compliance with that one.

What are your thoughts about the US economy and what is going on?
I don't think that the economy is a surprise. The market is righting itself and because it's been bolstered artificially (sub-prime loans, I'm looking at you) for so long, it's going to be messy before it gets fixed. 

But, if you want me to use this as a soap box, I think that this is also a good time for individuals. The lay-offs that are happening are shaking people out of the mindset of "I belong to the company." People are recognizing that they can, or may need to, create value themselves. The rise of social media is helping facilitate the concept of individual value. This series by Rachel is a great example of creating individual value, it's useful to me as a job searcher, it's useful to Rachel's readers to get perspective from others in the social media space, and it's valuable to Rachel because she becomes a hub.

That's where I see the economy going. We're getting so connected these days that it's increasingly unnecessary to take risks on people we don't know . If you're hoping to just find a quiet desk to sit behind until someone hands you a gold watch... well, good luck with that.

Anything else?

I think I've said too much already. ;-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another Job Searching Tip

The economy has gone downhill. The effect on the workforce has been significant and devestating.


I feel comfortable painting such a gloomy picture because I'm one of those that's been affected. I'm currently unemployed. I've been reading plenty of blogs and tips about networking and searching for jobs.

There's one more that I want to add to the list. 

Be responsible for something.

That's a rather generic piece of advice. So I'll expand on what I mean by it.

You're going to be very busy updating your resume, contacting people in your network, searching for job openings -- basically doing a lot of things for yourself. 

When you accept responsibility for a project that someone else is relying on you to complete, there is a whole different mindset. Much like being in a work environment, you need to budget your time, do some future planning, and account for your actions to someone else.

I've found that this helps me stay focused, but also gives me a constructive outlet when the pressure of constantly job searching gets to be too much.

What things have you taken responsibility for that have helped your job search?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Social Media Austin 100 Induction

This is actually a dual-purpose post. The first is to state that I'm now part of the ranks of the unemployed. I'm saddened by this turn of events. I enjoyed working at Bulldog Solutions and would be happy to talk with anyone who's interested in working there or working with them.


One of the reasons that I was interested in Bulldog when I moved down to Austin was to learn more about Webinars as a marketing tactic. I was definitely thrown in and learned quite a bit about how to run an effective webinar.

But, the second reason for this post, as indicated in the title, is that I was recently listed on New Media Labs' Social Media Austin Top 100 list. It's an honor to be listed with so many other great people, many of whom I've had the opportunity to meet since moving down here. I have to agree with their analysis that Austin is a significant hub for social media (though, having moved from Boston, I'm torn on which comes out as the leader).

Actually, there is a third reason for this post. When I added a link to New Media Labs in my LinkedIn profile, it started adding posts from their blog to my profile through the Blog Link application. Careful if you've also got that set up.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Which Way Are You Scaling?

While reading Seth Godin's blog, I ran across this little line that seems to capture most of what he says when discussing permission-based marketing:

"It doesn't scale, it shrinks."
So many of the new media tools we use for marketing and collaboration run into the question of scale. 
  • How to we make it bigger?
  • How do we reach more people?
  • How can it require less effort?
Those kinds of questions are important. But more important is answering the question:
  • If I do this, will my audience shrink?
If you're not sure, run the idea through your "Me" filter. If you were on the receiving end of your own campaign how would you feel? Or if you're too close, run it past someone in your company outside the marketing department. Chances are they'll be brutually honest with you.

I don't have all the answers for how to make the new communications media scale but a good first step to take is making sure you don't shrink your audience by trying to take short-cuts.

What are some lessons you've learned in shrinking your audience? What would you recommend that others avoid?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

ProductCamp Austin Winter 2009


I went to the ProductCamp Austin on Saturday. It was an interesting experience because I don't have much of a background in Product Marketing or Product Management. A big part of why I wanted to attend was so that I could learn what distinguishes product marketing from the areas I'm more familiar with, marketing communications and lead generation.


From the sessions that I attended, product management and marketing deal extensively with customers. Much of the work is around understanding the customers needs and how they interact with a company's products and services. From a marketing perspective that puts a significant emphasis on customer personas -- how you create them and how you use them.

My biggest take-aways from ProductCamp were these:

1. Listen. Listen. Listen. -- Don't create the personas that you want, don't solve the problems that you wish customers had, don't tell stories that focus on your needs.

