Archive for February, 2013

Marketing Automation Systems are on the Rise

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Guest post by Gene Morris.

Two common business terms combined describe the an increasingly popular outreach tool: marketing automation. According to marketing research firm Raab Associates, the marketing automation system industry will reach $750 million in 2013, growing 50 percent from 2012. Developing a personal rapport with businesses has been an enduring characteristic of successful B2B marketing, so it seem counterintuitive to rely on automated emails and social media platforms. But marketing automation systems aren’t meant to replace personal engagement. Rather, they provide a way to stay regularly connected to potential clients.

Marketing Automation Systems Automate Lead-Nurturing EmailsOnce an unproven strategy, marketing automation has emerged as a vital B2B tactic. As you scale your brand outreach, marketing automation systems can keep you relevant, in touch and on time.

What is Marketing Automation?

Nurturing a lead into a customer is a gradual process. A series of emails may pique a client’s interest, followed by phone calls to get more in depth and a meeting to seal a deal. In the past, if your business wanted to market to a wide audience, it took an armada of dedicated outreach specialists. Marketing automation software handles some of the menial tasks that take up marketers’ time. Professionals can pass along first-contact emails to marketing automation systems, enabling professionals to focus on prospects that have expressed interest. Automation systems can also remind professionals when it’s time to check in with a client, follow up with a prospect or search for new leads.

Marketing automation systems can benefit both B2B companies large and small, whether you’re looking for cash flow at American Express or growing a customer base from scratch.

How Does it Work?

The systems may be automated, but the set-up is under your control. To launch an automated email campaign, marketers draft templates explaining the benefits of a potential partnership. The system can either send out emails automatically or pass through an approval system to ensure relevance. A web display marketing campaign used to require hours of research to find relevant sites at appropriate rates. Now, marketing automation systems can search for web sites in your industry at your price. Systems like Marketo can unify marketing and sales efforts. Marketo can connect with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics systems, further simplifying the outreach process.

Why Should I Use It?

Marketing automation systems are a significant step up in sophistication from email service providers (ESPs). We might look back some day and think how trite these systems were compared to (blank), but in the current marketing space, marketing automation is proving its worth. The Internet has opened up a new sea of advertising space, and savvy companies are using technology to get on top of technology. It’s the only logical solution. The longer you wait to adopt technology-driven marketing strategies, the lower you’ll be on the digital marketing totem poll. These systems will help you win business.

About the author: While finishing his degree in finance, Gene Morris enjoys spending his free time reading and writing about business and tools for financial management.

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Websites and Search Engines are Far from Dead

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Websites are dead. Search engines are going away. Soon no one will care about the traditional commercial site focused on a company and its products.

At least, those are the contentions of John McTigue, EVP of marketing agency Kuno Creative, in his recent blog post Why Websites and Search Are So Yesterday.

Websites, search engines are far from dead

Image credit: Haley Marketing Group

Now, John and I have been following each other on Twitter for quite some time, and I have tremendous respect for him. But this particular post is nonsense. Poppycock. Hogwash. Baloney. Rubbish. Hooey.

John argues that rather than visiting websites, people will increasing turn to their “favorite feed app on the iPad and start flipping through that inexhaustible river of fresh content that keeps coming at you every day, 24/7. Professor Gelernter (David Gelernter, in a Wired magazine article) calls that a ‘time-based wordstream,’ because it doesn’t represent a single place or entity, rather a collection of content from everywhere that comes at you as soon as it’s published.”

Professor Gelernter and John certainly have a point in that streaming information (a Twitter feed being a prime example) is an increasingly popular way to consume web content (and time). Such information streams are great for discovery (finding information you didn’t even know you were looking for) as well as entertainment.

But, for any type of serious research, websites will remain invaluable for a long time to come.

Imagine, for example, that you’re tasked with finding the best social media monitoring tool for your company. Streaming information may very well have a place in your quest, but your decision process will almost certainly include search engines, blogs, industry news sites, industry analyst websites, blogs, and ultimately—once you are down to your short list (if not before)—vendor websites. They remain the most practical way for buyers to find a wide variety of information about the product (and/or service) and the company in one place; the kind of information it’s not practical for a stream to provide.

