How to get your audience’s attention?…from more than 35 experts, the answer is NOTHING NEW.

I came across a blog post from Tamar Weinberg that shared the responses from several “influencers” to the question “how do you recommend people grab your attention?” and after reading all of their answers (yes, I read all of them) my conclusion is NOTHING NEW. If I were to put all their comments in a pivot table in Excel (I am sorry, but I love spreadsheets) and look at the most common recommendations I’d get the same ones that everyone writes about. Check them out below.

However, this finding once again highlights the opportunity to leverage the powers of new media such as internet, social media, location-based technologies and mobile media.  The fact is that all these tools are nothing but data sources and channels to distribute more data, the uniqueness is on how you use them and the beauty is that data can be leveraged to create very targeted communications and interactions with other individuals. From a marketing stand point, we are getting closer and closer to really effective ways to communicate with potential customers, where we will be able to talk to each one of them in the terms that they like. We just need to wait until technology catches up with the how we manage relationships offline, the human brain can quickly recognize someone you know and create a mind frame to effectively communicate with that person, utilizing your common stories, friends, likes, etc. In the meantime we have to settle on the opportunities and limitations of hyper-segmentation tools and best practices.

Common recommendations to grab someone’s attention:

  • Be relevant
  • Be interesting
  • Be original
  • Be outrageous
  • Be direct
  • Don’t sell
  • Be short
  • Be precise
  • Give praise
  • Be helpful
  • Be tenacious
  • Be passionate
  • Be personal
  • And most importantly know someone they trust

Exito

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6 Step Process to Generate Sales from Blogs

Blogs can be used for many different purposes, including sales.  They started as a simple tool to share thoughts, ideas and opinions online, since then they have evolved significantly and now they are being used in many different ways. Companies are using them more and more for marketing purposes and they are seeing the benefits. A study from HubSpot indicates that businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors . Blogging for sales is another effective way to leverage blogs and I will explain how to go about it in a 6 step process.

  1. Find a large enough group of people to talk to. Marketers are always looking for new segments to penetrate with their products and blogs are a great channel to communicate with them.  For example, if you sell executive suites to small businesses, you will probably want to target prospects based on geography and perhaps service firms. That will give you a large group of people to talk to but this group will probably be composed of several smaller groups with similar interest, so don’t stop there.
  2. Learn what is unique about each smaller group. Within that larger segment you should create a variety of content that speaks to what is unique to each one do those smaller groups. Following the example above, it could be interesting to create content that talks about the importance of first impressions, the role of branding in finding new clients, the most successful stock investments strategies or the latest high-end entertainment events in the area.
  3. Share with them and build trust. We all know that people like free samples, gifts, give away, free content, free research, extras or free trials. Use those to start building your brand and relationship with them.  Once you have built that trust and created that first impression, it is really hard to lose it – unless you really screw it. When blogging for sales you must honestly want to share knowledge and tips without expecting something back immediately, you must have patience.
  4. Be patient and keep sharing. This is key as the game has changed for marketers and sales people, if you go aggressively for the sale without really knowing where the prospect is in the purchasing process, you will create a lot of enemies that could have been clients down the road. More than 95% of your blog’s visitors will not be ready to buy so you must be softer and broader with your message to appeal to a larger group that is most likely looking to simply educate themselves. However, make sure to make it easy for those that are shopping to contact you or purchase online.
  5. Embrace your visitors and their networks. As people comment on your posts, bookmark them, share them on social networks and subscribe to your blog, make a task for you to develop each one of those relationships and ideally try to take them offline if appropriate. Don’t try to sell them until they are ready and ask more about your product or services. Developing those relationships will also help you reach a much larger audience than you can reach yourself.
  6. Keep improving your sources. The content that you put in your blog is the fuel that will get your lead generation machine going, so make sure to create an editorial calendar and follow it religiously. If you have trouble coming up with your own thoughts or ideas, you can comment on research reports, studies, do book reviews, interview other experts, etc. Don’t ever run out of gas.
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3% buy now, 7% are open to it, 30% not thinking about it, 30% think they are not interested and 30% know they are not interested.

What does Education have to do with Marketing?

