Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: June 2008

Text Messaging as a Marketing Medium?

Recently, I heard someone recommend text messaging as another way to reach prospects. They ranked it right up there with e-mail and snail mail. Now, I know I must be getting old.

I’m somewhere, chronologically, between the Boomers and Gen X. Far enough along in my career to have disposable income and responsibility for spending my employer’s money as well. People like me are dead center in the target audience for many products and services. The idea that anyone would try to reach me with text messaging makes me shudder.
I have text messaging and I do use it. For me, it is a tool like pagers once were. My colleagues and I can let one another know when we are running late and there’s a schedule change. If someone needs to talk to me and has only been able to get my voice mail, text messaging may work. None of the people that I work with are chronic text messagers. I know that if I get one it’s probably urgent, and I should pay attention to it.

I had one encounter recently with a “vendor” using text messaging. It was my dentist. I suddenly started getting holiday and birthday greetings from them. I was irritated but did nothing about it. After all, holidays worthy of greetings only happen a few times a year. However, the last straw came when they used text messaging to tell me to call them to confirm my appointment. Why should I have to call them back when, if they had picked up the phone, they had a 50/50 chance of getting through and not wasting my time anymore than they had to.

If marketers start using text messaging as another medium to reach me, I will have to turn it off. Either that, or the phone companies will develop a way to block numbers, but of course, they’ll probably charge you for it. Either way, I’m unlikely to do business with anyone who uses text messaging to market to me.

Now, I know this may be different if your target audience is younger, and you are not selling B2B products. But, until that generation matures, I’d leave text messaging on the shelf. However, one of the worst mistakes a marketer can make is to assume that their audience is “just like them.” If you think I’m letting my personal preferences color my opinions, let me know.
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

How to Work With a Control Freak

I read a great post this morning on the Brazen Careerist blog about the positive aspects of being a “control freak.” So far, the author has received mostly positive replies but at least one negative one from someone who despises the term. For those of you who hate the term “control freak” just chill out a bit and go with the flow. We’re not talking about some clinical definition that requires intervention and medication. We're affectionately referring to those individuals who care deeply enough about the job that they want everything done right.

But, even the non-clinical control freak can be tough to work with. Personally, I love it when control freaks work for me. Because they leave nothing to chance I know they will pay attention to even the minutest detail. They know their business cold so I know that I can ask them for almost any piece of information and they will have it. But, to fully utilize the capabilities of these people you might need to loosen the reigns a bit.
If you are a manager of a control freak, you’ll need to tame your own control freak tendencies. They don’t necessarily take kindly to management coming in and telling them how to do their job. Instead of telling them what to do, you might want to start out by asking them for their input. Chances are they will be one step ahead of you with great ideas, and they may have already started down the path of executing them.

They are great people to have on your team as long as you understand their particular quirks. They may ask their manager to be available as a “sounding board” or someone with whom they can collaborate, but they also reserve the right to reject your advice. Be careful about when and how you exert you authority. No one makes the right decision 100% of the time, but a culture where failure is unacceptable can stifle creativity. Unless you really need them to do things your way, give them the latitude they need to thrive.

One the other side, working for a control freak (also known as a micro-manager) can be one of life’s truly challenging experiences.

Here are a few tips for making the experience of working for a control freak work for you instead of against you.

Understand their position. If you’re new to the role or the boss is new, chances are that the micro-management and need for control is a temporary thing. The boss may just need to know more about what you can do or be trying to get a good understanding of the business. It’s nothing personal. My recommendation is to cater to their whims and see if the stage passes.

Know their hot buttons. If the boss seems to have micro-management tendencies that aren’t going away, it may be because they aren’t getting what they need. Looking back on one of the marketing management roles I held, I felt like a micro-manager. I was always asking for details on the campaigns that my people were running because I needed to track the return on the investment. But, in retrospect, the reason I was always asking for the information was because I needed it and wasn’t getting it. I could have put together a report for my people to complete once a week. But, it would also have been a great move on their part to stay one step ahead of me and put together their own report with the information that I was always asking for.

Release your inner control freak. If you are naturally a “go with the flow” type but you work for a control freak you have one of two choices. As I see it, you can either find and release your inner control freak or you could look for something new. I suppose you could also try to ride it out. Everything is temporary and your boss may not be around a year from now. Of course, you may not either if you refuse to take control of your own destiny.

Never let them be blind-sided. If you have a boss that is a control freak, never let them be blind-sided by anything. If something is happening that they could be asked about make sure they have the details. You absolutely will want to make sure that they have your side of the story as well. However, make sure you are also coming in with a recommended solution to the problem. If they think you are asking them to fix the problem for you, it will only exacerbate their need to micro-manage.

