Early Adopter Program Announced for WPO Metrics Dashboard

After writing about the web presence optimization (WPO) framework here last October, we started seeing quite a bit of interest in the model and metrics. In response to that interest, we announced in January plans to commercialize the internal WPO dashboard in use at Minneapolis b2b marketing/PR agency KC Associates.

WPO Metrics ScorecardThe result of those efforts is a separate entity (WPOinc) and a WPO metrics dashboard that can be used by virtually any company that sells b2b or considered-purchase b2b products and/or services.

The dashboard provides companies and agencies with performance indicators, competitive benchmarks and web presence metrics across the five key areas of online presence: press (PR), social, website (search), industry and paid presence. It enables users to measure and optimize owned, earned and paid content efforts in support of a WPO strategy in a coordinated manner across different digital marketing disciplines.

On February 28th, WPOinc announced its early adopter program for the metrics dashboard. The early adopter program will begin this month until finishing touches are put on the product for its 1.0 rollout later this spring. Check out the announcement for all the details.

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New Tool to Measure Web Presence Optimization

As noted here previously, with more than 90% of high-value buying decisions now starting with online research, it’s imperative for companies to be “everywhere” online when buyers are looking for information about what they offer. Web presence optimization (WPO) is the art and science of maximizing online visibility. It’s a super-set of SEO, encompassing owned, earned and paid media, or presence.

Consultants at b2b marketing and PR agency KC Associates have been doing WPO work for clients for nearly three years now. It was apparent early on to those of us on the WPO team that having the proper metrics for tracking and measuring web presence, especially over time, is critical to coordinating PR, SEO, content marketing, social media and advertising efforts to maximize online visibility for clients.

WPO Conversion Rate by Presence Area ChartWhile there are many excellent tools available for social media and PR monitoring, SEO keyword research, website analytics, and other specific functions, there‘s nothing that provides a unified high-level view of web visibility to support strategic decision-making. So the team picked out the best of the “siloed” special purpose tools and built a sort of informal internal dashboard of metrics, many of which are custom, to help facilitate WPO efforts and to provide cohesive reporting for KCA clients.

Just this last fall, I shared information in a blog post about these WPO metrics and KCA published a white paper on the topic as well. That got people talking about WPO, and asking about WPO measurement, which was amplified after this post on the MarketingSherpa blog about the evolution of WPO.

As a result, KCA’s Principal decided to spin-off its WPO intellectual property and commercialize its b2b WPO metrics dashboard through a new, completely independent entity, WPO Inc.

Recognizing the importance of WPO and Webbiquity’s focus on web ubiquity, there will be an ongoing collaboration between the two organizations in order to share even more about WPO as it evolves—its metrics, tools, results, strategies, and more.

You can read more in the official announcement, and both KCA and Webbiquity would love to get your feedback.

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How to Build the Ultimate Online Newsroom

by TomPick and guest blogger Maria Verven

Almost every PR pro over a certain age remembers press kits–actual physical folders stuffed with a company’s recent press releases, management bios,  a corporate fact sheet, a few case studies, and maybe an article reprint or two.

They were expensive to print and ship and awkward to lug around—for both PR people who produced them and the journalists who ended up with them. They were bulky, killed lots of trees, and of course weren’t searchable.

Online newsrooms sure beat press kitsAnd there was the constant balancing act: include too much information, and nothing will get read (it will seem overwhelming). Too little , and the writer won’t understand how cool and unique your company really is. Yeah, no one today mourns the press kit, but they were the best technology available at the time.

As the web took off and corporate sites proliferated,press kits (or at least elements of them) were moved online. Searchability improved, trees were saved and shipping costs plummeted. Online newsrooms are a dramatic improvement, but even today many are sub-optimized; it’s not at all uncommon to see websites where the “news room” or “media page” is little more than a list of press release links, with perhaps a PDF of some media coverage and some sketchy management bios.

