Wondering Out Loud

Timing is everything for this marketer

Just a few short weeks ago I joined OptiMine Software as the first director of marketing. OptiMine is a 3 yr old technology company that develops and sells bid optimization software for companies engaged in large (+$30K monthly spend) paid search campaigns. As their first member of the marketing department I walked into what is, for all intents and purposes, a blank slate. That is why the 1o marketing lessons in this article from Mark Suster was a welcomed find.

I’ve been involved in technology marketing for most of the last decade and spent much of that time in a start-up-like division of a company with annual sales of $100 million. OptiMine is a true start up and the marketing plan I presented to senior management today is the first in our short history. Thanks to Mark Suster’s article, I will benefit from his experience and his 10 lessons.

Timing is everything.

June 28, 2011 Posted by | Marketing | , , | Leave a comment

Traditional v. Social: It isn’t either/or

A couple of posts ago I discussed bringing traditional and social media tactics together in marketing campaigns. I was prompted to broach the subject for a few reasons. First, I’ve been marrying traditional and social to drive sales leads for a number of years all while being told – here’s the second reason – that social media and marketing do not mix. The third reason came as a result of several discussions I’ve had with local agencies and their concern that social business will take revenue away from traditional. They are looking at it as an either/or proposition. Big mistake.

As I’ve said before…social media is simply a toolbox filled with lots of wonderful gadgets that will help your customer communicate effectively with their market. As with traditional tactics, they are to be deployed as part of a strategy that is designed to meet a set of objectives. Nothing more, nothing less.

Rather than looking at traditional v. social as an either/or proposition, consider how social tactics will complement your marketing activities. Here’s a case in point.

In October of 2008, I executed a marketing campaign designed to drive leads from small and mid-sized food and beverage manufacturers. To drive registrations we used a combination of direct mail, email and telemarketing. For the event we streamed live video via ooVoo and bounced it through ustream.tv. A pretty good mix, if I do say so myself. I didn’t stop there, however. We took the social one step more by focusing the discussion on how SME food and beverage companies can maintain high standards of quality and keep their margins – not an easy task. We also discussed strategies SME’s can put in place to assure survival in the event of a product recall – an even more difficult task.

A traditional webcast would have focused on a couple of issues and then presented a demonstration showing how our software  overcomes such challenges. A traditional webcast would have attracted 15-20 prospects, ours resulted in 50 new sales leads.

Done properly, traditional + social is a marriage made in marketing heaven.

February 1, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , | 1 Comment

Is it more natural to use social media tactics in the B2B space or B2C?

I originally asked this question in the B2B Social Media group at LinkedIn and got some great responses. I figured I’d throw it out to a, hopefully, wider audience.

I was meeting with a representative from an ad agency that deals primarily with consumer packaged goods and, in a grass is always greener moment, he said they are struggling to implement social media tactics for their customers. He said it – social media – seems a much better fit for B2B. I found his comments interesting because I’ve sat on a couple panels, and attended others, where the main question has been whether there is a place for SM in the B2B world.

So I’d like you to put on your hats of objectivity and give your thoughts on which is a more natural couple: B2B and social media or B2C and social media.

I’d love to hear your opinion.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

A social media question worth pondering

Earlier this week I met with a representative of an ad agency in Minneapolis. His work is primarily in the world of consumer packaged goods. We were discussing the agency’s exploration of social media and  whether it made business sense for them to go that direction. Why it would even be a question was a mystery until he commented that using SM tactics seemed a natural fit in the B2B space (where I’ve been for the better part of a decade), but not so in B2C.

In the past 12 months I’ve sat on panels dedicated to discussing the value of using social tactics in B2B and the starting point has always been that B2C is the natural.

Talk about your grass-is-always-greener moments.  

Having had the opportunity to give it more thought, I can see where new-found friend is coming from. The products he markets are ones you come across everyday at your local supermarket. If he can prove that a facebook fan will drive sales of butter he has a shot at getting the customer to take a look at it.

This is not to say I don’t think SM and B2C don’t mix. On the contrary, I think it they can live together quite nicely. However, in B2B the sales cycles are much different.

Unlike consumer products, most B2B sales are more complex and carry more risk – professional and personal – for the buyer. For this, and other reasons it is critical that the buyer believes the supplier is credible and trustworthy. Social media tactics are exceptionally well suited to do just that. But social tactics alone will not accomplish the goal. In fact, they are but one piece of a much larger marketing communications puzzle that one must build.

Don’t make the mistake of throwing traditional media out the window in favor of social media. Those who have are finding they regret the move and are scrambling to reassemble a media mix that will achieve their goals.

The new media mix – traditional + social – is an area that deserves deeper exploration and I plan to do exactly that in the coming weeks.