Never lose your patience. It’s obviously never a good idea to lose your patience with the person you report to or to your reports. There are some who feel that it’s alright to tell a peer to mind their own business when they are meddling in your world. Personally, I don’t think it’s ever a good idea because it can quickly set up additional obstacles to effective communication. I am always happy to hear ideas and recommendations from peers who have absolutely no experience in doing what I do. For tips on taking input from people who have no idea what they are talking about, you may want to revisit my post on graciously accepting input.

Good luck dealing with the control freaks in your life!

Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Webinars Are Great, But...

Ah, I remember the good ‘ol days when vendors did multi-city seminars. You spent weeks developing your content and hundreds of dollars creating a physical mailer to send to a list that you bought. After mailing to 5000 people, you convinced the lowest person on the marketing totem pole to work the list just to get 25 attendees registered. (With 25 you could at least fill up the rented conference room at the hotel.) You packed your bags and polished your presentation until it was spotless.

Upon arriving to the hotel you work through any last minute challenges with AV and catering. You make them change the tablecloths that are too stained. You wipe down the dishwasher spotted glasses. You make sure there is one of those cheap company pens at every chair. Everything is ready and you still have thirty minutes to go before your attendees arrived.

Or maybe not. It’s five minutes before the hour and no one is there. OK, you think, this is a big city and traffic can be an issue. You breathe a sigh of relief as your first attendee comes in the room and makes themselves comfortable at the furthest table away from you. You try to make small talk but he or she is intently studying the brochures you laid out – or at least pretending to.

Top of the hour and one more person wanders in. “How’s traffic?” you ask. “Oh, it’s always bad here,” is the reply. “OK, we’ll give everyone a few more minutes,” you respond cheerfully, hoping the tension isn’t obvious in your voice.

At ten after, you still only have two semi-interested people in the room. Now, you need to build up your energy level so you can give a convincing presentation to two people. If you can close even one of these guys it will make it all worthwhile.

You take a huge swig of bad hotel coffee, refill your cup, and suggest that they move closer to the front of the room. “We have plenty of room,” you say as though it's a good thing. Taking pity on you, they do just that, and you start your presentation while silently vowing never to let this happen again.

If you’ve been in marketing for more than 10 years, chances are good that you have had a similar experience—and hated every minute of it. These experiences are why I am such a fan of online webcasting tools and services. Other than presentations at conferences, I haven’t delivered an in-person presentation in years.

Webinars are less expensive than on-site seminars. You can drive higher registration because people are more likely to accept a webinar invitation than a seminar invitation even if they are not sure of their schedule. No-shows still tend to be high because schedules change, but you can drive no-shows to the recorded version. You can also reuse the recorded presentation on your website to drive lead generation long after the live event.

Finally, recorded presentations give you a great tool for showcasing your own skills next time you’re in the job market. If your name is prominently attached, posted webinars can increase your Google presence (as well as your company’s) and are tangible evidence of your expertise and communication skills. Always a plus!

But, webinars are not without their own challenges. Here are a few mistakes to avoid.

Mistaking registrations for opportunities
To deliver real value and increase attendance, many marketing people organize webinars around issues that are important to the customer. Great strategy!. Today’s consumers expect to learn something from the presentation itself regardless of whether they are in the market for the company’s product or service. They may not have an immediate need but by their interest in the topic they are identifying themselves as being part of your market. The problem is when marketers treat all registrations as interested buyers and toss the “leads” over to sales for follow-up. This leads to the next mistake.

Not following up
Marketing has given sales 100 names of registrations for the webinar. Of these, 25 attended, but the rest must be interested, otherwise they wouldn’t have registered, right? Sales calls the first few names to discuss the value of the product or service and quickly finds out the list is unqualified. Needing to meet this month’s quota, sales goes back to the pipeline of opportunities they know are in the market. The webinar attendees (and registrants) don’t get followed up on and you’ve just widened the chasm between marketing and sales.

Not nurturing the opportunities
The solution to this challenge, of course, is for marketing to have a lead nurturing program in place that keeps the company top of mind until they are ready to engage with the salesperson. Webinar attendees and registrants should be qualified for their interest and readiness to speak with sales. If not ready, they should be nurtured with regular communications, ideally opt-in, such as e-newsletters containing relevant and valuable information. Only prospects that say they are specifically ready to speak to sales should be turned over to the sales team.

