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Posts Tagged ‘thought leadership’

Why You Should Thank Your Competitors

March 28th, 2014
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I was at a conference recently and had a very surprising conversation with the person I was sitting next to at lunch.

His company had no competition – and he said it was a bad thing!

 

What happens when you have no competition?

Having worked with a competitive sales office (the team responsible for generating a report explaining why every deal was won or lost) at a previous job, I gained a visceral dislike for the competition.

Much like in sports, we always like to root for the home team and against the rivals even when it doesn’t necessarily make sense.

As a Florida resident, my tax dollars equally flow to the University of Florida and Florida State University. But as an alumnus of UF, it’s hard to cheer for FSU even when the team wins a national championship.

My point is: Competition seems rooted in human nature.

I was surprised when my fellow conference attendee expressed that it was a real challenge not to have competition. Since there was no one else delivering his service, potential customers didn’t view it as category they should consider.

Also, potential customers couldn’t really get competitive bids or issue proposal requests (RFPs).

 

(Another) theory of relativity

There may be another factor at play here. Dan Ariely, who spoke at MarketingSherpa Email Summit, said, “We like to make decisions based on comparisons.”

In his book, Predictably Irrational, Dan gives an example in which if you were shopping for a house and had three choices:

  • A contemporary
  • A colonial
  • A colonial that needs a new roof, but the owner will knock the cost of the roof of the home’s price

According to Dan, people will go with the colonial with the good roof. The contemporary suffers from a lack of competition.

Or, as Dan puts it, “We don’t know much about the contemporary – we don’t have another house to compare it with – so that house goes on the sidelines. But we do know that one of the colonials is better than the other one.”

Decision-making is complex. When we’re making decisions, we usually don’t understand all of the factors that go into it. Yet, we want to feel that we’ve made a logical decision, so we look to the information we have at hand to reassure ourselves.

 

How can we use this information as a marketer?

Some marketers try to avoid the competition and never mention them, especially if they are the market leader. Marketing tradition says that Coke never mentions Pepsi.

However, perhaps you should tell customers more about the competition. You should help them make the best choice between you and the competition and provide them with something to compare your company to.

 

Help your customers make a choice

For example, KAYAK does this with travel pricing:

kayak-comparative-pricing

 

Progressive Insurance very famously does this as well: 

progressive-comparative-pricing

 

This may seem counterintuitive, so think about the brick-and-mortar world for just a moment. Many businesses tend to flock to the same location as their competitors, such as the famed Diamond District in New York City or even car dealership row in almost every city in the U.S.

Customers want choice. They want to make a logical decision and consider their options, or feel like they did at least. Help by giving them options, even when those options come from your competitors.

 

Make sure customers experience a proper comparison

Showing competitive trade-offs is easier in some industries than others. After all, sometimes customers don’t understand what other choices they should compare you product to.

For example, it was rumored that marketers at Best Buy were sad to see Circuit City go out of business. Sure, they dogged competitors. But without Circuit City, would customers now compare Best Buy directly with Amazon.com? While Amazon’s prices are cheaper, is the service the same as a brick-and-mortar store?

The Rodon Group, an American manufacturer of high-volume plastic injection molded parts, faced this challenge. When companies thought of cheap sourcing for small components, they thought of China.

The Rodon Group wanted to change potential customers’ frame of reference and show that it was, in fact, also a low-cost supplier even though it was an American company. The company’s “Cheaper than China” campaign increased sales 33%.

You don’t determine the competition. Your customers do.

But you can help frame customers’ decisions by showing why your product should be compared to another offering.

Read more…

Content Marketing: Tips from your peers on making use of internal resources

March 25th, 2014
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A recent MarketingSherpa Blog post, “Content Marketing: Interviewing internal resources,” covered one technique for including internal resources in your content marketing. This post features sources who each discuss an array of quick-hit tips on the topic.

Content marketing is major piece of any digital marketing strategy, particularly for B2B marketers. This content – in the form of blog posts, white papers, e-books, infographics, videos, podcasts and more – can be created by the marketing team and can also come from third-party experts.

