Aug 2 2009

What B2B Marketers Can Learn From the Crocs Catfight


by Wendy Marx

Blog UsesCall it the shoe heard round the world.

Recently, there’s been a bit of a hullabaloo raised online about a Crocs social media guy who had a run-in with a Mommy blogger and blogged about it.  Who knew shoes could be so inflammatory?

On the surface it’s a case of a blogger threatening a company with bad press if she doesn’t get free product, in this case, shoes; and the Crocs employee in turn getting up on his high horse and threatening to hurt the blogger’s reputation.

On a very minor scale, it reminds me of the Gates-Crowley imbroglio. Not because race was involved – there was none that I am aware of here – but that it was a power struggle between two different authorities. Here, the blogger thought she had the power of her blog to demand free shoes. Meanwhile, the Crocs social media guy, George Smith Jr, feeling unfairly attacked quickly asserted his power to reduce the blogger to a “nobody.” Can’t you hear the egos battling in the conversation?

It all reminds me of the fact that as the blogosphere continues to expand its influence, we are entering a wild west in terms of behavior and professionalism. Anything goes. Unlike mainstream journalism where there is an implied agreement that both public relations professionals and the media will adhere to certain rules. Certainly, any mainstream reporter would be penalized, if not promptly fired, if he or she bribed a source. Similarly, a company PR representative who threatened to damage a reporter’s reputation would not remain unscathed.

Meanwhile, bloggers, unless they are paid to blog for someone, have no higher authority than themselves and the court of public opinion.

To help you navigate these unchartered waters, here hare some standards for b2b marketers to follow:

Treat bloggers respectfully. But don’t sink to the level of tit for tat – where you bribe bloggers in exchange for a favorable review.

Don’t expect bloggers to act as traditional journalists. Many journalists operate under a code of ethics that among other things forbids their accepting gifts.  Bloggers won’t necessarily honor embargoes and other traditional public relations-mainstream media practices..

Listen to bloggers and engage them. Don’t simply ask a blogger to do something for you but first read the blogger and develop a relationship.

Remember the street goes both ways. If at the end of the day, you don’t like what  a blogger said, feel free to comment/respond. Unlike traditional media, we all now have megaphones. Just be sure to use yours judiciously.


Jul 27 2009

One great tactic?


by Jeff Propper

It seems that more and more b2b marketers are foregoing strategy and planning in favor of a single breakthrough tactic. Naturally, the tactic has to be web-based, viral and incorporate social media— and be practically free to produce, while delivering a high return on investment.

Whatever happened to developing a marketing communications strategy?  Goals and objectives have turned into a quest for the next cheap tactic.  I’m not against developing breakthrough marcom tactics. But I do think it should be the result of a sound, intelligent strategy.

Shoot, ready, aim
If we consider the marketing goal as the destination, then the strategy serves as the roadmap to get there.  Naturally, every tactic — whether print advertising, direct mail, e-marketing, etc. — must be examined against the strategy to gauge its validity. In other words, if the tactic doesn’t fit the strategy, it doesn’t belong in the plan. It seems to me lately, that we’re in a shoot, ready, aim mindset.

What about developing a unique selling proposition?
After much struggling against Mac, and it’s brilliant marketing, Microsoft has developed a simple, powerful and effective advertising campaign focusing on price and value.  The campaign is well produced, has great casting and a clear, concise selling proposition that resonates like crazy in this woeful economy. I love my Mac, but I really applaud Microsoft’s powerful strategy.

Common sense doesn’t always prevail.
Ultimately, marketing and advertising communications is about persuading more people to buy more products and services more often. Easier said than done, but to create long-term success, we must spend the time and energy upfront to properly develop a strategy and plan. When we don’t, we get that box of chocolates where you never know what you’re going to get.  Instead, a sound strategy, coupled with intelligent planning and on-target creative can deliver successful and repeatable results. Such a process reduces risk and maximizes the return on your marketing investment. It may sound like common sense, but lately, it’s not common practice.


