Posts Tagged ‘book review’
With The B2B Social Media Book: Become a Marketing Superstar by Generating Leads with Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and More, authors Kipp Bodnar of HubSpot and Jeffrey L. Cohen of Salesforce Radian6 have literally written the book on social media best practices for B2B marketers.
Unlike the multitude of other social media marketing books, this one isn’t about how celebrities build a huge Twitter following or how big consumer brands use coupons and contests to attract massive “likes” on Facebook; it’s focused on the content-centric, information-hungry world of B2B marketing.
The book is divided into three main sections: The Fundamentals of Social Media Lead Generation, Social Media Lead Generation in Action, and Taking Social Media Lead Generation to the next level. As those headings suggest, this isn’t a book about “engagement,” conversations, shares, likes, followers or any other soft measures of social media success, but rather is focused on using social media to generate a high volume of qualified leads, the top priority of B2B marketers.
The opening chapter, “Why B2B is Better at Social Media than B2C,” helpfully lays the groundwork for the book with two key sections. First, five reasons B2B companies are a better fit for social media marketing than their B2 counterparts:
- • Clear understanding of customers (“B2B marketers go far past demographic data”)
- • Depth of subject matter expertise
- • Need for generating higher revenue with lower marketing budgets
- • Relationship-based sales
- • Already have practice doing it (“long before the social web, [B2B marketers] were publishing newsletters, quarterly magazines and [using] other marketing tactics that map to many key social media marketing methods”)
All of which should sound familiar to B2B marketers. Still, that said, the authors point out that there are situations where social media isn’t right for B2B firms:
- • Very small, concentrated market
- • Purchasing decision makers are behind strong firewalls (e.g., the military, power utilities)
- • No internal advocate for social media (i.e., lack of executive support)
- • Need to generate a high volume of short-term sales
- • Lack of resources to be successful (“you will always need more time and money than you expect for executing your social media tactics”)
The book also points out that social media marketing takes time to produce results, as it more of a long-term investment than an immediate expense with a quick payback. “With the hurdles into publishing and information sharing now so low, it is harder than ever before for a company to stand out. A great CMO needs to take risks an try new things, while also ensuring that the entire marketing team understands that risk and polarization are accepted and encouraged for the success of the business.” Fortunately, CMOs have a bit more luxury of time today than in the recent past, as the average tenure for a CMO has increased from just 23 months in 2006 to 43 months now.
After laying the foundation, the book steps through best practices for developing eBooks and webinars; business blogging; marketing through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook; making email social; B2B social mobile marketing; and integrating tradeshows with social efforts. Along the way, the authors share numerous bits of marketing wisdom and findings such as:
Content really is exploding. “According to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, more information is created on the Internet in 48 hours today than was created by all humankind from the beginning of time until 2003.”
You have to ask for leads. “The lack of conversion opportunities is the single biggest mistake that we see when speaking with B2B marketers working to leverage social media.”
“Emulate the best, not your competitors.” “The people who sign your multimillion dollar purchase orders read the New York Times, buy digital goods from iTunes, and order shoes from Zappos.” Yes, you need to do a better job with search and social than your direct competitors, but for inspiration, set your sites higher.
Social media marketing isn’t a campaign, it’s a reorientation. “The only way to get more time back for new marketing strategies, such as social media, is to stop strategies and tactics that don’t work. Stop now. This simple idea of stopping tactics that don’t work will instantly make you a better marketer.”
Search and social are inseparable. Given that the number of Google+ and Facebook shares that a piece of content gets impacts its search ranking, “SEO is the number one reason a B2B company should be using social media marketing” according to the authors. “Social media isn’t the first thing a business should focus on to improve search traffic, but it is certainly part of long-term SEO success.”
Content is core to social media marketing success… “Getting found on the web is a lot like winning the lottery. A person who has 100 tickets has a much better chance of winning the lottery than a person with only one ticket. In the world of social media, content is the equivalent of lottery tickets.”