(John notes that though he has done all he “can to get found on the search engines—SEO, PPC, blogging and social media,”  his website generates a trickle of leads for digital marketing services. This is admittedly a tough market in which to stand out, but—we have b2b software clients who routinely generate hundreds of web leads each month. I suspect John does too. Results clearly vary by market segment.)

Streaming information also ignores historical content. While a tremendous volume of new information of new content will be created in the next 24 hours, the very best source for a topic you are researching may have been written 10 months ago—or ten years ago. It’s sitting somewhere on a website, and you’re not going to find it without a search engine.

On the other hand, near the end of his post, John does offer astute advice: “If you want to sell your products and services online, you had better start rethinking the way you market them. It’s not about posting a sign anymore. It’s about engaging in a conversation, entering into and swimming in a stream.” Being part of the information stream is vital. It requires producing content in various formats (video, blog posts, white papers, presentations, infographics, etc.); being active in social media; and working with industry journalists, among other tactics.

All of these activities expand an organization’s overall web presence beyond just its own website. But that website will remain, for a long time to come, an essential element of web presence. When discussing “time-based wordstreams,” websites and search engines, the best marketing strategy is not either/or, but “all of the above.”

What do you think?

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20 More of the Best Twitter Tips, Tactics and Tools of 2012

Monday, February 11th, 2013

As the fourth-largest social network, and the fastest growing in 2012, Twitter has emerged as a serious platform for business professionals to share breaking news, promote thought-leadership content, and engage with customers, prospects, peers and industry influencers.

Best Twitter Guides of 2012As noted here in a preliminary summary of the best Twitter articles and posts of 2012 last fall, “Twitterers collectively post a billion tweets every three days. 62% of the Fortune 500 companies have at least one Twitter account, and the average Fortune 100 firm maintains 10 separate Twitter handles to support different product lines, divisions, functional areas and geographic regions.”

How can you grow and maintain an active, relevant Twitter following? Spend your time more productively there? Most effectively use Twitter advertising? Get retweeted more often? And among the expanding universe of third-party Twitter tools out there, which are most worth checking out?

Find the answers to those questions and many others here in 20 of the best Twitter guides, tools and reviews of 2012.

Twitter Tips and Guides

9 tips for managing Twitter in just 20 minutes a day by Nashville Business Journal

Laura ClickWriting that “One of the chief complaints I hear from business owners about Twitter is that they don’t have time for it,” Laura Click offers recommendations for more efficient Twitter account management, such as setting up searches to track specific brands or topics, using tools like Twellow and Listorious to find new potential followers, and using automation tools to pre-schedule selected tweets (just be careful not to over-do social media automation).

Twitter Rolls Out Cover Photos: How to Add Yours Today by HubSpot

Corey EridonCorey Eridon walks readers through the process of setting up the “new” Twitter profile page (okay, it’s been a few months now but a lot of Twitterers still haven’t done it) to add a larger header image, then highlights some creative examples from various media outlets, brands and organizations.

50+ Creative Twitter Headers for Your Inspiration by Social @ Blogging Tracker

China YaWriting that “Twitter has officially joined the ‘visual’ club by allowing users to create a personalized Twitter header to boost their brand visibility,” Wong Ching Ya shares more than 50 examples of creative Twitter headers for creating brand awareness, expressing one’s interests and personality, showcasing a portfolio, publicizing an event and other purposes.

15 Reasons Why You’ve Just Been Unfollowed On Twitter [INFOGRAPHIC] by All Twitter

Shea BennettShea Bennett reveals the most common reasons that Twitterers unfollow others on the social network, including “too much self-promotion (48 percent), posting spam (47 percent), being uninteresting (43 percent) and too much repetition (29 percent),” as well as the top reason for unfollowing.

How the New Twitter Search Will Change the Way Brands Tweet by Ignite Social Media

Win PrattWin Pratt offers details on how Twitter’s enhanced search functionality works (“Twitter will now also take your search query and give you options for similar search terms. For instance, if I search for ‘Social Media Strategy,’ it might suggest that another good search option is ‘Social Media Agency.’ This can be very handy when trying to discover new content or follow a trending topic”) and how brands are likely to respond to this through targeted use of hashtags and keywords.