The best online newsrooms go well beyond that and really take advantage of the web medium. Combining rich content with careful organization and search capabilities,  they enable PR pros to provide the media, analysts and bloggers with a vast amount of information without seeming overwhelming.

The ultimate online newsroom should house everything media are looking for in one convenient, easy to navigate spot. It ideally should include:

  • • The primary media contact’s name and contact information (including social network profile links). This is preferably one single individual, but can be multiple names (e.g. based on division, product line, purpose etc.) if absolutely necessary.
  • • Links to news releases (current year and archive of past years). If your company produces a lot of news releases, also provide the ability to view by topic (e.g. product line, financial releases, personnel announcements, etc.).
  • • Links to media coverage and bylined articles.
  • • A company backgrounder or fact sheet (see below for detail).
  • • FAQs (real ones, that real media people would care about).
  • • Management team bios and photos (downloadable JPGs in high-res and low-res versions for print and web). Bios should specify each executive’s area of expertise and best topics for quotes or interviews.
  • • Story ideas (again, thoughtful ones).
  • • Upcoming events / sponsorships / speaking engagements (with speaker bios included).
  • • Links to white papers, PowerPoints, videos, ebooks, infographics, and other company-generated content and thought-leadership assets.
  • • Links to analyst (industry and/or financial) research and coverage.
  • • A link to the company blog(s).
  • • RSS feeds for press releases and blog posts.
  • • Downloadable JPG images in hi-res and low-res formats. These include the company logo and other important images such as the company headquarters building, product photos, software screenshots, photos of executives at industry events, etc.
  • • Links to all of the company’s social media profiles (LinkedIn company page, Facebook, YouTube channel, Twitter etc.).
  • • A search-friendly URL structure with “news” included, e.g. news.company.com/section/pagename or company.com/news/section/pagename (where “section” is the content type: news releases, bios, images etc.). See the 2011 Online Newsroom Survey (PDF) from TekGroup for more guidance here.

News releases should always be in HTML format for searchability. If PDF or printer-friendly versions are offered, these should be stored in a separate subdirectory that is excluded from search in order to avoid duplicate content issues. Releases should be presented in reverse date order and links should include the headline, date and one-line summary (preferably Twitter-friendly 115 characters or less). Again, current releases should be displayed on the newsroom main page with a link to archives, and the media contact name should be easy to find on every release. Also consider creating social media releases (which can include videos, images, links and other items) using a tool like PitchEngine.

One thing that’s often overlooked: updating the media contact name on older releases if that name changes. You don’t want to direct media to contact former employees or your old PR firm (!).

The media coverage page should highlight the two-three most recent articles, with an archive section for the rest (assuming the company gets that much coverage).

The company backgrounder needs to be factual, objective (non salesy) and written in the third person. It’s best to provide both a short version (often just the news release boilerplate) and a longer version that includes more company history, competitive differentiation, and how the company’s products and/or services help customers solve problems (backed up with facts).

Management bios should include information on how long that person has been with the company, key responsibilities, any outside leadership roles held, and social media profile links.

To develop story ideas, start by looking at looking at editorial calendars from “A tier” publications in the industry and look for recurring themes. Make it clear which executives are the best sources for each topic.

Upcoming events and speaking engagements should include the date, name of the conference or event, a description of the company’s participation in the event, and links to the conference website and the speaker’s bio (if applicable).

All content should (of course) be search optimized, with the ability to limit the search to just information within the newsroom section of the site.

It almost goes without saying, but important news should be shared via the company’s Twitter feed, Facebook page and other important social media outlets. All newsroom content should be easily sharable using social media buttons for the most popular sites and networks (tools like AddThis, ShareThis and Meebo make it easy to add these buttons to any site or page). Use and link to social content sharing sites for your media assets as well, including YouTube and Vimeo for company videos, SlideShare for presentations, Podcast Alley and iTunes for audio, Flickr for photos, plus Scribd and Docstoc for PDF files.

