I always strive to practice what I preach. If I write about it or recommend it, I always ask myself, “Am I doing this?” If the answer isn’t “yes,” I don’t write about it.
With that said, today’s topic is one that I admittedly struggle with. I admit, like most people or at least most highly competitive people, I fall into the “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” trap. And I’ve experienced what every other person who puts their ideas into the world experiences – simply that some people don’t like what you are doing.
Last week, when talking about blogging to the Baltimore Chapter of the American Marketing Association, I was asked about the fear of people saying negative things on a blog (a common fear) and my immediate response was, “the only thing worse than people saying bad things about you is people not saying anything about you.” I firmly believe this too.
I was talking with a client and friend of mine last week about going to the extremes and making a big, polarizing promise. He was, of course, concerned about what the response would be. I gave him the following advice:
Once you start, you can’t let your detractors scare you. You must embrace them. The detractors (or haters as my son calls them) come out first. It’s always easier to tell people what’s wrong with something or why you don’t like something.
You must know that the fans are out there, but in the beginning, they’re quiet and they stand back. They’re hoping you’re for real. They’re hoping you stand up to your critics. If you stick with it, they will begin to believe in you and that will make it feel safe enough to come out and embrace you. Once that happens, that’s when everything takes off. Most people don’t have the guts, discipline, or fortitude to do it – I think you do.
Don’t get me wrong. By embrace, I don’t mean that you cater to them. I mean you engage them. You should listen (often times they have very good points that can enhance what you are doing) and engage, don’t hide and don’t back track. Also, when you actually engage with a detractor, you’ll be surprised just how fast many of them turn into your first evangelists.
Last night, I spoke to the Baltimore chapter of The American Marketing Association. The topic was blogging and its place for businesses. One of the attendees came up to me after the presentation and said what I’ve heard many, many times – “Everything you said was great and I agree with it all (okay, I don’t hear that all the time), but we just don’t have the time to do it.”
Side note: For purposes of this conversation, I will use “blog” and “content” interchangeably. I think a blog is a great way to distribute content and support engagement, but whether you or your company “blog” is less important than do you create meaningful, valuable content for your market on a regular basis.
For those that say you don’t have time, I share three simple responses and a bonus thought.
1. Today there are only two types of companies – which are you?
2. There’s a HUGE conversation taking place…
… are you participating in it?
3. Here’s the difference blogging and content marketing has made for Imagine, you tell me – is it worth it?
If after all this you still can’t bring yourself to make the investment (of time and energy to do it yourself or money to have others do it), then on behalf of all those who are blogging, we say thank you. The more people who don’t take it seriously, the greater our advantage is.
What do you think?
I don’t spend much time pontificating on social media. I leave that to people like Gini Dietrich who live in that world. While I certainly have readers who are actively engaged in and even counsel others on the use of social media, most of the readers of this blog are busy working in and on their businesses and focusing on new ways to grow. Most businesses are still confused by this “new world” and are taking a wait and see approach. Today, waiting is a mistake – but not the biggest one you can make.
In May of 2009, I wrote that a content marketing strategy was a must for every business. Social media is clearly a means to distribute content, so it is certainly good news that I see more and more companies of all shapes and sizes announcing, “We’re on [fill in the blank]” – so an “A” for effort. Unfortunately, execution is getting a clear “F!” The fundamental mistake lies in the idea that a company or an individual are “on” a social media platform.
Social media isn’t something you’re on – it’s something you engage in. While it’s become trite to say that tools such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (to name a few) are not a broadcast medium, apparently this old news hasn’t hit small and mid-sized businesses.
While some businesses engage very effectively, my estimate is that 75% of fast growth businesses are not. That 75% fall into two categories: one group ignores their platform and posts or updates very infrequently, and the other actively participates, but they tell, and act as if their followers should feel privileged to have access the company’s thoughts. Frankly, I don’t know which one is worse.