Not measuring long-term value
Obviously, this approach will cut down on the number of leads generated from your webinars, but it will increase your sales/seminar ratio because follow up has dramatically improved. If you have a long sales cycle, it’s easy to lose sight of which campaigns produced which sales.

I worked with a marketing team that spent 30K putting on a webinar. They outsourced some of the seminar marketing and material development so their costs were fairly high. They had 100 registrations and roughly 40 attendees.

On the surface, the seminar didn’t look like a great success because there were many leads that went into the nurture program but few that went to sales. (They could have done a better job setting sales expectations.) Looking into the results a few months later, however, they found that two of the webinar attendees had bought products totaling more than 100K each. And, many of the leads from the webinar that were being nurtured were now in the sales pipeline.

One shot wonders
The final mistake to avoid is the curse of the one-shot wonder. Your webinar campaigns should fit into your overall market strategy. You should target the same audience as you do with other campaigns. Your messages should be similar. Ideally, you will offer more than one webinar on this or related topics. You can even offer the same webinar multiple times in a live or recorded format. Webinars, although much easier than in-person seminars, still take effort. Maximize the time and effort spent in any way you can.
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

How Not to Blog

I ran across an example of bad corporate blogging this week. I’m not going to share the company name as I’m not certain that it was their intent to deceive their readers. Plus, I’m not actually sure they are behind the blogs in question. However, if any of the rest of you are thinking of trying out this approach, I just want to warn you that you are treading on thin ice. Most bloggers wouldn’t hesitate to publicly chastise you. Anyway, here’s what happened.

I have several Google alerts set up for companies that I follow. Two well-known B2B software providers are duking it out in the SaaS space and, frankly, I enjoy watching the show. Company A made a major announcement for a product release that targets Company B in a segment that many would say Company B had locked up.

Company B also had a recent announcement about this segment, but it didn’t seem to relate to their SaaS offering. I was surprised when I saw a blog post that framed the announcement as Company B’s response to Company A’s product release. Intrigued, I clicked on it.

The article, to its credit was written well. Not as a press release but as an honest assessment of the situation. I applaud the writer for at least getting the tone that the blog audience is typically looking for. However, since I understand the space and the two companies’ product offerings, I also saw through the message. It was a blatant example of corporate spin. Corporate spin is going to be hard for anyone to resist, but it is not what blog readers are looking for. Right there I was tempted to respond publicly, but decided it would be prudent to dig a little further.

Who wrote the article? Maybe I could connect with them privately to share my thoughts. If they are blogging, I assume that they care.

There was no name attached to the article. I looked at other posts on the blog. They appeared to be written by different writers, but most had no name attached. Some of them were compilations of opinions from analysts. There’s nothing wrong with having several authors but blog readers want to connect with bloggers. If I read something interesting, I will often see if the author is on LinkedIn so I can learn a little more about them. I might also Google them to see if they have published anything else.

There was no “about this blog” on the site. The blog name was (product name).org. My suspicions are that this is a corporate blog. If so, I think readers should feel doubly deceived. First, they tried to pass off corporate spin as honest opinion. Then, they don’t even stand up and say this is our blog and these opinions are ours – or at least the opinions of the individuals from our company who wrote them. Company B is a leader in their space. They ought to have more backbone than that!

If that weren’t enough, my Google alert brought up the same article posted on another blog. This blog was hosted by one of Company B’s resellers. Is there a chance that Company B is writing blog posts for their resellers to post on their own blogs? I think it is legit for the company to write their own blog post and then to encourage their resellers to post to it and add their own comments. To create corporate spin that other bloggers can pass off as their own thoughts seems like one of the worst offenses against the spirit of social media.

Of course, there is a chance that Company B isn’t behind this at all. But, I now have another Google alert set up with the title of the blog post to see if it pops up elsewhere. I will be watching this one!
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Selling Social Media Internally

One of the most common questions I see asked on marketing forums is how to get the executives in an organization to see the value of social media. While social media isn’t as inherently expensive as other forms of marketing, it is time-consuming. Even hiring a full-time social media specialist isn’t unusual for companies that have seen the value. For those that haven’t, however, marketing gets more than its share of criticism for engaging in activities that are seen to have little business value. Often, the questions are framed in terms of getting [older executives] to understand the value of technology. I would contend that it’s not so much a generational gap as gap in the business orientation of the two groups. Selling social media is much like selling any other business idea, you have to appeal to your audience. Since the social media enthusiasts are doing the selling, it is their responsibility to create messages that resonate with the execs.

