The Most Important Force for Increasing Leads and Sales

A version of this post previously appeared on MarketingProfs.

There’s been a raft of articles recently proclaiming the “consumerization” of all things business: the consumerization of sales, of IT, and of business-to-business (b2b) marketing most prominently. McKinsey’s David Edelman has referred to the consumerization of b2b marketing and sales as a “massive disruption” on the horizon.

The consumerization of B2B marketing - reduce friction

Photo Credit: LGEPR via Compfight cc

While there’s no questioning these trends, it may be more powerful from an analytical standpoint to step back and ask exactly what “consumerization” means in a business context: what is it precisely about consumer marketing and sales that b2b professionals are seeking to emulate?

Clearly it’s not that enterprise software vendors should start running print ads in Vogue magazine, or that machine tool manufacturers should invest in splashy TV commercials on The Golf Channel. Upon closer examination, the move toward consumerization seems to come down to embracing one key concept long pursued by b2c brands: minimizing friction across the promotion and buying process.

In the physical world, minimizing friction is how Elon Musk’s proposed hyperloop could transport commuters at speeds approaching 600 miles per hour. Using pods inside a low-pressure tube eliminates not only the friction of rolling wheels but also that of air pressure against the vehicles.

In the consumer products world, minimizing friction explains why soup is sold in microwavable single-serving containers, and why a convenience store can thrive within blocks of a nearby supermarket, despite charging much higher prices.

Arguably the ultimate in friction-free consumer commerce, though, is’s 1-Click ordering. Once a site visitor has searched for and filled their online shopping cart with desired items, competing the purchase requires literally one click: Amazon knows the customer’s preferred method of payment, credit card details, shipping address, even preferred shipping mode. Compared to the typical b2b purchase—there is no comparison.

The Amazon experience is clearly starting to impact the world of b2b purchasing. Within the past year, nearly half of b2b buyers have purchased common business items from Amazon Supply, the web giant’s online store for business and industry, because their regular suppliers don’t offer an online purchase channel.

Business suppliers who want to survive the coming “massive disruption” need to find ways to compete with Amazon, likely beyond price: through flexible payment options, volume discounts, deep product expertise, or value-added services perhaps. But for low-value commodity items, as other online retailers have learned, Amazon will make the landscape increasingly challenging for b2b suppliers.

Beyond online purchasing, however, friction comes in many forms. While many high-value, complex b2b products aren’t suitable for ecommerce, there are nevertheless other sources of friction that vendors need to minimize in order to improve their competitiveness. These other sources of friction include:

Marketing/Sales Friction

  • Low online visibility. With more than 90% of b2b purchases beginning with research on the Web, maximizing online presence is crucial for b2b vendors. Business buyers won’t buy from vendors who lack visibility in search and social media.
  • Insufficient or difficult to find information. B2b websites need to provide different types of information based on buyer personas, specific concerns or topics of interest, and different formats (text, images, video). Each member of the buying team has his or her own questions and unique information needs. Friction is created when such information is missing or hard to find on the vendor website.
  • Mixed messages. Friction arises when, as your grandmother may have put it, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” Prospects are unlikely to buy if they get different answers and inconsistent messages from different employees or departments within your organization. This was less of a danger in the old days when public interaction was limited to official “company spokespeople,” but social media now makes virtually every employee “client-facing.” Avoiding such confusion therefore requires strong leadership from the top, effective training, and use of internal social communication tools like Chatter or Yammer.
  • High initial price point.It’s often easier to sell a customer a basic system at a low price point upfront and add options later than to sell a high-priced, full-featured offering right out of the gate. Not only does this make price less of an objection, it also reduces risk for the buyer. Many types of subscription-based software offerings are now sold this way. Taking this idea to the ultimate “no brainer” price point—free—many vendors in categories like email services and social media monitoring employ a “freemium” pricing model in which customers can sign up to use a stripped-down, low-volume service for free, then upgrade to various levels of higher usage volume, added-function, fee-based services down the road.

Customer Service Friction

  • Limited contact information. A “contact us” button should be one of the most prominent items on every page of a b2b website, and the contact page should include physical/mailing address, fax and phone numbers, email address (or addresses—preferably multiple, by department), and social media accounts. Consider an online chat option as well (but make it visitor-initiated, not an annoying pop-up box). Reduce friction by making it as easy as possible for prospective buyers to get in touch with you, using their preferred communication method.
  • Poor responsiveness (or non-responsiveness) to questions. More than 80% of Twitter users say they expect a same-day response to tweets aimed at brands, yet many b2b vendors fail to meet this standard. That is clearly an opportunity being missed, as 71% of buyers also say that receiving a quick brand response on social media would make them more likely to recommend that brand to others. Response time matters regardless of the communication channel (social, email, phone, etc.); responding quickly builds confidence in your company. A slow response creates friction.
  • Automated phone answering systems. While efficient and convenient for vendors, these are universally annoying to callers. Provide both a main contact number and department-specific phone numbers instead. A human voice on the other end of the line can be both a powerful differentiator and friction-reducer.