Two new features for self-service advertisers by Twitter Advertising Blog

Andrew ChangAndrew Chang outlines how new features in Twitter help advertisers track audience growth over time ( a feature which should arguably be available to all Twitter users but is reserved for advertisers currently) and select specific tweets for promotion.

6 Tips to Get Retweeted More Often by Search Engine Journal

Ann SmartyAstutely noting that “there is a little of that grinning six-year-old in us all” when we get retweeted, frequent best-of honoree Ann Smarty offers half a dozen tips for making it happen more often, from learning the right times for tweeting to mentioning your more influential Twitter followers.

8 Twitter chats you should check out today! by Creative Ramblings

Cendrine MarrouatWant to showcase your expertise and grow your following on Twitter? Cendrine Marrouat advises participating in Twitter chat, and reviews eight popular social media-related chats hosted by Twitter rock stars like @Atomic_Reach, @MackCollier and @prsarahevans. For those (like me) who have trouble making it to scheduled chats and are interested in the “human side of business,” another one to check out is #TChat, an ongoing virtual chat hosted by @TalentCulture.

Twitter Cards: How Savvy Marketers Get More Out Of Twitter by Marketing Land

For those who really want to get their geek on, John Lincoln provides an explanation of what Twitter cards are (they “make it possible for you to attach media experiences to Tweets that link to your content. Simply add a few lines of HTML to your webpages, and users who Tweet links to your content will have a ‘card’ added to the Tweet that’s visible to all of their followers”), how to implement them, and a few “common” examples.

Optimizing Twitter for Lead Generation by Marketo B2B Marketing and Sales Blog

Jason MillerJason Miller details three specific strategies for generating leads on Twitter, including messaging: “do not use Twitter to only promote your company…if you never contribute to the conversations taking place, if you never offer something personal or fun or funny, you are missing the prime opportunity unique to Twitter…as with anything, a little self promotion is good for business but if your entire tweet history is only about you and your company, you’ve got it wrong.”

Twitter to be ‘hero’ social media channel for media brands in 2013 by The Wall Blog

James MathesonJames Matheson outlines 13 social and online trends for 2013, beginning the list with “Twitter is only going to get bigger…The head of social at the FT (Financial Times) described it as the ‘hero’ social media channel for next year. In a world where media brands are competing for attention, Twitter is the strongest channel for media brands to focus on for people’s discovery of news and information.”

Twitter Tools

6 Awesome Twitter Tools for Brands by DreamGrow Social Media

Jeff GrossJeff Gross reviews half a dozen of the “elite of Twitter tools,” from Commun.it (which “makes it really easy to see who you are interacting with, who is mentioning your brand and to determine the potential leaders and influencers: the tool suggests you which people you should follow, as well as the inactive members to unfollow”) to Twylah (a service that helps you create awesome looking websites and widgets out of your tweets”).

21 Amazing Twitter Tools for Brand Visibility and Time Management by Social @ Blogging Tracker

Wong Ching Ya (again) provides illustrated reviews of nearly two dozen “wonderful time-saver tools that (help) regularly in making full use of tweets shared and received,” including TwitFlink for managing your Twitter stream, Embedly (link destination previews) and Hashtracking (Twitter chat capture and stats).

10 Tools for Managing Twitter Engagement by Practical eCommerce

Paul ChaneyPaul Chaney serves up reviews of 10 tools designed to “to keep up with followers, steer clear of spam, or know if your Twitter engagement is paying off in ways that are meaningful to your business,” such as TweetReach, Twellow, SocialBro and Twitalyzer, which “provides a range of metrics including influence rank (shown as a percentage), social relationships with other Twitter users, and topics and communities where the Twitter user is most actively engaged.”

Free Tools to Archive Twitter Search results by DoFollow.Net

A primer on using Google Reader, Google Docs or HootSuite to back up your Twitter archives.

7 Tools For Monitoring The Effectiveness Of Your Tweets by SocialMouths

Ian ClearyNoting that “By monitoring what happens to your important tweets you can begin to understand what works and what doesn’t work and make improvements,” Ian Cleary reviews seven tools that “are useful for monitoring the effectiveness of your tweets,” including Tweetreach, Monitter, and Tweeteffect, which “displays your recent tweets and shows if you got new followers or lost followers around the time of the tweet.”

