Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: 2009

Not Everybody Needs Nurturing

I applaud the efforts marketers are putting into nurturing programs. It will allow them to make better use of their marketing investments and leverage their salespeople’s time more effectively. However, not everyone needs nurturing. No matter how long your sales cycle is, with the information available to buyers on the web, some people will be ready to engage the moment they contact you.

A couple of days ago, I was shopping for a service and clicked the “contact us by e-mail” button on the web page. The e-mail form asked for my information. I give credit to the company for not asking for my physical address. There was also a field that allowed me to comment so I briefly explained what I was looking for and asked someone to get back to me.

After hitting the submit button (yes, it did ask me to “submit” which is something I hesitate to do.) I got a response telling me that I had been added to their e-mail communications program. That was a little strange since this was a “contact us” form and not an “add me to your mailing list” form. But, being a marketer myself, I wasn’t too concerned and I assumed since I asked to be contacted in the comment field that someone would be getting in touch with me.

After two days and one promotional e-mail from the company later, no one had contacted me. Luckily for this company, I do need this service, I’m unhappy with my current provider, and they were recommended to me by someone I trust. I found a contact at the company (the CEO) and emailed them directly. Within a couple hours I got a response and everything is going smoothly now.

The point of my story is that nurturing is great, but make sure you are not losing potential opportunities in your zeal to implement nurturing best-practices. You may think this couldn’t possibly happen in your organization, but sometimes the people who field your frontline calls and e-mails don’t have the business experience you do. It’s easy for me to imagine a new marketing coordinator being told to enter every contact into the lead nurturing program. As they try to do the best job they can following your orders, they don’t realize the obvious – that I was ready to engage. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Working with your (internal) editor

I’ve been doing a ton of writing for clients – brochures, presentations, website content and such. It’s a lot of fun, but writing for someone else is so much different that writing for yourself.

I start out the same way. First, I turn the little editor in my head on low and just let the words flow. Without a gate on the words I put on paper, I can come up with some clever and funny phrases. (At least I think they are.) At this stage I meander a bit but I don’t worry about it. Fixing that comes in the next step. For now, I’m just having fun.

Then I turn my editor up a little bit and look for the pieces that don’t support my, or really my client’s, main message. It never fails. The first bits to go are the clever little phrases that I love so much.

“But they will catch the prospect’s attention,” I argue with this second-level editor.

“But they detract from the message,” she (or is it me?) argues back. “Save it for your blog!”

She always wins. Actually I let her win because it’s good for my business.

Finally, I turn the editor on high and look for words that are not quite right, grammar mistakes, and cumbersome phrases. I really dislike this editor because she hates everything I write. I don’t always let her win because I know that sometimes the client and I are smarter than she is. But, more often than not she has a point and my writing is better when I take her advice.

All the best!


P.S. My mental health is just fine and I am not really sitting at my computer arguing with myself – most of the time. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Microsoft Uses Twitter Testimonials to Launch Windows 7

This has to be the most innovative use of Twitter for marketing that I’ve seen yet. Microsoft has changed their main screen to be one big Windows 7 add. On a side note, I like the look. It’s clean with some catchy call to actions that almost had me clicking.

But the really innovative approach is the rotating tweets about Windows 7. I've seen an occasional tweet used on other sites, but this is the most effective use I've seen yet. These tweets aren't a side not to the message. They are the message. And, when it comes to adopting technology like Windows 7, Microsoft knows that what the early adopters say about their product carries far more weight than anything they could claim.

These tweets should also carry more weight than the customer quotes you usually see on a website. Those quotes are often from customers who see something in it for them. I’m not saying they are paid quotes. It could be as simple as liking the attention they get from working with marketing.

Tweets are, presumably, spontaneous and unedited. The skeptics could say that these tweets came from Microsoft employees. I suppose that’s possible, although I’m not quite that jaded. Plus, Microsoft left off the Twitter ID, but they did give the time and date of the tweet. Those of you with time to waste could probably track down the original tweet.

And, yes, there are probably tweets out there that don’t shine such a positive light on the product. I don’t know that for sure, but it’s Microsoft – a pretty big target for those who like to sling arrows.

I like what they’ve done, but if I think about it further the take away for me is that Tweeps might hold more promise for many B2B marketers, especially in the technology industries, than even the bloggers. This is certainly true if you are trying to launch a new technology product. It’s a way to leverage the opinions of the early adopters who might be incredibly intelligent, but not always wonderfully articulate.

Outreach to bloggers should be part of your launch planning but the effort in writing a blog about your product is far greater than a 140 character tweet. Because of that effort you really have to have something spectacular for them to blog about. Plus, bloggers may only be reviewing your product. If they aren’t actual users, the blog can loses a slight amount of weight.

As you are planning your product launches and deciding who you want to be in your beta or in your early adopter phase, consider adding some of your customers who tweet.

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

The Joy of Brevity

I always hate the posts that start with “sorry I haven’t posted in awhile,” as though the reader of the blog was just hanging on every word. Believe me, there are enough other blogs out there to fill the void. Unless you are a Seth Godin or Chris Brogan I’m not sure anyone notices the absence. (And, maybe not even if you are Seth or Chris.)

I too have been incredibly busy lately with no time to blog. I joined forced with GrowthPoint a marketing agency that will allow me to offer a fuller line of marketing services. One of their specialities is lead management for channel organizations which I think is so cool – and much needed.

But, the other day as I was reading a post suggesting that you should blog before you Twitter, a point I mostly agree with, I realized that I was overlooking Twitter and the advantages of microblogging. (BTW, I am still looking for the link and as soon as I find it I will update this so that you can join that discussion. It's quite lively.)

I hate to let my blog lapse and my readership to dwindle, but you do what you have to do. If I have a client with deadlines, as I do now, I’m all over it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to interact, I just need to be more brief. Twitter’s 140 characters is perfect. I can tweet my ideas and insights and continue to retweet posts from other thought leaders.

You can follow me at Melissa Paulik. I won’t promise to follow everyone back. See my personal Twitter guidelines. They've evolved somewhat since the original post, but are still relevant. For those of you who are interested in continuing the discussion I look forward to many more, if somewhat briefer, interactions.

And, yes, I will continue to blog between deadlines.

All the best!

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

Should You Leave Your Content Up to Your PR Agency?

There has been a lot of discussion in recent forums on whether PR is dead, evolving, being reinvented etc. I think the general consensus is that a good modern PR agency looks dramatically different from the agency of the past that tended to operate in a sort of “black box.” In the old days, you worked with them on a press release and then they worked their magic to get in the hands of the media and analysts. The end result was a “clip book” of your stories and mentions but little else.

In the modern era of PR the lines between PR and traditional marketing are blurring a bit. No doubt, a modern agency today uses social media tools such as blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, and facebook to reach out to the audience. And, although the agency is focused on reaching out to the media, influential bloggers in your space, and your key analysts, they are also reaching out to your target customer as well. The content they create is easily accessible to a potential prospect doing a search on your keywords and can drive visitors to your website.

But, the area where I tend to draw the line between traditional marketing and PR is content creation. If, by “content creation”, you mean press releases and the types of content that go into your online media room, that works for me. But, I don’t think you should abdicate your entire content creation strategy to your PR agency. Unless they are truly content creation specialists and deeply understand the role of content in nurturing prospects, I don’t think you should be relinquishing the responsibility for the materials you use for your nurturing programs to your PR agency. Telling the story for the customer through a solid content strategy is different than telling the story to attract the media and analysts.

So do you agree? Disagree? Especially those of you who work within the PR agencies, has your product offering changed enough that you feel you can own the entire content creation responsibility?

All the best!

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

Where Will You Invest in 2010?

As this year draws to a close and we hopefully look forward to a better year in 2010, it’s time to start thinking about what we will do differently in the coming year to improve our results.

There is no magic answer to where to invest your marketing dollar for maximum effect in 2010. Lead nurturing programs would certainly rank high on my list if you don’t have an effective one in place. Aligning your sales and marketing team could also be of primary importance. Fortunately, this is often not so much a question of dollars as much as it’s a question of aligning your processes.

There is one area that I see holding technology marketers back that one could argue should be the first thing fixed – the website.

The problems vary from company to company, but take a look at almost any technology website and you’ll see common issues. Here are just a few, as told from the perspective of the visitor:

Self-centered verbiage. An incredible amount of “me, me, me” with most of the language focused on how great the organization is.