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , | 3 Comments

The social media revolution is over

The social media revolution is over and it’s time for all of us to take a collective deep breath – in through the nose and out through the mouth. Now, before you accuse me of being a complete moron for proclaiming the end of social media, let me clarify what I mean.

I believe social media – as a practice – is in its infancy. We are emerging from a time that saw the development of an amazing number of tools anyone can use to engage on what came to be known as social media. Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, blogging platforms, Twitter, YouTube, UStream, Utterli, and the list goes on . Some, like the ones I’ve mentioned here, have been wildly successful. Others have slipped below the surface and  been assigned to the Web 2.0 category of Trivial Pursuit. The ones that made it, and the ones that didn’t, were part of the revolution. Their advent came at a time when we were all comfortable with the Internt. And isn’t that the way it always goes. Just when we get use to the status quo someone else gets bored with it and decides to stir the pot.

We went from needing a website to participate to needing only access to the web. You don’t even need a computer. All that’s required is a visit to your local library. The revolution that is social media made it possible for us to communicate with, potentially, the entire world. It took the concept of global communications promised by the Internet and made it not only possible, but real. Whether text, audio, or video, each of us now has the power to send our message anywhere and everywhere.

And that, my friends, is a revolution if ever there was one. People took something that existed in one form and through a lot of hard work and struggle created something new from it. The old didn’t go away, but it is not what it once was. So where does that leave us today? The same place we were on September 3, 1783 when the treaty ending the American Revolution was signed. The revolution was over, but the evolution was about to begin. And this country has been evolving ever since.

The tools are the revolution, but he evolution are the tools grow up around those tools to make them more powerful. Twitter is wonderful, but the real power of Twitter is in the hundreds of applications we leverage to make it better. Blogs are nice, but RSS feeds, Diggs and del.icio.us are just a few of the technologies that have helped blogs realize the potential of their communication power.

We have the tool to communicate to our markets in ways we never dreamed possible. Now it is up to each of us to figure out how to use those tools to accomplish the goals we’ve set. The original thinking that social media tactics should reserved for communications and not for marketing is already evolving and will continue to do so. 

What we have today is so because people were willing to push boundries of what the Internet could do (revolution) – people a hell of a lot smarter than me. But each of us is capable of taking the gifts they’ve given and evolving them to derive greater and greater benefit than even the revolutionaries might have imagined.

The revolution is dead. Long live the evolution.

October 1, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Social media levels the playing field

Traditional marketing uses campaigns to build brand awareness: Coke – “The Real Thing”, Pepsi – “The Choice of a New Generation”, BASF – “we don’t make the products you buy; we make the products we buy better”. Each is recognizable and each company invested millions of dollars to reach consumers.

I’m gonna take a stab in the dark, but I’m betting you, like me, are working with budgets that are substantially smaller than Coke, Pepsi or BASF. Guess what, it doesn’t matter because we all have access to the great leveler in the branding battle: the Internet.

OK, it’s not a perfect one-to-one exchange, but the power that lies within the worldwide web is boundless and with a little imagination and hard work you can leverage that power to create a brand for your product.

Until now, marketing and social media have been treated as separate and distinct and, truth be told, there’s argument that can be made for keeping them as such. But that doesn’t mean the latter can’t support the former.

Boiling it down to its simplest form, branding campaigns are designed to leave a mark, an impression on the mind. It is an impression you create and communicate, but the impression is only a perception, an opinion based on the message you provided.

As consumers, B2C and B2B became more sophisticated, their response to the bombardment of advertising became, “I’ll be the judge of that.” In other words, they wouldn’t accept what you have to say until they buy it, try it and make up their own mind. Your ads may get someone to buy once, but if reality doesn’t live up to the perception your advertising created they won’t buy again.

The power of the Internet makes it possible for all of us to turn perception into reality before they buy.

When you use social media tactics to promote the thought leadership in your company, when you expose the subject matter experts within to the market you are building credibility, you are building awareness. You are showing customers, potential and current, that there are people behind the brand. People who know the industry, people who know their customers and understand the business issues they face and are trying to solve daily.

In short, you are branding reality for your company, its products and services.

August 27, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

Personal v. Professional with Albert Maruggi

 A couple of months ago I saw a Twitter message from the owner of a consulting firm announcing the release of a new survey on the success of ERP implementations. A few minutes later the same individual used Twitter to take a hard line on the health care debate. In my opinion, the guy took quite a risk in mixing his professional and personal lives in a forum like Twitter where following someone is not the same as knowing them.

How many were offended by his opinion on health care reform we can’t know. Nor can we know how many will no longer consider doing business with him. But there is a number that fall into both categories.