…but it has to be high-quality content. “The biggest secret in B2B social media marketing is that those companies that create great content consistently over time are the ones that succeed.”
eBooks and white papers are complementary. Too often, these terms are used as synonyms, but there are important differences between the two formats which the book explains simply and concisely. “Traditionally, white papers have been more academic in tone and style. Although an eBook may strive to educate on the same topic, it would do so in a more entertaining tone, accompanied by images to help illustrate its points…Go for the eBook instead of the white paper when talking to nontechnical audiences.” The authors also include an excellent “10-Step Blueprint to eBook Awesomeness.”
Improve your webinar presentations with a live audience. Among the helpful tips in “Five Steps for an Engaging Webinar” is the suggestion to use a live audience: “Even if it is only one person, have someone else in the room with you while presenting a webinar. As speakers, we all use feedback from the audience to adjust our presentation. Since you can’t see the people listening to you on a webinar, having a co-worker sit in as an audience to provide feedback is invaluable.”
Keep videos short. “Perfection in B2B video is not when there is nothing left to add in, but instead when there is nothing left to remove…three minutes is an eternity on the Web.”
And there’s much more, including how often you should aim to publish new posts on a business blog, the best time to send b2b emails, and how to promote your company on Twitter without overdoing it.
The book has its minor flaws. Rank is not “dead” as the authors claim; true, with Google experimenting more with image results, additional ad placements, personalized search, and even displaying email results on SERPs, rank doesn’t have quite the unique value that it once did. But it still matters; ranking at #1 or #2 will virtually always result in more clicks than ranking at #8, or #18, or #28.
The analogy used on page 65 is of questionable appropriateness for a business book, but it does get the point across. (No, I won’t tell you what it is, you’ll need to buy the book to find out.)
And the most significant criticism I’ve heard of the book is that it covers too much old ground. But in defense of the authors, given the wide range of social media knowledge in the marketplace (from newbie to expert), it’s challenging to appropriately balance the risks of stating the obvious versus leaving out crucial detail. In truth, those who are relatively new to B2B social media will find the book an essential primer, while even seasoned experts are likely to discover useful tidbits.
Quibbles aside, Jeff Cohen and Kipp Bodnar have done an outstanding job of producing a B2B social media book with enough practical substance mixed with higher level theory to meet the needs of virtually anyone involved in this area, from entry-level practitioners as well as senior B2B marketing executives. The B2B Social Media Book deserves to be read, highlighted, dog-eared, Post-It noted and referred back to often by pretty much anyone whose role is impacted by B2B social media.
In the foreword to Revenue Engine: Why Revenue Performance Management is the Next Frontier of Competitive Advantage by Steve Woods and Alex Shootman, Eloqua CEO Joe Payne writes that “This is not a book about marketing. It’s not about sales. This is a book about the only thing that matters: revenue.”
Woods, CTO and co-founder of Eloqua, a provider of marketing automation software, and Shootman, the company’s Chief Revenue Officer, present a bold and comprehensive framework for realigning sales and marketing groups around a data-driven process for maximizing revenue. The authors rather audaciously position the concept of revenue performance management (RPM) as “the final frontier for transformative investment,” following in the footsteps of the development of the principles of scientific management, total quality management and supply chain management.
Whether or not readers are ultimately persuaded by the authors’ arguments, there’s no question that their diagnosis of the changing landscape for b2b and considered consumer purchases hits the mark. Buyers now control the process; through search and social channels, buyers now complete 70% of their decision process before making their first contact with a sales person.
Yet at the same time, marketing and sales professionals now have access to far more data about what types of information buyers are seeking, where they are looking, what questions they are asking and what sources catch their attention, than ever before. Woods’ first book, Digital Body Language, explained how to capture and interpret that data; this book carries the process through to its conclusion, showing how to tailor content and communications based on that data to maximize sales revenue.
After examining the changing landscape and explaining why the traditional separation of sales and marketing functions no longer makes sense, Woods and Shootman delve into the buyer behavior and psychology, and what can be learned about these elements through online data collection; a framework for optimizing media and content investments; and how clean, high-quality data provides the foundation for the revenue engine.