Product/Service Friction

  • Partial solutions. The ability to purchase a “whole product” (e.g., software, equipment, installation, and training services) from a single supplier, a.k.a. one-stop shopping, reduces friction. This is why all-in-one travel sites like Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia, TravelZoo, and Travelocity are popular. When the buyer is forced to piece together a solution from multiple vendors, friction is increased. B2b suppliers can address this through building, buying, or bundling strategies to create and support a whole product.
  • Complex implementation. While there is no way around expert on-site installation for certain types of products (e.g., machine tools or conveyor systems), “products” should be delivered online whenever possible. Cloud computing, projected to grow at a 26% annual rate through 2016, is essentially delivering a server online. Software is increasingly being delivered as a service, along with integrated consulting; this model is nearly universal in the marketing automation software market, for example.
  • Business disruption. The less disruption or interruption of business activities that a purchase entails, the less assistance or support needed from other departments like IT, and the less integration with other systems required, the easier a buying decision is to make. This is why software vendors are increasingly delivering their applications online, and including pre-built connectors, where required, to other popular software suites.
  • Complexity in use. While many b2b products in areas like technology,  communications, industrial automation, and transportation are necessarily complex, that doesn’t mean they have to be difficult to use. Good example: a modern automobile is unquestionably a complex piece of equipment, yet one that can be operated by any teenager with a modicum of training. Better example: while the vast majority of us have only a rudimentary understanding (at best) of the inner workings of a smart phone, any moderately bright grade-schooler can use one. B2b products should be as complex as they need to be, but as simple to use as possible.

Organizational (Business Level) Friction

  • High perceived risk. Vendor websites must not only provide the information various buyers need in order to make a decision, they must also build trust. Unless your company is a “household name,” your website needs to reduce perceived risk and position your company as a safe choice by including complete contact information, certifications (such as Better Business Bureau membership), awards, customer testimonials, big-name client lists, and/or money-back guarantees.
  • Employees aren’t empowered to resolve issues. When a customer or prospect has an problem, they want it fixed. They don’t care about an employee’s job description or your company’s organizational chart. When those things get in the way of solving problems, they become friction. Companies like Nordstrom, Zappos, and Southwest Airlines are known for empowering their employees to resolve customer complaints, no matter what they are, precisely to eliminate this type of friction.
  • Lack of organizational transparency. In sales situations where vendors are unfamiliar and product differentiation is unclear or insignificant, buyers will seek broader information about the companies in order to arrive at a decision. In these situations, purchase decisions can be strongly influenced by the vendors’ level of executive participation in social media. According to recent research, 82% of buyers say they trust a company more—and 77% of buyers are more likely to buy from that company—if its CEO and senior leadership team are active in social media.

Recognizing the importance of minimizing friction, some vendors are now creating a “Chief Experience Officer” position to help those companies “not only develop services and products that are pleasing and useful but also curate…experiences with their people and their products to create (what they hope is) a unique brand.”

As b2b competition becomes more global and intense, products become commoditized, quality is assumed, margins are squeezed, and “unique value propositions” become less unique, the overall customer experience will increasingly be what separates successful companies from column fodder. And identifying and minimizing friction, at all its potential points, optimizes the customer experience.

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The Top #Nifty50 Men Writers on Twitter for 2013

By Cheryl Burgess, originally published on the Blue Focus Marketing Blog


In 2011, I teamed up with Tom Pick (@TomPick) and his Webbiquity blog to unveil the first annual #Nifty50 Awards. Our goal in designing these awards was to honor the top 50 women and top 50 men in social media. In that first year, we cast a wide net, honoring those whom we felt actively engaged as brand ambassadors on Twitter day in day out, exchanging valuable information, and just generally being good, helpful people. Last year, we narrowed our focus to honor the top 50 men and top 50 women engaging on Twitter on behalf of the tech sector.

This year, we wanted to target a specific group once again, and so we agreed to honor the top bloggers, authors, PR specialists, and journalists on Twitter. After reviewing all of your wonderful nominations over the summer, it’s now time to unveil the winners!

Now that Tom and I have compiled our lists, the word that keeps popping into my head is “community.” This isn’t just a list of 50 men who work in isolation; these are people who share strong social bonds with each other, who would be just as happy to celebrate the success of one of their colleagues as they would be for themselves. These thought leaders understand that the greatest product of a good idea is more good ideas, and it’s great to see that their generosity and thought leadership in online communities is being recognized.