I was going to use the question above to title this post, but then I realized that I was making the precise mistake that I am going to blog about – Making your titles/headlines/subject lines or your entire content too specific. The consequence is that you lose the vast majority of your audience that may not be ready to buy your product or services now, but may be be in the future.  Being too specific in your pitch may be damaging your opportunities to build a stronger sales pipeline in the long run. This is what Chet Holmes talks about on chapter 4 – “Becoming a Brilliant Strategist, How to Get Up to Nine Times More Impact from Every Move You Make” – of his Amazon and New York Times best-selling book “The Ultimate Sales Machine”. He calls is “Education-Based Marketing”.

I have to say that I agree with his recommendation only to some extent. Conceptually it makes a lot of sense, however what happens when everyone else (your competitors) have also learned this? and they are changing their marketing messages too, from being very tactical or street-level to more strategic in order to build brand awareness, recognition, trust and thought leadership? I get bombarded all the time with webinars, white papers, podcasts, blog posts and videos with strategic marketing content. How to achieve better Marketing ROI with web analytics? How to incorporate Social Media into the overall marketing strategy? How to drive more leads? So, what I do with them is delete them right away because I have seen them all already.

If you noticed, the media I made a reference to, from which I get most, if not all my content, is online. Why is this important? Because sales and marketing happens on and off-line as we all know and the strategies should be coordinated but different. Being more strategic on your messaging, like Chet Holmes recommends, makes a lot of sense via traditional media and on sales activities such as cold calling, trade shows, conferences or networking. I want to emphasize that I strongly agree with such strategy when dealing offline, however, when you are online the game is different. The economics and the rules are different so you can implement a long-tail strategy to reach each segment with the right message at the right time.

I want to conclude with 6 suggestions to increase your sales performance using education-based marketing and online media (but make sure to complement it with offline media)

  1. Create targeted education-based messages. Identify the market segments or industries that you want to target and create a content strategy for them. But you can’t stop there, you have to create different messages based on where in the purchasing process the prospect may be: not considering, thus a more strategic message; researching, thus a more tactical message; or ready to purchase, an offer based message.
  2. Use and integrate different online channels. Prospects may use different channels at different stages in the purchasing cycle, so you need to be present on all of them with the appropriate message. For example those that are researching may start (probably will) on Google so you want to make sure that your optimized (blog, website, social media sites) for the keywords used at this stage in the process with content that is more educational on why you are better than your competitor. In addition, you also want to have a separate web and content optimization strategy for those that not considering by using a more strategic message and for those that are ready to pull the trigger using for example email marketing to your house list with strong offers to those that have shown interest in your product or services.
  3. Implement adequate supporting technology. You need to have the appropriate technology given your reality, otherwise all the work that you do on the front end to drive traffic to your website, blog, social media sites and any others may be lost.  Assess what kind of volume you expect to get given your investment in online marketing communications, and what resources you can dedicate to monitor and turn that traffic into sales opportunities. Then, do a through research because there are hundreds of software as a service (SaaS) providers that can help you. But make sure to adopt one or a combination of several.
  4. Nurture a develop online relationships. Once you identify the leads, make sure to categorize them based on their time to purchase. That will give you more insight into how nurture them, what type of content to share with them and with what frequency. Engage with them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Nings and on the Blogs.
  5. Drive online interactions to offline relationships as soon as possible. It is my opinion that all these online tools; web 2.0, social media, or whatever you want to call them, will never replace face to face interaction. However they can be a great bridge to get you a face-to-face interaction and very effective tools to help you maintain and develop those relationships.
  6. Analyze and refine. Establish clear goals and objectives for your plan from the beginning. As you probably know, what does not get measured, does not get improved. Utilize the technology in place and frequently challenge the process and results you’re getting to find ways to improve them.

Any thoughts or comments? Go ahead tell me what you think.

Exito

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Re-asses, Re-think, Re-imagine SEO

A few weeks ago we were invited to talk about SEO at the Dallas-Fort Worth American Marketing Association and we took the opportunity to “de-muddle” the search and content landscape. We focused our presentation on how Search Engine Optimization is evolving into what we are calling CSO or Content Search Optimization. The concept behind CSO is that with the growth of user-generated content on social media and web 2.0 sites, along with the proliferation of blogs and their integration into search results, off-page SEO is set to become more and more relevant when optimizing for search engines results. 