Hashtag Discovery Tools by LunaMetrics

Dan WilkersonDan Wilkerson spotlights tools “that can help your brand discover hashtags and conversations that fit your message and values,” including Hashonomy.com (“This site also allows you to search for terms and see popular links shared on twitter related to your search along with their related hashtags underneath. This can be useful both for searching for tags for your own content and for competitive analysis”) and Tweetreach.

Getting Started With HootSuite by Social Media Sun

Sandy StachowiakSandy Stachowiak serves up a detailed, illustrated review that explains “the features that made me a HootSuite fan,” with step-by-step guidance on setup; navigation; tweets and posts; and details about features like scheduling, approvals and RSS feeds; as well as acknowledgement of the tool’s limitations and issues.

Social Recruiting – The Ultimate Twitter Strategy Tool by Social-Hire

Tony RestellTony Restell presents a detailed review of TweetLevel, which he calls “the ultimate Twitter strategy tool” for its ability to report on user influence within a specific context (i.e., celebrities like Oprah don’t just automatically get the highest scores), as well as to offer “insights into the type of Twitter user they are so that you can focus your attentions where they will be most beneficial.”

Your Twitter Archive by Twitter Blog

Mollie VandorMollie Vandor explains in this concise but helpful post how to “download your Twitter archive, so you’ll get all your Tweets (including Retweets) going back to the beginning. Once you have your Twitter archive, you can view your Tweets by month, or search your archive to find Tweets with certain words, phrases, hashtags or @usernames. You can even engage with your old Tweets just as you would with current ones.”

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Ensure Your Business Looks Good Online

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Guest post by Carrie Bauer.

Before the Internet, making a good first impression often meant face-to-face interactions at business meetings, conferences and lunches. With so much commerce now taking place online, impressions are a given in cyberspace. Successful online business people must be proactive in cultivating business on their own by creating a positive public image, being authentic and likeable.

ORM

Online Reputation ManagementThis is where ORM, or online reputation management, comes in. ORM is the practice of making people and businesses look their best online, where there are only virtual handshakes. People need to control their search results because they often contain outdated, inaccurate or misleading information. To keep this from happening, companies like Reputation.com, provide ORM as well as Internet privacy protection to clients. Reputation companies also works to protect a person’s privation information from being made public.

BusinessNewsDaily.com quoted Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com, as saying the number one reason companies use reputation services is for companies to proactively manage it’s reputation. He continues, “It’s a lot cheaper to avoid a problem before you have it. If you’re not proactively managing, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to neutral or unhelpful information.”

Get Real

Inc.com suggests not using pseudonyms or generic addresses and instead providing real telephone numbers and e-mail addresses to be authentic. Adding a photo or introduction video adds to the business’s believability. A privacy policy can’t hurt either. For more credibility, testimonials can be placed online so customers can help with the business’s marketing. When criticism does arise, though, business people should provide comment, context or correction, Inc.com advises.

When people do try to reach businesses online, there should be a quick response. Not responding is the same as not answering a telephone call. People want to be valued if they are going to give you there business.

Another way to build authenticity is to provide interesting details about a business, such as how delivery and customer service are handled. Video, audio, blog posts and pull-quotes can help achieve this.

Be Likeable Via Social Media

Having a good business at the start should eliminate most negative publicity, but sometimes bad Internet feedback results from truly poor service or customer experiences. Or people will post a malicious review because of a misperceived slight. ORM is all about search engine optimization. ORM companies can decrease visibility by pushing negative results lower on a search-engine results page.

And since bad news travels fast on the Internet, eliminating as much of it as possible is essential, whether the target is an individual or a business.

Make Social Platforms Unanimous

Again, thinking ahead is essential for having a positive online appearance. Social media can be used effectively, Inc.com adds, by having company employees keep their LinkedIn profiles up-to-date. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are other ways to create a virtual presence and cultivate a following. Having those social media accounts updated regularly also helps individuals while seeking a job.

Time mentions a 2010 study by Microsoft and Cross-Tab, a market-research agency, which found 78 percent of surveyed U.S. companies examined the search-engine results of prospective hires. Also, the study discovered 86 percent of employers reported a positive online reputation factors into their hiring decisions.