I’m happy to say that I have had the privilege of experiencing this generosity firsthand. As we were writing our book The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work – Success Lessons from IBM, AT&T, Dell, Cisco, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, and Domo on building a Social Culture (McGraw-Hill, August 2013) (@SocialEmployee) late last year and early this year, we were honored to receive excellent contributions from people like Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar), David Armano, (@Armano) David C. Edelman (@DavidEdelman), and Kevin Randall (@kevinbrandall) —just to name a few. These wonderful wordsmiths truly enlivened our own content, and we couldn’t be happier to see them make this list.

So without further ado, here are the 2013 #Nifty50 Men! Feel free to celebrate their achievement by dropping them a line on Twitter, and don’t forget to check out the Webbiquity blog for the 2013 #Nifty50 Women!

Vala Afshar @ValaAfshar

Vala Afshar

David Armano @armano

David Armano

Jonathan Becher @jbecher

Jonathan Becher

Sander Biehn @sanderbiehn

Sander Biehn

Michael Brenner @BrennerMichael

Michael Brenner

David Brier @davidbrier

David Brier

Michael Brito @Britopian

Michael Brito

Terry Brock @TerryBrock

Terry Brock @TerryBrock

Mark Burgess @mnburgess

Mark Burgess

Chris Carragher @cjcarragher


Dan Cristo @dancristo

Dan Cristo

Dino Dogan @dinodogan

Dino Dogan

Mike Edelhart @MikeEdelhart

Mike Edelhart

David Edelman @davidedelman

David Edelman

Mark Fidelman @markfidelman

Mark Fidelman

Sam Fiorella @samfiorella

Sam Fiorella

Jez Frampton @jezframpton

Jez Frampton

Nis Frome @nisfrome

Nis Frome

Sean Gardner @2morrowknight

Sean Gardner

Glen Gilmore @GlenGilmore

Glen Gilmore

Andrew Grill @AndrewGrill

Andrew Grill

John Hagel @jhagel

John Hagel

Arik Hanson @arikhanson

Arik Hanson

Kent Huffman @KentHuffman

Kent Huffman

John L. Kennedy @johnlkennedy


Jure Klepic @jkcallas

Jure Kelpic

Bryan Kramer @bryankramer

Bryan Kramer

Simon Mainwaring @simonmainwaring

Simon Mainwaring

TJ McCue @TJMcCue

Nifty50 TJ McCue.fw

Billy Mitchell @billymitchell1

Billy Mitchell

Jacob Morgan @jacobm

Jacob Morgan

Tom Peters @tom_peters

Tom Peters

Howard Pyle @howardpyle

Howard Pyle

Erik Qualman @equalman

Eric Qualman

Ajay Ramachandran @ajay

Ajay Ramachandran

Andreas Ramos @Andreas_Ramos

Andreas Ramos

Kevin Randall @KevinBrandall

Kevin Randall

Ron Ricci @RonRicciCisco

Ron Ricci

Tony Riches @tonyriches

Tony Riches

Alex Romanovich @alexromanovich

Alex Romanovich

Ted Rubin @TedRubin

Ted Rubin

Neal Schaffer @NealSchaffer

Neal Schaffer

Dan Schawbel @DanSchawbel

Dan Schwbel

Gary Schirr @ProfessorGary

Gary Schirr

Brian Slattery @BrianSlatts


Andy Smith @kabbenbock

Andy Smith

Brian Solis @briansolis

Brian Solis

Bill Strawderman @marketingbard

Bill Strawderman

Todd Wilms @toddmwilms

Todd Wilms

Tony Zambito @TonyZambito

Tony Zambito


Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) CEO and CMO of Blue Focus Marketing, author of The Social Employee – How Great Companies Make Social Media Work, published by McGraw-Hill, in summer 2013.  She is a social branding consultant with expertise in social business and social media. She is an expert blogger for AT&T Networking Exchange on social media. Proud to be an invited contributor to the Wharton FOA’s Advertising 2020 Project. Active Member of the Wharton Advertising 2020 Contributor Community.

She was awarded Wharton Future of Advertising’s MVP and praised as a “brilliant strategic thinker in the social media space.” Huffington Post honored her as one of 40 global women “Passionistas” for her “great business expertise and timeless blog posts.”  Also,  Huffington Post “Top 100 Business, Leadership and Technology Twitter Accounts You Must Follow.”