Part 2 of the book, sub-headed “Stop Crunching Numbers—Start Crushing Them” delves into the detail of data collection, cleansing, benchmarking, optimization and utilization. It’s a practical field guide to building and running a revenue engine, though this isn’t an exercise to be taken lightly. It is in many respects a fundamental reordering of marketing and sales functions based on observation, testing, measurement and continuous improvement.
Among the insights offered along the way:
Search and social must work together to connect buyers with content: “The resulting challenge for marketers is interesting. If searches become more precise, we must strive to create a wealth of interesting, relevant content at all phases of the buying process. Similarly, as search results are increasingly guided by social influence, we must also build influence and reputation among the appropriate audiences so that our results are found to be relevant.”
Understand your primary marketing challenge in order to fix “leaks” in the buying process. Most marketing challenges fall into one of three broad categories: the Flying Car (“your business can solve a problem that most of the world is unaware can be solved…so potential buyers blindly continue with their inefficient processes…and do not actively look for a solution:); the Wallflower (“you are not a vendor that comes to mind when prospective buyers look for alternatives”); or the Red-Headed Stepchild (“you are evaluated when potential buyers look for solutions, but buyers rarely select your solution”).
Your marketing emails had better provide value. “One or two uninteresting or non-valuable messages from a particular source will quickly lead the user to to reflexively delete or ignore any future content. This is known as an ‘emotional unsubscribe’—the recipient has effectively tuned out of the communication.”
Provide prospects with multiple methods for direct contact. “Active searches for information also occur when prospects call a vendor organization, submit an online request for information, or attend a tradeshow seeking answers to specific questions” (or engage directly in an online conversation with a vendor representative).
Understand who the key influencers are in your market and engage them. “The most reliable way—indeed, perhaps the only way to ensure your messages are fully discoverable in social media is to build strong relationships with the influencers in your space who are more likely to share those messages and ensure that your messages are sufficiently interesting, relevant and non-salesly.”
Use multiple methods to help prospects discover your solutions. “There are three primary avenues for buyers to become aware of your company and solutions: by actively seeking information (often via search), passively encountering information (often via ads), and being influenced to consider new information (often via social media).” PR can help with any of these methods as well.
And there’s much more.
Smaller companies with modest lead flows may find that this motor has more horsepower than they need, but marketing executives at mid-sized and larger b2b firms should give the Revenue Engine a test drive. They may just find it to be the key to a faster and more efficient vehicle for accelerating sales growth.
Many books fail to live up to what’s promised on their covers: exciting title, raving blurbs, boring content. But The Power of Strategic Commitment by Josh Leibner, Gershon Mader and Alan Weiss is just the opposite—it’s a vital and engaging guide to effective leadership, despite the yawn-inducing title.
Basically, most organizations operate at a sub-optimal level because employees are more concerned about protecting their status quo than with making bold changes that will propel the organization to higher levels of success. This isn’t because they are bad employees, but because they don’t have effective leadership. (As the writers note, “Only when leaders are willing to ‘own’ the current state of affairs, and admit to themselves that they have caused the current levels of apathy, resistance, or resignation, can they begin to address and improve the situation.”) The authors then outline explicitly why this is the case, and most importantly, what to about it.
Often, it isn’t so much what an organization does that determines success, but how it does it. As a case in point, the authors cite Apple’s retail stores: “Online purchasing has created a new legion of buyers who aren’t willing to wait for bored salespeople to attend to them inn retail outlets. Yet Apple, Inc. was able to create very successful retail outlets by assigning a salesperson to customers from their moment of entry, through all purchases, right up to departures. (As one woman shopper was heard to remark, ‘Life should be like this, with a man assigned to you for as long as you want him.’).” Ouch!
The authors contend that many books about execution, motivation, and leadership fail to provide the information needed to really move the needle because they deal with only single factors of organizational excellence. What’s needed is true employee engagement with the corporate mission; commitment, as distinct from compliance.