Utilizing the knowledge of experts, such as developers or engineers, within the enterprise is another resource for content marketing. The challenge is taking advantage of those internal resources.

Simply interviewing those resources is one way to tap into their knowledge, and we covered that tactic in the earlier blog post.

Here are three of your peers in content marketing sharing their lists of tips and ideas to kick start the process of making use of your internal resources.

Tricia Heinrich, Senior Director of Strategic Communications, ON24, explained a number of tactics used at the webcasting technology company:

1. The primary challenge faced when working with internal personnel to develop marketing content is getting needed information from colleagues who are already too busy with their own day-to-day responsibilities. They see the value in marketing, but it is not their primary focus. Overcoming this challenge requires a combination of incentive, persuasion and simplification across all levels and roles.

2. A top-down approach is helpful – if the CEO or CMO mandates that everyone (or certain people) take a more active role in marketing their company and asks to see results, employees will be more accountable and likely to take part.

3. Critical to the success of ON24’s marketing and communications program is customer involvement, and key to recruiting quotable, positive customers is enlisting the assistance of our sales reps.

4. To encourage their participation in the program, we incentivize sales reps by providing a special bonus for customer media interviews, press releases and case studies.

5. Another strategy for successfully involving sales reps in ON24’s marketing and communications program is ON24’s annual customer awards program. Leveraging their relationships, sales reps publicize the program to their customers, recognizing that the program creates good will between ON24 and the customer. The customers who win an award are more likely to participate in the generation of marketing content.

6. To encourage blog posts and bylines by internal contributors, including the executive team, we try to minimize any extra work involved by repurposing content across channels.

7. For example, a presenter in one of our webinars will write a blog post based on his webinar presentation, and the blog post will then be promoted across social channels.

8. Bylined articles are also promoted socially when published – and are often posted on the blog or rewritten for the blog.

9. We also encourage colleagues to write about what they are passionate about. For example, our CEO Sharat Sharan sees the importance of communicating effectively in the workplace and emerging marketing trends. As a result, he has written pieces for The Economist and The Huffington Post on these topics.

 

Jeff Klingberg, President and CEO, Mountain Stream Group, offered tips with a focus on gaining knowledge from engineers:

This topic was discussed at great length in LinkedIn’s B2B Technology Marketing Community.

 

Issue #1Time

Small companies (50 employees) are typically working with a skeleton workforce and everyone is wearing multiple hats. Even larger companies are facing downsized workforces since the “Great Recession.” Finding time in a busy workday to create content while fulfilling the day-to-day responsibilities to satisfy client needs can be challenging, especially in the engineering department.

 

Issue #2. Subject-matter experts

In manufacturing companies, the retirement of engineers has driven them to take a different track in meeting engineering department needs. Many companies are hiring CAD operators (designers) on a contract basis instead of hiring engineers. Therefore, they don’t have a lot of subject-matter experts available to create content.

 

Issue #3. Fear

Engineers, by nature, are not good communicators, so fear sets in when asked to create documents beyond the typical CAD drawing or manuals.

 

Issue #4. What type of content to create

Smaller companies typically don’t have a deep understanding of their customer personas, pain points and what customers’ purchasing influencers and specifiers are looking for in content. Also, you have to define what content is.

For example, 52% of engineers expect a supplier to have downloadable CAD drawings in order to consider doing business with that company, however, only about one-fourth of manufacturers have CAD drawings on their websites. And engineers are looking for 3D models to help them reduce time to market.

I know one company who has taken a novel approach to the 3D model issue. If their current suppliers don’t have 3D models, they have offered to create the 3D models for the supplier in return for product.

Ultimately, content creation is a team effort. Its importance has to start at the chief executive. Marketing personnel have to make it easy for subject-matter experts by providing research on subject and content needs, put questions together to help the SMEs create content or pull together information that Marketing can then [use to] create content.

Read more…

Content Marketing: Interviewing internal resources

February 25th, 2014
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Marketers, particularly B2B marketers, for the last couple of years have been hammered with the message that content is the key that unlocks all other marketing channels. Sharing quality content makes email messages more likely to be opened and clicked through, makes social media more engaging, and when done correctly, promotes both thought leadership and brand awareness.