Social media and content marketing provide a tremendous opportunity for companies to clearly demonstrate their difference. It allows you to leverage your strengths and, in many cases, neutralize your vulnerabilities. Done correctly, it’s highly leveragable and can lead to a multitude of return in a variety of ways. The key is that is must be done correctly. Correctly means that it is open, honest, authentic, and collaborative.
Look, a business does not need to participate in social media to be successful. Apple has virtually no presence of social media sites or platforms. My best guess is that this is because they have no desire to collaborate and engage, and that’s fine.
I recommend social media as a great lead generation and cultivation tactic, but if you can’t engage – skip it.
What do you think?
At the beginning of this year, I issued a call to all small and mid-sized businesses (SMEs) that social media, while still hyped to be more than it is, was no longer optional. Since that time I’ve seen some very wild reactions – everything from complete and total resistance to the apparent belief (or more likely desperate hope) that social media will solve all business problems. The bulk of SME executives, however, lie somewhere in the middle. Today, they are curious about social media, but a) they don’t understand it and b) they don’t believe that “their clients/customers” use it.
This morning, I came across an excellent presentation that (while a bit aggressive in tone) clearly highlights why it’s important, why it works and why you’re foolish not to be participating. It’s from the people at Brand Infiltration. Admittedly, I know nothing about them. This presentation, however, nails it and even though it’s 83 slides you need to read every one of them (yup – every single slide).
Early in my sales career I was given some of the worst advice ever – it nearly destroyed by career. “It’s a numbers game,” I was told. If I could rid the world of one destructive, commoditizing thought it would be that piece of advice.
This philosophy shows up in a number of places. Most recently, it has shown itself as more and more businesses are turning to “social media” to drive the outreach programs. As more and more small and mid-size business (SMEs) executives and salespeople are looking for new ways to stand out, they are experimenting with things like LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages and Twitter. I applaud this effort – however, please stop demeaning yourself by begging and peddling for “fans.” (For those that are not familiar with these tools, fans simply means people that decide to follow your posts and/or be alerted anytime you put something up on one of your pages.)
I’ve lost count of the number of requests I’ve received recently asking me – no, begging me – to become a fan or follower of their new endeavor. This idea is clearly rooted in the idea that if more people are “fans”, then you must be more successful. In reality, this is just another example of modern businesses taking a quantity/volume approach over a quality/profit approach. I am not impressed by the number of followers you have,nor is any reasonable person that I am aware of. I am, however, impressed by the quality of followers you have. One of the ways I judge that is by judging the quality of your content.
It’s funny, I’m a big (BIG) Bruce Springsteen fan – seen him more than 30 times and I’ve got tickets to see him several more times this year, plus I’ve turned on hundreds of people in my life to his music – and he’s never once asked me to become his fan. He takes the harder route – he did (and continues to do) something great and I became a fan. I’ve found this principle exists in business today – those that ask me to become a fan provide the least value; while those that provide great value never feel the need to ask. The more we pursue fans (remember, that’s short for fanatical) who are not really fans, the more we reduce the impact of having actual fans. When that happens, no one is better off – actually, it’s one of the reasons that marketing professionals are in the trouble they are in.
I guess it’s human nature to look for the shortcut – the easier route. Look getting people to click a button to become a “fan” is relatively easy – it’s a lot harder to build a true fan base; a community of people who are connected to what you do and care – passionately – about what you and your company are. It might look better to have thousands of people signed up to be your “fan” – but I’ll take the few that really, truly care.
In my last post, I introduced The New Marketing Funnel and defined the phases of the process. In this post, I want to share how to utilize this process as the filter for every marketing action or investment you consider.
One of the great advantages of The New Marketing Funnel is that it finally puts to rest the age-old question: How does the selling function differ from the marketing function and where and when do they meet. Since (what seems like) the beginning of time, sales and marketing have been in a pitchfork battle – exemplified by the Harvard Business Review article The War Between Sales and Marketing. The New Marketing Funnel clearly shows how sales fits in the marketing function and how marketing both supports and stimulates the sales function.