2. Data should always be used to monitor trending. An interesting point came up about personas being re-created every so often to reflect current customer needs. I don't think that point would be disputed by anyone. What I would build onto the practice of updating customer personas is building a model to follow trends in how those personas have changed over time.
- Are there specific aspects or attributes of your customers that continue to change with each iteration?
- Are the needs of your customers following industry trends or do they move in a different direction?
- What problems do you continue to see surface for your customers, or about your products?

I'm definitely glad I was able to attend this year's ProductCamp and looking forward to next year already.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lead Nurturing Fundamentals: Introduction

I've written a 4-part series about Lead Nurturing. This is becoming a major trend for 2009 and I believe that marketers need to be more than just informed about it, we need to be advocates for making the changes in our ogranizations that will allow this to happen.




Part 3: Content

Part 4: Technology

All links from this series are on Delicious.com with the tag Lead+Nurturing.

I encourage any feedback. Leave your thoughts, challenges, or success stories.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Foundations of Lead Nurturing -- Technology

I've put off technology for the end because I've been trying to figure out how I want to write this post.  


My friend Rebecca pointed me to a post by Mike Volpe of Hubspot, from last year, about about lead nurturing. I like his point and his passion for building relationships with his potential customers.

I wanted to take hold of this concept but couldn't shake a nagging sense of pragmatism. While his example is a great anecdote, if he spent that much time of his time with each customer, he wouldn't be able to effectively grow his business. As I was doing some more research, I ran across a post about why most customers suck (they exaggerate for effect). 

The lead nurturing process has to scale in a way that doesn't hinder building a personal relationship.

And it's at this point that we can start talking about marketing automation. However, I decided that I don't want to do just a review of marketing automation platforms. There are a lot of options out there, each with different capabilities and limitations. The only real way to know what will work for you is to research them.

Using marketing automation as a tool in a B2B lead nurturing program can help the prospect be prepared for a sales call. The goal is to get them away from the automated portion and into conversation. Using the technology can play an important role because it gives you the chance to maintain contact with prospects until they are ready to advance.

How can you use marketing automation effectively then? 

1. Lead Scoring
Using lead scoring during your lead capture process will help you start defining who are your top 20%, who are in the middle 60% and who are in the unqualified 20%. Lead scores can be simple - based on demographic information - or more sophisticated. With scoring in place you can start determine how you filter your leads, including where you draw the line for MQL (marketing qualified lead)

2. Define a goal/threshold
This veers back towards the process side again. But, using marketing automation allows you to dynamically update prospect lead scores based on their activity after you've collected their information (and given them an initial score). What you are looking for is an optimized point when leads should be passed over to sales for personal attention. Setting a threshold forces you to move leads through the system, think of it as the accountability. If prospects are reaching this threshold and still not ready for sales, then you've got some work to do. 

3. Create a path
Building on the point above about lead scoring, you need to clearly define what path you will be presenting your prospects. You want to encourage them to continue engaging with your company, that mean determining what lead nurturing content you will use based on initial lead score and where you want them to end up. Each step on your path should include a call to action that gets your prospect closer to understanding why they should buy your product or service.

Caveat: I feel that I need to point out that capturing someone's email address and subscribing them to your corporate newsletter is not a lead nurturing path. You'll need to build it out just a little further. (And if you are going to include your newsletter as a piece of content in lead nurturing, make sure you have a call to action that allows your prospects to keep moving.)

4. Measure and Test
I'm going to put these two together because they go hand-in-hand. One compelling aspect of marketing automation is that, if integrated with your back-end sales system (I definitely don't want to take that for granted) you get closer to closed-loop marketing. The window between leads generated by marketing and sales activity is too often opaque. As marketers we should always be striving to measure not only the CTR or conversion rate of a campaign but also the closed sales deals.

Set your KPIs and measure how your leads are progressing based on the criteria that are important to you.  If you are just implementing marketing automation, or lead nurturing, or measuring your marketing efforts, I recommend that you spend some time getting a baseline. It's tempting to want to start changing things immediately and just try to beat the previous number. But establishing a baseline for your marketing campaigns will give you a much stronger position when you have to prove your results later. (Assuming you were able to drive them upward.)