Noting, from their observations in years of business consulting, that “when strategy fails it is almost always due to poor implementation, not poor formulation,” the authors argue that consensus is not the same as commitment. “Consensus is not commitment. People agree to ‘live with’ something, but that doesn’t mean they would ‘die for’ it.” They point out that in highly effective organizations, there are often passionate disputes—but these organizations are not disrupted by internal politics.
Along the way, the authors enthusiastically skewer “flavor of the month” management fads:
“In the early 1990’s, process reengineering…was the most popular organizational business response to improve effectiveness…By the late 1990s, it had become apparent that you could improve processes until the cows came home, but if people and functions were not genuinely on board ad buying in, then productivity gains would be ephemeral at best…In a leading manufacturing organization, the CEO’s engineering background and belief in the ‘science’ of Six Sigma drove him to ensure his managers and employees were rigorously complying with the process rather than truly owning the need to improve quality and the customer experience. As a result, Six Sigma was pervasive but customer satisfaction levels continued to decline. No customer ever proclaimed ‘Wow, I love what they’re doing with Six Sigma,” or ‘Quality teams have really improved by loyalty!’”
The lesson they draw is: “Organizational commitment to a CEO’s strategy is…perhaps the key factor in the success of the strategy and its organizational objectives.” In a nutshell, they recommend dictatorship in setting objectives (the “what”) but democracy in determining the means to achieve them (the “how”), and conclude “Including and engaging employees so that they can fully commit to the strategy is the ultimate factor in whether strategy succeeds or not.”
Leibner, Mader and Weiss identify two key issues at the heart of strategic commitment: content and context. Content is “the plan.” To be effective, it must be valid (the correct path for the organization based on research and independent thought) and it must be clearly communicated so that everyone in the organization can “get on the same page.”
Context has four key drivers:
- • Credibility (are leaders and managers being straightforward and honest?)
- • Courage (do leaders have the resolve to see the strategy through? Do employees believe that management will be “open to hearing the real, often negative feedback, and will they have the guts to deal with the real issues?”)
- • Competence (are the organization’s leaders capable of executing the strategy; do they know what they’re doing?)
- • Caring (do the leaders understand the impact that the plan will have on employees? Will they give employees the freedom to contribute, and recognition for those contributions? As the authors sum this up, “the more that people believe that management values them as resources and not as expenses, the more committed they tend to become.”)
Leiber and Mader are the founders of Quantum Performance, Inc., a strategic management consulting firm that has worked with numerous Global 1000 clients. Weiss is a consultant, speaker, author of 32 books, and head of Summit Consulting Group. The three bring years of experience to this book, and illustrate many of their points with true-life stories from name-brand clients. But the principals and guidance presented here apply to organizations of all sizes, and non-profit and government agencies as well as businesses.
The book closes with appendix containing several helpful tools, checklists and tips to help put the authors’ ideas into practice.
The Power of Strategic Commitment, despite the dry title, is an engagingly written and vital guide to developing leadership practices that enable higher levels of organizational success.
Pamela Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur is the bible for the self-employed—and those burned out on the corporate world who’d like to become independent. Despite the ongoing recession, the book retains its timeliness. Though there may now be fewer people wishing to escape the corporate world and more wishing they could once again be part of it, the book remains important for those stuck in dead-end corporate positions as well as the unemployed looking for a way to thrive in the downsized economy. If you work independently, would like to work on your own, or see no other option than to build your own business, this book is indispensable.
Slim divides her book into four sections, but more broadly speaking there are just two: what I’d call the Excitement section and the Reality section. The first is more entertaining, but the second more essential.
In her opening chapter, “I Have a Fancy Title, Steady Paycheck, and Good Benefits. Why Am I So Miserable?,” Slim assures readers that they aren’t crazy for wanting something more or different. The myriad problems of the corporate world largely come down to a single element: poor leadership. Too many companies expect their people to give extraordinary effort and self-sacrifice in exchange for a dysfunctional work environment, endless stress and little if any long-term job security. Her “Open Letter to CXOs Across the Corporate World,” originally written as blog post (which caught the attention of Guy Kawasaki, who helped it go viral) on the inadequacies of corporate leadership, is worth the cost of the book on its own. A brief excerpt:
“Don’t spend millions of dollars to try and change your culture. Corporate culture is a natural thing that can’t be manufactured. No amount of posters, incentive programs, PowerPoint presentations or slogans on websites will affect the hearts and minds of your employees. If you want to see things change immediately, stop acting like an asshole. If you see one of your senior managers acting like an asshole, ask him to stop. If he doesn’t stop, fire him. You will be amazed at how fast the culture shifts.”