Search Engine Optimization has been a cat & mouse game since its inception, marketer and web masters spent their time figuring out how to game search engine algorithms to only find out that these sites kept evolving and coming up with new criteria. The beauty of this game has been that it has evolved in the direction of making results more and more like what you would find on an offline search for a product or service. The difference though is that looking for an accountant offline could take you days or weeks to find a good one. You would probably look for one on the yellow pages, then ask your friends if they knew one, then interview several, than ask for references, to end up probably working with one that worked with someone you trust.  However, online you can do this in a matter of minutes or seconds. Product or service searches on Google (using their filters, social search features and Google buzz) or searches on Facebook (which can also be filtered for friends) will, if not already, complete the entire search and selection process.

So, the questions are: How do you optimize your web presence? How do you embrace word of mouth and user-generated content around your brand? How do you grow a network built on trust and reputation? In a few words, and you can watch the presentation below to get more details, the answer is three-fold.

First, you want to establish an editorial calendar because it will help you increase content quantity, quality and your will get more subscribers. Do simple math, more content + better quality = better search engine ranking. Add a little of smart marketing and you will get more readership and that will drive more subscribers (or potential customers)

Second, become a publishing warehouse as it will help you get your target audience in the format and timing that they prefer the most. Take the topic for the day, week, month, whatever your reality is and put in your “content development process” to create blog posts, articles, presentations, tweets, white papers, questions, videos, podcasts, etc. or whatever your target audience respond best.

Third, leverage personal branding to distribute content to networks built on trust and reputation. Employees can become a great channel to distribute your content.

Exito

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What does Employee Retention have to do with Social Media Marketing?

Everyone talks about the importance of embracing Social Media as a marketing channel because it is free, easy to implement and everyone is doing it. But I also want to emphasize that it is a great channel to retain and engage employees. Leveraging employees, and their online networks and presence, in corporate social media initiatives helps marketing get the brand in front of the target audience via a channel and network built upon trust and reputation. Employees, on the other side,  fulfill their need to express themselves, develop their own personal brand for professional growth and get the opportunity to integrate their work life with their personal and social life more smoothly.

Employees and their families are online and using social media related sites more than ever before (I assume I don’t need to give a stat on this to make the point) and they like to share personal and professional content with their networks. The beauty is that these networks are built on trust, reputation, friendship and real business relationships. Therefore, they listen to what each other has to say making it a great word of mouth channel for a brand. However, many companies are still concerned that access to social media sites while at work could be a source of loss in productivity…well, let me say that the next outlook version integrates with Facebook and other social media tools and most of them have mobile devices. So, I would say that corporate mind-set will have to change much like it did 15 years ago when email came up. Next are six simple ways to start embracing employee social media activities to boost your marketing target reach while retaining employees.

  1. Set expectations and boundaries: Define how social media can help align employees with your business and marketing goals and what the objectives are for social media. Then be specific on what the expectations, implications and limitations are for employees. Clearly and frequently communicate this to them to make sure they are aware and accountable for their actions, but don’t force them into social media and make sure that they don’t feel that they have to do it.
  2. Educate them: Create a program to coach them on the benefits and limitations of each tool for social and professional purposes.  Show them examples of what to do and what not to do. Do it frequently and embrace knowledge sharing amongst themselves. Encourage employees to try it and find their own social media style.
  3. Invite them to participate: Share with them all your news, campaigns, events, promotions, offers, etc. and ask them to share them with their networks. But don’t stop there, make them part of it by asking them to provide content and help in the creation of these initiatives
  4. Use incentives: Contest are great, I recommend setting up daily, weekly or monthly contest to rewards those that participate the most or help reach the goals of the initiative at hand.
  5. Give them feedback: This is key, no one knows how they are doing and how they can improve if they don’t get any feedback. Give them metrics, comments, ideas and feedback in general on how they are helping the company. They need to know the consequences and implications (positive and negative) of their actions to improve them, correct them or embrace them.
  6. Embrace their ideas: Social media is all about user-generated content and participation, so companies must incorporate employees ideas into their programs. Employees are the ones closer to the customers and prospects and understand better than anyone else what make prospects and customer click or engage. Create the appropriate mechanisms to incorporate their social media ideas.