She was featured in Fast Company and Business Insider.  Invited speaker on “Expanding Your Social Influence” at the AT&T Networking Leaders Academy Annual Conference. She is a four-time winner of the Twitter Shorty Award in Marketing [The New York Times hails this as the Oscar of Twitter], named Top 75 Twitter Women, 2012 Top 100 Branding Experts on Twitter, and a 100 Top Marketer on Twitter.  Cheryl is a syndicated blogger. She is the co-founder of #Nifty50 Top Twitter Women and #Nifty50 Top Twitter Men. Google+

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23 (More) of the Best Social Media Guides, Tips and Resources of 2012

As noted in 33 (of the) Best Social Media Guides, Tips and Resources of 2012 So Far, posted here a few months ago, social media marketing adoption is now so widespread there’s little further question of “if” or “when” in the minds of most marketers–but many “how” and “what” questions still remain.

How can marketers make more productive use of their time on social networking sites? What’s the best time of day to post updates on Twitter or Facebook? How can you make sure your company’s social media policy doesn’t run afoul of employment law? What under-utilized site has been called a “social media powerhouse,” and which highly popular social bookmarking site is frequently overlooked by marketers? How can you measure (or can you measure) social media ROI?

Find the answers to those questions and many more here in almost two dozen of the best social media guides, tips, tools, insights and rants of 2012.

Social Media Marketing Guides and Tips

Social Media Campaigns Don’t Match When Consumers Are Online by Spin Sucks

Gini DietrichThe brilliant Gini Dietrich reports on research showing that marketers commonly choose the wrong time of day to post and engage on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as to send emails. While the study was fairly small, the findings are consistent with other sources indicating that they key to better social media results may lie in better timing of updates rather than just more of them.

12 Essential Social Media Cheat Sheets by Mashable

Ann SmartyTools guru-ess Ann Smarty shares a dozen helpful “cheat sheets,” which “are basically infographics that can give a user a simple rundown of various features and how to use them.” The collection here provides guidance on getting the most out of Google+, Facebook and Twitter, as well as network-specific spam definitions and keyboard shortcuts.

Fortune 500 CEOs Don’t Get Social Media! [Research] by Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenQuoting research showing that “70% of the Fortune 500 CEOs have no presence on social media networks…Two thirds of CEOs on Facebook have less than 100 friends and over a quarter of CEOs on LinkedIn have 1 or 0 connections,” the always insightful Heidi Cohen suggests three reasons why CEOs fear social media (such as liability concerns) and three ways they could actually leverage it instead (such as setting an example for employees: “An active CEO encourages others to engage and shows public support for social media activity that helps build brand and customer relationships over time”).

How your brand is abusing social networks by iMedia Connection
***** 5 STARS

In this must-read post for social media strategists, Rob Rose explains in his own often provocative and always entertaining manner how brands are commonly misusing social media by treating it as another marketing channel, the dangers of that approach, and why each social network should instead be utilized according to its own unique personality and etiquette. “Marketers are the nerdy freshman at the cool kids’ senior party. Say the wrong thing — or say it in the wrong way — and risk getting ridiculed and bounced out. Come with a case of beer and some great conversation, and you just might be a hit. But even then, you are only one mistake away from a viral case of #Fail…make no mistake, this is challenging — and it’s not an even playing field. It used to be that marketers could simply avoid being “salesy” on their social channels, and the world would be OK…But as social marketing becomes increasingly business driven — and content strategies converge in the paid, owned, and earned (POE) models — simply using social channels to engage and entertain is no longer quite as simple…it’s no longer good enough to want to show up to the party with a case of beer. Now, you’ve got to find a way to pay for it as well.”

Beyond the Basics: 30 Fresh Social Media Tips for 2012 by KISSmetrics

Kristi HinesFrequent best-of honoree Kristi Hines provides an outstanding list of general social media tips (e.g., “Cross promote your social profiles. Look for opportunities to add links from one social profile to others. Google+, for example, allows you to link to as many of your other social profiles as you choose”) as well as specific suggestions for getting the most out of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Slideshare: The B2B Social Media Powerhouse by Heidi Cohen

Noting that “Slideshare receives 60 million visitors per month. More importantly, these visitors tend to be highly influential business people seeking to engage with relevant content,” Heidi Cohen (again) serves up 10 actionable Slideshare marketing tactics, from knowing your target audience on the site to using hashtags, optimizing your presentation’s title and tracking results.

Five Ways Social is Shaping your B2B Customers by LinkedIn Today

David EdelmanDavid Edelman shares a presentation from McKinsey’s Lareina Yee on the Social Enterprise, which includes five ways  social is shaping B2B customers, among them “DIY prospecting” (where customers conduct significant research before ever entering the sales cycle), peer influence, and “click to compare”–conditioned to price transparency in their consumer lives, B2B buyers are coming to expect it from business product and service vendors as well.