When you begin testing, look at what's already been done for similar campaigns. While I don't recommend you follow everything, previous research can give you ideas for what you should test first in your own campaigns. Remember, testing is a continuous process. Continue looking for small and major changes that you can make to your campaigns and nurturing paths to continue to increase your response and, ultimately, closed deal rates.

Links on Delicious.com tagged: Lead+Nurturing

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lead Nurturing Fundamentals -- Content

Having been through the exercise of defining what a lead is, the role of content is to help you move those leads through the B2B buying cycle.
This means two very important things for the content that you use for lead nurturing.

  1. Content should be appropriate to your prospect's stage in the buying cycle.
  2. Content should include a call to action that moves interested prospects closer to being sales ready.
Let's break it down to the individual steps and see what applies.

1. Identifying the problem -- You don't have a nurturing role here but certainly marketing can be instrumental in helping shape the discussion around problem-identification. This is not to imply that you should be creating problems so you can sell more product but if you have insight into your industry and can identify where companies are failing then bringing that to light benefits both sides.The content that you would want to focus on is less targeted and more traditional publishing. Speak at key industry events, get quoted in trade publications, and write your own blog.

Call to Action: Find out more information about your company and products from your site.

2. Defining the criteria -- While discussion about a solution may still be at a very high-level at this stage, experience with existing companies and products will influence the input given.
The work you have done in branding your company and products will bring your value into the discussions, even before your name is actually mentioned.

Call to Action: Find out more information about your company and products when doing research.

3. Researching the options -- This is a key step. At this point in the cycle two crucial things happen. First, the responsibility for moving the process forward is typically delegated to a lower level within the organization. And second, you may get your first contact with a new prospect. I'm probably going to run afoul of Sales people everywhere but there is a real danger if you try to take prospects at this stage and skip right to the Purchase stage. For some prospects it might work, however as a strategy you're going to lose more than you keep.
Image Credit: Viewoftheworld
The content you want to have for prospects in this stage is high-level information. White papers serve this stage well if they are positioned as research or insight into broad needs fulfillment. Content at this stage should be easily accessible, either living outside your lead capture mechanism or behind only the lightest of touches.

Call to Action: Engage with your company by providing information in exchange for something of value.

4. Evaluating Products/Services -- In my experience this is probably the most critical stage in the buying cycle for marketing, especially in the context of lead nurturing. In this stage, information has been gathered, both generally about the industry and specifically about companies. The prospect is now comparing products against each other; looking for the strengths and weaknesses of each product when lined up side-by-side.
By this time your prospects should be engaged with a sales person. But marketing can still contribute to closing the deal. Content for this stage should reinforce what they are hearing from sales. Case studies that show how similar problems were solved or spec. sheets that detail the features a prospect needs can be effective. You can also use high-engagement content like webinars to keep yourself at the top of the evaluation list.

Call to Action: Contact your company, or sales person, with specific questions about your products or services.

5. Trial/Test Period -- This can be a tricky case. If your company offers a low-barrier free trial that prospects can use on their own, then marketing should have a trigger to re-engage with the prospect before the trial period ends.
This is a good time to ask if the prospect needs more time to continue their evaluation or if they want to speak with someone about your product/service in more detail. This step can also help you determine which prospects may never be viable for your company and allow you to shift focus away from them.

On the other hand, if your trial requires a commitment, such as a physical installation, then you're in a good position having gotten in the door. While your prospect is going to be heavily engaged with sales, and possibly a sales engineer, marketing can still contribute.

If you have a customer-support area of your site that facilitates either customer-to-customer interaction or easy access to your own internal support, you should provide your prospects with information about how to participate and some pointers towards areas that might be most useful to them.

Call to Action: Extend the benefits gained from the trail by purchasing your products or service.

6. Purchase and Implementation -- After the deal has been completed is a good time to make sure you have clean, viable data. Check if the initial contact is still going to be active in the on-going relationship. If the primary contact is changing, make sure you have updated information about the new contact. If there are going to be additional contacts after the sale, make sure those are also captured and associated with the deal. With a more complete picture of how you will be used within your customer's company, you are in a better position to make cross-sell and up-sell offers.
When you do win a new customer, have a welcome package ready for them. The contents of this will vary but should include contact information to key areas of your company. You can use this touchpoint to ask for an opt-in from any new contacts as well.

Call to Action: Opt-in to continued communications from your company. Explore additional products or services that may be of benefit.

Links and additional resources at Delicious: Lead+Nurturing