Strategic Outreach

Managing Change Via Communications

Print Media is Alive and Thriving

In an environment where oceans of websites claw for audiences and compete with traditional media, the Association of Magazine Media has rolled out a major campaign to remind everyone how vital print is. I love this headline on a recent 2-page spread ad:

“Will the Internet kill magazines?  Did instant coffee kill coffee?”

They certainly picked a poignant example; one that relates to the “instant gratification” aspect of the internet in terms of convenience.  The difference is that the internet is vast and sensory-rich, whereas instant coffee is bland, predictable and boring.  But history does indeed verify that very few communication technologies have died at the hands of a new one. And their logo is cool: you quickly recognize the “g” from Rolling Stone and the “Es” from Esquire mastheads.

The association offers a Magazine Handbook – Engagement to Action that cites reams of research from various sources showing that magazine readership is going up, not down.  One of the findings: 87% of those interested in reading magazines on a digital device also want a printed copy.  Interesting. The campaign does not make it clear whether its other statistics are referring to just the print versions of magazines, or reflect the print, digital and on-line versions.

Personally, I don’t think print will die; most professionals are spending most of the day staring at a computer screen, then staring at the glare for hours more in the evening for social media, hobbies, etc.  So relaxing with print is a relief.  I enjoy magazines during air travel, especially when cramped in.

I predicted years ago that the business and industrial product-review potpourri publications (fueled by product news releases) would drop their print editions since searching on the web for compressors, for instance, is so much more efficient than thumbing through a random round-up of various types of products.  Some have gone, some haven’t.  Witness IEN (Industrial Equipment News).

My belief is that the higher level, thought-provoking journals will indefinitely remain in print – they are meant to be absorbed and pondered in a comfortable chair, not scrolled through on a laptop.  if inspired, the reader can quickly jump back onto the stream-of-consciousness info superhighway and join (or start) the conversation on the subject.  It’s all good. Content that drives conversations should come from diverse media, including video, audio, holograms, whatever works.

December 20, 2010 Posted by | B2B Media, Brand and Reputation, Content-Inspired Conversations | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Wouldn’t You Put Your B2B Video on YouTube?

The use of YouTube by B2B marketers is growing fast, and since an entertainment element is preferred by viewers, this is where serious companies with complex offerings should lighten up a bit and relate to the “people” side of things.

Novell’s “Gimme” video for its WorkloadIQ (a suite of products for intelligent workload management) is amusing, clever, and right on in terms of the message. In it, conversations directed at the IT guy consist only of two syllables: gim-me (with various inflictions).  The “gimme” theme is something everyone in IT can identify with; in fact, anyone who is employed within the service and support sector of the business world would probably give this a knowing nod.

Even though the little commercial can be shared from the Novell site, YouTube is the fastest way to get extra mileage and awareness from the effort, and if the producer is lucky, videos like these get a big viral boost. Plus, if it had been on YouTube, I  could have easily imported it as a playable video right into this blog post.

Maybe it’s not up on YouTube because Novell is in the process of being bought by Attachmate and a consortium led by Microsoft, and they want to appear serious.  Microsoft doesn’t really have a great sense of humor as far as I can see – typically when they try, it looks like they’re trying too hard.

Other tech sector big-leaguers are cool enough to jest. My favorite Intel TV spot pokes fun at what’s funny to a techno worker. It’s far more interesting than the overplayed “robot who gets his feelings hurt” spot that had a Super Bowl premiere this year.

So is B2B awareness-building success on YouTube just for the big guys?  Not really. The Earnest Agency, a London-based B2B marketing services agency decided to take their research report that summarizes B2B use of the social web, and turn it into a lively animated video (think Monty Python animated cut-outs).   In the first six weeks (last autumn) it got 6500 views, 90 mentions on Twitter, and they saw a 30% increase in traffic to their website and a 77% increase in weekly visitors to their blog.

But there was one hitch. When you click the play button below, you’ll see that you have to then click a link to YouTube to see it.  See my explanation below.

Looks like you can only view it on YouTube.  It seems Sony Music Entertainment forced them to stop offering it on the agency website, since the soundtrack is a Dave Brubeck recording.   But apparently showing it on  YouTube is allowed (because it’s an educational venue?)  My take on Earnest’s mistake: 1) they used the whole jazz recording, not just part of it.   2) Earnest Agency is indirectly selling something…themselves.  It’s a commercial purpose.

Back to the bottom line on video: lighten up and use YouTube.