I see a lot of social media enthusiasts who love the technology so much that they lose sight of the business goals of the company. They talk about building communities, engaging in conversations, “following” people, getting hits, and many more of the valuable (and semi-valuable) objectives of social media efforts. They need to tie these back to real company objectives. Can the blog help you reach out to the media and gain more exposure for the company and show industry thought leadership? Can an online community help you increase customer satisfaction, retain more customers, or increase repeat business? Understand the objectives of the business and then tie your social media efforts back to these objectives.

I am a marketer and I love the technology too. But, I also have accountability for reaching key metrics tied to the overall objectives of the business. As someone who has had the social media idea pitched to me, I can tell you it's a lot more convincing when you can tell me how it's going to help me reach my goals. It's not hard for me to make the leap. However, if your management is old school you are going to have to try a bit harder to help them make the connection to core business objectives. Explain it to them in their terms, and based on what's important to them, just as you would for a customer of any of your products or services.

Finally, we as marketers love to talk about what we’re doing. Many social media projects are rolled out with great fanfare. I would caution you against talking about everything. Not every social media initiative has an immediately recognizable value, even to us. For example, many of us are still playing around with Twitter to determine if it’s a social media stroke of genius or a complete waste of time. Until they are ready for prime time, some things are better left to discussions between marketers and the already converted.
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

LinkedIn Tip

I see so many people who either love LinkedIn or don’t get it. The latter are usually looking for a quick fix to their networking challenges. Sorry, but e-networking takes just as much energy, and maybe more finesse, than face-to-face networking if you want to do it effectively.

The cool thing about e-networking IMO is that no one cares what you are wearing and whether you took the time to put makeup on. There was a blurb printed in Psychology Today several years ago that women who wear lipstick are deemed smarter. I happen to like wearing it, but I don’t want to lose IQ points as it wears off toward the end of the day! Electronic networking makes it all irrelevant.

But I digress. On to today’s LinkedIn tip.

In the lower right hand corner there’s a small sentence that shows how many people viewed your profile. If you click on this, LinkedIn shows you their organization and their role in the organization. There is a LinkedIn setting that I think allows people to see your name if you view their profile, but no one who has viewed my profile has that selected.

I believe the free version of LinkedIn limits you to the last ten people which is usually enough to satisfy curiosity. However, those who are marketing their services or job hunting may consider upgrading that so they can see more. It will tell you a lot about who’s checking you out, so to speak.
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Bad Boss? Part 2

Yesterday I posted a link to an article on BNET for strategies for dealing with a bad boss. Some great ideas in there so try to take the opportunity to read it if you haven’t done so.

Even if the particular suggestions are not right for your personality or your situation, the important take away is that having a strategy will help. When you are in a bad situation at work, whether it’s caused by your boss or some other reason, not having a plan for dealing with it can leave you feeling helpless.

Worse, if you don’t have a strategy you might do or say whatever occurs to you in the heat of the moment. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we’ve said or done things we deeply regretted. Not good for the career, is it?
Here’s a few of the positive aspects of a bad boss.

1. A bad boss gives you a great opportunity for practicing your “dealing with difficult people” skills.

2. A bad boss is an opportunity to learn how NOT to be a good leader.

3. You’ve been meaning to update your resume. A bad boss can give you that added push you need to get it done.

4. It’s also a great time to reach out to others and expand your network. Make sure you are on LinkedIn. Reach out to those you already know, and look for members of the OpenLink group that you may want to know.

5. While you’re at it, might as well join a good networking site. MarketingProfs and ExecuNet are both good sites for marketers to take part in discussions and connect with others that you can add to your LinkedIn network.

6. Might as well look at joining a career site like TheLadders. Even if you are not convinced you want to leave, it’s a chance to get in front of recruiters and at least explore opportunities.

7. Bad bosses, and other situations you’ve overcome, give you lots of fodder for blogs, forums and other places where you can post your opinions. Just be sure not to name names. I would never encourage burning bridges!

Even if you think you can fix the problem at work, everyone who is serious about their career should have a low-level job search going on. You don’t have to leave your current job, but opportunity will never knock if it can’t find your door. And, if the company decides that your current boss is a more valuable asset than you are, at least you are ready to land on your feet. Get a better job and you really can have the last laugh!

When I look back on my career, I realize that it’s the bad situations that helped me progress the most. They have made me a much better leader. And, in a couple of cases, they’ve prompted me to find new opportunities. Without exception, these opportunities were better than the role I currently held.

So, here’s to bad bosses! May you all…(Sorry, but the rest of my toast to bad bosses violates my blog policies on abusive language.)

So what’s your story? I’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with the bad bosses in your career and come out all the better for it.
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Bad Boss?