Exito

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5+1 Attributes of Inspirational Marketing

My wife forwarded me an article about inspirational leadership yesterday with a note saying “Bueno refrescar un poco”, which means “It is good to refresh [lessons] a little bit”.  Which reminded that, although we are always learning new  lessons all the time, we only effectively incorporate them into our actions when we practice them. Thus I went ahead to write this post, so hopefully more marketers can practice more of these lessons.  The article is from the leadership guru, John C. Maxwell and it got me thinking that any marketing strategy and program needs to follow the same 5 attributes outlined in the article (Attitude of Service, Affirmation, Attentiveness, Availability and Authenticity)  to truly engage prospect to eventually turn them into satisfied clients for life.  The article starts like this:

“The Sahara plays tricks on the eyes of its travelers. As the desert sun beats down on the sand, heat waves rise from the ground. Light bends as it passes through the superheated air, painting illusory pictures on the horizon. To thirsty travelers moving through the Sahara, it often appears as if an oasis looms in the distance. However, as the voyagers journey on, the oasis proves to be nothing more than a mirage.”

An organization that wants to effectively help its clients succeed, it must act like an inspirational leader and avoid any marketing programs that are not a true reflection of their value proposition and benefits.  The increasing adoption of social media make these attributes more relevant than ever before because it is harder and harder for organizations to control the marketing and communications channels. Here is a recommendation based on the 5 attributes from the article on how to approach your marketing communication efforts in 2010 (I had to add one of my own, I like things in six):

  1. Attitude of Service – Always deliver valuable content to your prospects and customers for free
  2. Affirmation – Clients look for expertise and thought leadership, but instead of telling them how great your are or how much you know as an organization, be humble and share ideas and tips on how to leverage resources and assets that they may already have an expertise.
  3. Attentiveness – Ask for feedback, thoughts and comments. Listen to what prospects have to say and act on their message
  4. Availability – Take care of your customers, don’t take them fro granted. Be there for them, let them know that your available and be proactive in engaging in conversations with them
  5. Authenticity – Trust is key to any lasting and fruitful relationship, make sure that you are honest on every message and action.
  6. Accountable (this is mine) – Take responsibility for your actions or the lack of thereof. This shows you care and that you want to build a long relationship with your clients.

Going Beyond Traditional Lead Nurturing

Several studies indicate that lead nurturing is key to improve sales and marketing performance indicators. A recent post from Marketo points out a few studies that found out how much certain metrics improve when lead nurturing is implemented. However, I think that using automated lead nurturing processes to send emails with white papers, trigger calls or invite leads that are not ready (80% of them according to Rain Today) to a webinar is just the beginning and will soon become a standard practice. It probably is already for certain industries and segments. So, the question is how do you differentiate and go beyond what your competition is doing to nurture leads?

The answer is to engage them in real conversations that are not automated and based on “sending” valuable information. Don’t get me wrong, you should do the standard automated lead nurturing explained above in parallel with having real conversations with prospects. You need to do this to play in the same field, but there are many other channels to nurture leads in a two-way communication channel. Here are 6 recommendations to start doing it:

  • Find the prospect on Twitter and start following them. Make sure to tweet content that is aligned to what he/she is tweeting about and re-tweet their content also.
  • Find if he/she has a blog and comment on their posts.
  • Find him/her on LinkedIn and join the groups he/she participates in. Post questions and comments on those groups. Answer and comments his/her posts.
  • Find them on other industry relevant online communities and engage with them there.
  • Don’t invite them to become friends/contacts right away, engage in a conversation first and then connect with them.
  • Once you connect with them in LinkedIn,  forward them profiles of people that could become their customers and offer them to make an introduction

Happy New Year!!!

6 Easy Marketing Tips To Survive 2010

The last couple of years have been tough and hopefully you and your company managed to survive it. In 2010 we expect that things will start getting better, at least in certain industries; however you should be smart and don’t get all excited. There are great opportunities for those that are brave, innovative and agile, is that you?