3 ways to stop wasting time on social media by iMedia Connection

Drew HubbardDrew Hubbard outlines three social media management practices that will “free you up to do more of what really matters in social media — respond and engage.” Even more helpfully, he lists tools that will assist with each practice. For example, useful tools for keeping a collaborative calendar include Google Calendar, Outlook, Basecamp and ZOHO.

The 5 Best Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Traffic to Your Website by WindMill Networking

Lilach BullockGuest blogger Lilach Bullock shares a handful of tips for increasing web traffic from social media, including being active and engaged (“The one thing that most business owners using social media don’t do is listen”) and making influential links (“identify a list of key influential people in your industry and engage with them. If you are genuine in your praise they will naturally want to find out about you too”).

7 Sources of Inspiration for Writing Sizzling Social Media Posts by Rebekah Radice

Rebekah RadiceWriting that “Unless you are a natural born writer with exceptional skills, running out of content ideas is inevitable,” Rebekah Radice offers tips for finding topic inspiration such as through social media (Facebook groups, LinkedIn questions, Twitter trending topics), books and other industry-related publications, and (when all else fails) re-purposing your own older content.

Social Media ROI Measurement Guides

Social Media: ROI Possible by SlideShare

Angie SchottmullerIn this presentation originally delivered at SES San Francisco, the delightful Angie Schottmuller explains why social media seems like it should be easy, but isn’t. She notes that “social media” is far more than Twitter, blogs and Facebook, now encompassing “social listening,” content curation, crowdfunding, social gaming, social CRM and more. She shares the three reasons that social media ROI measurement is rare, then presents a plan to address each obstacle.

If the presentation alone doesn’t supply quite enough detail for you, check out Social Media ROI: How To Define a Strategic Plan, Angie’s guest post further exploring the same topic on Search Engine Watch.

6 Expert Tips for Measuring Social Media ROI by OMI Blog

Megan LeapMegan Leap share half a dozen tips on social media ROI measurement from Nichole Kelly, author of How to Measure Social Media: A Step-By-Step Guide to Developing and Assessing Social Media ROI. such as “Social media interactions take place on the web, which is inherently more measurable than offline channels like print, TV and Radio. Measuring social media is actually really easy and most marketers have the tools they need. They just need to start using them a different way.”

Social Media Tools

5 Tools to Simplify Social Media Monitoring Tasks by Link-Assistant.Com Blog

Ann Smarty (again) reviews a handlful of helpful social media monitoring tools, including a couple of familiar names (SproutSocial, HootSuite), a couple of less familiar options (such as Cyfe), and even shows how the free Google Reader tool can be used for basic brand- or keyword-monitoring.

The Top 5 Social Media Managing Tools by Social Media Today

Jen EisenbergJen Eisenberg present highlights of five social media management tools, including not just popular applications like HootSuite but also newer, lesser-known tools such as RebelMouse and, which she calls “a hidden treasure…You can pull your photos, updates, videos, music and more from 35 different web services, one of the most of any social media aggregators.”

Social media tools for the smart agency by iMedia Connection

Scott Fiaschetti reviews seven tools for social media monitoring and management, ranging from relatively simple and inexpensive (uberVu) to more sophisticated offerings like Adaptly, “a platform for execution and optimization of social campaigns across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, and YouTube.

Social Media Cheat Sheet for Image Dimensions by The Landlord Blog

How large should your cover photo be on Facebook? What about a story image or shared Facebook video? How many pixels of your Twitter background image are visible to most users? What are the correct dimensions for a cover photo on Google+? Find the ideal / required dimensions for all of these uses and many others in this highly bookmarkable infographic.

24 Must-Have Social Media Marketing Tools by Social Media Examiner
***** 5 STARS

Cindy KingCindy King compiles two dozen recommendations from social media pros on their favorite tools, from (which Shelly Lucas says helps her to “build and nurture relationships with supporters, influencers and potential customers on Twitter”) to AgoraPulse (which according to Aaron Kahlow “provides everything your Facebook Page will ever need”).

Writing Social Media Policies

Eight Ways Your Employee Social-Media Policy May Violate Federal Law by Ad Age Digital

Brian HeidelbergerEvery marketing manager knows that his/her company needs a social media policy for employees, right? Actually, no—as of mid-2012, only about 40% of companies had such policies in place. Even worse, according to Brian Heidelberger, is that it’s quite possible “most all of our current social media policies are illegal.” According to rules established by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a social media policy likely runs afoul of the law if it prohibits or restricts “friending” other employees, posting about the company, talking about coworkers, talking to the press, or using social media sites while at work.

Your Social Media Policies by iMedia Connection

Lee SchneiderLee Schneider outlines nine key points to keep in mind when creating a social media policy, among them “support individuality but stay on message…Many company accounts have multiple posters. Encourage them to let their voice come through, but also make it clear that they are posting for the brand and what the brand stands for,” encourage dialogue but never argue on the Internet, and don’t delete complaints (but do respond to them humbly, helpfully and publicly).