This is a really good article from Geoffrey James in BNET about how to deal with bad boss behavior. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Troubleshooting Bad Boss Behavior Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

The Perils of Outsourcing SEO

A few weeks ago I wrote a series of posts on the advantages of outsourcing certain marketing tasks. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of those projects that I believe is best handled by the experts. Although there are a few things that I think can be done in house, I still believe that an experienced SEO provider adds tremendous value. They are going to best understand the changing landscape of writing copy that the search engines look for.

I am not an SEO expert, I am a general practitioner in marketing. But, I have had opportunities to work with SEO experts on many levels. The problem, in my estimation, is that SEO vendors are experts in their field, but they are not usually experts in customer messaging. They have writers on staff that they insist can write pages that will bring people to your site – and they can if you work with them to select the right keywords.

However, bringing people to the site is only half the battle. Once you get them there, you want to keep them there long enough to add value. Ideally, you want to move them to the next step in the sales process.
To keep them on the site, add value, and move them through the process, you need to have content that provides them with the information they are looking for. It’s what Gerry McGovern, author of Killer Web Content, calls “customer care words.” According to Gerry, these are not necessarily the same words that a customer will use to search for your product. But, they are the words that will resonate with the customer once they get there. SEO experts may be great at bringing customers to your site, but they don’t always know how to keep them there.

Much of your experience with any vendor is going to hinge on selecting the vendor that will work best for your project. This is truer than ever when it comes to SEO vendor selection. I hope, by sharing my experiences, you can avoid some of the pitfalls that I’ve experienced.

In the past, I developed a shortlist of vendors through recommendations from others. Then I selected my vendor by judging their expertise in SEO as well as my feel for how well I thought they would work with my team. If you read my posts on outsourcing marketing functions you know that I choose vendors that I think are willing to work closely with my team and to let us learn from them.

I highly recommend looking for vendors that have experience in your industry – or at least as close as possible. Continue to ask for recommendations from people you trust and shortlist only vendors that can show results from past projects. But, try to find vendors that have at least some understanding of your business and the prospects you are targeting. You may not be able to ask for much, but a passing familiarity would be nice.

This need for an SEO vendor with experience in my industry was clear in a recent SEO project that I oversaw. The keyword selection process, which should be fairly quick and could probably be done in-house with the right tools, took weeks. It was round after round of the SEO team presenting keywords to us that were vaguely related our description of the business and our key messages.

We explained that many of the keywords they presented had nothing to do with our industry. We would suggest more suitable ones. They’d go back, run our words and some new ones of their own through their keywords stats tools (most of which are widely available), and come back with a new list. This list would be closer but still off the mark. We would make our adjustments and then send them back to the drawing board. As I recall, the team went through the keyword selection process at least five times. I think we could have done it ourselves in an afternoon with access to the right tools and a little knowledge of keyword theory.

By this time, you may be wondering why I didn’t fire the vendor. There were a couple reasons. First, they were trying. This, in and of itself is obviously not enough, but had they not been giving it their all I would have kicked them out immediately. The second, and more important reason, was that they really did know SEO. They were doing the mechanics correctly and in a far more sophisticated way than my team could with the knowledge we had at the time. We were learning a lot from them so I pressed on.

We finally got past the keyword stage and were on to building the pages. These are the pages where the prospect will land if they click on the link that comes up when they do a search. Since we had an established website this vendor created new pages that sat in parallel with our existing pages. Admittedly, this was one of the hardest concepts for me to grasp but I understood why they felt it was better to create landing pages that could then lead the prospect into our main site where we could convert them.

It all sounded good until we saw the text that they proposed. You know where I am going with this, don’t you? Great job with the key words but the sentences didn’t carry a lot of real meaning and even less value.

It was back to the iterative process. Our product marketers worked with the SEO vendor’s writers to tweak the pages so they would resonate with the target audience. In many ways this was more difficult than the keyword process. There is a science to attracting search engines and sometimes you need to create a sentence that uses that keyword just so you can get it in the copy one more time. With a lot of back and forth, my team and the SEO team seemed to be balancing the science of SEO with the art of messages that resonate.

About this time, I left the company for another opportunity. The team was still working on the pages and the SEO vendor was working on link building. The project is now in the hands of the project lead and I know he’ll make it work.

Could we have done a better job of selecting SEO vendors? Maybe. It’s possible that I would select this vendor again if the organization sees the return they expect. The SEO vendor will only look metrics like page ranking and click throughs. I would need to see a similar rise in conversions to be happy with the project. Granted, not all of that is the responsibility of the SEO vendor, but it is related.