Very poorly written value prop statements. It’s darn hard to tell what value some of you add.

No clear indication of what types of companies you serve and what you do for them. I can see on your website that you “help global organizations succeed in today’s tough competitive world…” but what exactly is it that you do?

No evidence of any expertise. You tell me you can solve all my problems, but you don’t give me any evidence that you can. Where are your white papers and webinars that will give me the confidence that you know what you are talking about?

No calls to action. I would give you my contact information so you could follow up if you gave me something worthwhile to download.

No value in your downloads. I see I can download a brochure but that’s hardly worth parting with my email address.

Asking for too much information. You do have a couple pieces of information that I might be interested in, but it’s kind of hard to tell what’s really in them. I’m certainly not going to give you my physical address so you can send me junk mail. (Plus I suspect you might sell my personal information since I don’t see anywhere that you say you won’t.)

Poorly placed calls to action. I didn’t see that call to action because I had to scroll down past all of your self-centered self-talk about how great you are to actually see it. I never got that far.

While the website isn’t the Holy Grail of marketing any more than any other program is, it is a central hub for your marketing programs. Very likely your outbound marketing campaigns are pointing your prospects to a website for more information. Certainly inbound relies heavily on your website (or micro-sites) to convert visitors into prospects.

For many of your potential customers the website is the first (and sometimes the last) look they get at your company and what you do. Make sure you put your best foot forward in 2010 and spend at least some of your effort working on your site, testing it, and then reworking it again.

All the best!
Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Don’t Give Me a Tour of Your Company. Give Me a Tour of Your Marketing!

Did you ever go on one of those interviews that ended with a tour of the company’s facilities? You pass by rows and rows of cubicles… “This is marketing.” This is support.” “And this is our finance department.” You’re still so wound up from the interview that you couldn’t remember anybody’s name or department any more than you could remember the way back to the conference room you came out of.

The whole process seems at best anti-climactic. But more than that, it doesn't really tell me what I need to know.

Don’t get me wrong. Your people are important. After all, they are your biggest asset. (It says so right on your website.) I can already tell from our discussions that I am a cultural fit for your organization and I’m sure I will love working with the team.

What I can’t tell yet, and I am dying to know, is how much value I can really add. I’m sure I can fulfill the functions on the job description or I wouldn’t be wasting your time and mine. But you want someone who adds real value and not someone who just fills a slot on a chart. And, to fully understand my value-add, I need to get my hands on your marketing.

Just once, I’d like to be able to conduct the interview instead of the other way around. Here are a few questions I would ask:

1. What are your marketing KPIs?
2. Show me your website stats. I want to see what kind of traffic you are getting and where it’s coming from.
3. Tell me about your lead management process. Do you think it’s working well? (Please be upfront with me. I will keep everything confidential.)
4. Tell me about the relationship between marketing and sales. What opportunities do they have to collaborate?
5. What sales tools has marketing created for the team? How well are they being used? (I’d love to speak to a sales person)
6. What is your value proposition?
7. How are you generating the majority of your leads?
8. Do you have a lead nurturing program?
9. How does the organization feel about social media tactics like Twitter and blogging? (I need to know how forward thinking you are or if you are going to expect me to do the same things you’ve always done.)
10. What is your annual marketing budget? (Always good to know what you have to work with.)
11. Tell me about the marketing team. Who are the stars? Who needs coaching or mentoring?

There’s more, but this should give me enough details to know where I can make the greatest impact, or if I am better off looking for someone else who really needs me.

I know that many of the executives and HR managers who conduct the interviews may not be able to answer those questions. After all, one of the reasons they need someone like me is because they don’t have time for the details and they need someone who can steer the ship toward their vision. That’s why I’d prefer a round of interviews with several members of the team.

It goes without saying that I’d share my ideas and give my thoughts on the kind of impact I could have on your organization. In the end, you’d gain valuable insights even if we decided that I wasn’t the right fit. And, if I was, we’d both feel a lot more comfortable with the decision.

The other nice thing about the reverse-interview is that it’s a lot easier on the interviewer. No more sitting through a lot of rambling answers from people who aren’t qualified, can’t get to the point or just aren’t giving you enough info to get a feel for their fit.

What do you think? As a hiring manager or an interviewee, would this work for you?

All the best!
Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

To Get the Right People, You Have to Ask the Right Questions

The business software and services industry is filled with start-ups and smaller companies led by very smart people with a vision. (I’m sure that describes a lot of industries.)

To put these visions into practice these firms need marketing staff. They usually start out by hiring some energetic and smart marketing professionals with a few years of marketing experience under their belt. If they hire well, they find marketing professionals that are great at execution.

After a couple of years, they realize that they have a problem. While they have the vision and their marketing staff has the ability to execute, neither have the marketing experience needed to bridge the vision and the tactics. They need someone to manage marketing who can help make sure that the company is doing the right things right. (To paraphrase Tom Peters)

It's still a small(ish) company so this “someone” needs to be a player/manager. In other words, they need to be able to manage the team as well as roll up their sleeves and do some of the work. You don’t need CMO level talent, maybe not even VP level, but you do need someone who can be strategic as well as tactical.

Marketing budgets are tight and you can’t afford to make the wrong decision. There’s lots of talent on the market right now (a.k.a. marketing professionals looking for work), but how can you be sure that you are choosing the right professional if you aren’t a marketing professional yourself?

To get you started, here are a few questions that you may want to insert between the “Tell me about yourself” and “When can you start?” I’ve added my two cents on what you should be looking for.

How were you measured in your last role? Was it appropriate?

You want someone who is comfortable being measured. One of the key benefits of a manager at this level is to take you from just doing more marketing to doing the things that count. A manager at this level should be able to tell you exactly which metrics make sense for the role.

However, just because someone was measured via a certain metric, doesn’t mean that it was appropriate. For example, if they were measured on click-throughs, give them the opening to tell you why that measurement was irrelevant.

How did you collaborate with sales? Are there other ways that sales and marketing can work together to improve business performance?

The closer the role is to closing business e.g. demand creation or collateral development, the more collaboration the team needs to have with sales. You want a leader that sees the sales team as a partner in driving business.

How do you keep your skills fresh?

Marketing is a constantly changing profession. You want a leader who understands how to leverage all of the great educational opportunities, many of them free, on the web in order to keep their skills fresh. This will be especially important if the marketing leader needs to mentor other, less experienced professionals.

What new ideas have you tried lately?

You want marketers who aren’t afraid to try new things. If they are doing marketing the same way this year as they did last year, they’ve gone stale.

Have you experimented with any web-based techniques? What are you favorites?

For those of you with limited marketing budgets, you want someone who is capable of leveraging the web. Chances are social media techniques will play a part in their answer, but I’d give a marketer extra points for talking about what makes a good web website. You can take away a few points if all they talk about is SEO.

What tactics have you stopped using?

This is just as important as the new tactics that they’ve tried. If they keep doing the same things the same way chances are they are great at wasting money.

Tell me about your lead nurturing program that you ran in your last company.

Even if they didn’t have a good lead nurturing program at their last company, they ought to turn this into an opportunity to expound on how important it is and how they should have had one. Any marketer who gives you a blank look or tells you that they put their leads on a call back schedule is not a strategic thinker that you are looking for.

For those of you who are marketing managers or have hired at this level, please add to this list. Let’s see if we can’t help put the right people in the right places.

All the best!

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

With Social Media Everyone IS in Marketing

It’s often said that everyone thinks they are a marketer. Marketers receive unsolicited opinions from colleagues on everything from the color of the logo to the target markets that the company should expand into.

I think one of the reasons why everyone has an opinion on marketing is because intuitively they know that marketing is fun and they want to be part of it. Yes, it’s not always as glamorous as it looks from the outside. As those of us who are professional marketers know, it’s a lot of hard work. However, you have to admit it can be one of the coolest jobs there is.

A recent post on the Left The Box marketing blog called 8 Ways Social Media Should Change Your Marketing got me thinking. One of the points made was that you should involve everyone – customer service, product development, and even public relations.

These days, everyone from the Director of First Impressions (formerly receptionist) to that slightly strange developer (the one that only works nights and seems to live off of pizza and M&Ms) can set up a Twitter account, a facebook page, their own blog, as well as comment on other blogs. And, if you are in the technology industry as I am, chances are they will.