The remainder of section 1 is by turns frustrating, funny and exhilarating as Slim skewers corporate groupthink, addresses fears real and imagined, and helps the reader imagine a better world. But she notes that self-employment isn’t a magical path to happiness and isn’t right for everyone. I’d add that for some people unhappy in their current corporate roles, working to improve the situation internally, transferring to a different department or location, or getting a different job may be better alternatives than striking out on their own. How do you know?
On key test Slim provides is a quote from author Jim Collins:
“He referred to the ultimate work situation as your ‘sweet spot.’ This is the intersection of three interlocking circles:
- • The first circle is ‘what people will pay you to do’—marketable skills and abilities that you have developed over your working life.
- • The second is ‘that which you have great passion for’—areas of interest, hobbies, ideas, or causes that make your heart race.
- • The third, and most elusive, is ‘that which you are genetically encoded to do’—the things that you were brought on this earth to accomplish that no one else on the planet can do as well as you.”
For some people, that “sweet spot” will necessarily be found only as part of a larger organization (even if not with their current employer or employment situation). For others, however, independence is the answer. And it for those souls that the second section of the book is crucial.
The tone as well as the content in the second part of the book shifts. Actually making the move to self employment is far different from sitting in a gray cubicle and imagining it. And Slim has high goals for this book; it’s about creating a new life, not just a new career. “Your life plan lays out the specific ways that your life would be structured to provide for maximum enjoyment and productivity. When done well, it is not a pie-in-the-sky vision; it is a blueprint for designing a great business.”
The second section covers all of the key considerations those contemplating (or jumping into) self-employment need to address: choosing the right business idea, recruiting help (mentors and connections), writing a business plan, making financial adjustments, shopping for benefits and more. Among the highlights:
- • Great advice on how to determine whether you really have a great business idea (e.g., “you have a unique approach, skill, or capability that will allow you to serve this need better than anyone else…your target market not only is interested in what you have to offer, but has the money to pay for what you are selling”) or just an expensive hobby (“when you discuss the idea with people who would be the target market for your product or service, they are either overcome by an embarrassing silence or are direct like Michael Bolton from [the movie] Office Space and say ‘That is the worst business idea I have ever heard.’”).
- • How to recruit a team of advisors, connections and mentors who will help you make your business successful through investment, guidance, introductions and more. She calls this your “High Council of Jedi Knights.”
- • How to develop “natural networking” ability (another section that is worth the price of the book in itself). She expands on key approaches including being interested, noticing what’s important to the person you are networking with, asking for an introduction, and being nice to everyone. Much of may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how uncommon these skills really are.
- • How to write a business plan. Slim helpfully lays a series of “blocks” critical to any business plan that help organize thoughts, create a natural flow, and include all of the essential elements needed to raise funds and simply make sure no important details are overlooked.
- • Ignore competitors. Okay, not completely of course, but don’t obsess about them. This is great advice not only for solopreneurs but for established businesses as well. Steve Jobs never worried about what his competitors were doing; he focused on creating things were new, cool and that customers would love. As Slim puts this, “When you shift your focus from understanding who your competitors are to spending half your time thinking about them, you have ceded your own power. In essence, you are choosing the role of follower and not leader. Focus on what is exciting, special, unique, and revolutionary about your own business.”
- • Avoid corporatespeak. The second section of the book, though more direct and down to earth than the first, isn’t without its own gems. Slim recommends getting a “gang member coach” (okay, perhaps not literally) to help you “keep it real.” Discussing a meeting where a corporate CXO was droning on in meaningless corporate buzzwords, she imagines having a gang member in the room:
“Joe, VP of Alliance Partnerships: ‘And as you can see from my deck, by creating a strategic partnership that focuses on key enablers of the new paradigm, we can leverage out-of-the-box thinking and deliver an integrated solution to our end-users.’