If yes, let me know to help you. If not, then you are just probably finding ways to keep your job and we recommend you to read the 6 tips below and then tell us how they worked for you.

  1. Don’t Spend Your Entire Marketing Budget. Costs saving initiatives have been more popular than ever before. If you can manage to not spend your entire marketing budget you will be rewarded. Showing savings is always a good thing these days, and who cares if you hurt your lead generation volume and quality or stall your brand building efforts. What is more important though is to get a tap on your back from your boss for finishing the year strong. Nobody will hunt you down if you don’t continue your efforts to capitalize on the upturn of the economy we will see in 2010, right?
  2. Keep Reducing Headcounts. Everyone had been letting people go and most have successfully managed to survive this economic crisis based on these decisions. These types of initiatives are effective and opportune to let go of low performing employees. You can always hire top performers later in the year; although you may not have enough budget. Remember you saved so much money by not spending your entire marketing budget that your boss will probably decide that you could do a great job with a smaller budget in 2010.
  3. New Market Segments are Not Worthwhile. Although, trends such as the high broadband Internet penetration, the surge of web 2.0 tools and the social media boom are making it easier and easier to reach out to smaller segments in very cost effective manners, many people would argue that is not enough. Segments based on race, language, gender, age or sexual preferences are not big enough yet to allocate enough resources. No one cares that one of every five young adults today (ages 18 – 34) are Hispanic, which are ONLY about 50 million people. And nobody believes in Forrester estimates that Hispanic disposable income as a group will grow to $1.4 trillion by 2013 from $951 billion in 2008.
  4. Search Engine Optimization is Overrated. People justify SEO investment with arguments such as that more than 1 billion people worldwide, ages 15 years and older are Internet users or that more than 74% of the US population uses the Internet. Also that organic search drives 75%+ of all search traffic. What value does all that have? How many people really use the Internet to purchase or influence product purchases? Not many really, the penetration of ecommerce, on product categories such as computer electronics and media (books, music and videos) is ONLY 25%. There are still lots of people that you can reach out to without using the Internet, so why bother reaching out to these demographics, right?
  5. Email Marketing is From the Past. Email marketing started in the mid and late 1990’s, which is a long time ago in Internet history. It boomed in the early part of this decade, but as of a couple of years ago many argue it is being replaced by social media marketing and other new media channels. Companies used to BLAST emails because it was easy and cheap, but CAN-SPAM laws, anti-spam software and other tools are allowing people to hide from email marketing messages. Let’s look at some stats again to support this argument. Email open rates are above 30% in many industries and click rates get up to 6% or higher. So if you are a small or medium size business and you have an opted-in list of prospects and customers of let’s say 10,000 emails, you are directly reaching ONLY 3,000 people and building strong relationship via your content or offers with ONLY 600 people… EVERY TIME YOU SEND EMAIL CAMPAIGNS.
  6. Social Media is a Fad, Let Your Competitors Go There First. Much has been said about the reach of social media, the engagement capabilities it adds to the mix, that is taking Word-of-Mouth marketing to the next level and that is incredibly more cost effective than other tools. But, it is so new that many marketers feel threatened or not knowledgeable enough to jump into it, so they are waiting for others in the industry to lead the path to figure out how to use it. Let your competitors work with “social media” marketing firms and create some success first before you join. Why take any risks? We still need to survive 2010, right?

Inside-out Creative, a Strategic Advantage in a Crowded Marketing Field

This is a second in a series of posts based on the findings of the IBM study titled “The end of advertising as we know it”. The first post titled “The End of Advertising as We Know It…I am Small Business, so Why do I Care?” was based on the changes in consumer behavior, how they consume advertising and the usage of Internet.

In this installment I will discuss “User Generated Content.” User generated content is arguably as appealing to consumers as versions created by agencies. According to the IBM study, It is a trend that will continue to grow. This is great news for small and medium businesses because they can leverage their networks of costumers, partners, employees and professional networks to ignite and embrace a dialog around common interests. This is why it is important for companies and other organizations to closely monitor what is being said about their brands and making sure they participate in the conversation. However, many entrepreneurs, start-ups, local businesses, local non-profits and other smaller companies don’t have strong brands that people talk about, thus they have a great opportunity to guide and influence future online dialogs as their brands grow.