Each of these online impressions, especially those that are clearly tied to your company, can have an impact on your online brand perception. You no longer have the choice but to involve everyone in marketing because you can no longer control it.

Since the choice is taken out of your hands, why not look on this as an opportunity to leverage these creative juices? Here are some ideas to get started:

Set clear social media guidelines. For example, everyone should understand what types of information is confidential. And, black and white rules such as “never disparage a customer or business partner” can really help keep everyone inbounds.

Provide training to those who are interested. Provide training sessions for those who are new to social media to show them how to use it. If you have some great enthusiasts from outside marketing, leverage their expertise by having them do the training. You'll increase your buy-in if marketing isn't always in charge. “Lunch n’ learns” are a great format for this.

Create an idea board. Pull together your best social media enthusiasts to form a group that meets to discuss ideas for leveraging social media. It doesn’t matter what department these team members come from, but don’t call this an “advisory board.” This implies that they are advising you on what to do. The ideas generated from this group may very well not be marketing’s responsibility to execute.

Monitor. You don’t want to turn your back on what is happening. Your role isn’t to be the social media police, but you do want to be sure that you spot practices that could cause a problem for your organization. You can incorporate the course corrections into your company guidelines, training sessions, and idea boards as a way to subtly set things on the right path.

All the best! (and have fun!)

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

Where Will You Put Your Money in 2010?

A question was recently asked on the LinkedIn Business Development forum, “…what key marketing initiatives are you planning for 2010?”

The question is timed perfectly as it’s already late September and I’m sure many of you are getting ready to start planning for next year. You might even be getting a jump on planning for 2010 as you're eager to leave this year behind and start next year off right. The challenge is that you know your budgets won’t be the same next year. The odds of having an increase in marketing funds is not nearly as likely as the odds that you’ll have to find a way to do more with less.

In some ways, the question should be, “What aren’t you planning to do in 2010?” The programs and activities that you cut out of your marketing plans can make as much of a difference as any new initiative that you add to your plan. It’s well past time to stop wasting money on old programs, executed in old ways, that have long since stopped generating business.

Once you cut out the waste, however, what do you spend your money on? It would be comforting to say here’s a sure-fire way to generate qualified opportunities and all you have to do is invest roughly X dollars per opportunity that you want to generate. If marketing planning were that black and white, we’d be able to eliminate the yearly budget battles. Unfortunately, it never is.

The good news is that the improvements that most B2B marketers need to make don’t necessarily cost a lot of money. You can invest in these areas, but vast improvements can still be made in companies with very little marketing funding.

Below are the three areas that most of the marketing teams I work with need to focus on to see business improve in 2010. My comments on costs are to illustrate that money need not be the obstacle that keeps you from executing. You can invest heavily in each of these areas, but you can also make do with what you have and still see results.

Sales and marketing alignment
There are a number of actions that can bring your sales and marketing teams into alignment:

• Defining what a qualified lead looks like.
• Agreeing on the process for follow up. For example, if marketing generates a qualified lead, the expectation is that sales follows up within 24 hours.
• Tieing marketing’s qualified lead goals to sales goals.
• Establishing a regular cycle of meetings between sales and marketing to gather feedback. What obstacles is sales facing? How are the current sales tools working? What sales tools did they need to create? Have the leads that sales was given all met the qualified lead threshold? Etc.

Cost: Zero. However, if your sales and marketing teams are so far out of whack that they are at each other’s throat, it might be a good idea to bring in an outside facilitator. The right facilitator can overcome the conflicts between the teams and get everyone working together.

Lead nurturing
With sales cycles lengthening, and projects being back-burnered, lead nurturing is becoming more important than ever.

Cost: Variable. Building an opt-in list takes time, but since you can build your list as part of your established marketing programs, there isn’t an extra cost involved.

Lead management and marketing automation is extremely helpful in managing a lead nurturing program. You may already have these tools in-house, but you may not be using them to their fullest. If not, even those of you with modest budgets can find solutions that will work. And, the great thing about shopping around for a tool to manage your nurturing programs is that you’ll learn a lot about nurturing best-practices in the process.

Finally, you may need to expand your content library if all you have are a few brochures. Remember, brochures don’t count as content. You can cut costs by repurposing what you have, repurposing articles and other content written by objective experts, creating on-demand webinars and by blogging for quick and easy content. That leaves the occasional white paper or e-book to be outsourced. (if necessary)

Website improvements
Enough with the static websites that haven’t changed in years. Although I believe in SEO, too many lose sight of Target Audience Optimization while they seek to improve their click-throughs from the search engines. It doesn’t do you any good to get them there if you lose them right away.

You should study SEO techniques and determine what you can do in-house and what you might need to hire an outside expert to do. I think it’s a good idea to hire a trust-worthy outside expert so you can learn from them, but don’t blow your budget on this one line item. There’s a lot you can do to get found by using vendors like HubSpot and your own online marketing efforts.

Be sure you have a partnership with your webmaster and that you work with them to test variations of your site. The smallest changes can make the world of difference in conversions.

Cost: Minimal 2010 is the year to make your website the lead generation machine (and opt-in list building machine) that it was meant to be. It takes effort and time, but not a lot of money.

Good luck with the rest of this year and here’s to a prosperous 2010 for all of us!

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

Tell Me About Yourself

One of the most common mistakes I see from new (and sometimes experienced) Twitter users is the lack of a bio. As those of you who are fellow-Tweeps know, Twitter allows you to have a short bio in your profile. This shows up on your home page when someone clicks on it.

Here’s an example of what you’d see if you clicked on my ID:

I know it’s hard to come up with a quick, pithy summary of yourself. It’s tempting to decide to get back to it when the inspiration hits. But from what I can tell, a lot of you aren’t getting back to it.

I get followers all the time who don’t have a bio that tells me who they are. I can usually tell whether I want to follow them based on their Tweets. But, it helps to know who they are so I know where they are coming from.

If you really can’t think of a one-line bio, at the very least you can put a link to your LinkedIn profile. After all, Twitter is an online social network, and it’s hard to network with people you don’t know anything about. (Plus it feels a bit creepy!)

All the best!

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

Your Value Proposition Stinks!

I hate to say this, but the value proposition statements of most technology companies are pretty weak. I hate to say it because it’s marketing professionals like me who write them. So many of us write silly sounding (to everybody but us) little statements about how we’re the leader in some such technology or industry. Where’s the value in that?

Even those of you who have a statement that talks about the value you provide to your customers still bury it under your industry leadership statements. Some companies make their prospects dig through paragraphs of verbiage about how great the company is just to try to figure out how this greatness helps them.

Truthfully, I don’t think I ever wrote a good value prop until I started reading Jill Konrath’s books and blog. Now, I like to think I can take a weak value prop and turn it into something pithy and powerful with very little effort.

I highly recommend Jill’s book, Selling to Big Companies, but if you need value prop assistance in a hurry she’s also doing a free value prop webinar on Wednesday. It should be time well spent.

All the best!

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

Is Twitter a Better Test Than Myers-Briggs?

It occurred to me this morning that you can probably tell more about a person’s personality, approach to their profession and general outlook on life from looking at a picture of their tweets overtime than you can from the traditional standardized personality tests.

How many times do you get results back from one of these tests only to think “Are you sure this is me?” My very first Myers-Brigg’s test came back showing I was an introvert. I must have been having a bad day.

Here’s how to use Twitter to assess someone’s personality and approach to their profession:

If you click on an individual’s Twitter ID you can see a page full of their tweets. You can keep going back if you click the more button on the bottom. If the individual tweets several times a day, you may want to keep going back just so you don’t judge them based on their mood on one particular day.

Here are some of the conclusions that you might draw from a look at someone’s tweets. (By the way, these only apply to marketers. Those of you in other professions may draw your own conclusions.)

Not on Twitter – If they are in marketing and not on Twitter, I would be skeptical about any claims of social media expertise. At the very least, if they make that claim they better have a good reason for not having a Twitter account.

On Twitter, but no tweets – If they opened the account a long time ago is this a sign that they start projects but don’t finish them?

Doesn’t tweet very often – This could be a sign that they are new to Twitter but a laggard when it comes to adopting new ideas and technology. (Again, remember I am talking about marketers.) Or, it could be a sign that they are very busy and focused on their projects with no time to tweet. More investigation is called for.

Tweets all the time – I follow a couple individuals who tweet constantly. One is a personal branding specialist so I understand why he does it. The other individuals hold “real” jobs. I don’t know how they have enough time to Tweets 30-40 times a day and still get their work done. Enough said.