Of course, to share great content, you need to have great content.

Here are three of the areas where marketers are commonly instructed to mine for content:

  • White papers, blog posts, videos and podcasts created by the marketing team
  • Third-party experts providing written, audio or visual information
  • Internal expert resources within the company, such as engineers or developers, providing that information

The first is obvious, and creating this sort of content is most likely part of the job description for a marketing position. The second involves some legwork in tracking down those external experts in a particular business space or marketplace, but achieving that third-party validation as part of the content marketing strategy is powerful.

That third area – utilizing the knowledge of internal expert resources – is a resource that is often touted, but actually taking advantage of that resource can be easier said than done.

We’ve reached out to a wide range of content marketing sources who do just that and are sharing their tips for taking advantage of internal experts for content marketing with you in a series of MarketingSherpa Blog posts.

Although the tips cover a number of different tactics, for this post, the focus is on one of the most popular methods of turning that internal knowledge into sharable content – the interview process.

Maureen Jann, Senior Manager, Marketing, Intrepid Learning, offered several tips (you’ll find more in later blog posts), including one covering the interview process:

The “You’re an Expert Now” Method – We have a ghostwriter interview someone based on their expertise and we write the content and send back to the “author” for approval.

 

Erin Cushing, Social Media/Content Manager, inSegment, a Boston-based digital marketing and advertising agency, had this advice:

The vast majority of our clients are in the B2B space, and while they understand the importance of blogging and content marketing, they feel that they are “unqualified” to create content.

One of my main jobs is to identify potential brand ambassadors and formulate strategies to involve them in the content marketing process.

For example, one of my software clients was addressing a severe gap in original content. I worked with the lead support specialist for the company and in a journalist manner “interviewed” him, asking him about the most frequent questions he fielded from clients, what features of his software product were his favorites, and what the clients he spoke with were most interested in when it comes to the type of software they sell.

This gold mine of information made for a wealth of blog posts, white papers and data sheets. This is just one example of helping internal resources zero in on essential information and craft useful content.

Read more…

Inbound Marketing: 15 tactics to help you earn attention organically

June 28th, 2013
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Often, the best ideas for our content come from the MarketingSherpa audience,  such as  this note I received from Steve, “There was a very good graphic in a recent post from Rand Fishkin. I think it would be interesting for you to add some ‘quantitative metrics’ to this.”

Let’s take a look at that graphic …

 

I reached out to Rand, who is the CEO of Moz, to get a little background on the chart, which looked almost like a yin and yang of modern marketing to me.

“The items in red aren’t necessarily all terrible things you shouldn’t do,” Rand said.

“Interruption marketing can be well done, but as the graphic notes, there’s no flywheel effect generating momentum, and these channels/tactics, on average, lead to higher costs of customer acquisition. In some markets and for some companies, that may be a fine tradeoff, but it should always be a conscious one,” he explained.

Today on the MarketingSherpa blog, we’re providing a mixture of quantitative metrics, case studies, how-to articles and other resources to help you improve your own inbound marketing efforts by learning more about how your peers are effectively using these tactics …

 

SEO & PPC

Local search has had the biggest positive impact on marketing objectives, with 54% of marketers indicating so, according to the MarketingSherpa SEO Marketing Benchmark Survey.

How to Switch to SEO, PPC Strategies to Increase Leads: 10 Steps to Triple-Digit Lifts

Local SEO: How geotargeting keywords brought 333% more revenue

PPC Marketing: Two accidents reduce cost-per-lead 20%

 

Opt-in Email Lists

Only 39% of marketers maintain an opt-in only subscriber list.

Email Deliverability: How a marketing vendor with 99 percent delivery rates treats single opt-in lists vs. double opt-in lists

Read more…

Personal Branding: The five elements of being seen as a thought leader through crowdsourcing

December 10th, 2010
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…that is, unless you’re trying to minimize the amount of extra work you need to do before the calendar flips to 2011. Every December, my inbox lights up like Rockefeller Center, filled with email and social media requests from various publications asking me to submit my thoughts about the year that’s ending, and the one yet to come.

