Strategic Outreach

Managing Change Via Communications

Thanksgiving is Story-Telling Time

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, reflection … and family stories recanted over mincemeat pie.

Want a lesson in extremely compact story telling?  You may have seen AT&T’s Rethink Possible TV spot.

If these guys can visually tell the life story of a fictitious future U.S. president right up through inauguration, along with the meeting and courtship of his parents, in 30 seconds, and still have time to include a leisurely look at the parent’s curious, flirtatious first glances …  while demonstrating the cell phone technology that made the meeting possible …. then certainly we B2B PR content developers can deliver a case study in a one or two short paragraphs.  Some of us do.

Happy turkey day to all my colleagues and friends.  I’m going to try my hand and making a mincemeat pie from scratch – complete with rich, brandy-fortified hard sauce.

November 23, 2010 Posted by | B-to-B Case Studies, B-to-B Social Media Technology, B2B messaging, BtoB Marcomm Creative, Business Storytelling, Content-Inspired Conversations | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sharing PR Expertise with Nonprofits on a Speed Date

One thing I have realized over the years is that seasoned PR pros are prolific idea people.  Lots of creativity, with a persistent “can do” attitude.   They know what interests and motivates a given audience, and what channels to use to get to them.

This was evident at an exhilarating one-day event to help out local nonprofits in the L.A. area last Saturday, called Quality Time with PR Minds, sponsored by PRSA-LA, Kaiser Permanente, RAND Corporation, Allison & Partners, PainePR and others. Teams of PR volunteers provided free brainstorming for nonprofits that have limited funds and resources for retaining professional PR counsel.  Speed-date consultation, if you will.

The mix at this event included folks that could add a good dose of marketing communication savvy, making each group of 3 or 4 volunteer consultants a potent little brainstorming forum.  The non-profit beneficiaries kept their pens scribbling, their heads nodding, their responses juiced. They were smiling.

My team sessions were for Volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter, and L.A. Cada (Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse) and they were revved up, with ideas ranging from maximizing the awareness-building effects of a 40th anniversary event to viral video strategies featuring personal benefit-success stories. Lots of practical thoughts about efficiency and reach, also.

Someone working with or for a nonprofit who is very close to a given equation for too long needs fresh perspectives.  The nonprofit representatives not only got ideas they hadn’t thought of, they got obstacle-dodging strategies for many of the avenues they had previously explored and dismissed.

It feels good, no, feels great, doing this.  My hats off to the insightful colleagues that I met, or reconnected with, during this event.

October 4, 2010 Posted by | B-to-B Case Studies, B-to-B Social Media Technology, Brand and Reputation, Business Storytelling, Buying Influences, Nonprofit PR | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Research Shows B2B Content is King

Some relevant research completed over the last 12 months reinforces the importance of branded content in B2B marketing.

I recently attended a NorCal BMA conference up in Silicon Valley where Barry Trailer of CSO Insights summarized some of their research findings in their report, 2010 Key Trends in BtoB Lead Generation Optimization.

Of all the marketing tools, website design/content topped the list in terms of percentage of B2B marketers who say they will increase budget dollars in the next 12 months (65% of responses). The next three biggest areas for increases were for email marketing, new media (ex: blogs) and web search optimization.  The loser was direct mail.

A Custom Content Council survey reveals that 32% of overall marketing communications budget dollars go to branded content, although the mailed survey went to both B2C and B2B industries. I’m not alone in believing that Conversational Marketing doesn’t get very far without Content Marketing.

Also of interest: within a custom-content budget, 51% of the dollars go to custom print publications, 27% for internet media and 22% for other categories including video and audio.  No surprise that half is still needed for print, given the cost of printing.

Content as an SEO Utility

One by-product of the battle for first-page search engine rankings is the advent of what I call “shallow content.”  These are quickly-crafted articles with borrowed facts and ideas that have something to do with the marketer’s industry and thus the article can be filled with the relevant and useful keywords.  The keywords legitimize the article so when Google finds the link to the marketer’s website in the text,  a credible in-bound link is noted on the “score card”.  All for SEO purposes.  The idea of potential prospects actually reading the content is secondary.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Authenticity, B-to-B Social Media Technology, Brand and Reputation, Content-Inspired Conversations, Perspective Paper Strategies, Website content | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Will It Blend” is the Ultimate Demo

More ideas to borrow for BtoB marketing:

No one can deny the success of Blendtec’sWill it Blend?” viral-video marketing strategy.  It’s both a BtoC (home blenders) and BtoB (commercial blenders) equation. It’s proof of the power of the demo, especially when you take it to an extreme…and have some fun with it.  The no-to-low cost nature of this campaign is the biggest news.

CEO Tom Dickson hosts the hugely viral video series

There’s dozens of these goofy demonstrations on YouTube; their smiley CEO Tom Dickson blends iPhones, Transformer toys, even Bic lighters (their “don’t try this at home” disclaimer is serious).  I don’t play golf, so this one (below) certainly doesn’t disturb me one bit.

How do you apply the demo video to less-visually-dramatic BtoB products and services?   Take a close look at what time-lapse could do for you – whether it be actual video footage or graphics.

August 21, 2010 Posted by | B-to-B Case Studies, B-to-B Marketing Vocabulary, B-to-B Social Media Technology, B-toB Advertising, Brand and Reputation, BtoB Marcomm Creative, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exposing Business Cliche Over-Exposure

I had the pleasure of contributing some informal research to David Meerman Scott’s book The New Rules of PR and Marketing back in 2007. Since then, it has become a business-book bestseller, and now a revised and updated 2nd edition is being sold on-line and by major book retailers such as Borders. Some colleges are using it as a textbook – it is a comprehensive overview of the tactics available to reach buyers directly with useful information as opposed to hype.