Tweets a lot, but usually all at the same time – This individual is a Twitter enthusiast (good) but still doesn’t get it. Tweeting ten times in a row at the end of every day is like doing a “drip” mailing and sending all mailers out the same week.

Tweets a lot of personal things – First, this individual still doesn’t understand the power of Twitter for personal branding or as a tool for marketing. Second, certain personal questions are illegal in interviews, but who needs to ask them when some people broadcast their life for the world to see. Be very careful with the personal tweets and think about what they say to those who may see the world differently than you.

Only tweets motivational quotes – These are the spice of life, but like vanilla, a little goes a long way. This individual is either convinced they are the world’s motivator or they are trying to motivate themselves. I like to think that the rest of the world isn’t wallowing in general apathy and ennui and that they don’t need the constant cheerleading. If they are trying to motivate themselves, and it works, then go for it. The rest of us will draw from your well when and if we need it.

Tweets their causes mixed with the professional – I think it’s great that people have things that they think are worth standing up for. However, if you are looking at someone who Tweets as much about their cause as they do about their profession, it’s probably reflective of their water cooler chatter too. Just be prepared is all I am saying.

Never tweets anything personal – This is the opposite of those who do too many personal tweets. The individual who never tweets anything personal, their own blog posts, simple comments, or direct replies, could be living their life vicariously through others. They need to get gain some self-confidence and let their voice be heard.

Topical blog tweets and retweets – Finally, you can tell a lot about the topics an individual is enthusiastic about by their tweets and retweets. If they tend to retweet blog posts about personal branding, social media, and content development then it’s a sure sign that those are three topics they follow and stay current on.

Just like with Myers Briggs, I think you should take my theories with a grain of salt. In fact, they’re probably wrong as often as they are right. But, maybe that’s the point. Perception is reality.

You should think about your tweeting style and consider what it says about you when someone clicks on your Twitter ID and “meets” you for the first time. Perhaps it never really matters what your personality is since others will always judge you by what they see.

OK, now you can tell me why my theories are all wrong.

All the best!

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Can You Avoid Making a Bad Hire?

There’s no doubt about it. It’s a buyer’s market for marketing talent. Meeting 80% of requirements is no longer good enough. Hiring managers are holding out for candidates that meet 100% and have a track record to boot.

Yet, hiring a marketing leader who can do all that they say they can is still a gamble. You can only tell so much from a series of one hour interviews. I’ve seem many “consensus” decisions turn out badly.

The resume is a personal brochure. Marketers, being the wordsmiths that they are, ought to be able to create resumes that sell. But, how do you know that the results they achieve were actually achieved through their efforts? Or, what if they were a fluke?

Reference calls are necessary, but who gives a reference that’s going to give them a bad review? You can go to HR, but they are trained to only verify that the candidate worked there at the time and in the role specified. No real help there.

Some have tried to get a better feel for their marketing candidates by asking for a presentation. I think this approach ought to be used more often, especially since most marketing roles require top-notch presentation skills. Still, you shouldn’t expect much from the presentation itself as the candidates, despite hours of research, will only have seen your good points. They won’t know your challenges until they get a good peek under the covers.

Here’s a novel idea presented by the master of all novel ideas – Seth Godin.

Seth suggests that you work with someone for several months before actually giving them a job. His downside is that you lose the bragging rights of the “great find.” On the other hand, I think you lose the embarrassment of talking up a new hire only to have them fall flat or be mediocre at best.

I agree that your pool of candidates would be smaller since not everyone would be comfortable with the arrangement. However, I don’t agree that you will be limited to people like freelancers and interns. I think there are many marketers looking for opportunities right now that would consider a contract opportunity. To me, the potential downside is that they turn out to be a great hire but you lose them to someone else before you have a chance to make the offer.

Here’s a few more ideas for how to make this work:

Pay the candidate for their time or by the project. This is not the same thing as an internship where someone is looking for experience. You should expect real value from these people.

Be clear on the deliverables. For example, if you are looking to hire a marketing executive, you might ask them to review your programs, processes and people and create recommendations for how your marketing can be improved. If you need a social media expert, you might ask them to put together a workshop on how companies are using social media to drive opportunities. A webmaster could be paid to make recommendations for how to improve your website performance.

By making these paid engagements, you are paying the candidate to dig into your unique situation and propose opportunities applicable to your organization and your goals. Even if you decide not to hire the candidate, you will learn something from their recommendations.

Put it in writing. Put the deliverable and your payment terms in writing. You don’t want to find yourself paying for a candidate’s time only for them to lose interest or take another position before they deliver the final report.

Give them enough time. This will vary by role. A Marketing Executive might need a couple months to do a thorough assessment. A Product Marketer might only need a couple of weeks to review your messaging, collateral and sales tools.

Remember that you are paying for the deliverable and not their time. If the candidate needs to perform the work on site, remember that they are still a contractor. You shouldn’t expect to hold them to the same sort of work schedule that you might a full time employee. Many of these candidates will want to continue their search.

Give them access. Don’t limit their access only to those on the “interview circle.” Give them access to the people they would need to collaborate with if they had the job. This way you’ll get a 360-degree view on their fit in the organization.

Consider remote candidates. No one wants to go to the extra expense of relocating a candidate unless they are absolutely sure they can perform spectacularly. This option can allow you to consider some candidates that you might not have considered had you needed to relocate them first. For example, if you pay a potential marketing executive to perform an assessment of your programs, processes and people, much of this work can be done remotely.

What do you think? If you are a hiring manager, does this sound like a strategy that would work? Have you tried it? If you are a job-seeker, would you be willing to take a role on a trial basis?

All the best!

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

Yes, sales can write blog posts!

Earlier this week I wrote Step 5 for Dumping your Marketing Department – Leverage Blogging. (Those of you who think I might actually be proposing getting rid of marketing might want to read the post before jumping to any conclusions.)

In that post I suggested that blogging is another way that sales can reach out to their market and generate their own opportunities as well as nurture those that they are already working. However, I recognized that many companies are loathe to let their sales reps anywhere near a blog.

Yesterday I found proof that sales can write their own posts and that allowing those who are closest to the customer is one way to keep your blog real and relevant.

Tyler Buskard is Sales Director for HighJump Software. He doesn’t own the company blog but he is a frequent contributor to it. His posts are entertaining, tight and right on the money. (They may not resonate with you if you haven’t spent time marketing to operations people like I have. You’ll just have to trust me that the message is spot on.)

HighJump’s blog Raising the Bar is also a good example of a blog written by multiple authors – a technique you may want to try if frequency of posts is an issue. The posts have the same style and tone. So much so, in fact, that I checked with Tyler before posting this to be sure that those with the bylines were the ones that wrote the posts. (They were.)

Although the team obviously has a format of sorts that they adhere to, there is enough individual personality in the posts that you feel like you know the bloggers. Chris Goldsmith’s post where he manages to tie the Viking’s acquisition of Brett Favre to a product launch is a great example.

All the posts promote HighJump Software without being excessively promotional. I think the length plays a big part in that. When Chris talks about the product launch he starts with a fun paragraph about Brett Favre and the Vikings. It is short enough not to irritate those who aren't football fans (or have developed a passionate dislike of Favre). Then he covers the product launch in another short paragraph. As a product strategist I’m sure he could have gone on for pages with details, but even while interjecting some of his own personality, he kept his audience in mind.

If you are looking for a good B2B blog to emulate, I encourage you to check this one out.

Happy Blogging!

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

12 Steps to Dumping Your Marketing Department - Step 5 Leverage Blogging

As a marketer, I don’t really believe that you could or should dump your marketing department. Of course, as a former sales person, I can also understand the frustration you feel when your marketing department fails to consistently deliver enough qualified opportunities to keep your pipeline full.

This is Step 5 in a 12 step series showing sales people how they can reduce their reliance on their marketing team. Marketers should also pay close attention as this series can give you tips that you can share with your sales team to help make them more successful and take a bit of the pressure off of you.

It’s been awhile since Step 4 and I’ll bet some of you thought I had given up on this series. Not so, but you have had over a month to implement Steps 1-4 and should be ready for Step 5. For those of you just joining us, Steps 1 – 4 are:

Step 1 - Target your market

Step 2 – Build your online presence

Step 3 – Hang out with your market

Step 4 – Nurture your leads

Step 5 is to leverage blogging in order to expand your credibility and continue to expand your online presence.