These crowdsourcing efforts are a great opportunity for so-called “personal branding” and “thought leadership” for the average marketer. But as much as I’d love to share my ideas with every one of these outlets, like many of you, I simply don’t have the time to do so. So when I do take the time, I want to make sure my ideas get picked. But what stands out?

How to grab attention

Well this year I have a unique perspective on the topic because I’m sitting on the other side of the submission form as well – I’m editing MarketingSherpa’s 2011 Wisdom Report. If you’re not familiar with our Wisdom Report, it’s a little New Year’s gift we distribute free to our audience of 237,000 readers. You can take a look at last year’s Wisdom Report for real-life stories and lessons from 70 of your fellow client- and agency-side marketers to see what I’m talking about.

Based on this experience, I’ve discovered an area that I’ve gained significant wisdom in – crafting a successful crowdsourcing submission. So if you do take the time to share your knowledge, it’s worth your while. (Some of this might apply to you public relations folks as you pitch media outlets as well.) And if you’d like to share your wisdom with our audience, I’m all ears.

1. Sometimes, simpler is better.

As much as we love to hear results, it’s not necessary to provide us your company’s bottom line or a three-part novella in order to have your entry published in the Wisdom Report. Sometimes, the simplest, most concise entry can evoke more inspiration than reams of positive results. Below are two of our favorites from the 2010 Wisdom Report (and based on feedback we received, they were among your favorites, as well):

“Consistently recognize the individual efforts of team members. Be specific. Be appreciative. Especially this year – when budgets are tight, tensions are high, and pay raises but a dream – affirmation and acknowledgement becomes even more meaningful. Making it a point to do this can positively alter the culture of an organization. I’ve seen it happen!”

And of course, there’s always the “Golden Rule”:

“Never undermine people who are working for/with you, and who you are working for…”

If that doesn’t qualify as universal wisdom, I’m not sure what does.

2. Be honest. Be yourself. Be real.

A trite platitude? Perhaps. But not all platitudes are without value. Each year, the Wisdom Report provides a forum for marketers to speak candidly about both successes and failures, explaining how their outcomes become lessons – lessons that provide a basis for future planning and a better understanding of their respective situations.

And, with the country still struggling within a tough economy, there are undoubtedly many of you who were forced to find new ways and means to stay afloat – and stay profitable – in 2010. You’re not alone.

As much as necessity is the mother of invention, our recent economic struggles have to be considered the mother of innovation – innovation that drove you to maximize limited marketing budgets, test new ideas and hopefully, create new opportunities to build upon for future success.

