Archive for July, 2009

Why this Blog isn't Like Others

July 30th, 2009

Since the focus on my blog is marketing strategy, most of my followers will be surprised to find me writing on tactical blogging. However, I have gotten a good number of requestsregarding how am I getting such traction with my blog, even more so than most websites. So, this is a deconstruction of my approach for those who aren’t familiar with how to build a blogging strategy.

First, let me outline why this blog is different than most of your traditional blogs:

  1. More like a corp blog than a traditional individual blog- I am running this as I would if I were the CMO of a company and I needed dynamic content for my website and for direct messaging to the market.
  2. I am playing a specific role as a content manufacturer versus a content distributor – I have written about how I see the the development of tiered content distribution on the web (Search Engines versus Social Media for Marketing Awareness)
  3. Focused on establishing my thought leadership in the social marketing space – hence the original, higher quality content.
  4. My audience is the “C” level executive decision-makers that doesn’t have time to read blogs -Kind of tough to reach people via a blog who don’t read blogs, but my strategy is to leverage indirect channels of establishing relationships prior to engaging. I am getting read, but I am reaching them through other channels and then bringing them to my blog one at a time.
  5. My blog is obviously integrated with my offline and other online marketing activities -The decision makers don’t care whether the information is offline or online, they just want quality from validated sources. My marketing strategy does both prior to engagement.
  6. My blog isn’t as targeted – I would like to be more targeted, but I am having to balance my desire my long term goal to find a permanent role with my short term social marketing consulting. Hence, it is a bit schizophrenic in switching between broader CMO topics (Web 2.0 product management, product marketing, and lead generation) and more targeted social marketing.
  7. You will notice that I don’t have links – It is not that I do not want to be helpful to assist you in finding additional strategic marketing resources, but they are time consuming to build and, in truth, they distract from the narrative that I am building between posts.
  8. Very little third party content for the same reason – I am showcasing my expertise, building a narrative around social marketing, and focused on building a library of original content. I will occasionally comment on really cool information, but I try to be a destination for original content.
  9. I have turned off the commenting (too much SPAM) – I receive feedback through my social networks, twitter, email, and back links. Please reach me through these vehicles (contact info in the sidebar) as I appreciate people the feedback.
  10. I have a micro targeting strategy versus a macro blogging recognition one – In part, I am more focused on creating a thought leadership center for people to leverage for understanding social marketing, validating my expertise, and providing a call to action around my resume. Hence why I am on a hosted wordpress with poor Seach Engine Optimization. I am not looking to establish myself as a blogger, but rather I am validating my knowledge as a Marketing Executive with some very cool, cutting edge expertise.

My Recommendations for Starting a Corporate Blog

1. Start with the Strategy first. Are you blogging for brand recognition, validation, sales support?

2. Understand the mechanics of blogging – what rules will you follow, which ones will you not. I break some rules because it supports my strategy to do so.

3. Build an editorial calendar – map out the narrative that you want to deliver and manage to that

4. Pace yourself – fewer posts of higher quality is better. On the other hand, make sure that you are at least once or twice a week, preferrably more.

5. Don’t “Build it and They Will Come” – doesn’t work. You need to promote it, get it added to online catalogs, cross promote with other marketing communications channels, and get the word out. It takes a while to build visability and even longer to build a regular following.

Hope this helps.

Using Baseball Fans to Explain Web 2.0

July 28th, 2009

As a web evangelist, I cheer the widespread adoption of the latest web techniques and technologies. As a business person, I am a little confused by the widespread use of 2.0 label on everything; Sales 2.0, Recruiting 2.0, Pizza 2.0, Beer 2.0, etc. Everything seems to become 2.0.

As a product manager, I cringe when I see a 2.0 label slapped onto something that is vague and unclear. Even worse, many are now moving towards 3.0 to discuss semantic web. For many people, they are still getting their arms around the what web 2.0 is let alone things like mashups, mobile marketing, online communities, social networking, semantic web, etc. For those of you confused, here is my baseball fan analogy to help you understand…

First there was the baseball uniform, then numbers were added, then names. Eventually, the jerseys were mass produced which the fans could take home from the stadiums. This was the equivelent of HTML.