There are two ways to leverage blogging – write your own or take advantage of blogs from experts in your field. I highly recommend writing your own blog. For those of you with an opinion (and what sales person doesn’t have one?) and a small bit of writing talent it’s surprisingly easy to do. For ideas on blog topics read Save time (and make more sales) by blogging.

Another cool benefit of blogging is that, when done well, it gives you a fast and easy way to create content for your lead nurturing program. This can be very useful if your marketing team isn't doing well with keeping you stocked with fresh and compelling content.

However, some of you are probably working for employers who are a little uncomfortable letting you author your own blog or contribute to the company blog. That’s unfortunate, but if that’s the case, you can still leverage blogs from experts in your field. Here’s how:

Find blogs written by experts in your field. You can read all the sales blogs you want, but I am referring to blogs written about the product and services you sell. You are looking for blogs read by your target audience.

You can find these kinds of blogs by looking on association sites, trade magazine sites, blog directories like Technorati, or just by Googling a few key words and the word “blog.” You can even find them by checking out your competitors’ websites. Of course, look for links to external experts’ blogs as you don’t want to start promoting a competitor's blog.

Another great way to find blogs that occasionally talk about your area of expertise is to set up your Google alerts for keywords related to your field. You’ll churn up all kinds of interesting sites.

Read the blogs. Reading these blogs does two things. First, even if you are already an expert in your field you’ll broaden your own understanding and getter a better finger on the pulse of your market.

Second, you’ll get a feel for the personality of the blog author, the target reader, and what sort of comments would be appropriate. This will lead you to the next step.

Start Commenting. While comments aren’t the only metrics for blogs, nor even the most important, blog authors still love comments as long as they the comments are appropriate. Self promotion is ok as long as you aren’t honing in on someone else’s territory and the self-promotion is secondary to the value you add to the discussion.

If you find yourself commenting frequently on an experts’ blog, or engaging in a discussion after you post a comment, check to see if the author of the blog is on LinkedIn or Twitter. I have had tremendous success expanding my own network by reaching out to those whose blogs I read and comment on.

One quick caution. Blog comments are public and will show up if a prospect Googles your name or your company name so you want to spend as much time crafting them with care as you would any sales correspondence.

Tweet It! The final suggestion for leveraging expert blogs in your industry is to Tweet them. However, I’ll leave a full discussion of leveraging Twitter for Step 6.

Happy Selling!

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

Your First 90 Days as a Marketing Executive or Manager – The Checklist

Earlier this week I wrote a post about accepting unsolicited marketing advice. You can and should listen to the advice of your new colleagues to get the most complete picture possible. On the flip side, you were hired for your expertise in marketing and not simply to make everyone happy by implementing their suggestions. It’s up to you to take a professional look at the people, processes and programs.

Here’s a checklist of some of the things that should be assessed within your first couple of months in your new role.

90 Day Checklist

Target market defined? – Does the company have a general consensus on who the target market is? The consensus in this case is important. If you have differing opinions of what the ideal customer looks like you’ll waste a lot of time and money selling and marketing to the wrong targets.

Value prop – Does your company have one? Is it pithy and focused on customer value? Is it used in your materials and on your website to help explain what you do? Even if you aren’t selling to big companies all the time, Jill Konrath’s book Selling to Big Companies is an excellent resource for honing your value proposition, even if you aren’t selling to big companies.

Universal lead definition/lead scoring – Is there an agreement between sales and marketing on what constitutes a qualified lead?

Marketing metrics – Are there marketing goals that are linked directly to sales goals? Are they based on some reasonable assumptions of close ratios? How is marketing performing against these goals and are they held accountable?

Sales SLA in place and agreed to by sales execs? – Just as marketing should be held accountable for generating a prescribed number of qualified leads, sales needs to be held accountable for follow up. For example, there should be set expectations for the amount of time that passes between the hand-off to sales and the first contact with the prospect.

Feedback loop – Is there a feedback mechanism where sales can provide input to marketing on the quality of the leads? For example, if sales didn’t accept them as “qualified” why not and how does marketing need to change their qualification procedures to ensure that only qualified leads are sent to sales?

Ideally, this feedback mechanism involves a human:human exchange and is not simply a requirement that sales complete a form in your CRM system. It’s in the conversations that happen between sales and marketing where real understanding occurs. Reading a CRM report just doesn't have the same impact.

Lead nurturing – How are leads being nurtured? This paragraph is far too short for the importance of this piece, but I’ve written a significant amount about lead nurturing. It is imperative that you have the processes in place.

Content assessment – Is the content fresh, relevant and customer focused? You may have the lead nurturing processes set up well, but if you are sending out garbage you won’t be effective. Take a complete inventory and be objective about the real value of the available content.

Website – You should understand what your company has done to optimize for the search engines, but in the first 90 days, I would be more concerned with the target audience optimization. Is the site customer centric or too focused on the company? Are there plenty of calls to action that inspire your visitor to sign up for your mailing program? What are the bounce rates for your various pages? (Where are you losing visitors?)

A solid website is the foundation for a nurturing program as it should be your best tool for creating an effective opt-in list.

Sales Tools – Which sales tools are the sales team using and how are they being used? Which sales tools did they create themselves? Notice, I didn’t suggest that you assess what sales tools are available. I find that many companies think they have great sales tools, but the majority of them are never used.

Campaign metrics/processes – What are the metrics used to measure campaigns? What is the process for reviewing these metrics? Are they ever looked at? Are debriefs done to assess what worked and didn’t work with your campaigns?

As you go through this one you should get a good idea of which campaigns are working and which ones aren’t. Tread lightly in your first 90 days though. This is one of those areas that can be filled with political landmines. You may not want to blurt out that you are going to cut your EVP of Sales’ favorite tradeshow – at least until you understand the ramifications.

Customer satisfaction – What does the company really know about their perception in the marketplace and their customer satisfaction. When were the studies last done and how were they performed.

Although new business is typically a priority for new marketing leaders, existing customer business increases in importance during a recession. You may find it a priority, but that the company has no real understanding of their customers’ satisfaction levels, how to improve them, nor how to capitalize on them.

Each of these areas could spin off into other areas that you need to investigate, but these are the major ones that you can’t overlook. Some areas are likely to be “major disasters” whereas others might need some work, but can function for awhile without your intervention. Others may be working just fine even if the methods set up are a little different from what you’re used to. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or at least focus your energies on the more important issues first.

From your assessment, and the opinions of others as mentioned yesterday, you’ll be able to create a plan of action that is prioritized and effective and you’ll be off to a great start.

Have fun!

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

Social Media Guidelines

I’ve written recently about setting Twitter guidelines for companies as well as shared my own personal Twitter guidelines. However, Twitter is just one small piece of the larger social media picture.

Kent Huffman in the Social2B blog wrote an excellent post about setting social medial policies and communicating these policies to your employees. He provides links to social media policy examples for several well-known as well as general concerns to consider.

The purpose of these guidelines isn’t to keep your employees off of social media. It’s to give them a framework to work within. Kent’s post should give everyone ample fodder for creating workable guidelines that make sense for their own company culture and industry.

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

Leveraging Your First 90 Days as a Marketing Leader

Everyone knows that the first 90 days in the role of marketing executive or manager can make a break your future within an organization.

On the upside, it’s a time when the company is inclined to cut you a little slack. You can and should take the time to perform a solid assessment of marketing programs, processes and people before jumping in with your ideas. Imposing your own ideas before you adequately understand the inner workings of an organization can cause you to burn bridges you never intended to burn, make mistakes that are hard to unravel, and waste valuable time.

On the downside, in your first few months in your new role everyone will have an opinion of what’s wrong and what you should do about it – and they’ll be more than happy to share.

Actually, that’s not as much of a downside as it may seem when they have you cornered in a conference room with their list of “suggestions” in hand. These opinions from all levels within the company can give you excellent insights into how things work and the human element (a.k.a. politics) of an organization. If you combine this information with your own assessment of how things are working you’ll get a more complete picture.

Instead of pushing away these ideas, why not court them? Listen to the ideas, try to understand what problem the individual is trying to solve, and ask questions about how they came to their conclusions. Done right and you’ll have plenty of allies that will stand behind your programs. Best of all, you never know where the next great suggestion is going to come from.

All the best!

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

Who says blog comments don't count?