December 9, 2010 Posted by | B2B messaging, Brand and Reputation, BtoB Marcomm Creative, Content-Inspired Conversations | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One ERP Vendor Product Page Scores High

B2B home page rating scaleBy its nature, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) installations are complicated and broad in scope.   Below, I rate the product home pages of three top ERP vendors, using my Core Score method (see point criteria at right).

NetSuite (an ERP package combining CRM, ERP and web activity) is the winner, awarded all the points except for “News headline and link,” totaling  11.  But they also get 4 bonus points, with 3 of them for effectively differentiating their product/service from competitors.  So the grand total is 15.

I love the use of many customer logos that are links to Customer Success Stories – although it would be better if the stories were on web pages rather than downloadable PDFs.

By comparison, Microsoft Dynamics ERP and SAP Business All-in-One product home pages both score 9.  Sage MAS 500 did poorest among those examined, with 4 points out of 12.

All companies got one bonus point for not using “leader” or “leading” in the text, although NetSuite succumbed on their “About” page. All are clearly leaders in the ERP game and can prove it – nothing would be gained by proclaiming it.

November 8, 2010 Posted by | B2B home page, B2B messaging, Brand and Reputation, Issues That Worked, Tech Sector Thought Leadership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Describe Customer Challenges Right on your B2B Home Page

Stating two or more customer challenges that can be solved by a product/service, right on your home page, earns your website 3 points in my Core Score rating.

B2B home page rating scale

Telogis (Aliso Viejo, CA) scores with their sequence of specific customer problems on their banner sequence at the top of their home page.  Telogis provides a Software-as-a-Service platform that helps fleet managers manage their global workforce better through GPS location technology. It includes tracking and scheduling applications for both mobile and office-based assets.

One example from their sequence: “Do you need to find the closest crew and dispatch them to an emergency work order?”  The prominent “Solutions” button takes you to the Telogis answer.  These type of specific problems draw in the site visitor, whether it’s a first-time visit to check out the company, or if it’s a return visit from someone who knows Telogis.

More tasks improved by the Telogis platform are previewed in text blocks on the page, with links. Very clean layout, no clutter. They also get one Core Score point for  their text links to specific problem-solving ideas (see point system at right).

I couldn’t give Telogis a full 3 points for the “Home page succinctly states what the company actually does” slot.  I’ll give them one of the three points for the Business Intelligence graphic with the key areas (listed in quadrants), but there is no text that confirms that they are indeed a SaaS platform provider.  You have to navigate two more levels (past the “Company” and “Why Telogis” pages) to find this, although you could argue that it’s assumed.

Telogis just barely scores the final 3-pointer, quantifying benefits (on the home page), with this text: “When the benefits of driving with Telogis – better fuel use, routing, deployment, response times, safety, hours, maintenance and customer goodwill – can pay for your system in a quarter, don’t drive blind.”   Stating payback is powerful … so why do so many marketers bury it deeper in the site?

Telogis doesn’t get a point for news headlines on the home page, nor for a link to a customer testimonial.

Leader Schmeader

Telogis does however get a Bonus Point for not using the word “leader” in the home page text.  Hallelujah.  It amazes me that companies as prominent as software giant SAS bother to proclaim that they are “a leader.”  My first thought when I see this: “Congratulations, touting yourself as a ‘leader’ just put you in the company of thousands of others including every little fly-by-night outfit in your industry.” If you’re SAS, you should be above this clichéd adjective.

Total Score

The Telogis home page scores 9 out of 12 total.  Impressive.

More critiques to come.

October 25, 2010 Posted by | B2B home page, B2B messaging, Brand and Reputation, Business cliches, Website content | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give your B2B Home Page the Core Score

There’s a lot of attention given these days to the SEO and navigation aspects of B2B websites…and most marketers are aware that sites should have gobs of helpful content, news and links.  But what about the initial messaging and information presented on the home page?  It either quickly makes a connection with people who don’t know your company or what you do, or it doesn’t.

So here it is… my rating system for B2B marketing-oriented website home pages. Completely subjective and yet somehow slightly scientific.   I call it Core Score.  It’s not about the look or the navigation…it’s about value propositions and specifics.  There are 12 potential points in the basic tally.  I’m also, however, going to add bonus points and some subtractions (more on this later).

Links to home pages that demonstrate each of the six home page attributes are included below.