Then the fan favorite jerseys were then sold at local retailers. This was the equivelent of email marketing. This of course led to the development of fake jerseys sold everywhere. This was SPAM.

When a buddy organizes a trip to the park and buys a 10 pack of cheap outfield tickets for his friends to tag along and drink. This is a social network. As an aside, when he bought them online, this was ecommerce.

Now, Major League Baseball does not allow you to build and order your custom named jersey(imagine a couple with Chug-a-lug & Beer Goggles on the back), but if they did, the jersey would be XML and the experience would be Web 2.0.

Imagine if MLB would imbed RFID tags in the jersey tied to an acount that would allow you to just walk into the stadium without tickets. This is RFID. If you don’t know RFID, there is the technology they have been using to track packages, groceries, and warehouse pallets. If the ticket was on a phone that was bar coded, this is mobile commerce. (Yes, they are doing it now)

Take this further and imagine that MLB took your online account of when you came to the stadium and combined it with a weather chart to figure out if you were a true “fair-weather” fan. This is a mashup.

If MLB, then took this information and sent you a 50% off promotion on your phone inviting you to attend on the next rainy day, that is mobile marketing.

If they took that information and the next time that you came to the game, they ejected you from line because the system automatically figured out that the team had lost the last 4 games that you came to the park, that is semantic web.

You could call all of the above Baseball 2.0…

In all seriousness though, web 2.0 and the like terminology is confusing for a lot of people. I know first hand how hard it is for people, who spend their every waking working minute immersed in developing a new technology/product and/or company, to remember that everyone else doesn’t have the vocabulary or the frame of reference to “get it”. For many in the technology business, it is hard to imagine that AOL still has 6 million dial-up customers. For those of us who run marketing & product management organizations, our jobs are first to build a fantastic customer experience and then make sure we make it easily understood. Of course, it should go without saying to get it widely adopted, but that is still more art than science.

Virtual Relationships Still Need to Get Physical

July 24th, 2009

As much as I advocate the value of social media and online communications, these still don’t replace the value of face-to-face meetings. Body language aside, most of us grew up in a world without the heavy influence of our computers. TV and radio were the primary electronics of our youth…. well, Atari was prevalent in mine, but despite the disproportionate amount of time that I spent chomping on little strings of dots, most of my childhood was spent offline.

As an adult, I now spend a disproportionate of my time on my computer. My relationships are going virtual as well. It is much more efficient to fire off three emails while working on a presentation than to stop pick up the phone or trek over the nearest Starbucks. I do business online and collaborate with people that I have neither met over the phone or in-person. I have just shy of 3500 Linkedin connections and 550 Facebook friends along with 334 Twitter Followers. I am so “online” that I don’t print out white papers to read anymore. (Yes, I still read them.)

In truth, my technographic profile fits more of the much younger generations that are growing up online. Kids are a little ahead of the adults in that they don’t recognize the difference between interactions online versus offline. I am seeing more of the adults becoming the same way.

We will organize an introduction via email to meet at a local Starbucks. After we meet, we will follow up by email with other virtual introductions, some phone calls, and even a PowerPoint or two. Some may even tweet about it… and then repeat the cycle.

As a social marketing evangelist, I advocate building online relationships as a effective and efficient way to reach broader audiences. I actually believe that this will eclipse many of the traditional methods of relationship building in business over the next couple of years.

As a marketer, I realize that you need to reach people in the ways that they want to be found; email, phone, meetings, introductions, events, social media, direct mail, advertising, PR, search, etc. Many people aren’t comfortable about building relationships without meeting face-to-face. Look at past Ecommerce trends; people weren’t comfortable giving their credit card to unknown merchants. Until there were protections in place that prevented the loss from unethical merchants, Ecommerce was the wild west. We can’t discount the need to build a way to establish trust online for many people.

As a product of my generation and the generations that sandwich mine, I miss the live interactions. With all due respect to the empowered pajama workers, I need the human interaction. Even if I spend all day on the computer, I need a human connection.

