02 Mar

Time to sound out your advisors – online or on leave?

Overall, marketing and PR agencies and professionals haven’t come to grips with the online world. Media and communications people believe that “online” and “digital” is about technology rather than media and simply haven’t got their nut around it. Why is this important? Because it takes time to learn. Marketing professionals who wait until their clients demand it from them before they do are in trouble.

head-in-sand-2.JPGThere are digital specialists of course. But try and find a PR agency that demonstrates an understanding of current online media. Try and find leading advertising agencies that demonstrate an understanding of online media not through words, but through their own presence and behaviour online.

Speak to them about online and they are likely to refer you to their “web guy” who “is really smart”” and gets all this “technical stuff” or “their specialist partner”. Just don’t ask me. Ask about social media and web 2.0 and it gets worse.

Greg Verdino is  is not shocked to read the result of a survey by TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony that “agencies don’t get it”. Nor am I. (After all, even newspapers put anything to do with online media under their technology section, here in The Age and here in the “Tech&Web” section of The Times).

Why is this so? Everything they ever need to know is a mouse click away. All I can think of is that it is either laziness or arrogance.

If they had a poke around and took an interest, they would found that understanding and participating in online media is not about technology. It hasn’t been for quite a while. They would see that it is all about media and communications. Which, after all, is their world.

Joseph Jaffe thinks it is almost too easy to lay into agencies, but they are the external marketing advisors to most companies so I think it is warranted. Over to Joseph with a few tips to marketing professional regarding social media:

To help you in your quest, here are 3 pieces of advice:

  1. Stop being so damn arrogant and deluded to think you can do this yourselves. You can’t. This is all about humility.
  2. Stop trying to automate the whole process and solving your problems by a quick technology acquisition fix. You’re drowning in your own data and laziness. This is labor intensive.
  3. Stop trying to scale the whole process and replicate your old bad habits. This is about planting seeds and sticking around long enough to reap the rewards of care, consideration and hard work.

Clients deserve better. If you are a client, you deserve better. The people I am ranting at here are unlikely to read this of course, because it’s a blog. But if you are a client, expect more. There is no excuse for PR or marketing people not to have a solid grip on digital media. And I mean everyone, not a dedicated “Geek”. It is no longer something for tomorrow or for other people. Media and communications people should be leading the way.

(image source as far as I can track it: http://www.oneletterwords.com/weblog/)

20 Feb

B2B + social media = natural fit

For business, words like “social media”, blogging, or Youtube don’t often inspire a great deal of confidence. Really, they are mostly associated with staff wasting time on “socialising”.

At best, social media is seen as an interesting experiment for consumer brands, but hardly a useful strategy for business to business marketing. But if you have a closer look, you might find a very different opportunity.

Social media : “Social Media is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into content publishers. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people, and peers” (source:Wikipedia)

What are the most defining features of B2B marketing? Deep, one-to-one relationships, often built through personal interaction between individuals. We build these through face-to-face meetings, telephone contact, mail and email. We network at events designed just for that purpose. We present our ideas and innovations at industry seminars, and we know the incredible value of word-of-mouth in B2B marketing, so PR is often at the top of our list in terms of promotion.

So what is the strength of “social media”? One-to-one conversations and deep relationships. Word of mouth. PR. networking. Sharing and presenting ideas. A significantly higher profile online through improved search results.

Debbie Weil, (subscribe to her blog; it’s fantastic) author and speaker on the use of social media and blogs for corporate organisations, wrote a little manifesto that sums it up nicely:

The Inflection Point of Corporate Blogging

– Blogs and other social media tools are here to stay

– Blogs are just next-generation Web sites

– Social media tools (RSS, blogs, podcasts, video, wikis, etc.) can be used by any company, large or small, B2C or B2B

– They symbolize community, conversation, mutual respect between users and an ethos of sharing

– These tools are more powerful at informing/influencing/persuading than traditional forms of marketing, advertising and corporate communications

– They help you get found online

– If you can’t be found, you don’t exist

Conclusion: This isn’t optional

You gotta start using blogs, podcasts, online video (social media) today!

The opportunity: Carving out your niche is easier when you’ve got fewer competitors. When it comes to using social media in B2B marketing, there is still plenty of opportunity for you to be take the jump on your competitors. So don’t wait. Get in now.

Looking for more ideas? Check out these blogs: Web Ink Now, by David Meerman Scott, his guest post on “The New Rules of B2B Marketing and PR”, and Publishing 2.0, by Scott Karp.

Update: Hat tip to Bruce Nussbaum for highlighting this Business Week article by Stephen Baker and Heather Green: “Social Media Will Change Your Business”

21 Dec

Does digital marketing work for professional services firms?

Professional services firms should in theory be one of the most prolific users of the internet and digital media. Their business is about knowledge, ideas and relationships; perfect.

From my observations, they lag behind as an industry online, instead of leading the pack. I asked David Maister, one of the leading international business strategist focused on professional services what he thinks the role of digital marketing is in this industry, and he wrote a blog post that received a great response.

In the post, he notes although the opportunity to demonstrate expertise is there, he wonders how much hard evidence there is that it works for prof services, firms: “I’m not sure how much hard evidence there really is about the benefits of the web in marketing professional services” and; “It’s still early days for blogging, podcasting and videocasting, but I’d have to guess that, for most professional service firms, these are not high return activities – again, because I’m not sure that the “high-level” buyers are listening and watching.”

After reading the comments from people who are in the industry and who consult on this topic (like Michelle Golden and James Cherkoff), I had a few thought about this.