David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott's business bestseller

My research, summarized in Chapter 12 (see pages 156-157), has to do with over-used words and phrases that have lost any meaning; clichés that are spewed daily in news releases and other content in the BtoB world. I surveyed publication editors to gage their complaints.

I have talked plenty about the ubiquitous word “solutions”  (see “Guess What, We Make Products”).   There’s plenty of new lists and sources, including Seth Godin’s amusing Encylopedia of Business Cliches on Squidoo, where you can vote for your favorites. “Synergy” and “paradigm shift” are both in the top 10.

The indictment of business cliches has moved from deeming the practice of using them as mere laziness of the writer, to slamming it as intentional subterfuge.  I think it’s a mixture.  Another factor is ignorance of the news-release writer due to lack of experience within the industry discussed.

My suggestion for freshening up your business vocabulary:  read Business Week, Wired, Discover, Scientific American or other technology-trends publications.  Borrow an appropriate term, give it a new context, and make it your own.

June 13, 2010 Posted by | B-to-B Marketing Vocabulary, B-to-B Social Media Technology, B-toB Advertising, Brand and Reputation, Business cliches, Tech Sector Thought Leadership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Letting Customers Explain Your Technology to the Marketplace: Red Hat Does it Well

Letting your customers do the talking, endorsing you by describing their application of your product or service, is the best way to help prospects in your market to “visualize” themselves as a user of your technology, then start asking questions or participating in discussions on-line.  The more complex the technology, and the more varied the applications, the more important this becomes.

Enterprise Linux innovator Red Hat (Raleigh, NC) is a prime example. When your business is built around Open Source, the openness mode tends to pervade everything you do.  Thus, according to Leigh Day, Red Hat’s senior director, Global Corporate Communications, cultivating Customer References (a.k.a. mini case studies) is a major thrust of Red Hat’s marketing effort.  The company solicits this participation via their newsletters, home page promos and by other means.

I talked with her about the benefits of this program to all involved…the user (customer), Red Hat, and the industry at large including proponents of Open Source platforms.

The Customer Reference is a highly well-oiled machine, with dozens of case studies on-line.  A PDF brochure available on their site outlines the benefits of doing a case study. First of all, it’s all part of a mission that is broader than just a showcase for Red Hat and the user; the philosophy and practice of Open Source is continually reinforced via successful implementations.


Red Hat marketing focuses heavily on Customer References

Red Hat lines up the writers (using both internal and external sources) to craft the story based on information from the customer, and Red Hat’s PR department will help set up media interviews and other channels to promote it.  Some stories get a video treatment.  Collaboration is the fundamental element.

I’ve noticed that the quick-read “fill in the blanks” format, including the headings “Challenge,”  “Solution,” and “Benefits” is becoming the preferred template for most BtoB case studies, and it works well for Red Hat. Their case study summaries are available under“Customer Success” (within the “Company” main nav tab), each with a link to the full story with more details.

The latest tools are brought into play.  “We also tweet news headlines and notices about our user events, such as JBoss World and the Red Hat Summit” Leigh added.   “And our news blog is a source for new trends and Open Source developments.”  Cloud computing is a hot topic.

Red Hat has been riding high.  The have been named the #1 software vendor for value and reliability in the CIO Insight Vendor Value Study for the fifth time.

November 5, 2009 Posted by | B-to-B Case Studies, B-to-B Social Media Technology, Content-Inspired Conversations, Tech Sector Thought Leadership | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Road from Immersion to Conversion

Chatter Welcome. This blog is a forum for ideas that will accelerate social media conversations within your B-to-B marketplace.

Your current customers are most likely talking about your products or services, and some may be sharing their views on-line.  But what about your prospects, or others that you don’t know?  One of the better ways to get your marketplace talking about your company via social media is to address industry concerns and articulate opportunities related to your product/service benefits.  Educate the audience and give them something provocative to talk about, by disseminating valuable content through on-line channels.

“Provocative” does not mean ad copy or “adspeak” pretending to be a news release.  It means candid dialogue about industry issues and opportunities, including previews of new or upcoming technology. It’s done through blogs, YouTube videos (with visualized ideas, and key influencers speaking on-camera), wiki sponsorship, perspective papers, and E-books that are offered on-line.

Greater awareness through a thought leadership role is the objective.  Once you start the ball rolling, user conversations provide additional content that gives prospects more places on-line to see your company’s name and the ideas that you interact with.

Take the IT industry, for instance.  A recent TechTarget 2009 Media Consumption Report  (titled “Mind of the IT Professional During the Recession”) was based on over 1400 responses, and it substantiated the value of in-depth content. When IT professionals were asked to name the on-line content types that they have utilized to evaluate new technology information in the past three months, the most frequent answer was White Papers (66%).  Second was trial software.

Brian Carroll, author of the B2B Lead Generation Blog, says: The best kind of demand generation content is anything that sets you up as a thought leader or industry expert.  At its core, thought leadership is about sharing content that’s relevant and valuable to potential customers even if they never buy from you. Give them what they need to make decisions about you and their future, and you’ll reap the benefits in the future.”

This blog will explore full case studies, anecdotal information (with and without metrics),  as well as trends within various industries, all related to the role of objective content in building a brand.

I welcome your contributions, input and feedback.

September 22, 2009 Posted by | B-to-B Social Media Technology, Content-Inspired Conversations | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments