Archive for May, 2011

Trust Me: Why Trust is Crucial for Business Success, and How to Build It

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

According to a recent presentation from HubSpot, “selling is 10X easier once you have established trust.” Other than having something of value to offer, trust is the most essential element for business success. It removes psychological barriers and objections to buying, and makes people want to do business with you because they are comfortable.

I was talking to a client not long ago about some travel she has coming up that will take her away from the office for several weeks. Half-jokingly, I told her not to worry, I can build her business without her. She laughed, then said, “You know what’s amazing? Even though we’ve only been working together for a few months, I completely trust you to do it.”

That is amazing, and it is treasured. Particularly for consultants like me who work mostly out of sight of our clients,  but really for any business, trust is absolutely essential to maintaining long-term client relationships and generating referral business.Trust is Like a Ming Vase

Trust is precious yet delicate, like a work of fine art, such as a Ming vase:

  • • It’s extremely valuable.
  • • It’s difficult to obtain.
  • • It’s fragile and easily broken.
  • • Once broken, it’s extraordinarily difficult to repair.

But trust is unlike that vase in one critical aspect. Once you’ve obtained a Ming vase (or any other physical thing of value), assuming you take reasonable steps to safeguard it, it’s yours. Trust, on the other hand, can never be taken for granted and must be constantly and vigilantly re-earned. It cannot be, like civilization in the words of Kipling, something “laboriously achieved” but only “precariously defended.”

Most high-value purchases now begin online. Your first opportunity to build trust comes from what you say online and what others say about you. That’s why blogging is important (as a way to educate, inform and even entertain, without blatant selling) as is social media (for answering questions and building online relationships that lead to positive third-party coverage and comments).

But the process of building trust is even more fundamental than that. Blogs and social networks are just tools. They can be used productively, or clumsily. What matters most is your approach to business.

Before the Sale

  • • Explain (without hype or a sales pitch) what you do, so people understand if you are offering what they are looking for.
  • • Demonstrate knowledge (through blogging, guest posts,  comments, interaction on social networks, presentations, etc.).
  • • Differentiate yourself, with disparaging your competition. Walmart (“Always the Low Price”) and Lexus (“The Pursuit of Perfection”) are effective examples in the consumer world. The agency I work with, KC Associates, is a full service marketing and PR agency (of which there are zillions) but focused exclusively on b2b technology clients; the focus sets the agency apart.
  • • Be transparent. Buyers can smell BS from a great distance. Better to give an answer that is less than ideal but honest than one that is just what you think the prospect wants to hear but is an exaggeration (or worse).

After the Sale

  • • Do what you say you are going to do.
  • • Be as responsive as possible.
  • • Set realistic expectations (then work hard to exceed them).
  • • Be forthright. Your customers don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do you expect you to be straight with them. If something doesn’t work as well as planned, tell your customer, as precisely as possible, why. Then make recommendations for what to do differently next time.

Particularly with the explosion of social media and online content, buyers are more informed than ever before. The shady, fly-by-night operators will be exposed more quickly—while vendors who deliver value and engender trust will thrive.

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“Oursourcing” – Typo or New Concept?

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

I was writing some web copy for a client the other day when I accidentally typed “oursourcing” instead of “outsourcing.” Now,  being that I don’t exactly type with the fluid grace of a classical pianist, I make typos all the time. But this one caught my eye. It seemed like it should be a word.

School Typo - IronicI envision it meaning something beyond doing it yourself, but less formal than outsourcing and less chaotic than crowd-sourcing. Along the lines of:

oursourcing (n): collaboration between a small group of individuals inside and outside of an organization to perform a specific task for mutual benefit.

The keys are that the individuals involved come from more than one organization, and that there is mutual benefit in the project. The recent collaboration between me and Cheryl Burgess on the Nifty 50 Top Women on Twitter and Top Men on Twitter posts would be a small example of oursourcing.  The Social Media Examiner blog (a collaboration between Mike Stelzner, Mari Smith, Chris Garrett, Denise Wakeman, Cindy King, Casey Hibbard and Jason Falls) is a larger example. The steering committee behind the B2B Twitterer of the Year Awards would be a larger example still.

It could be the way a harried marketing manager with no time to produce a corporate blog could get this done, spreading the work between individuals from other departments and outside the organization. It could, alternatively, be used to create an un-corporate blog; an industry blog co-written by individuals from different but non-competitive firms in the same industry speaking to the same audience.

Or it may be just a typo. What do you think—is there any need for this “word?” Is it a concept that has legs, or only a result of fat fingers?

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What Does B2B Social Media Success Look Like?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Until recently, most social media case studies have focused on consumer brands. It’s not that B2B companies aren’t finding success in social media marketing, but more (in my experience at least) that they are less willing to publicly reveal their strategies for competitive reasons. Recently, that’s begun to change a bit as blogs like TopRank and Marketo have highlighted b2b social media success stories.

B2B Social Media SuccessDigging into the results publicized in these case studies, what does B2B success look like? How are B2B companies evaluating the results of social media marketing efforts? Based on analysis of a number of published B2B social media case studies (in addition to my own client experience), here are some of the criteria used to judge success.

Objectives

Common objectives for B2B social media marketing efforts include:

  • • Increased brand awareness (e.g., measured by increases in direct web traffic and branded search visits)
  • • Increased overall website traffic (particularly from branded search or visits referred directly from social media and social networking sites)
  • • Enhanced brand image and credibility as an industry thought leader or category expert
  • • Expanded social media following (e.g., number of blog subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook fans)
  • • Increased engagement (number, depth and quality of interactions with customers and prospects)
  • • Leads and new business

Those last two are of the course the ultimate purpose of any marketing activity, though they can be challenging to measure in social media for a couple of reasons. First, social media activities more often influence a sale (by helping with awareness and branding objectives, for example) than lead directly to one in the B2B world. Second, it’s crucial to consider that a B2B firm’s social network isn’t made up only of customers and prospects, but includes industry journalists, partners and often analysts as well. While these other connections will never buy from you directly, they can certainly influence the marketing and direct business your way.

Tactics (Primary)

  • • Blogging (a corporate blog is the center of most successful B2B social media programs)
  • • LinkedIn (much more important in the B2B world than in B2C, particularly in light of recent marketing enhancements to the platform)
  • • Twitter (used by more than 40% of B2B marketers, and that figure continues to grow)

Tactics (Secondary)

  • • Video / YouTube
  • • Facebook (more popular among B2C marketers than in B2B firms, although a few success stories have popped up)
  • • CRM integration (this will a key to success for B2B social media efforts, though few firms have reached this level of sophistication to date)

Results

Common success metrics reported from B2B social media efforts include increases in:

  • • Website traffic
  • • Blog visits and subscribers
  • • Twitter followers
  • • Organic search traffic
  • • Views of company videos
  • • White paper downloads
  • • Landing page conversion rates
  • • External blog posts written about the company
  • • Leads
  • • New customers

Again, the last two items are the most important but often the most elusive. While social media typically doesn’t produce a high volume of leads, website visitors referred from social networks frequently convert at a higher rate than those from other traffic sources, and the leads are frequently highly qualified. As understanding of what to realistically expect from B2B social media marketing programs—and how to measure those results—increases, B2B social media use will continue to expand. Published success stories may well remain rare, at least for now, however, as companies remain reluctant to tip off competitors about what’s working.

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Myth Busting on Twitter

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Your Twitter followers really want you to sell to them. You should only tweet your own content. To keep your costs down, it’s best to just automatically tweet all of your press releases and sales messages.

Really? Of course not! But these are only some of the more obviously fallacious beliefs still unfortunately extant in the Twittersphere. Check out more of these erroneous notions (and countervailing truths) in 7 Twitter Myths Busted, my guest post on Arik Hanson’s Communications Conversations blog.

Arik is a Minneapolis-based PR pro who works with big consumer brands, co-founder (along with #Nifty50 recognee Missy Berggren) of the Minnesota Blogger Conference, PRSA member, regular contributor to Mark Ragan‘s PR Daily, and general social media rock star.

So check out the 7 Twitter Myths Busted post, because you never get a second chance to beat a dead horse with a mixed metaphor.

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B2B Marketing Stats from HubSpot’s Marketing Data Box

Monday, May 16th, 2011

HubSpot last week released the Marketing Data Box, a 3.4 megabyte, 65-slide data dump of marketing facts and statistics from a variety of sources. While there is some excellent information here, the wide range of topics covered (B2B, B2C, consumer demographics, TV, online, mobile, print…) ensures that while almost every marketer will find some information of value in the report, each reader will also have to sift through a bunch of figures and charts they don’t give a flying rat’s tail about in order to find those nuggets.

Here are some of the most interesting observations for B2B marketers:

Slide 10: B2B magazines continue to struggle. While print in general has taken a beating over the past decade, B2B publications have been particularly hard hit, leading to speculation about the future of B2B trade magazines (content marketing? Content aggregation?). Trade mags are struggling to maintain their value as they compete with industry analysts putting more content online, independent bloggers, and of course B2B marketers themselves publishing more of their own original content. The good news for B2B marketers is that these publications still reach a highly qualified audience, advertising prices have dropped (in some cases dramatically) and deals can be made.

Slide 11: Americans are increasingly going online for news. Though hardly a shocking revelation, this report nicely quantifies the shift. While most Americans still say they get their news primarily from television, that figure has declined to 66% from its peak of 82% in 2002. Over the same time period, radio has declined modestly, newspaper readership has plunged, and the Internet news audience has soared from 14% to 41%.

Slide 17: Websites and email dominate marketers’ time. The corporate website is the focus of marketing efforts (as Vanessa Fox suggests) according to 88% of marketers overall, but 93% of B2B marketers (see chart below). Email is the #2 priority. Social media is now in third place (for 61% of B2B marketers), having pulled ahead of B2B publications, paid search and banner ads.

Web and Email Lead Daily B2B Marketing Efforts

 

Slide 21: Online costs per lead are lower. Not surprisingly, offline tactics (trade shows in particular) are viewed as costly by B2B marketers on a cost-per-lead basis, while online tactics are seen as more cost-effective. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that a mix of tactics remains the best approach. Direct mail, for example, can be highly effective if done properly. The higher cost per lead may very be justified by higher quality (close rate).

Online Marketing Tactics Provide Lower Cost per Lead

 

Slide 25: Google use is still higher than Facebook. As the report notes, “Overall, 40% more U.S. adults say they use Google in a typical week (60%) than have a Facebook page (43%).” Heavier use of Google than Facebook is even more pronounced among men (still the majority of B2B buyers) than women.

Google Remains More Heavily Used Than Facebook

 

Slide 35: Nearly one-third of U.S. consumers own smart phones. As of December 2010, almost a third (31%) of U.S. cell phone users owned a smart phone. Marketers can no longer put off thinking about how mobile fits into their marketing mix. For example, marketers need to understand how QR codes work and different ways QR codes can be used in marketing. While execution is more urgent for consumer marketers, B2B marketers need to at least start thinking strategically about topics like apps, QR codes, and how their content appears on smart phones.

Slide 37: The most popular use of mobile Internet time? Email. Per this report, “Email represents a leading 38.5% of time spent (by mobile users online). No other activity comes close, with social networking coming in a distant second (10.7%).” News and current events account for roughly 7% of mobile online time, followed by search at 6%.

You can get all of the details by downloading the free HubSpot Marketing Data Box for yourself.

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