SEO experts seem to agree that blog comments don’t count toward link juice. I bow to their expertise.

That said, don’t make the mistake of thinking that blog comments don’t matter. Blog comments can be picked up by the search engines and show up when someone searches on your name.

A case in point. Several years ago I was a product manager for Microsoft working heavily with the ERP applications designed for the manufacturing sector. I was quite into lean manufacturing principles and thought that everyone would benefit from applying these to every day life. I still do. I regularly read manufacturing blogs and every now and then I find a post that inspires me to comment.

I Googled my name and the phrase lean manufacturing. Below is a snippet of the results showing one blog comment and there is another one further down the page that didn’t make the cut.

Even if someone were to Google just my name, these blog comments could show up. I suspect that blog comments are more likely to show up if the blog you comment on is ranked higher by the search engines. I periodically have blog comments show up when I Google just my name. (BTW, I’m not doing for some sense of narcissistic pleasure. Googling your own name is something that everyone should be doing on a regular basis if they are concerned about maintaining their personal brand.)

The point is, blog commenting can work for you or against you in your effort to build your online brand.

It can work for you if you actively comment on blogs using the key words that you want to be associated with. I’m never going to show up in a search for “lean manufacturing”, but if I tell someone that I know something about it and they do the search for “Melissa Paulik” + lean manufacturing, I will have increased the evidence of my expertise (or at least experience in this case) because of my blog comments.

Blog commenting can also work against you if you comment carelessly. Commenting too much on blogs that are “off brand” might dilute your message if they start showing up in generic searches for your name. They can also work against you if your comments are poorly written or come off as “snarky.” I am always amazed at people who use the comment box as a chance to say something obnoxious.

Commenting on blogs is a great way to gain exposure. Just remember blog comments count toward your personal brand just like everything else you do online. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

The TAO of Website Optimization

I’ve seen a few discussions recently around the web regarding the effectiveness of SEO. The answers go one way or another, much of it depending on the skill set and job profile of the one answering the question. That’s not to say that anyone’s perspective is wrong, but we all look at the world through our own lenses.

That aside, it’s a valid question. SEO for a lot of organizations has failed to live up to the expectations set for it. It may have produced additional traffic to the website, but when a marketing manager (or a CEO) tells you that he or she is looking to drive traffic to the website, what they are really saying is “I am looking to drive opportunities.” No one wants traffic for traffic’s sake—with the possible exception of those who are measured on traffic metrics alone.

To make SEO pay off, you have to pay attention to TAO, or Target Audience Optimization, as well.

Taoism - philosophical system advocating a simple honest life and noninterference with the course of natural events

It seems that this should apply to our websites too. They should be as simple as possible to ensure that our visitors find exactly what they need as quickly and easily as possible. Of course, our information should be honest. And, the more we can work with the natural course of the way our customers buy, the more successful we are likely to be.

So how do you get to a TAO website? Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Focus on the customer first. This may be the hardest for all of us since we are so close to what we do we think that it’s as important to the customer as it is for us. A good example of this is the awards that companies announce on their home page – some of them taking up a significant amount of real estate. I know you’re proud of the award you just won, and it should be important to the customer in their selection of a vendor, but between that and using precious website real estate for a valuable (to the customer) white paper that a customer I’d suggest the latter.

Focus on how your customers buy. Your industry may be different, but in the B2B technology industry where the sale can be long and complex, there’s a general flow that companies go through when making their purchasing decision.

Investigation/Compiling the long list – This is the first stage where the business may not even have a good handle on what their issues are, but they know they have a need to bring in an expert or a new solution of some sort. For high-technology marketing, this is your moment of truth – the one chance you have to pull them in and either engage or get them into your nurturing program before the write you off for good.

The main page should be geared toward a buyer in this stage of the sales cycle with loads free resources – white papers, on-demand webinars, podcasts etc. All of these should be readily visible and not buried behind your latest award announcement. The emphasis on this first level of resources is on the issues the customer faces and not necessarily on what your company does.

Evaluating Options – A decade ago, this is where the sales person came in, but with all of the information that is available to them on the web, buyers are starting the evaluation process without you. Since they aren’t inviting you in, give them a proxy by setting up an evaluation center.

This evaluation center would include more product specific resources that highlight your products in the best possible light – product reviews, commentary by analysts, product demos, product specific white papers etc. Given the sorry state of most product brochures these days, I’m inclined to say that you might as well skip those. However, we’ve trained our buyers to download these whether they look at them or not, so you might as well include that option. Just don’t confuse brochures with valuable content.

You don’t want this on the main page because the buyer who is visiting your website for the first time isn’t ready for it. It would be the electronic equivalent of leading with your product, which all of us who have been trained in some sort of solutions selling know is a “no-no.” If you make the “evaluation center” link a button which is ready visible your buyer at that stage of the sales cycle can easily access this level of information. And, no harm if your first time visitor decides to go there because they are self-selecting ro receive product info.

Sales Stage – In a high-tech complex sale there’s usually a break between the stage where they are evaluating options and the final stage where they are looking for the final affirmations they need before signing a contract. This break is where they bring in a sales person to put a face to the company they may do business with.

Clearly, your sales person needs to know their industry as well as how to help the prospect through their buying process. In addition, the more information you can give them about the prospect ahead of time, the more effective they can be. If you have tracked the downloads of your prospect, or maybe even the web pages visited, your sales person won’t be left to guess and spend too much time interrogating the company on the issues they face.

Final Evidence – After working with the sales person, the prospect typically reaches a final stage where they need assurance that they are making a good decision. These are the case studies, ROI tools, and other evidence that focus on how other customers like them have benefited. Once again, the focus is away from product and more on the existing customer’s story.

Once you’ve amassed a significant amount of compelling evidence., you may want to try putting a few case studies and quotes in the other areas of your web site, but placing the bulk of your final evidence in a secure area of your site. When you reach this stage of the process, you could give them their own log-in so they could go in and browse the evidence available as much as they want. This could raise the value of this information in eyes of your prospect. It could also save you from the annoying but common problem of prospects who call your customers in the early stage of the sales cycle.

Navigation. It goes without saying that navigation is important. Unfortunately, most of the B2 high tech websites don’t display much imagination. The biggest difference seems to be whether they put the menu down the left hand side or across the top.

Don’t copy your competitors. Most of them have no more insight into what works than you do. Be bold. Do something totally different and see how it works. But, remember, it’s not whether your colleagues in the company like it. It has to work for your prospects and customers.

Metrics. Do I know whether this would work for your organization? No, but that’s where metrics come in. Only the metrics, especially the conversion rates, are going to tell you whether the design you put together is working.

The point is that most of your current websites aren’t the lead generation machines they could be. They may be optimized for the search engines but they aren’t optimized for your target audience. I can’t tell you whether the approach I’ve suggested will work, but I can tell you that, for most of you, your current design isn’t working nearly as well as it should. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

It’s Nothing Personal – Twitter is What You Make of It

I was working through a client’s marketing plans the other day when I hit on the subject of Twitter.

“Have you set up a Twitter account yet?” I asked.

I heard one of the youngest of the team, maybe twenty-something, let out a snort. This was a conference call so I couldn’t see her expression, but it’s never good when a client snorts in the middle of a meeting.

“Well, I’ve heard of Twitter,” the CEO of the company replied, “but I’m not really sure what it is.”

I had a brief nanosecond to consider how I would describe Twitter to a serious business person when the young marketer chimed in, “It’s this thing where people say what they are doing at any given moment.”

I have to admit that this was my impression of Twitter not too long ago. I likened using Twitter to trying to get serious work done sitting in a grade school cafeteria. I saw it as hopeless amounts of inane chatter interrupting real work.

But Twitter has evolved. Or maybe it’s me that’s evolved. Either way, I don’t see Twitter in the same way I used to. I suspect, a great deal of it is because I’ve created my own Twitter guidelines. As a business user these have served me well so I thought I’d share these with you:

- I only use Twitter for professional purposes. My friends and other contacts can connect with me through facebook, email, or in-person since holograms aren’t available yet.

- Since I only use Twitter for professional purposes, I only follow those who are in my profession. Sometimes I’ll follow a client to see if they are getting the hang of using the tool, but for the most part, I follow fellow-marketers.

- When I find someone interesting, I will click on their ID to see their last several tweets and determine from those whether they stay on topic or not. For this reason, if someone has protected their tweets, I tend not to follow unless I know them really well.