Reddit Marketing Tips

6 Ways to Use Reddit to Grow Your Business by Social Media Examiner

Ben BeckI know—Reddit? A site whose home page is frequently dominated with stories that have headlines like “How I respond whenever a girl thinks I’m cool” and “Extremely Scary Ghost Elevator Prank in Brazil” hardly seems like a promising venue for professional marketers, but don’t write off the second-most popular bookmarking site on the web until you’ve read Ben Beck’s discussion of half a dozen popular business-oriented communities there.

Reddit Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC] by e-Strategy Trends

David EricksonDavid Erickson shares the Reddit Marketing Field Guide infographic, which provides stats about Reddit use (2.5 billion monthly page views), the typical Redditor (18-34 years old, geeky, liberal and male), and tips on adding content that will get shared (spamming will get you nowhere). Despite its high traffic, Reddit isn’t appropriate for every marketer; but if this is your target market, then this is your helpful infographic.

YouTube Marketing Tactics

6 lessons in launching a branded YouTube channel by iMedia Connection

Michael Estrin shares tips from several agency professionals on how brands can get the most out of their YouTube channels, from starting with a strategy and plan through keeping your audience engaged. In the end, success comes down to “picking what is achievable for your brand and matching realistic key performance indicators to them.”

The ultimate guide to video marketing on YouTube by iMedia Connection
***** 5 STARS

Kent LewisReporting that “global internet video traffic will make up 54 percent of all consumer internet traffic in 2016 — up from 51 percent in 2011” and “Video offers greater retention and recall — up to five times greater than the written word,” Kent Lewis provides an exhaustive guide to everything from video marketing best practices and optimization essentials to YouTube advertising and video sitemaps.

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33 (of the) Best Marketing Strategy Guides and Insights of 2010

Sometimes it’s essential to step back from everyday marketing tactics to ask the bigger questions: not just “how do we get more people to `like’ us on Facebook?” or “what apps should we be adding to our Facebook page?” but: why do we even have a corporate Facebook page? What are our key objectives for social media marketing? What conceptual models are we basing our marketing assumptions and practices on, and what new models should we be thinking about? Which emerging trends do we need to keep an eye on? Do we really understand why our customers buy from us? As we shift resources from traditional outbound marketing to inbound attraction marketing, how should we (re)organize to support that? As we rely more on all of our employees (not just marketing and PR) to represent our company through social media, how do we train and motivate them to do so effectively?

Best Marketing Strategy Guides and Insights of 2010While you won’t find much in the way of “tips and tricks” in this post, you will find guidance on answers to these big-picture marketing questions and more here in some the best marketing strategy guides and insights of the past year.

5 principles of breakthrough success in the “Relationship Era” by iMedia Connection

Doug Levy contends that marketing has passed into its third major era—as we’ve moved from the primacy of product information through consumer persuasion to a new focus on sustainable relationships—and lays out five principles for success in this new realm.

Big Ed’s Top 10 B2B Marketing Trends For 2010 by Marketing-Gimbal

C. Edward Brice pretty much nailed the significant b2b marketing developments for 2010 (e.g. mass adoption of social media, but no clear way to measure ROI from it) in this predictive post. Was he prescient or just playing it safe? You decide.Social Network Ad Spending Trends

2010: Social Network Advertising and Marketing Outlook by Brian Solis

Citing research from eMarketer, Brian Solis documents the continuing shift from interruption-based advertising to earned media engagement as the primary mode of marketing, as well as shifts within the social media landscape (e.g. from MySpace to Facebook). Remember when Facebook had “only” 350 million users? Yeah, that was one year ago.

Why Content is King No More… by Webfadds

Scott Frangos believes that content is no longer the “king” in online marketing strategy, but rather is now more like the “queen” with social media connection—your ability to share content and interact with readers—now playing the role of king.

The 3 Reasons That Motivate B2B Buyers to Buy by The Marketing Melange

Mike Frichol notes the disconnect between b2b technology vendor messages focused on features, innovation, technology leadership or competitive advantages and the three factors that actually motivate b2b buyers to make a purchase.

3 must-have marketing tools for small businesses by iMedia Connection

Eric Groves explains why low-cost, easy-to-use email marketing, online survey and social networking tools are essential marketing components for smaller companies.

Re-Architecting the B2B Sales and Marketing Process for a New Decade by Reflexions

“Sales organisations are reporting extended sales cycles, declining win rates, and that a growing number of apparently promising opportunities are ending in ‘no decision.’  At the same time, they observe that their prospects’ budgets appear to be shrinking, that more players are involved in the decision making process, and that their buyers are exhibiting increasingly risk-averse behavior.” What’s a sales executive to do? Bob Apollo suggests a three-phase plan to re-architect the sales and marketing process to better reflect today’s business buying process.