With a clear understanding of each phase of The Funnel, the first question to ask when considering or reviewing a marketing activity or investment is which part(s) of the funnel is the activity designed to support. A fundamental key to effective marketing is to ensure that every effort is measured and assessed for effectiveness. While some marketing activities are easier to measure and judge than others, The Funnel makes it easier to assess any activity when you’re clear about it’s purpose.
Take blogging for example. I’ve been a blogging advocate for years, and I’ve encouraged many a businessperson to start blogging. That said, I know many people who started blogging only to quit because, “It didn’t produce any results.” I asked them what results it was supposed to produce. After much conversation (which I might add demonstrated that they had no clear objective to begin with), it came down to: we couldn’t measure any new business we were getting as a result of blogging – it was a big waste of time. Further clarification led to the realization that they wanted their blog to support lead generation.
Had they understood The New Marketing Funnel before they began to blog, they would probably have realized, before they started, that blogging would not “pay” if measured by lead generation effectiveness. (In my personal experience with this blog, I’ve found very little lead generation impact). The interesting thing about these companies is that their biggest problem wasn’t a lack of opportunities in the market, per se. The problem they had was getting prospects to understand their value proposition, and to get prospects to engage in conversation. Their direct sales efforts struggled overcoming the “relevancy barrier” (answering the question in a prospect’s mind why they should stop what they’re doing and listen to the salesperson).
The part of The Funnel that addresses this issue is lead cultivation. Had these companies focused on the objective of lead cultivation, the topics they wrote about would have been different, the salespeople would have leveraged the content to soften the market for lead conversion and the bloggers would have given the effort the time it needed. Why? Because they would have been clear about the purpose.
The Funnel doesn’t just work for blogging and other social media (though it will clearly define the power of such tools and tactics), and it doesn’t just work on the pre-sale portion of marketing. The Funnel helps direct actions that lead to increased word of mouth. Since before I ever had a thought about starting my own business (I was probably 6 at the time), I knew that the “best advertising” was word of mouth (WOM). Most small and mid-sized business enterprises (SMEs) rely on WOM for a meaningful portion of the new business efforts. Yet, few companies actually address the issue directly. The Funnel helps you focus those efforts.
Putting The New Marketing Funnel To Work
So, how can you utilize The Funnel to make sense of your marketing efforts? Here’s a 10-step plan:
- Identify and list all marketing activities that you conduct (big or small).
- Clearly connect every activity to at least one of The Funnel’s phases (it’s fine to have more than one – for example, blogging supports cultivation, selling, and loyalty & belonging for me).
- Any marketing activity that is not directly supporting at least one phase of The Funnel should be immediately eliminated.
- Describe how the activity supports the phase it has been assigned to (if you find the task of writing that description to be more pain than it’s worth – that marketing activity should be immediately eliminated).
- Define success – if the activity works what value would it provide; what’s it worth?
- Calculate the costs (time, money and energy) for each activity.
- Do a return on costs analysis – does the definition of success (step 5) provide a reasonable multiple for the costs. Any activity that does not should be immediately eliminated.
- Monitor your activities and compare the results to your expectations.
- Adjust accordingly.
- Identify phases of The Funnel that are not fully support and create activities that support those phases and meet the criteria in steps 1-9.
If The Funnel has done it’s job, you will a) be much clearer about your marketing efforts, and b) you will have cut some marketing activities. This biggest, most common marketing mistake I see SMEs make is they try to do too much. Better to do fewer things excellently than several in a mediocre fashion.
We have a tool called The Packaging Audit™ that can support this analysis. If you’d like a copy, send me an email (or leave a comment) with your contact information. I’d be happy to provide it to you.