- For the rare mistake I make, I have no qualms about unfollowing.

- Twitter is not IM and it’s not email. You aren’t expected to read every tweet. You could drive yourself insane trying to keep up.

- Since nothing I tweet is personal, I don’t protect my tweets. That means anybody can follow me unless I purposefully block them.

- I try to tweet a couple of times a day to stay involved. This is pretty easy for me since I have my blog linked to Twitter and it posts my blog. The other tweet is most often about a useful blog post I found, or a retweet of something that someone else tweeted. Both of these types of tweets help me “pay it forward” by recognizing the work of others in my field. Karma-wise, it seems to pay off.

- I use Twitter to research companies. My tool of choice is TweepSearch to find who from the company is tweeting.

- I use TweetDeck to segment those I follow into groups. This allows me to more easily focus on those I am closest to or find most inspiring.

- I follow the old rule, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I suppose that someday if I'm stuck on the tarmac for six hours I could break that rule, but generally I tend to be pretty even-keel, especially online.

- And, for the one that will make most “Tweeps” gasp in horror, I don’t keep Twitter running throughout the day. I’ll open it up a couple times a day when I find I need inspiration – something to blog about, an answer to a challenge, or just a little pick-me-up.

Since most of you who read this blog are probably using Twitter, I’d love to hear what guidelines you’ve set for yourself.

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Pay it Forward – The Art & Etiquette of Retweeting a Retweet

Retweeting is becoming a common practice on Twitter. I love it as it gives me a chance to give others the exposure they deserve. And, since I’m not completely altruistic, I also love the exposure it gives me. If you’ve set yourself a goal of a certain number of tweets a day in order to stay connected, try retweeting a few times a week. Sometimes, the best self-promotion you can do is to promote others.

Just when I think I’m getting past the newbie stage of Twitter, I uncover a really basic question that I think I should know the answer to. Today’s question is:

What’s the etiquette for retweeting a retweet?

Let’s say that someone retweets a tweet. The retweet includes a link to a blog post that you really like and you want to share it with your followers too. Do you retweet the original tweet? Do you retweet the retweet? The latter gives exposure to the first retweeter, which seems only fair, but can get kind of cumbersome. You only have 140 characters and a lot of retweets contain a short comment plus the original tweet. That’s not much space for two RT @(userID)s.

When in doubt, go to the source – The Blogosphere. (Almost as good as going to the mountaintop, but a lot closer!) Here are some thoughts from a randomly selected group of experts:

Are You a Twitter Retweet Thief?
This post focuses on the importance of giving credit to the original tweeter. That just seems to be common sense to me, but I thought I’d include this well written post as food for thought.

At least one of the commenters says that you must also give credit to the retweeters. If you run out of space, just shorten words - “are to r” for example. That just goes against my writer’s instincts. I’ve learned not to cringe at using less than full sentences, but I still prefer to use full words.

How to Retweet
This post shows you how to retweet a retweet but doesn’t really address the problem of too many RTs. I include it, however, because it makes a great point about why including RT in front of the @userID is so important. If you don’t, all you will be doing is replying directly to the user. This is something to keep in mind if you do want to reply to a user, but want your followers to be able to see it too.

“Twettiquette” Lesson: The ReTweet
This one gives a couple of great examples of how to retweet – especially when you are retweeting a retweet. Always give credit to the original tweeter. If there’s room, you can give credit to the retweeter as well. A nice example of how to do that is given.

If a tweet has gone viral, don’t keep giving credit to the retweeters. The blogger gives a great example of a reporter who cites his source by saying “It was heard from Mrs. Jones that Mr. Marks heard that John Doe heard that Mary said she like tofu.”

This last post makes the point nicely and with that I’m satisfied that I have found the answer I was looking for. Do you see it differently?

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

Twitter Guidelines - An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Despite what I said about not fearing the competition when developing a social media strategy, there are some companies who are concerned about how their employees will behave as tools like Twitter become mainstream. (I’ve met some of their employees and some of these companies are right to be concerned.)

As with teenagers, a little discussion of expectations up front can go a long way. Of course, there are no “one size fits all” rules. Each company has its own employee challenges and cultural norms. Each set of guidelines drawn up will be as unique as the people who wrote them.

But where to start? For a closer look at Twitter guidelines, here are a few posts to get your thoughts rolling on how you want to set expectations with your own employees:

Guidelines for Brands Using Twitter - A few good examples of social media experiments that went well. Plus, the best advice for all of us – listen before talking.

AP Issues Strict Facebook, Twitter Guidelines to Staff
A bit from the darker side of employee guidelines. AP is instructing their employees to avoid all mention of political affiliation from their profiles… Unless you have a strong need to appear unbiased (and maybe the AP does) I think it’s a little overboard to require this of your employees.

British Government Publishes Twitter Guidelines
I think my examples just went from strict to absurd. A quote from the story,
“Now, other government departments will join these offices in producing between two and 10 tweets per day, which will be approved before they are posted, according to the guidelines. In addition to waiting at least 30 minutes between each Twitter update, civil servants are also advised not to follow anyone who isn’t following them.”

Did I mention that Twitter Guidelines may be different because of cultural differences? Hmm, perhaps a bit too regimented for my tastes.

Use common sense when creating your own guidelines
If none of these posts spur ideas for your own set of guidelines use a bit of common sense and develop your own. First, consider what kinds of mistakes can happen online and create guidelines that attempt to prevent these from happening. Often, these mistakes are made unintentionally by employees and with a little education ahead of time, could be avoided. Here are a few examples:

Leaking confidential information – Make sure all employees understand what information is confidential and what is not. This is especially important if you are in a company that tends to share confidential information further down the chain. Everything from financial info to product plans should be considered. Not all employees have a good handle on what they can share and what they can’t. Sometimes confidential information is leaked when the employee was only trying to be helpful.

Who’s asking? – While you can’t control who sees their tweets, sometimes your employees will have specific individuals reaching out to them. Make sure your employees use caution when commenting one on one with people they meet on the web. Long before the age of social media, reporters have been getting scoops from naïve and unsuspecting employees. Make sure all employees know where to route these types of people if they are asked for comments.

Venting inappropriately – Consider making it a rule that your employees never, ever make a disparaging comment publicly about a customer, vendor or business partner. These kinds of comments reflect even more negatively on your organization than if the employee were to make the comment about you. These are also the comments that leave you most open to legal action.

Inappropriate content – What’s inappropriate for some may not be inappropriate for others. While I don’t believe in policing your employee’s personal sites like the AP seems to, you have every right to require that they steer clear of certain content when they are using social media professionally. And there is a fine line between personal and professional these days. For example, even if your employees Tweet under their own name, that’s a professional account if they use it to Tweet about your company or industry. Twitter doesn’t limit the number of accounts you can have so consider encouraging your employees to separate the personal from the professional.

If you have additional idea for gudelines or stories about what has worked for you, please share them. You can comment on this blog or send me a tweet @melissapaulik.

All the best!

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

Social Media Paranoia – Is it Justified?

I recently asked the question, “Is Twitter a useful tool for channel communications?” I had some interesting responses on the LinkedIn IT Channel Alliance forum where I also posted the question. Offline, most people admitted to being a little paranoid about the competition gaining access to their secrets.

This concern is nothing new. Since the first printed word was used in a commercial sense, marketers have been trying to figure out how to communicate with their target market without the information leaking into the wrong hands. However, after reading this article in BtoB Magazine on social media and marketing intelligence, I’m not so sure the paranoia is justified.

Of the 314 marketers polled:

- 33% said they find valuable information through social media.
- 21% said they use social media but not for competitive intelligence.
- Another 21% said they didn’t use social media at all.
- The final 25% didn’t know what competitive intelligence was. (Tip: Asking the question, “Are you in marketing?” at the beginning of the survey can help you weed out unqualified respondents.)

So roughly a third of your competition is using social media for competitive intelligence. Of that third, one has to ask, how many just answered “yes” on the survey because they were embarrassed not to. And, how many have a regular program of gathering competitive intelligence this way? Probably not many.

Granted, sales people may be more likely to use social media for transactional competitive intelligence but so many sales people are still selling “the old-fashioned way” that I wouldn’t worry much about them yet either.

When it comes down to it, “competitive concerns” seems to be losing its luster as a legitimate excuse for staying out of the discussion. Your competition will gain access to your “news” through other means. Unless you plan to never release any new products or services, there’s just no way around the competition getting their hands on this information. The “leaks” aren’t likely to come from within your organization. They will come from your business partners, customers, or former employees. These leaks will happen whether or not you are on the social networks.