I would certainly look for a vendor with experience in my industry. If I absolutely can’t find one, I’d ask for extra references from their customers. They can tell you a lot about whether the SEO experts understand the need for content that resonates.

In the end, the team learned a lot. If they ever need to manage an SEO project from scratch again they know a lot about selecting key words, how the search engines rank pages, how to avoid tactics that will get you blocked by the search engines etc. There is a lot that they could do in-house, but it would have been challenging to gain this level of knowledge through classes or online seminars. Nothing beats practical experience.

I hope my experiences and the lessons we learned in the process can make your next Search Engine Optimization initiative much more effective. I’d be very interested in hearing the perspective of SEO providers. How have you managed this process so that the content appeals to search engines and to prospects?
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

My Favorite Google Tool

Google has become as ubiquitous in my daily life as Microsoft still is. Having once been a Microsoft employee this is an intriguing statement since Google seems to be one of the companies that “keeps them up at night.” But, that’s a topic for another blog.

Google mail, search, analytics – I use all of these and more everyday. However, my favorite remains the Google “define” feature of the search engine.

If you are not familiar with this feature, it’s like looking something up in many dictionaries simultaneously. You simply type in “define: (word)” and insert the word you are looking to define. Google returns definitions found in several different dictionaries.

As a marketer, I believe in the power of words. To stay connected to my audience I need to use the simplest word possible, but I also need to use the most effective. Sometimes, a word that is less commonly used sends exactly the message that I am aiming for. Or at least I think it does. To be absolutely sure that I don’t damage my reputation by misusing a word, I look it up using the define feature.

While this feature probably doesn’t return as much absolute value as some of the other Google tools I like it because of its simplicity. Tools don’t always need to be flashy or cool to provide real value. It is easily accessible and easy to use.

Now, if only they had a similar tool to replace the Microsoft’s thesaurus tool in Word. Maybe they do, but I haven’t found it yet. If you have, let me know! Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

My Second Favorite Online Resource for Technology Marketing

I talk a lot about MarketingProfs and what a great site it is for inspiring fresh ideas and honing your marketing skills. Today, I want to share my second favorite resource for technology marketers. This may surprise you, but it’s Wikipedia.

In technology marketing you run across many acronyms and unfamiliar terms a.k.a. jargon. No matter how brilliant or technologically savvy you may be, it’s impossible to be familiar with everything. Let’s say you’ve taken on a new marketing assignment for a software application that’s going to be delivered as a service. You see the term SaaS used in several internal discussions about the product. But, what does the term mean and, more importantly, why is it important to the customer?
Like any marketer that cares about their reputation, you want to do a little research yourself before talking to the engineers. If you can at least familiarize yourself with the terminology you’ll know what questions to ask and avoid looking like a complete fool.

Googling the term will give you lots of hits, but these fall into four categories:

1. Fluff written by companies looking to sell their own SaaS product. Anything useful will be protected behind a prospect response form.

2. Overly technical content written by engineers in love with the technology. This kind of content is seldom useful in understanding what the technology truly means to a prospect or customer.

3. Irrelevant content that has nothing to do with SaaS.

4. If you are lucky you might uncover some material that helps you understand SaaS and the benefits to a customer, but you probably had to waste time wading through the first three categories before finding it.

To save time, I go straight to Wikipedia to learn about new technologies. A quick search on SaaS brings me to a site that contains an excellent overview of Software as a Service. Best of all, in addition to a discussion on the architecture, it contains many of the angles that I care about as a marketer including adoption, pricing strategies, and how to make money delivering software online.

I know Wikipedia isn’t foolproof. These entries are submitted by real people, some with their own agendas and their own point of view. However, Wikipedia does a great job of “keeping it real” and making sure that the information is vetted by others. At the very least, it’s a lot more useful than company sponsored information from a Google search.
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Nobody's Perfect

Sure this is a saying that we’ve all heard before but nobody seems to accept it – especially in business.

I worked with one executive who often called others an “empty suit.” Another executive had two categories for people – “worthless” and “soon to be deemed worthless.” And, yes, these two individuals were at the same company which didn’t make for the most positive environment, but that’s a story for another day.

I’ve met my share of people who didn’t seem exceptionally well qualified for their position. Some have been temporarily in over their head and it was just a matter of time before they got their feet under them. Others were just struggling for one reason or another and were eventually replaced.
If you are managing that individual it’s important to figure out what’s going on and correct the situation. Otherwise, judging someone “worthless” or an “empty suit” isn’t very productive.