It has often been said that sales is the world’s oldest profession (that’s just another form of sales.) I’ve dedicated quite a bit of my life to help (in whatever way I can) professionalize the sales and marketing industry. I’ve written about respecting your audience, telling the truth, doing something great, living up to your promises and simply doing good.
Every now and then, I see an example of bad selling that leaves me asking myself if I’m just “spitting into a headwind.” Last week, a friend and a noted Web 2.0 expert, Craig Stoltz, pointed me in the direction of (in his words) a “new sales-focused social networking platform.”
I’m nervous about sharing the name of this company, for fear of the old PR axiom: any press is good press, but I’ll risk it. Salesconx is a new online social networking site that allows people to buy and sell individual leads. It’s like traditional sales leads groups (where you trade your relationships with clients for other people’s relationships) with an online and monetary twist (think eBay). Here, you get to auction your trusted relationships.
I understand how difficult it is to get the time and attention from qualified buyers. I also understand the power of networking (though it is often practiced badly and becomes a significant time wasted) and how networking can support breaking down attention barriers. I’ve even embraced many of today’s social media and “Web 2.0” applications. I’ve always been nervous about them – hoping that their power would be used for good instead of evil.
However, as every day passes, I get increasingly concerned that the potential power that online capabilities bring to relationship building will actually make trusted relationships even more rare. Whether it’s the misapplication of LinkedIn’s recommendations or best answers application (great intent, but today you have people offering to trade recommendations with each other or fixing best answers) to this newest application.
I get why someone would create Saleconx (and I even understand why someone might fund it). I empathize with the unsuspecting salespeople who might be tempted to try to buy some access. However, I cannot imagine who would actually sell the trust and respect of their clients, friends and associates. This act should qualify for Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person In The World.”
Let me be clear – the trust and respect of your buyer’s, friends, and fans should be the most prized possession you have. It’s called goodwill and if you look at any company that builds sustainable success, you’ll see that goodwill is the most valuable item on their balance sheet – even though you can’t touch it. As difficult as it is to build it, it’s is nearly impossible (and extraordinarily expensive) to regain after you’ve you blown it (just look at Starbucks).
Salesconx is a BAD IDEA!! As is the nature with most short cuts, whatever short-term gains it might bring, it will introduce tremendous long-term pain. Look, I know it’s tough to get the attention of your market today. As I said, I empathize with the desire to find a short cut. But please – PLEASE – don’t fall for this “fool’s gold.” The reality is access that is sold so crassly will not have the implied value that a truly mutual beneficial introduction will have. And, the more common this type of fake introduction becomes, the less valuable a real introduction will be (after all, how will the unsuspecting buyer know the difference).
There are only two reasons to utilize this type of interface. If you don’t feel you have the capability to sell, or you don’t feel your offering is really worth anyone’s attention, then I guess you’ll have no choice but to use this type of platform. If you fall into one of these two categories, please do me a favor – gain the skills or find a better offer to sell; but please – PLEASE – stop propagating the image of the salesperson who will do anything for a buck.
Well, when I first heard about it, I thought it was silly. Who in the world (that is actually working) would use Twitter. I’m now one of them. I’m actually finding it quite valuable. Why:
Because Twitter is a proxy for the market. I talk often about keeping things simple, now I have a great proxy for it. If you can’t fit your message into Twitter (140 charecters), it’s probably two complicated.
If you’d like to follow my “Tweets” just click here.
I remember a story from early in my selling career. It went something like this:
Two shoe salespeople are sent to an undeveloped country to expand a company’s shoe business. One calls back to the home office and says, “I’ve got some bad news. There’s no market here – no one wears shoes.” The other calls back and says, “I’ve got some great news. There’s unlimited possibility here, no one is wearing shoes.”
I thought of this story as I reviewed a recent study reported by Emarketer.com. A study conucted by Webtrends revealed that only 5% of UK companies reported they were using blogs.
This supports Socialtext’s study that “Less than 6% of the Fortune 500 and 2% of the Forbes 200 Best Small Companies blogged in April and June 2006, respectively.”