Three points each for:

==Home page succinctly states what the company actually does (3 points)

Examples: see TruecarFirst Solar

==Quantifies benefits in terms of cost reduction, time, ease, efficiency, and/or productivity   (3 points)

See Freight CenterRiverbed, or  Johnson Controls

==States two or more customer challenges that can be solved by product/service  (3 points)

See Telogis, CybersourceSourcefireB2B Home Page Core Score

One point each for:

==Text links to specific problem-solving ideas  (1 point)

See IxdaABB

==Links to testimonials/examples  (in addition to access from main nav bar)  (1 point)

Many examples: one is Johnson Controls

==News headline and link (1 point)

Many examples; see Autodesk

In upcoming posts, I’ll calculate total Core Scores for individual home pages for companies in the tech sector and other industries.  Your input on selections and scoring-weight are welcome.

October 20, 2010 Posted by | B2B home page, B2B messaging, Brand and Reputation, Business Storytelling, Tech Sector Thought Leadership, Uncategorized, Website content | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Taking a New Approach to Reaching the Real Buying Influences

Just when you think you fully understand the buying influences and the right messages, think again.

One thing that I’ve learned during my career is to routinely take a second or third look, after you think you’ve got a market all figured out. BtoB buying influences can easily allude the marketer or PR pro who goes with “obvious” conclusions.

Digital Metrology in a Crowded Field

Early in my career I worked with an Italy-based company (DEA) that made multi-axis, robotic-like digital equipment for probing durable goods components to measure dimensional accuracy.  During the automated routine, the probe would touch points on the part, ensuring that holes and features were within tolerances specified to meet quality objectives.

Back then, the new kids on the block in the manufacturing world were the “quality” people, working in lab coats in Clean Rooms, carefully measuring samples (first parts of a production run, for example).  These were the typical users of the Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs) our client was selling. So of course, it would make sense to direct the advertising and PR toward these Quality Control engineers.

What we didn’t first realize and acknowledge was that the Manufacturing and/or Production Engineers (the guys that specked out and ran the “dirty” work out on the shop floor), actually controlled more budget dollars for the Clean Room quality control equipment than the quality guys.  Plus, the Manufacturing Engineers were starting to get the CMMs out onto the production floor to achieve faster checking and higher sampling.

So, while the heavy competition (there were more than 12 CMM builders at the time) were still grinding away with their ads and PR in Quality and Quality Progress magazine, we targeted the publications that the Manufacturing Engineers read – and created messages specifically relating to their world.

DEA’s market share steadily grew, while others floundered or disappeared. DEA was later bought by US-based Brown & Sharpe.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | B-to-B Case Studies, B-toB Advertising, Brand and Reputation, BtoB Marcomm Creative, Buying Influences, Media Relations | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Application Stories Fueled B2B Manufacturing-Tech Leadership

Early in my career in the years “B.I” (Before Internet), I began experiencing first-hand the marketing power of pumping out useful, insightful content to the marketplace.  My colleagues and I proved that we could magnify the perception of a very small company as a leader, by demonstrating what they know.

Our Detroit-area agency did the marcomm and PR for a Bridgeport, Connecticut manufacturing-tech specialist and system builder,  Bodine Assembly & Test Systems.  Bodine had one basic carousel system format that they applied to the assembly of products in dozens of industries, from consumer padlocks and batteries to fuel injectors, to little telecommunication connectors.  Fascinating to watch.

My on-going program focused on demonstrating the depth of their custom engineering genius, applied successfully for so many different product manufacturers.  We created a direct mail mini-magazine, videos, advertising, PR, trade shows – a comprehensive mix. Lots of testing technology news. And we helped top executives to speak out, on subjects such as quality assurance to lean manufacturing.

The biggest element was the application stories. The trick was beating the proprietary-technology roadblocks that so many of Bodine’s customers would put up, many times for good reasons since the assembly process contributed significantly to their competitive edge.  But we worked with them, or around them.

Door Hardware Application in Bodine's Direct Mail Mini-Publication

Showing the “nuts and bolts” of applications helped prospects visualize themselves as users of the technology.  We also had our version of the Human Interest angle … let’s call it “Engineer Interest.”  For instance, we told the story of how an older Bodine synchronous assembly machine that had been making garter belt clips, of all things, was sold and converted into a machine to make electrical products. Women’s fashions had changed, markets shifted, and the technology got re-applied.

Over five years time,  we proved that our awareness-building programs worked, with metrics from publication-sponsored research, and from Bodine’s successful entry into new markets, fueled on the front-end by marketing communications.

Also see my May post on persuading top management.

August 26, 2010 Posted by | Authenticity, B-to-B Case Studies, B-toB Advertising, Brand and Reputation, BtoB Marcomm Creative, Business Storytelling, My Career, Tech Sector Thought Leadership | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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