More than 25% of US consumers have contributed content on social sites according to the IBM study, and according to the data from the Social Technographics profile study done by Forrester Research, this trend will only keep growing as it has in the last few years. The beauty of this trend, along with social technologies that embrace sharing, rating and bookmarking, is that it is paving the path to a larger movement around online word-of-mouth (WOM).

WOM, is based on consumer experience, and in this case digital consumer experience. A recent study by Razorfish titled “Feed: The Rasorfish Digital Experience Report 2009” suggests that digital brand experiences are not just “awareness” or “conversion” plays, but customer-creation plays and that digital brand experiences create customers. So, if your target audience is online on a daily basis, participates in social media sites and spends money online for business or personal purchases, then you must pay close attention to your digital brand experience.

An article titled “Why It’s Time to Do Away With the Brand Manager” published by Advertising Age argues, based on a research study titled “Adaptive Brand Marketing: Rethinking Your Approach to Branding in the Digital Age,”conducted by Forrester Research, that brand managers should turn into brand advocates. They need to be more powerful and consumer-centric, much nimbler, and more real-time-oriented than the brand manager of today. They need to let go some of the control they had in the past, users want and will interact with your brand from a message and positioning perspective.

It’s not only consumers that will drive your digital brand experience, your partners and employees can also make a difference. Small and medium size firms have a unique opportunity to create a strategic advantage over larger organizations, by engaging partners and employees. To illustrate how employees can help create appealing content, think of all the knowledge that is within the employees of your company. Nobody knows your customers, prospects, products, competitors and the dynamics of your market segment better than your own employees. What are you going to do about it?

Below are 6 questions to ask yourself before starting any marketing initiative the involves employees:

  1. Does the culture of the company support an initiative like this?
  2. Will the executive team listen to and allow employee generated content?
  3. Should you utilize behavioral and team building tools and techniques to get employees from different backgrounds and communication styles to effectively work with others?
  4. Is my employee base active on social media? What is their online behavior?
  5. Have other similar initiatives that include employee input been successful in the past?
  6. Will I need help or support from HR and the executive team?

Small and Medium Size Business Social Media Success Stories

I have been hearing more and more the need of small and medium size business to not only learn about success stories from national brands and other large organizations, but also from businesses of their characteristics. In many cases these businesses don’t have a well recognized brand and find it hard to believe that prospects and customers will engage with them on social media. Below is a selection of small and medium size business social media success stories. I hope you enjoy and learn something from them.

  1. Twitter To Go: One Houston Coffee Shop Makes its Mark. Today, he credits Twitter with almost doubling his clientele and with opening his eyes to a whole new way to build Community.
  2. Real Estate Consultant & Realtor Danilo Bogdanovic. This small business relied solely on word-of-mouth and personal referrals until three years ago, when it first diversified into the world of social media and quickly found cost-effective marketing success online.
  3. myFICO: Online Customer Community Drives Accomplishment of Support, Marketing, and Sales Goals. As a company operating within a heavily regulated industry, FICO is limited in the information it can provide to customers.
  4. 5 stories in one. Kogi BBQ, Marsh Cafe, Kogi BBQ, Duke of York’s Cinema, Wiggly Wigglers and Howies
  5. Lion Brand Yarn Drives Measurable ROI with Social Media: Lion Brand Yarn was not sure if its customer demographic would be likely to engage in social media but was willing to experiment with.
  6. Pink Cake Box is a specialty cake shop in northern New Jersey with 10 employees. They opened for business in 2005.
  7. UNLEASH 2009, the Mediasite User Conference: Energizing Users On-site and Online. A campaign to increase conference attendance that resulted in a 15% increase in conference attendees
  8. Sweetriot, a small business out of New York City has gotten a lot of buzz over the past several years for their mouth-watering, fair trade dark chocolate. CEO Sarah Endline explains in the short video above (click on the image) on how she engages in the social media space.
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