I actually like trade shows and conferences. For exactly the same reason I like bookstores, I like to browse the shelves and pick up books. Cover art, book heft, back cover descriptions, immediate gratification, and in-store promotions are still a part of my book buying DNA. Yes, I have bought books online, even online books, but I still will go to a bookstore. There is something to be said for finding a new vendor or meeting new prospects at a conference or show that you would never have met. Even better, a whole lot of them at once.

As much as I do business online, I feel more connected after we meet face-to-face. Breaking bread with someone is still a way to validate the measure of a person.

I am not a look-back type of person as I really like the direction that technology is going, I enjoy social media, and I think we are seeing a fundamental shift towards online relationships. Just saying that virtual relationships still could use a cup of coffee now and then.

Wanted: Passionate Advocacy in Response to Cynical World

July 20th, 2009

Ever seen a really creative ad that has no connection to the product brand. Chances are that the real reason is that the creative director had no connection to the product that they were selling and decided to showcase their creativity instead of communicating passionate advocacy of the product. Welcome to the marketing equivalent of “the paycheck player.”

We are seeing it show up everwhere in marketing… earnest promotion of products and services intent on connecting with potential buyers replaced with snarky, cynical, disconnected, shock marketing. I am not saying that humor doesn’t have a strong place in marketing; it is critical. But, humor without the central components of marketing is cynical: passion, authenticity, empathy, & connection.

Passion -you need to believe in your product or service. We all struggle with tasks that we need to do, but don’t feel passionate about. Changing diapers was definitely that for me… but, when you string together a series of client or projects that you cannot emotionally connect long enough; you can wake up one morning and no longer be passionate about anything that you do in work. You are a mercenary with no loyalty or connection, but doing it for the money. Hence, the creative director scenario above. The movie Jerry Maquire was about that… “Show me the money” and “We live in a cynical, cynical world”.

I have been “lucky” in my career to have chosen the path sometimes less travelled focusing on being passionate about the product, sometimes to the detriment of security or financial success. But, I can’t see just going through the motions of marketing and then saying “Let’s throw a clown into the ad, people like clowns…” I think this is why people are gravitating to social networking and away from advertising. They are looking for authenticity.

Authenticity- As a father of a young child (with one on the way), I am constantly reminded of the wonder of the world through a child’s eye. I also feel the constant tug for delivering a really great experience, but cognizant of how commercial children’s marketing has gotten. There are some shows that I have seen with him that look like one big product placement. I have begun to appreciate the trade-off between polished production and authentic experience. As an adult, I get tired of the canned ads, fake testimonials, and the clearly manipulative “buying process”.

Empathy – I think sometimes that the science of buyer behavior forgets that the buyers are actual people. I am for automation and buyer behavior modelling, but I reject the win-lose value proposition behind some of the science. I think that there is a difference between optimizing the shopping cart process to make it easier for buyers to check-out versus pop-ups to “convince” them that they really wanted to buy. My fundamental belief is that if you have done a good job of understanding your target audience, understood their motivations and circumstances, clearly articulated a value proposition that they understand, and developed your offering to meet that buyer’s needs; you will close more business than if you had missed the mark, but follow all of the “buyer behavior” techniques. Connection is the art that I still believe trumps the science.

Connectivity – Part of the rise of the social networking sites is that search engines are logic based and people are emotional based. Search is algorithmic; eventually everything has to get back to 1′s and 0′s. We, as humans, don’t think like that. We are messy, inexact, curious, and irrational at times. “Social search” allows for the emotional side to take over. When you ask a friend for a recommendation on a product, you are weighing that person’s opinion over all of the experts that you can find out on the web. Rational, not really. Authentic, trusted, connected, and passionate; definitely. Search engines can be very efficient, but the force ranking of items does not take into account the different motivations or the intelligence of the individual.

In my opinion Social “Search” fills a hole in search that search engines cannot fill. It works for a basic reason; finding a passionate evangelist who has already done the unbiased research for you is priceless when it comes to buyer support.

Social (Marketing) Must Evolve to Survive

July 15th, 2009

A friend of mine recommended yesterday that I rewrite my BIO to reflect my expertise in social marketing. I appreciated the feedback, but it also highlighted an identity crisis that I have been struggling with since before I started this blog.