The Truth About Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing by Kuno Creative

John McTigue presents four reasons why both inbound and outbound tactics should be included in any b2b marketing strategy. For example: “unless you already have a well-known brand, it can take many months to build up a loyal following (in social media)…blending targeted outbound marketing into social media marketing campaigns can accelerate awareness and growth.”

5 Steps to B2B Marketing Success by Everything Technology Marketing

According to Holger Schulze, “major shifts are taking place in B2B marketing…buyers and decision makers don’t want to get interrupted by a product promo email or a cold call that likely doesn’t come at the exact time they have a specific problem the caller can help with. And today’s customers are busier than ever. They want to be able to engage with a vendor when they are ready and actively seek out advice, often very late in the buying cycle, and have the vendor guide them through a complex buying and problem solving process.” He offers five steps, from understanding your buyers to investing in marketing automation systems to address this new reality.

Best Practices Produce Mediocre Results by iMedia Connection
***** 5 Stars
In this must-read strategy guide for 2011, the brilliant Rob Rose argues that “We follow ‘best practices’ because they’re safe.  These are maps for us to follow to get the same results as those that went before us.  In short, they are the marketing equivalent of sitting down at the restaurant and saying ‘I’ll have what she’s having.'” Making the case for valuing bold experimentation over the tried-and-true, he concludes: “We need to blow some shit up.”

In this must-read strategy guide for 2011, Rob Rose takes a hard look at “best practices” and concludes that “We need to blow some shit up.”

Framework and Matrix: The Five Ways Companies Organize for Social Business by Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang

Jeremiah–the only social media guru popular enough to achieve single-name status–presents five models of organization for social business (Organic, Centralized, Coordinated, Dandelion, and Honeycomb), along with the advantages and drawbacks of each, then asks executives to identify where their organization is today, and where they’d like it to be.

4 ROI Myths by Digital Tonto

Greg Satell identifies the four most damaging ways in which companies try to measure marketing ROI, then suggests an alternative approach that is more complex but also more comprehensive.

Abracadabra Moments, the Opening Line You Should Never Use, and 10 More Ways to Sell Ideas by Fast Company
***** 5 Stars
Sam Harrison offers eight smart tips for selling your ideas to any audience, among them: truly collaborating with your clients (team, co-workers, customers or whomever), one opening line to never use and ditching the handouts—”people follow handouts about as well as cats follow tour guides.”

Marketing ROI Should RIP by iMedia Connection

Another outstanding piece from Rob Rose, this one demonstrating why software tools and marketing tactics, important as they are, don’t deliver value in and of themselves—it’s the marketing people and processes that make these things work (or not). Accountability, yes, but ROI is hard to apply to marketing investments. “Have you EVER gone back after purchasing a piece of software and calculated whether or not you generated more money from that tool than what you spent on it? No,  of course not.”

10 tiny signs of great leadership by My Venture Pad
***** 5 Stars
This very concise (<250 words) post should be required reading, and re-reading, for every executive. Les McKeown briefly yet brilliantly contrasts the attributes of great leaders with those of “tiny” leaders, e.g., “(great leaders) want to find the smartest person in the room. Tiny leaders want to be the smartest person in the room.”

Crucial Components for B2B Social Media Success by acSellerant

Bob Leonard details 14 key factors for developing an effective b2b social media plan, among them: include input from sales, develop target personas, have a realistic content development plan, and build in analytics.

Are B2B Marketers Missing the Point? by Marketing Interactions

Ardath Albee reacts to MarketingSherpa research indicating that a third or more of b2b marketers assign basic lead management processes like having systems in place for lead scoring and nurturing non-sales-ready leads to the “back burner.” It’s crucial, she writes, for marketing to align its processes with sales to agree on the definition of a “sales ready” lead and hand leads back and forth based on where the prospect is in their buying cycle.

Trying to Sell on Features vs. Benenfits

8 marketing blunders to avoid by iMedia Connection

Jim Nichols delightfully details marketing blunders to avoid, richly illustrated with graphics and examples, such as trying to outcool Apple, vowing to make up for it in volume, and marketing on attributes versus benefits.

The Best TED Talks To Make Use Of Social Media by MakeUseOf

Angela Alcorn presents 10 of the best TED videos from leading thinkers in social media, including Seth Godin on “Tribes,” James Surowiecki on social media news gathering and the wisdom of crowds, Matt Ridley (“When Ideas Have Sex”), and Gordon Brown (yes, as in the former British Prime Minister).