Jul 21 2009

B2B PR: How The Times are A Changin’


by Wendy Marx

web20_socialI was reminded of how fast some of the simple tactics of business-to-business (b2b) public relations are changing when I read a post by Sarah Skerik of PR Newswire.

Skerik makes the point that we now need to create “tweetable” headlines in our releases or pitches that reporters and others can easily tweet. [Email me if you want her post, which requires registration.]

It’s all part of the changing nature of media that feels like it’s moving faster than a speeding bullet. And, yes, we do need to be somehow superhuman to keep up with it all. And, yet, at the same time in our rush to embrace the new, we should not disband what’s old and still working.

Press releases, which have been around for a mere 93 years,  still work. They’re a quick, effective way in the b2b sphere to tell the news. And, with a little updating for a web 2.0 world still work fine, thank you very much. However, you need to do more today than simply writing up a quick announcement. You need to insure your release:

  • Is optimized for the engines.  That means having a headline and keywords (typically three is recommended) sprinkled within your release. It means having a short headline that will be visible within the 65 characters Google displays. It means having hyperlinks and a call to action. Your call to action can be a special offer or the opportunity to get a new article or white paper or book chapter. Ideally, you’ll have a landing page connected to your call to action making it easy for someone to get to and easy for you to track your results.
  • Has a social media version. We find a good way to do this is to use PitchEngine, which not only lets you quickly create a social media release but lets you propagate your release online via sites like Delicious and Stumble Upon. This makes it easy for others both to find and share your release.
  • Have a Twitter and LinkedIn version. For Twitter, we’re talking about having a headline that’s eye-catching and fits within Twitter’s 140-character limit. Skerik makes the point that to stay within the limit it’s also helpful to use a service that shortens your URL or in web lingo “tinies it.” Here are two sites that do just that: tinyurl.com and bit.ly. The headline for this particular post is just 39 characters (counting spaces). And yes, please feel free to Tweet it.  For LinkedIn, it’s helpful to post releases in the “news” section of relevant groups.  There are thousands of groups devoted to b2b topics. To find groups, simply search under the drop down “groups” on the LinkedIn search bar.  Be sure if you link to your release it includes a compelling summary, which LinkedIn will pick up.

At the end of the day, none of this of course matters if you don’t have an interesting, compelling story that will make a difference to your target audience. If you add a new manager, no one but you, the manager’s mother and maybe your local paper cares about. However, if you can tie your new position to an overall growth or expansion story that’s indicative of your success in a down economy, that gives your story a little context and interest. Add to that what you’re doing differently that is making you successful and you have the beginnings of a story that will resonate.

So what are you doing to get the word out about your b2b business? I’d love to hear from you.


Jul 10 2009

The Internet – One Singular Sensation?


by Jeff Propper

Mexican_Bandido Marketers have always searched for the magic bullet, that single tactic that can give them the exposure of a celebrity scandal.  Apple found it in 1984 by purchasing air time on the Superbowl.  They had our rapt attention for sixty seconds, followed by endless hours of watercooler discussions. Naturally, many major and not-so-major advertisers followed suit.

What about B-to-B marketers?

Surely, a holy grail of product exposure exists, a single tactical solution that can provide it all, and without the annoying expense of an integrated marketing campaign?  Many marketers feel they’ve found that on the World Wide Web, the one stop, does-it-all interactive media outlet that can give your product exposure to your target market with pinpoint accuracy. There’s no question of the power of the Internet, with 2.67 billion searches worldwide per day*, 183 billion Emails sent per day** and with $131 billion US eCommerce sales in 2007***, yeah it’s powerful.

But wait there’s more.

Consider this statistic.  According to iProspect, “Offline Channel Influence on Online Search Behavior,” 2007, 67% of online search users are driven to search for information about a particular company, product, service, or slogan by an offline channel. Here’s the breakdown: TV 37%, Print 30%, in-store promotion/merchandising 20% and radio 17%.  That means offline marketing channels drive online research that can lead to a purchase.

How about integration?