I am looking for a strategic marketing role that leverages my experience over the last few years in product managing, evangelizing, and consulting around social media platforms for marketing. I have also been consulting in social marketing and I am getting considerable recognitition for my thought leadership in the space, but I never saw my future as an independent social marketing consultant. I haven’t figured out the consultant’s dilemna; balancing sales with delivery.

Here is my real dilemna… although I am consulting on social marketing, I really see that social marketing as an independent discipline will eventually go away. If it is succssful, I believe that ALL marketing disciplines will be socially enabled thus social marketing as a term will become redundant. I suspect that it will take a while. So for my social marketing colleagues, you can rest easy that you will have jobs for a while.

I see that Social Marketing will be elevated in the marketing portfolios to become a strategic discipline reporting to the CMO akin to Product Marketing, Product Management, Marketing Communications, Marketing Operations, and even Web Marketing. But, I also see that each of these discpilines will need to become proficient in social marketing and understand how the changing dynamics on the web will impact their individual disciplines. I think that social marketing represents a fundamental shift in buyer behavior which will require a rethinking of the marketing function at large. Social media is a catalyst, but it isn’t the actual change. Buyer expectations around information, relationships, and the very nature of transactions are evolving. I see this as another phase (in a long line) of the changes driven by deeper internet integration and evolution.

Product Marketing & Brand Management - Today, the product value proposition is designed for multi-channel, but how do you design for user generated content where you cannot control the location, context, or delivery? Social media and marketing represent a shift in the direct communications of marketing messaging to the indirect. Product Marketing will have to package product messaging to become more compact (sound bites), reusable, and repurposable to ensure sufficient distribution through social media channels; ie. blogs, social networks, digg, delicious, Youtube, etc.

Product Management – We are already seeing the trend in Web 2.0 product management to build “lite”, component applications that are driven more by adoption that overwhelming features. These applications are built to be a point solutions, but can be scaled easily and as modules. The reasoning is that for many potential users, more is less… attractive. We are so overwhelmed with information that taking time out to learn a complicated application is not attractive. Building just-in-time functionality to meet specific pain with the ability to add more functionality later is attractive. In reality, you are seeing agile manufacturing of web applications. We are also seeing that happen in manufacturing, services, and distribution across society. This puts more pressure on Product Management to understand the customers, identify the segments, build targeted functionality prioritized to their needs, and delivery the right experience. A much more complicated and fluid environment made more difficult when the potential markets can self identify and congregate virtually. You can miss the mark and it will be much more readily visible.

Marketing Communications – Advertising is in full retreat from the recession, but also from the fact that more messages do not translate to more sales. Actually, the inverse. SPAM has overwhelmed our email infrastructures. The key to marketing communications now is multi-channel, targeted, and coordinated messaging that catches attention, engages, and provides a specific call to action. Social media empowers the audience to tune in or tune out the message as they see fit. Marketing communications needs to adjust to the power shift in this relationship. Marketing Communicatiosn firms are even more vunerable as many of them are transaction oriented (campaigns) where the newer channels are relationship oriented (long-term, one-to-one mass customization of relationships). Marketing communications needs to evolve to more of a pull strategy versus a push strategy.

Marketing Operations – CRM, Multi-Channel Marketing, Enterprise Content Management, Measurement and Reporting, etc. all get impacted. When does a lead start? How do you measure a fluid environment? How do you manage corporate information assets that aren’t in your posession which are designed for reusablility and redistribution (blog posts are an example)? How do you measure all of the activity to develop an ROI? (This one I can answer: you should build the ROI based upon your traditional metrics. Force social marketing to justify why these activities will lead to more effective marketing, not create justification as to why you should do social marketing)

Web Marketing – Where does Corporate Online Communities come into the equation? SEO and SEM? How do you balance the shift from search to social media? How do you manage the transition from social networks to your own onlne community? Engagement, Interaction, Adoption, Momentun?

Ironic that a social marketing evangelist is advocating the end of social marketing as a discipline. However, as a marketing executive first, I believe that social marketing is really about applying the fundamentals of marketing to a new environment.