B2B marketing without creative has no punch by The Social CMO Blog

Defining “creative” broadly, Billy Mitchell asks and answers a series of questions that demonstrate the importance of creativity in b2b marketing processes, that it is most definitely not simply “fluff,” and concludes with 10 ways to inject creativity into b2b marketing programs.

Remember, Sometimes The Choir Can Use Some Preachin by iMedia Connction

One more from Rob Rose, this time reminding marketers that one of their most important audiences is the coworkers inside the organization: “Employees want to be motivated—and they desperately want to be on your side.” Just as with external marketing campaigns, it’s imperative do things like speaking the right language for your audience (even if your topic is the same, it’s important to use different words when talking about marketing with the IT group than with finance types), setting goals, and measuring results.

15 Inspirational Quotes About B2B Marketing by Modern B2B Blogs

Maria Pergolino shares a thoughtful collection of quotes from leaders like Valeria Maltoni (“Your writing doesn’t have to be boring just because it’s for other businesses. Businesses have people who read stuff.”) and Dave Jung: (“While an awareness of the customer’s use of your product is important, repeating what they already know obscures the real information they want. And that’s what B2B marketing thrives on … information.”).

The four engines of B2B marketing success by Reputation to Revenue

Rob Leavitt maps out and explains the four key “engines” that drive b2b marketing: content, relationships, lead development, and solutions development (combining products and services to produce “higher value solutions that respond more specifically to individual customer needs”).

Four takeaways from Marketing Sherpa’s B2B Summit by Marketing in a Downturn

Lawrence Mitchell shares lessons learned at MarketingSherpa’s October event about optimizing the marketing funnel, scoring and nurturing leads, and using advanced analytics to increase the ROI of marketing activities.

Six Secrets of Breakthrough Companies by The Six Disciplines Blog

Skip Reardon reports the key findings of Keith McFarland, a former Inc. 500 CEO who spent years researching thousands of private companies and interviewing their leaders in an attempt to identify the secrets of “breaking through.” Among the findings, which should come as no surprise but apparently do to a disturbing number of corporate executives today: Happy employees make successful companies. Money doesn’t solve everything. And “stick to the knitting” doesn’t always work; change matters.

15 Tips to Stop Random Acts of Social Media and Build a Business Platform by FruitZoom

Pam Moore advises businesses to avoid RAMMIES—”Random acts of marketing…that are not integrated, funded or properly planned.” She explains why they are bad, how to spot them, and how to deal with them (Step 1: “Get the RAMMIE planned, funded, measured and integrated. If this isn’t possible, then KILL IT!”)

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales by MarketingSherpa Blog

David Meerman Scott contends that marketers need to adopt real-time platforms and practices for lead generation, much like Wall Street traders have done in the financial markets. He explains how such systems can work and what marketers can do today to get started down this road.

The unique benefits of 5 marketing platforms by iMedia Connection

Gordon Plutsky describes how to use five marketing platforms–website, email, custom content, social media and mobile–in tandem to create an effective and comprehensive marketing media channel.

7 Steps to Creating a Sure-Fire Marketing System by American Express OPEN Forum

Contrary to the beliefs of business owners mystified by the “voodoo” of marketing, frequent best-of contributor John Jantsch argues that “marketing is not only a system, it may be the most important system in any business.” He then lays out a series of steps that lead to a “simple, effective and affordable approach to systematic marketing.”The Marketing Hourglass

7 Little Words That Sum Up the Entire Marketing Machine by Duct Tape Marketing

Following up on the post above,  John Jantsch contends that “Marketing is essentially getting someone that has a need to know, like and trust you…the entire practice of marketing (can be) summed up in seven little words that make up what I call The Marketing Hourglass,” illustrated in this helpful diagram.

10 Marketing Blunders Many Small Businesses Still Make! by Masterful Marketing

Debra Murphy advises small business owners to avoid common pitfalls as they plan for 2011, among them not clearly defining the target market; delivering inconsistent marketing messages; and focusing too much on internal messages (OUR company, OUR capabilities) rather than on solving problems in the customers’ world.

50 Ways to Get Your Site Noticed by Nettuts+

Carl Heaton provides more than four dozen tips for building traffic to your website, ranging from the obvious (write fresh and catchy content, listen to your visitors, submit your site to online directories) to the obscure (send seasonal e-cards, sponsor a college project, or “Hide a Konami Code Easter Egg”).

Beyond Paid Media: Marketing’s New Vocabulary by Forbes

David Edelman and Brian Salsberg write that “While traditional ‘paid’ media—such as television and radio commercials, print advertisements and roadside billboards—still play a major role, companies today can exploit many alternative forms of media,” and advise marketers to think in terms of paid, earned and owned media.

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