In short, the most successful Wisdom Report submissions are the ones that put aside the usual posturing and marketing-speak, and replace them with honest reflection to be shared with your peers.

~~~~~~~

As mentioned earlier, with each year that we publish the Wisdom Report, we also receive an increasing number of entries that deviate from our intended focus. These “rogue” entrants often choose to entertain more than enlighten, and promote more than they inspire. Because of this, they also don’t get in.

Let’s discuss what not to do when composing your 2011 Wisdom Report entry.

3. Laughter isn’t always the best medicine…especially when the medicine isn’t funny in the first place.

I think we all know, whenever you post an online entry form, you run the risk of a few attention-starved individuals (or bots) trying to garner a few seconds in the spotlight.  Sometimes these submissions can be amusing. Sometimes, they even contain a modicum of relevance to the topic at hand. But most of the time, Web-trolling Shecky Greenes provide entries more akin to this 2009 slice of hilarity:

“You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish.”
— H. Jass, (company and location unknown)

First off, this is a family publication, so I’ll just let you figure out what the “H” in this person’s name actually represents. But more importantly, this one-liner wouldn’t sound right coming out of my crazy uncle’s mouth, much less that of a respected marketer.  This is more an example of failed spam filter than it is a legitimate submission.  But, as you’ll see, humor doesn’t quite get the job done in the following entry, either:

If it ain’t broke, you probably haven’t tested it in Outlook or Internet Explorer yet.”

Yes, this is a more intelligent, amusing entry than the one above. But it’s still not exactly “wisdom,” now is it? Since our website and publications reach a fairly targeted audience, it’s safe to assume that this person isn’t just an Internet wise guy, but more likely a marketer who believed that this humor would somehow fit right alongside submissions from our focused, business-minded reader population.

Had this entry been accompanied by an anecdote explaining how his/her company saved money in a tough economy by eschewing enterprise software for open source offerings, then the quote isn’t only amusing, but also relevant to a broader audience.

4. Proofreading proves wisdom.

One thing that remains great about the Wisdom Report each year is how it allows marketers to represent themselves, and their companies, in their own words, rather than through homogenized “marketing-speak.” This is why it’s so important to spend a few minutes reviewing your submission, rather than quickly hammering out an entry replete with typos, grammatical errors and other mistakes that could possibly present you in a less-than-flattering light.

Note that we only edit submissions for simple errors. If a submission is written in a way that makes it difficult to decipher, we simply don’t use it, even if it contains a wealth of valuable information underneath the typos. It’s not feasible for us to contact you for clarification, nor do we publish inaccurate, error-filled copy.

Bottom line – a few extra minutes with a red pen could garner your words – and possibly, your company – some very valuable exposure with our readership. Don’t let your haste turn into our waste.

One example of this is an excerpt from last year’s Wisdom Report:

“Ranking Ranking..I want our site to be ranked number 1..” Sounds familiar ? From your clients ? Or from your management ? Many site owners fall into this, even till the extend of entering keywords they feel they should be ranked the number 1 spot which they haven’t. And they could rant on and on with ever debates on keyword rankings. Without even realizing does the ranking actually correlate to targeted traffic and eventually successful conversions which relates back to the overall business goals and objectives…”

As you can see, this person clearly had a number of thoughts about SEO and search marketing. But, while the “stream of consciousness” tone gives this entry a sense of enthusiasm, it was simply too grammatically poor to enter as-is.

Because of the inherent value in this person’s complete submission, we chose to edit and use it in the book. But, once we begin rewriting a submission for grammar and punctuation, it can no longer truly be considered “in your own words” – which simply isn’t in line with the spirit of this publication.

5. Show, don’t tell. And no matter what, please don’t sell.

I can already hear the uproar – “How are we supposed to discuss our successes without promoting our [companies/products/brands/taglines/other]???”

Simple.  Tell us a story that has universal value – value that can be applied across tactics, industries, borders and cultures. Tell us what worked and what didn’t. Tell us about creative new risks or your back-to-basics approach.  Don’t just tell us that you’re even more amazing than you already were – tell us why and how you’ve improved.

Once more with feeling, from the 2010 Wisdom Report:

“My embroidery and logowear business, [company name], is one of only a few in our industry to find success using a Web-based model, and I’m convinced it’s because we’ve been able to take our key differentiators — including exceptional customer service — and effectively communicate them to an online audience…”

The above is the (submitted) opening line from one of last year’s contributors. At its core, this is a very strong sentence that serves to introduce a solid anecdote about simplicity in Web design and online forms. The problem is that in order to get to that solid anecdote, you had to endure a) the company name and target market, b) a self-serving statement about the company’s superiority in its space, and c) a thinly-veiled pat on the back.

It’s not that the company doesn’t deserve accolades. It’s that only after the reader gets past this boilerplate copy does the submission demonstrate its true value. And, following some extensive details, we read:

“Conversions increased 49 percent with the new form, cementing for us the idea that people want to do business with people, not with Web sites.”

This simple statement offers us a concrete metric, and more importantly, a statement about how this new tactic led to a valuable lesson that is applicable beyond this specific business.

I think you get the point.

We’re sure you’ve got a great story to tell that will help make us all better marketers in 2011. And we look forward to reading them.

Related resources

Submit your 2011 Wisdom Report entry

2010 MarketingSherpa Wisdom Report

Public Relations: The best press release is no press release