The days of the press kit are far behind us, and there’s no need to simply replicate that old format online. The ultimate online newsroom can simultaneously provide far more information and yet give each reporter exactly what he or she is looking for.Maria Verven

Maria Verven is a PR and content marketing executive with KC Associates, a Minneapolis-based b2b technology PR and marketing agency. She’s well-versed in the “new rules” of doing PR, with expertise in social media, SEO (search engine optimization), content marketing, social media and blogging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before the Sale

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

After the Sale

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

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

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Book Review: The Perfection of Marketing

Despite it’s ambitious title, The Perfection of Marketing is a surprisingly accessible and fast-paced read. The book is written in case study fashion, taking the reader through a realistic scenario of a midsized company struggling to build on its past success and take sales to the next level. The style is engaging, drawing the reader into the story. Author James Connor keeps the story moving forward at a brisk, but not hurried pace. In addition, each chapter ends with a quick summary of the key points presented, a nice touch that helps reinforce and retain the most important information.

The Perfection of Marketing book cover

The book walks through three major steps in the author’s perfection of marketing process: positioning the brand through the sales moment; rolling out the brand consistently; and return on investment marketing. In the author’s parlance, the “sales moment” is that key value proposition that makes a prospect say “yes.” They’ve done their homework. They’ve identified several alternative products or services that will solve their problem. What is the key point that makes them choose to buy from your company above all others? That’s Connors’ key sales moment, and the value proposition around which to build the brand.

The first section walks through the four main elements of branding: a company’s name, logo, tagline, and campaignable image. Nike is used an example. The name Nike comes from the Greek goddess of victory (not a bad association for a company that produces sports apparel for competitive athletes at all levels). The swoosh logo invokes motion and speed. The tagline (which former spokesperson Tiger Woods clearly took a bit too literally), “Just do it,” is both immediately relevant and highly memorable. And the image—an athlete running—reflects the aspirations of the company’s target market. Few companies tie all the elements of branding together that ideally, but its a goal every company can pursue.

The second section, rolling out the brand, properly focuses on building the brand internally first, before taking it to the market. Before a brand image will be believable and accepted by prospects, it must be internalized by employees and partners. Messages must be consistent imbued into the company’s culture. Branding is next extended to the organization’s website and communicated to the media and other key influencers through PR and social media marketing, then to prospects through advertising and promotional activities.

The final section, one sure to be dear to CEOs and CFOs (and the marketers who need to communicate with them in the language of business), explains return on investment marketing. The first key is understanding the lifetime value of a customer; from this, ROI calculations can be performed on any marketing activity to help set budget levels appropriately. Two different strategies are presented: a slow growth strategy focused on conservative and modest marketing investments, and a more aggressive fast growth strategy, “spending ahead of sales” to gain a competitive foothold in the market or launch a disruptive new product.

The book is aimed at a wide audience; C-level executives will gain a greater understanding of the role of marketing and the business justification for various levels of investment. Corporate marketers will come away with clear guidelines for an over-arching strategy, and how and when an outside agency can be most helpful. And marketing agency people will get key insights into how to speak with clients at all levels of management, and position their services within a coherent and unified strategy for marketing success. (Incidentally, The Perfection of Marketing is actually highly aligned with the business practices of the agency I’m part of, KC Associates, though with some helpful enhancements.)

So does the book live up to it’s title? For the most part, yes. My only criticism of the book, albeit a minor one, is that in its brevity, the book does a much better job with the “what” of marketing than with the “how.” This relatively slim volume would have benefited from a bit more detail on specific steps or actions to accomplish some of the objectives presented. Readers will have look elsewhere, or fill in some of the blanks using their own creativity, in order to incorporate the overall strategy presented here.

Still, The Perfection of Marketing is a highly approachable and valuable book for corporate and marketing agency executives alike.

Other reviews of this book:

The Perfection of Marketing, by James Connor – A Book Review
Brad Shorr

My Marketing Book of the Year
Douglas Karr

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