Social media requires openness and transparency, but how much is too much? To discuss this, and other questions, I called my friend and former colleague Albert Maruggi of Provident Partners and The Marketing Edge Podcast. The outcome is the first ever Wondering Out Loud Podcast.

During out conversation we talk about the risks of mixing the professional with the personal, about the danger of “blurting” in 140 characters or less, and about how we are quick to label and categorize others. As always, Albert is thoughtful, serious and funny.

Enjoy.

Mark Palony speaks with Albert Maruggi about the risks of mixing the professional with the personal in social media.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are you self serving or self promoting

As the adoption of social media by business expands at an ever increasing rate, its misuse grows along with it. When you engage in social media activities are you self serving or self promoting?

Have you ever considered the difference? Both deal with the self, but if you choose to practice the former over the latter, you are headed for social media failure.

Here are the definitions from dictionary.com:

Self serving: Serving to further one’s own selfish interests.
Self Promotion: Promotion, including advertising and publicity, of oneself effected by oneself.

Done correctly, self promotion will result in all the benefits – increased leads, sales and revenue – you can get through self serving means, without turning away a good chunk of your audience. If this sounds difficult to achieve, it’s not. Promoting the self – you, your colleagues, and your business – is as easy as showing your target audience what you know. How you show them, however, goes a long way toward defining which side of boarder you are on between serving and promoting.

Let me illustrate with an example of a LinkedIn discussion:

Q: My boss wants me to buy a list of emails we can use for marketing. We’ve never done this and I’m looking for advice on picking the right provider. Thanks for your help.

A1: You can buy any list you need from my company Lists-R-Us. We specialize in providing 100% opt in lists for every conceivable industry – and a few you can’t conceive of. Call me at 555-1212.

A2: Before you pick a provider you’ll want to ask several questions including how they compile their lists, what information they gather about the individual and the company, can they segment based on SIC codes, and what are the counts within the SIC’s you are targeting. Also ask to see a sample cut of the data and what accommodations they make for non-deliverable addresses. If you want more I’ve included the links to a couple of credible resources below. Hope this helps.

I will grant that the example I provided is fictional, but it is most certainly not extreme. Go through the discussions and you’ll find any number of questions and answers that are commercials. But LinkedIn is by no means the only site that suffers from sledgehammer marketing. Blogs – posts and comments – are not immune, nor are Twitter and facebook for that matter.

Provide help with information the individual can use to solve their issue. It is a way of promoting yourself, without selling yourself. Over time, as your credibility grows, you will find a growing number of people who follow you, listen to you, and offer your name to others a resource that can be trusted.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A social media strikeout

In earlier posts I ranted against theabuse of LinkedIn by people pushing products and services and the proliferation of top 10 lists on blogs. So today I’m looking through some LinkedIn discussions and came across this beauty:

Top 10 Reasons for going with (product name removed) Content Management System

As you sift through the marketing hyperbole trying to decide which CMS suits your needs best, the main question still exists; “Why should I purchase one CMS over another?” This Insight will give you ten core reasons on what makes (product name removed) CMS different than the other vendor’s products.

An Insight into what makes (product name removed) CMS stand out… Here is the link – (not gonna give you the link ‘cause I don’t want to give them any publicity)

I haven’t even clicked on the link and this abomination already had two strikes against it. Being the curious sort, I moused over and clicked on the tiny url. And what did I find but three tiny fields: First Name, Last Name and Email.

Strike three! You’re out!

August 19, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , | Leave a comment

Nice bones, now here’s the meat

Wednesday morning was a great morning at the St. Paul Pool & Yacht club.

A small group convened to hear Provident Partners’ Albert Maruggi and me speak on the ways of integrating social media tactics to one’s traditional marcomm efforts. Keeping the group small allowed us to drill down into the attendees specific issues and objectives and they walked away, not with a laundry list of what tools are available, but with concrete ideas of how to develop a social media strategy that will help them achieve those objectives.

Our goal was to give people a different type of seminar. We wanted them to forget about the shiny new objects – all the tools and toys that are used and developed everyday – and ask themselves a few questions:

  1. What are our marcomm objectives.
  2. How can we leverage social media to help us me.et those objectives.
  3. How do we determine which tool is appropriate for the given job.

Content, credible content, being king, we also asked them to look inside their company and consider resources – the human kind – they could tap to play the role of subject matter expert and how they could best be leveraged; audio, video and/or text.

We packed a lot of information into a two hour semianr, and in the end everyone left with a solid foundation on which to begin building the strategies they came in search of. I’m going to enjoy watching as the companies represented build out their plans and begin executing on them.

It was a very satisfying and gratifying to help fellow professionals who are in the same position I was just a few short years ago.

August 14, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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