These reports don’t surprise me, as they match the response I get from clients to my recommendation that they begin blogging. Clients typically respond by questioning the commitment that is required to make a blog effective, or they complain about the cost of keeping it up. Then, they ask the cynic’s favorite question, “How do I know it will work.”
My response is pretty standard.
- Yes, it is a commitment.
- Yes, it will take resources.
- What do you mean by “work”?
According to Webtrends, “Many companies aren’t blogging because they are not convinced it works.” While I am not a proponent of the idea that marketing should not be directly tied to results and ROI, it’s important that companies don’t take an overly micro-view of their marketing efforts. I also find it interesting that these same companies that are not convinced that ‘blogging works,’ mindlessly drop millions of dollars on advertising. Recently, I had a $3 million technology services company tell me “blogging won’t work in my industry”, all while spending a significant amount of time, money and energy having their salespeople cold call – when the cold calling effort was clearly not working. The president of the company was actually very disappointed with my recommendations, “Frankly,” he said, “I was hoping you’d just create better cold call scripts for us.”
I used to be a financial advisor. I learned that the key to successful, sustainable investing was not to follow the crowd. “Buy when everyone else is selling, sell when everyone is buying,” went the call of the successful investor. When you followed that advice, you had to understand that you would not necessarily benefit immediately – you’d have to give your efforts time.
The same goes for blogging, or for creating any advantage. There was a time that businesses said they weren’t sure if “having a website worked.” Now, if you don’t have a website, you might as well not exist. While I openly admit that I am a blogging enthusiast, I am not a blogging fundamentalist. I believe in blogging because it works – when you do blogging right.
I think one of the biggest barriers to businesspeople/companies blogging is the perception of the words “blog, blogging and blogger.” Fast growth executives don’t think of themselves as “bloggers.” “That’s for young kids,” they think. My bet is that if it were called something like, ‘Dynamic Market Communication Effort’ instead of ‘blogging’, there would be less resistance to it. Additionally, as I’ve written before, I also think there is an issue of effort that prevents people from blogging. It’s a lot easier to pay someone to prepare a newsletter (e-mail or otherwise), to buy some ads, or to redo a logo than it is to commit to communicate with your market on a regular, open and authentic basis. Frankly, I think many companies are afraid to commit to blogging because they don’t have enough confidence that people would really care about what they have to say.
Blogging creates several compelling benefits for a company:
- It forces them to join the conversation and to be relevant.
- It creates tangibility for their thoughts.
- There is a networking effect – the more you post, the more valuable each post becomes.
- You allow people to get a clear picture of what you company is really about.
- You gain a ‘prove-ability’ to your claims. I’ve been blogging for two years now. When I propose an idea to a client or prospect, I have two years of posts to demonstrate consistency.
Remember, advantages are created when someone does something others don’t do. You can blog to gain an advantage, or, ultimately, you can blog to catch up. The choice is yours.
Despite the fact that it is more difficult than ever to get and keep people’s attention – the opportunity is also greater. People are spending more time online and a recent study by Online Publishers Association indicates that they are spending more of their online time with content.
It has been said before – and I’ll say it again – “Content is king!”
Time and time again, I hear business executives (who, by the way, regularly use the web to find information) tell me that their market is different – that their customers don’t use blogs or the web as frequently as other industries. They say this in an effort to justify the lack of resources (time, money and effort) that they put into keeping their websites relevant, up-to-date and interesting. They complain that actively managing a website takes a lot of time (too much time, they say), and where’s the pay-off?
This study demonstrates that if the content is good, people will spend more time – NOT less with it. How’s your content? Is it worth reading? Is it worth spending time with? If you were a prospect of your company, how much time would you spend on your website?
Here’s the question that every fast growth executive should be asking themselves: “Whose content are my client’s and prospect’s spending time with?”
If it’s not yours, what are you doing about it?