Juan, the Gang Member Coach: ‘Joe, what the f**k are you talking about?’
In five minutes or less, Joe, the stammering vice president, would have to explain in clear, plain terms what he was trying to say.”
Leaving the corporate world to pursue independence is not a move to be taken lightly, and Slim gives this decision the gravity it deserves, along with practical, comprehensive and thoughtful guidance on how to first determine if such a move is right for you, and then how to execute if the answer is “yes.” The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence, but it definitely tastes different. You’ll be giving up a steady paycheck, benefits and paid vacations for income diversification (having multiple clients means your entire income isn’t based on the fortunes of any single enterprise), scheduling flexibility, and no more rush hour commutes.
If you love the corporate world and the thought of striking out on your own scares the pants off you, this book isn’t for you. But if you are considering blazing your own trail or are new to working independently, Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur is a must-read vital resource.
Guest post by Kristin Zhivago
Tom is right. As he contended in Web Presence Optimization Reloaded, you should be “everywhere.” You have to appear in all the channels where your customers may be lurking.
But—and this is big—if you appear in those channels with a message that does not resonate with your potential buyers, it’s worse than not being there at all. You will be convincing potential buyers that you really don’t understand their issues, don’t know what they really care about, and aren’t really going to be able to solve their problems. You will be “unselling,” rather than selling.
How do you make sure your content—wherever it appears—is relevant and convincing?
You ask your current customers a tested set of questions that will result in you knowing exactly what you should be saying to your future customers. Using this method, you will actually be able to reverse-engineer your successful sales so you can produce new sales in quantity. Fortunately, you only have to interview 7 – 10 customers of any given type to see ironclad, bankable patterns emerge. These patterns will direct your company’s efforts going forward, and will result in higher revenue.
You should ask your questions on the phone, in a conversation. Your customers will be more relaxed and tell you more on the phone than they will in person. They will also give you more usable information than you’d ever get out of an emailed or webform survey. People tend to “clam up” when they’re typing something that could be used against them in some way. And “listening” to social media won’t tell you what their buying process was, or what they were thinking as they made the purchase. Even social media companies hire me to have these conversations with their customers.
The interviewing is just the first step to increasing your revenue. Equally important is what you learn, and what you do with the information after you have analyzed it and discussed it.
You will learn:
- Why they came looking for your solution—the problem they were trying to solve, and how they describe it. These words and phrases will become the magic words that resonate with customers. They won’t have to translate your internal jargon into the words and phrases they would naturally use.
- What their concerns were as they were trying to buy. I say “trying,” because only a few companies in the world actually make it easy for their customers to buy from them. Most companies place one barrier after another in front of buyers when they’re attempting to buy.
- What they like about your company, products, and services (which you should be promoting), and what simply isn’t working (which you should fix).
- What they wish you were selling. It could be a small tweak to your existing product line, a new service associated with your product line, a new way of packaging or supporting the product, or even a new product that would provide a new revenue stream.
Armed with what you’ve learned, you will then map out their buying process. You will create marketing and selling tools that make it easy for them to take the next step in their buying process, encouraged by what they see as they go.
Using this approach, all of your online and offline content—and the tools produced for salespeople—will resonate with customers. Your product developers will know exactly what they should be focusing on. Top executives will know what should be offered, how the business should be structured, and even what people are willing to pay for those products and services. You will know the promises that they want you to keep, and you will make the necessary changes to your company so you can keep those promises. You will create a revenue-growth action plan that lays out the steps you need to take to make all this happen. You won’t have to guess and experiment anymore.
As you make these changes to your website, marketing and selling tools, products, and services, customers will respond positively. They will buy more. And, they will tell others how great you are, which will increase your sales even more.
Kristin Zhivago is a revenue coach who helps CEOs and entrepreneurs sell more by understanding what their customers want to buy and how they want to buy it. She blogs at http://www.RevenueJournal.com.