The same is true for complaints about your company. Users have been complaining about their vendors since the first electronic bulletin boards came into existence. (The first one I remember was the late-80s)

We all know the saying that for every complaint we hear there are ten complaints that we never hear. Social media has made it far easier for customers to spread negative comments, but it’s also made it much easier for marketers to be aware of these comments. Better to be involved in the discussion by having a staff of people who understand the medium and are trained to respond effectively, than to not be aware of the conversation about you. Ignorance is no longer bliss.

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

Yes, B2B websites can be prospect-centric

If you read my recent poston on chasing the elusive prospect-focused B2B website you know that I am searching for a good prospect-centric B2B website that I can use as an example in my work. The best sites so far have been sites from marketing companies that focus on marketing solutions. You would think they’d do well, so I want something with a more “industrial” flavor. I’m looking for a site that sells the ubiquitous “widget” to other businesses.

I know it can be done but so many of the sites that sell to other businesses are stagnant electronic-brochures that talk about all that they do in language that is barely decipherable. The calls to action tend to be few and only give the visitor the opportunity to download “more product information” and other company-centric materials.

Mike Frichol recently talked about the overwhelmingly self-centric websites produced by business software companies in a recent post on The Marketing Melange. Using FutureNow's WeWe Monitor he tested ten well-known business software companies. These ten companies were only focused on the customer an average of 12% of the time!

I’m happy to say that I have found a contender for best customer-centric B2B site. I ran across Trend Micro’s site while doing my research the other day. I like the look of the site as it’s fairly clean and does a good job of segmenting visitors so they know where to go. Trend Micro provides internet security tools to both consumers and businesses so it isn’t strictly B2B, but they clearly have a strong focus on an industrial audience. There are plenty of calls to action with free tools and a pretty interesting Threat Watch Meter that shows the current threat level on the web and from spam and malware that resembles the Department of Homeland Security’s threat levels. This familiarity makes it instantly understandable.

That’s not to say that there isn’t room for possible improvement. For example, I’d test the positioning of the free tools. It’s possible they have already done this and decided that the current position was best, but these tools seem fairly buried in a small grey menu on the right. They have a newsletter as well, but the ability to sign up for it is also a bit buried on internal pages. (Nice name though – First Line of Defense Newsletter)

I also like Trend Micro’s verbiage. Given the technology they produce, they could have a site written strictly for IT users of the product. Although their user base may be technical, especially on the business side, my guess is that a significant number of their buyers are average business people who want to know what the solutions do for us, not exactly how they do it. They did a great job of speaking to this audience while also supplying the information their more technical audience would want.

Finally, I ran the site through Hubspot’s Website Grader and Future Now’s WeWe Monitor. (I know these may seem a bit gimmicky but they are fun and I’ve found them very useful in pointing out problems to marketers who are too close to their products.) Apparently, Trend Micro’s webmaster knows what he or she is doing as HubSpot gave it a 98.3. There were a whopping 428,000+ inbound links. (Add one more after I finish this post)

The WeWe Monitor gave it a very respectable customer focus score of 58.33% showing the percentage of the time they speak about the customer and not themselves. I think their site is proof positive that you can be customer-centric and still market yourself.

I’m going to continue my search for the best customer-centric B2B website, so if any of you think you’ve found one (or have one) that you believe can top Trend Micro’s site let me know.

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

Are the “new rules” for marketing incompatible with lead nurturing?

When I wrote the post Are web forms old school?, I referred to David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing and PR. I saw some incompatibility between letting go of your marketing materials and lead nurturing concepts. I suggested some ways to compromise such as only putting your best materials behind a form and limiting the amount of information you collect.

However, the thought that the two concepts were fundamentally incompatible just wouldn’t leave me. For example, one of the great things about lead nurturing is that you can tailor your follow up nurturing programs to the prospects interests based on what they download. If you only know a fraction of what someone downloads, you’ll only have a partial picture.

In addition, if you know how often they download something you can gauge their general level of interest and whether it’s worth your time and theirs to follow up with a call. They may download ten items from your site, but if you only have one of those items behind a form, you run the risk of missing a great opportunity to engage. Or, conversely, you may decide to call everyone who downloads that one item thereby wasting a lot of energy and the prospect's time.

I decided to ask the question on the B2B Lead Generation Forum on LinkedIn to see if others were wondering the same thing. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. You can follow the full discussion here including a comment from me on why I changed my mind about putting only your best content behind a form. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Your help needed - Chasing the elusive prospect-focused B2B website

As I was trying to make a point with a client about making your website prospect-centered, I realized that I don’t have a truly good example of a B2B website that they can relate to. I use Hubspot’s site all the time to demonstrate as it’s practically a resource center for its target market. However, I’d like to find a website that most of my technology clients can relate to. How do you take a company like a business software provider or one that provides network security and create a website that puts the prospect first? Better yet, does anyone have an example of a company that has really done it well?

I asked this question on the B2B Marketing Forum on LinkedIn and got several examples that were very company-centric. That experience only serves to prove the point that as marketers, we are often too close to our products to be a good judge.

If you think you have a site that qualifies as best-in-class for its customer focus, let us know. I don’t really care about design, keyword optimization or any of that. I just want to find one that shouts, “I care about you more than I care about me.”

All the best!

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

Are Web Forms Old School?

I just abandoned a registration form for a webinar I really wanted to attend because the form asked for my physical address. I don’t mind giving them my name, company name and email. It’s information that they can use to understand who I am and better follow up (or not) with me after the event. But, why would they need my physical address?

Being the paranoid consumer I am, I have to assume they are going to do one of two things. They are either going to sell my personal information to someone else and try to make a buck off of something that I consider my property. Or, they are going to send me junk mail, thereby wasting my time, cluttering my home and eventually filling my local landfill. Both of these assumptions turn me off so much that I rarely complete a form that asks for my address.

I’m not alone in my aversion to sharing unnecessary information on a web form. Mike Frichol writes about his research into the way ERP Software vendors are using forms on his blog The Marketing Melange. He says that the worst example he found was for a vendor that required the visitor “to create a full profile with over 25 data fields to become a supposed member of some privileged inner circle group before you see their information.” Yikes!

Those of you who follow David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR know that he is a proponent of tearing down the gates in front of your content. Joe Pulizzi recently quoted some stats he brought back from David’s presentation at the Branded Content Conference. He says that “a white paper or eBook will be downloaded 20x and up to 50x more WITHOUT a gate in front of it.” This allows people, such as bloggers, who are the most likely to share your content easy access to it. And, it improves the chance that good content can go viral.

Mark Palony at SoftBrands, an ERP vendor located in Minneapolis is testing this theory. In his company blog, he’s shared with his prospects and customers that he has removed all the forms in front of his content. When I asked Mark what lead up to the decision he cited the higher abandon rates on the forms and that he wanted to remove any obstacles to getting the information in the hands of his prospects.

As for me, I’m not ready to abandon forms completely. If you are looking for a way to build an opt-in list web forms are a great tool. However, a well executed form strategy is needed to avoid turning off today’s savvy (or paranoid) customer. Here are a few tips:

- Don’t put your brochures behind a form. I know you spent a lot of time and effort putting those together but they just aren’t that high of value to the customer.

- Watch the download rates. Put what you consider a great customer-focused piece of content behind a form and watch the bounce rates for the form as well as the download rates. Then take the form out from in front of it and see if your stats come anywhere near the stats quoted by David Meerman Scott.

- Test various landing page and form layouts. It could be the layout or verbiage of your landing page or the form itself. Try some A/B testing to see if you can increase your response rates while still keeping the form.

- If you decide to take Mark’s plan and remove all forms, watch your inbound contact rate. It is sure to take some time, but if the number of calls you get doesn't increase, your problem may not be the forms.

- Ask for no more information than is absolutely necessary. In most cases, name, company name and email are sufficient. You may think you need the phone number but asking for that information can increase your abandon rates. How many people do you know want a rep giving them a call? If you really do need to follow up by phone, the numbers aren’t all that difficult to obtain through other sources.

- Allow for an opt-in on every form you have. If you can get prospects to opt-in to your nurturing program, you'll feel less compelled to out everything on your site behind a form simply because you are desperate for leads.

All the best!

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