Top tier firms vs mid tier and small business
Firstly, I asked an incomplete question. A small business local accountant is a completely different beast from a top tier, multi-billion dollar turn over business and their objectives will be different. For example, where everyone knows the top tier brands, one of the key objectives of small brands is simply getting on the radar of potential clients.

David wonders if the “high level” buyers are listening and watching online. He’s probably right, but I think the real opportunity is in that the traditional media increasingly sources their ideas and content online. What if Bill D. Green CEO of Accenture wrote a blog? Would Wall Street Journal editors keep an eye out? You bet. David Meerman Scott’s book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR offers some wonderful ideas about how to drive PR using the web.

Budget vs time
David Maister wonders how much of their budget he would advise his customers to dedicate. I think it is more about time than money. For most firms this is a greater constraint than money. Although the cost of distribution of ideas is cheap online, capturing and developing the sort of content that clients want to read is time consuming.

Marketing for talent
For many services firms, the “war for talent” may be a greater incentive to market online than anything else. Now, this audience will go online to listen and look and I know of many companies who spend most of their marketing budget on getting talent, rather than clients.

Opportunities
One of the key issues with professional services brands is that what is offered is really not that differentiated. The differentiation needs to be about how they do things; how their people are more accessible, more interested, more capable. How do you break down the barriers?Clayton Utz vodcast

A nice example is Clayton Utz, a local Australian law firm using video in a very simple but effective way; two partners having a discussion about a specific topic of expertise. Apart from meeting these guys in person, there is nothing that will get me closer at a human, emotional level than watching them on video. It is exactly at this human, emotional level that business is won and lost when all else is equal.
Although the point David Maister makes about “proof that it works” is valid, if implemented properly, there is probably more metrics around online activity than say, sponsoring a yacht for a few million a year. To some extent it is also a chicken and egg question; if you don’t invest in digital marketing you’re probably not tracking it’s performance either.

Now, where are the prof services firms with the hard facts?

PS: KPMG outperformed everyone this year and turned over $US 19 Billion. Judging by their website, their digital effort wasn’t the one that delivered that growth:)

With thanks to David Maister for starting this discussion.

19 Nov

“Director, Differentiation Strategy” is a title at Boeing

Randy Baseler, CEO of Boeing and noted CEO blogger writes: “My colleague Blake Emery, who has the unique title of Director, Differentiation Strategy…”
What a great idea. A person whose sole focus is to differentiate the brand, the products and the services from competitors. It’s explicit, it’s on the agenda. I understand that on the average payroll there may not be room for a “Director of Differentiation” but there is still something really valuable in the idea.

Maybe rather than having a Director of Differentiation, you could have a loose team of people consisting of customer service, sales, product, services, operations, finance and marketing.

Marketing might take the initiative, but you rotate the chair between the participants to ensure everyone is engaged and committed. The agenda is clear from the start: “what can we do, what do we need to do, to improve our differentiation.”

Many marketing thinkers now believe that marketing success in the future will rely more on “baking in” the interest, i.e. doing things that are of interest to your customers. (see Mark Earls post here and my follow up here)
In my post I wondered aloud about how to get this type of new thinking implemented under the pressure of delivering day-to-day results. If you believe that this is the way of the future for marketing and branding, then maybe a Differentiation Task Force is a great first step.

08 Nov

Boom! Brand reputation damaged.

We have less than 4% unemployment in Australia. People are screaming for good technicians. The last two web projects I worked on were almost completely driven by the client’s recruitment needs.

Now imagine you are the company in the search result below. Potential customer or employee searches for your brand. The first entry is a company with the same name, the second is you, and the third is someone telling the whole world not to work for you.

I’m not saying it is fair. I’m not saying it is right. But it is the reality.

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If I was in HR, Sales or Marketing for this company, I would make sure that I engaged in that conversation very quickly.

02 Nov

Yes, but how do you prove it works?

Mark Earls believes that marketing “communications” is the wrong focus for marketers and that instead, we should be making sure our client/company does things that are worth writing about. He writes:

“Too often communications seek to simulate and fake the interest that companies, products and services are missing. Or distract from the very obvious lack of interest.

No, it’s much more about doing things, baking in the interest otherwise faked and then suggesting and encouraging consumers and employees to do stuff together around this.”

It makes a lot of sense: people increasingly ignore advertising and PR spin so the effectiveness to sell stuff is reducing. At the same time, if you do something special/interesting/important people can now spread the word for you with a click of their mouse. Even without a PR agency.

But it’s not happening very much. Why?

It’s hard to demonstrate tangible results quickly. The pressure to deliver results and outcomes NOW is immense for everyone. To do what Mark is talking about requires a significant investment in time and resources.money.jpg

It involves people across the company to work together in a way that they are not used to. It takes a significant amount of leadership to revolutionise the way you look at marketing.

Anyone who is involved in marketing knows how hard it is to get support for initiatives that are medium to longterm in any case. Especially if you can’t provide any proof that it will have a measurable result.

So, to get there, how do we demonstrate that “doing things, baking in the interest” is more effective than doing what we are used to doing? And how much more effective will it be?

I support the idea. I think it’s what true marketing is all about. The challenge is to come up with a strategy to introduce this approach that will cut the mustard with the people who are paid to think in revenue and profit. Maybe we should make this a new online project for marketers. It is The Age of Conversation after all.

Update: sincere apologies to the owner of the photo I took off Flickr: I can’t find your name anymore so no attribution…

25 Oct

If you’re not Australian, you won’t care…

But if you are, you might.
What the hell is happening to the quality of this newspaper? The Age is supposedly one of the top three quality broadsheets in Australia.

Have a look at this front page and weep. Keep going down this track, and people who like a different diet of news will happily source it from places all over the world. Not necessarily newspapers either.

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