While it’s tempting to consider the web as your only source of exposure, consider the old concept of integration — send a message to as many people as possible, as often as possible, through a variety of media outlets.  A well-constructed, well-thought-out plan can go a long way. A successful plan must saturate, sustain and standout. When all is said and done, advertising is about reaching as many of your consumers as possible as many times as possible with the least amount of waste.

Look at this way, there’s 100% chance that someone will win the lottery, but chances are it won’t be you. Hedge your bet, instead of putting all you eggs in one tactic, consider an integrated effort.

*Source: comScore qSearch, August 2008, monthly figure divided over 31 days.
**Source: Radicati Group, October 2007.
***Source: “The State Of Retailing Online 2008: Marketing Report,” Shop.org & Forrester Research, April 2008.


Jun 29 2009

Managing Business in this Economy


by Bill Amirault

You just found out your staff and budget are being cut, a common reality in this economic climate. This scenario is the norm at most companies, it just depends on the severity and duration. If the reductions are 10-20% (you can manage it), 25-40% (it will hurt), 45-60% (brace yourself), 65% or more (you may be the one turning off the lights). So to chart the proper path forward, you need to take stock of the situation and the company on several levels.

1) Does the company philosophy and competitive situation indicate that marketing dollars are (a) an investment like R&D or (b) an expense like paper clips? It’s always some of both, but the former situation provides much more flexibility and opportunity with future programs than the latter.

2) What’s the actual or perceived ROI for each Marketing program? This is ultimately the litmus test for any advertising, promotion, PR, sales and/or e-Marketing event. The better you can measure this, the more likely your programs will have continuity.

3) What % of sales are normally devoted to R&D, Marketing, Sales, etc.? What will those percentages be after budget changes? If R&D receives funding any time it’s requested and you have to conduct a mid-Eastern bazaar for every dollar, it will be an uphill battle.

4) Where are the majority of your customers in the purchase cycle (awareness, consideration, trial, repeat, loyalty) and how are they faring in this climate?

For your loyal and repeat (meaning somewhat loyal) customers, make sure they don’t find a reason to go to a competitor at this time. Since you have established relationships, you may be able to cancel an expensive convention or road show, but still have to keep communications open by phone, email, blog, etc. to ensure they know any developments in your business that can benefit them.

If the purchase cycle is long enough so that your customers are effectively new each time, cutting back now could be disastrous, no matter what the CFO says.

5) Is this downturn really an opportunity to take a long a look at current and previous programs and either refresh them or overhaul them completely? Technology has helped make communications and even promotion programs more cost effective. But, before jumping on the social media bandwagon, for instance, make sure there’s a real business reason, and return, for everything you do.

6) Are there real customer opportunities out there that you may have missed because your message and targeting have been slightly off line, or just focused on customers who aren’t supporting you as they have previously?

So, what to do?  Your answers to the above questions will go a long way toward refining your strategy in the best possible way.  Here are some additional guidelines:

* Focus on those programs you know have a guaranteed return, with a caveat…  Familiarity can lead to complacency and mediocrity, even with reasonable returns.  One B2C company I worked with got so enamored with Sunday newspaper coupons (they’re easy to see, measure and bring instant spikes to weekly sales — like a direct mail program may be for your) that they didn’t realize how much overall returns had declined through the years.  These promotions also missed a very large % of the real target audience.  Make sure your programs are updated from a messaging and a delivery standpoint.

* Tighten up your strategy, positioning, branding, communications and media to ensure consistency and proper targeting.  Can’t emphasize this enough!!!  Though it’s easy to rely on those inside the company to chart the course, the far better approach is to focus on what the market needs are, and how your company best addresses them.  The B2B Marketing Posse is an excellent resource for developing these insights.

* Spend 10-20%, or more, on breakthrough (for you) test programs that have been proven elsewhere.  This may seem like the last thing to do in a downturn, but if you don’t create fresh programs, you can become stagnant.

Finally, keep your chin up!  Though this economic period has been difficult for many, but as has been true in all other downturns, this too shall pass.