About the author: A legal and financial consultant for artists and celebrities, Carrie Bauer is a hardworking woman who believes that work is pleasure.

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Book Review: Marketing in the Round

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Today’s explosion of media channels has made it simultaneously more challenging yet more vital for companies to present unified messaging and branding to their markets. Businesses need to break down the silos both within their marketing and public relations (PR) teams but also more broadly between other departments, including product development and customer support.

Marketing in the Round BookBecoming a social business means change, which is never easy. But in Marketing in the Round: How to Develop an Integrated Marketing Campaign in the Digital Era (Que Biz-Tech), authors Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston provide a roadmap to developing strategy, planning tactics, determining and executing the best approach, and finally measuring and refining a unified marketing effort.

Much more than just another tactical marketing field guide, Marketing in the Round aims to provide comprehensive strategy guidance. As noted in the introduction,

“Every contemporary marketing book is dedicated to the topic of social media, whether it be Facebook, return on investment, content, or customer relations. This proliferation of literature acknowledges the changes social media brings to marketing. These books fail to realize the full scope of the marketer’s challenge, not with social media, but in becoming a modern organization that works across media and tactics to achieve its goals.”

That description (as much else in the book) sounds a lot like web presence optimization (WPO), the framework for which has been covered here previously. But whether one speaks about WPO or marketing in the round, the fundamental ideas are the same: online, everything is connected. Marketing, PR and communication efforts within the enterprise need to be connected as well.

Throughout, the authors use the term “marketing round” as useful shorthand to describe the group of professionals from marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), PR, social media, content development, design and online advertising whose efforts need to coordinated in order to optimize online results.

The book, valuable to anyone who’s in (or aspires to be in) a marketing or PR leadership role, is divided into three main sections:

  1. Understand the Marketing Round and Develop Your Strategy
  2. Four Marketing Round Approaches
  3. Measurement, Refinement, and Improvement

The authors share a series of essential insights throughout section one, including:

  • • “Rarely is one media moment, positive or negative, strong enough to form a full impression. Before the Web…a person needed to see a message seven times before a purchase decision is made. Today a person needs to see a message upwards to 20 times. Some of those messages can, and should, be delivered by trusted sources, including friends and family, and online friends.”
  • Of course, for many b2b purchases, or infrequent and high-value consumer purchases, friends and family may not be much help. That’s where other types of trusted sources, from journalists and analysts to peers, can be crucial online information sources. Regardless, a web presence strategy is vital to achieving those 20 message exposures necessary for a purchase decision.
  • • “Imagine your organizational structure as a wheel instead of a typical hierarchy. Think of marketing as the hub. The spokes are made up of public relations, advertising, Web, email, social media, corporate communication, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, content, and direct mail. They circle simultaneously.”
  • This reflects the observation, noted elsewhere and in other contexts (such as in service and product innovation), that old-school command-and-control management structures don’t work any longer. Information no longer flows from the top down, but rather in all directions between multiple team members and stakeholders. The job of management is no longer to run things as much as to coordinate efforts and remove roadblocks to collaboration.
  • • “Integration is not the same message on every platform, but you’re using all communications disciplines appropriately, with the correct massages for each.” True, though given the importance of search, it’s usually advisable to use common keywords.
  • • “Communicate every week on how it’s going and what’s working, what’s not working, what changes you’d like to make. Keep the vision top-of-mind, and make sure it’s being communicated at every meeting, even if it’s in a small way.” This is where having a unified metrics dashboard can help coordinate efforts across marketing, PR, social media, search and online advertising specialists.
  • • “(Metrics should also) include brand awareness, Web site traffic, and thought leadership, but be sure that all of those goals are combined with real, hard numbers, such as leads, conversions, sales, and profit—not just soft feel-good measurements, such as impressions, clicks, sentiment, likes, follows, fan, or plusses. In the end, your marketing round’s success will be determined by its ability to successfully impact business, not garnet attention.”
  • Well…yes, but don’t ignore those other measures. While its true that maximizing online visibility isn’t the ultimate business goal (which is to earn a profit) in and of itself, that visibility is the vital first step. Without pursuing those “impressions, clicks, sentiment” and other soft measures, it’s unlikely that the “hard” goals of the business will be fully realized.
  • • “In order to break down the silos, develop trust, and gain immediate buy-in, the marketing round should work on this task together. It’s not for you to develop in your silo and then impose upon the first meeting. It may take more than a few meetings to get it right, but it will be worth the time and energy spent later. Soon, you’ll be on your way to marketing in the round.”
  • This is why a common, unified set of metrics that tracks all inbound online channels (press, social, industry, paid, and organic search) and content types (owned, earned and paid) is vital; it’s what gets everyone on the same page and keeps them moving forward in a coordinated manner.