It never pays to turn your back on anybody. Somebody saw the value in that individual and their ability to contribute to the organization. It can pay to look for the positive contributions in everyone. I’ve met a lot of people that I will never call “friends” but I have never met an empty suit. You can learn something from anybody!

At the very least, looking for the positive contribution will make it easier to work with that individual. You probably don’t have any control over whether the person keeps their job. And, even if you do have some sway, do you have the right to use it if you don’t have perfect clarity on their expected contribution?

I know there are going to be some of you out there who are asking, “But, what if you are dependent on that person to do their job?”

I agree that this can make it more difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt. But, I strongly encourage you to do so. The last person that you want to dismiss is the one that you are counting on. It will take a higher degree of emotional intelligence than other situations but it’s a chance to succeed where others will fail.
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Are You Too Close To Your Marketing?

Sometimes marketing leaders can get so involved in the day-to-day activities of their role that they can’t find the time to look at their marketing plan and execution objectively. We all want to take time to do the annual or quarterly reviews and ask ourselves the three all-important questions. What went well? What went wrong? What can we do better?

Asking questions like these is the only way to take your organization and your career to the next level. However, even when we do find the time to ask the questions, we all too often look at the situation in the same way we did last quarter or year. And, since the plan was ours to begin with, one could question our objectivity.
That’s where an outside marketing consultant can help. Even if you just hire someone to come in and do a review of your current strategy, a pair of fresh eyes and a brain with fresh ideas can provide a tremendous boost. You don’t have to implement every suggestion, but the chances are good that they will have several that are no-brainers.

Choosing the right consultant is important. For a proper marketing review, you need a generalist and not a specialist. For example, you can’t expect a consultant in social media to review your entire marketing mix. Ideally, you also want to find someone who has spent time in industry – preferably the same industry as yours. No long list of degrees or certifications can replace personal experience with tackling the same problems and opportunities that you are facing.

If you can’t find the right consultant for a proper review, there are ways to get this marketing boost in-house as well.

First, make sure that you have a fresh influx of ideas by attending conferences on marketing. If you’re like me, you’ll have a whole notebook of new ideas by the time the conference is over. Then it’s just a matter of deciding which ones will have the greatest impact on my organization.

In addition to attending conferences, look for webcasts and podcasts on marketing. For a very reasonable annual fee, MarketingProfs offers a huge variety of free materials on marketing from some of the best names in the business. I can find an answer to almost any marketing problem I face in their resources.

Finally, instead of holding the annual postmortem as an hour or day long meeting, pretend you are your own marketing consultant. Interview others in your organization – your own team, salespeople, executives, your marketing vendors and, most of all, customers and prospects. (You may not want to tell everybody that you are pretending to be a consultant.)

After gathering input, and giving the situation careful thought, what recommendations would you make to your “client?” Write up your report as though you were being paid to consult and this can become the basis for a new marketing plan. Chances are good that there are some things that you’ll stop doing in addition to the new initiatives that you add.

This exercise can be fun and reinvigorating. Best of all, doing this at least once a year is sure to improve your marketing.

Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Leads Are For Marketing, Sales Wants Opportunities

Are you frustrated because your sales team is only following up on a fraction of the leads that you are giving them? Maybe it’s because you’re giving them just that – leads.

I’ve worn both sales and marketing hats so I believe I’ve earned the right to talk a little bit about the roller coaster ride that is the professional life of the salesperson. A salesperson’s worth is measured on whether they’ve met this month’s quota. Not last month or the month before. A year’s worth of meeting quota might buy them a month or two but not much more.

Even if the company they work for is a little more lenient, salespeople don’t thrive on failure. Because of this, salespeople measure every single potential interaction by its potential for driving sales. Imagine on one hand that they have twenty “leads” that they know little about other than basic contact info and that a piece of collateral was sent. In the other they have a pipeline of prospects that have the potential to close this month. Who do you think they are going to call?

So next time you get frustrated because sales isn’t following up on the leads that you are working so hard to generate, take a closer look at those leads. Have you worked with sales to set minimum benchmarks for what constitutes a qualified opportunity? Do these leads meet that minimum benchmark?

If not, don’t send these to sales. You will be wasting leads that could turn into opportunities. You will be distracting your sales team from their primary role – closing business. And, you will be widening the rift that often exists between sales and marketing.

Instead, establish a nurture program for engaging with unqualified leads in a meaningful way. I don’t want to delve too deeply into nurture programs but it’s more than just a call every month to say, “just checking back with you.” Look at ways you can use e-mail campaigns with content useful to the prospect, company blogs, newsletters and other mediums to stay relevant to your prospect.