There’s no question the authors know their stuff. Pages 25-39 of the book provide an outstanding examination of the pros and cons of nearly all possible media tactics, from TV, radio and print though direct mail, outdoor advertising, event sponsorships, and all manner of online channels. This reference is almost worth the cost of the book itself.

The second section of the book is built upon marketing application of the military strategies detailed in the classic text The Book of Five Rings by 17th-century Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi. It outlines the elements, tactics, potential benefits and risks of each of four market approaches: top-down, groundswell, direct and flanking. It also provides guidance on when to use each approach, based on the nature of the market and competition.

Among the most insightful passages in the middle section of the book is this on content marketing:

“As a team, take an hour or two and think about what content you can create that will be valuable to your stakeholders and also will be searchable. To generate topics, consider questions people ask during sales meetings, challenges your products or services have, pricing, and the ‘versus’ questions.

“The questions people ask during sales meetings are…the easiest to answer. Ask everyone to write down five questions they’re asked all the time. Even if they don’t go to sales meetings, everyone talks to customers…

“Creating content around challenges or issues is uncomfortable, but it’s that kind of content that people search for when they’re online. Do you want to confront the challenges head-on? Or would you rather your competitors handle that for you?”

The book’s final section addresses measurement and continual improvement. Chapter 10 in this section includes excellent examples of using calendars to sequence different tactics, for example the different types of PR and social media marketing activities utilized leading up to and then following up on a major trade show or industry event.

Although the book is excellent overall, one could raise a few minor quibbles with it:

The explanation of strength-weakness-opportunity-threat (SWOT) analysis in section one is presented a bit lightly; this is a critical exercise to get right, and getting it right requires a fairly significant research effort. The research can be outsourced, but not skipped.

In “Risks of the Direct Approach” in section two, the authors write of social media:

“The time investments—both manpower and long-term cultivation—are unattractive to businesses that need fast results. To succeed in social media, relationships need to be built within online communities. Often they have to spend months of community investment online to build enough relationship equity to start generating sales. And when the sales do come in, the value is negligible in comparison to the costs of the staff time and associated design costs.”

While technically accurate (perhaps, though with regard to that last sentence, mileage will certainly vary), the paragraph ignores the “asset value” of social media. Creating and sharing content, and building relationships, produces a long-term asset, the value of which compounds over time. Contrast that with an online advertisement, which has value only as long as it is active; as soon as the ad comes down, its value evaporates. Social media marketing is an asset; advertising is an expense.

“Search engine marketing (SEM) isn’t used very often, but it’s extremely effective.” Actually, SEM is used pretty often; in 2012, 64% of b2b companies and 73% of b2c brands used pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to drive leads.

From chapter 11: “You can’t skip to the end and start measuring before you know what you need to measure, and that’s why this topic is so far into this book. You need to build your marketing round, understand where the strengths of your team lie, really break down the silos (which is going to take some time), get your executives onboard, and discover which approaches and tactics you’re going to use before you can implement a measurement program.”

Uh…while specific metrics may be added, dropped or changed over time, it’s essential to begin efforts with a set of baseline measures to provide both a starting point and measure of progress as your strategy and tactics roll out. At a minimum, these should include presence metrics (e.g., number of backlinks to your website, keyword rank); competitive metrics (e.g., number of industry press mentions last month for your company and its top competitors); and performance metrics (e.g., web conversions by originating traffic source).

Still, these are at worst minor flaws. Overall, Marketing in the Round is a vital guide to coordinating not just marketing and PR but social efforts across the enterprise, to optimize business results in today’s Web-centric environment. It ranks among perhaps a handful of this year’s must-read business books.

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