Throughout this whole process you should be working with the sales team to make sure they understand that you are working to put more opportunities in their hands and fewer unqualified leads. Work with them to establish a definition for a “qualified opportunity”, the number of opportunities they need to reach their quota, and help them understand the nurture program. You’ll go a long way toward bridging the unnecessary divide between sales and marketing. And, their follow-up should improve.
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

LinkedIn Networking Tip - The OpenLink Network

LinkedIn has become the standard for marketers looking to network. You can open yourself up to even more connections by joining the OpenLink Network. This allows other LinkedIn users to introduce themselves to you without using their InMail credits. It also clearly shows that you are open to introductions. To join the Open Link Network, go to your contact settings and click the box next to the OpenLink symbol.

I have received a few interesting introductions since joining the network. I am cautious about accepting new connections, but I have no problem if someone introduces themselves to me.

You can look for others in the network by performing an Advanced People Search and limiting the results to members of the OpenLink Network.

All in all, a useful little feature. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Rule #7 – The Laws of Inertia Apply to Your Career

Roughly stated, Newton’s law of inertia states that a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. My apologies to the few physicists who may stumble across this blog if that doesn’t do it justice.

My point is that this law can be applied to a marketing career as well. If it's been some time since you made an upward move in your current company, it will take a significant amount of effort to move off your current plateau. And there may be outside forces, such as your co-workers are comfortable with you being where you are, working against you.

You may want to consider whether you are happy at your current level or willing to apply that extra force by looking outside your current organization. I hate seeing employees work year after year for promotions that stay just out of reach when I know they would be capable of so much more in a new environment. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tip #6 If You Are not Doing Things Differently This Year Than Last Year, Something is Wrong

I suppose this applies to many professions, but it is certainly true of marketing. Technology is changing so rapidly that the methods available to us for communicating with customers and prospects changes almost everyday.

If your marketing plan for this year looks much the same as last year you had better be reaching your goals or you might want to rethink your profession. With the changes in technology marketing has become the ideal profession for the incurably curious. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Starting Sentences With Conjunctions

At some point in the last decade there was a quiet revolution and starting sentences with conjunctions became an accepted practice. For those of you who haven’t cracked a grammar book in some years, conjunctions are those little words like “and” and “but” that link phrases.

I suspect the movement was met with little resistance but there are still probably some dissidents who will accuse us of “dumbing down the language.”

When it comes to writing, I am not an elitist. To communicate well, you should write to be easily understood by your audience. If that means breaking your 51-word sentence into two sentences, one of which starts with “and”, then I am behind you 100%! It also saves you from having to think up little phrases like “in addition” and “however” that are technically acceptable but weigh writing down.

I encourage you to use this newfound freedom wisely. Don’t start every sentence with a conjunction. But, don’t be burdened by guilt if you find that you start a sentence or two that way. If you hear your 7th grade English teacher chiding you in your head, free yourself from your inner child and talk back like you’ve always wanted to.

I’d like to hear your opinions on this. If you think this is a slippery slope and conjunctions are a sign of linguistic anarchy to come, let me know. If on the other hand, you agree with me and know of other writing revolutions in progress, let me in.
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tip #5 All E-mails Are Forwarded

Time for a few more of my Corporate Survival tips. Hopefully, tip #5 is not something you have to learn the hard way.

I have seen many e-mails where the original author obviously didn’t intend for the e-mail to be forwarded. And, the forwarder was not acting maliciously, but there was something in the thread that he or she thought should be shared with others. Unfortunately, the wording of the e-mail, especially those comments made about another colleague’s performance, character or personality were not so carefully crafted.

Avoid editorializing in emails. To be safe, just assume that your emails are so important that they will always be forwarded. By the way, telling some specifically NOT to forward an e-mail is not a foolproof solution either. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Email Rule of Thumb

We all know effective email is a key to getting things done. One of the best tips I ever heard on writing effective emails came from a Microsoft exec. It was quite literally a “rule of thumb” in that he tried to never send an email longer than his thumb.

There are a lot of jokes about executives with adult ADD, but the truth is, we’re all busy. We could sort through a rambling email long enough to pull out the salient points, but at what costs? And, since so many people are reading their emails on a PDA or their mobile phone, brevity is usually appreciated.

If your message has to be longer than your thumb because of the amount of information you need to convey, consider whether or not it would make more sense to arrange the message into a formal brief. You can then easily add headers and a table of contents to increase readability. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Search This Blog

Rank or Vote for This Blog