Wednesday, June 17, 2009

B2B E-mail Marketing 101: How to Ensure Success

For small and mid-sized businesses, e-mail marketing is one of the most valuable and economical tools available. It's direct, it's inexpensive, and it's rapidly deployable. But how you go about crafting an email campaign can make all the difference between success and failure. One of the most important things you can do when preparing a campaign is to put yourself in your customers' shoes.

First, you need to ask yourself "Exactly what kind of information do my clients or prospects actually want?" What will attract their attention and get them to actually open and read — and hopefully act on — your e-mail campaign? What can you offer them that will be of real value to them? It's important to think of email as a fairly intimate mechanism for engaging with your prospects or clients. Any successful campaign will involve a well-designed series of communications that is designed to take them through an extended conversation, rather than just a series of unrelated, uncoordinated messages. Email addresses for your clients — and especially your prospects — are a valuable resource, and the best way to lose access to them is to abuse them. When we don't give sufficient thought to the messages we send, you can almost be assured of getting "unsubscribes" and, ultimately, the loss of that prospect or client. And, as we all know, it's much easier — and less costly — to maintain an existing client than it is to acquire a new one.

So, content is crucial. If it's not meaningful to your target audience, you'll lose their attention, and possibly their business. Stuck for ideas...? Here are a couple of ideas, just to get you started:

Highlight an Existing Client — When you get positive feedback from a client, reach out to them and ask if it would be O.K. for you you to highlight them on your website and in e-mail campaigns. Nothing sells better than success, and prospects are always looking to validate their purchase decisions.

Provide Useful Tips or Market Insight — As an expert in what you do, your knowledge can be extremely useful to your audience. These can be tips on how to make better use of your product or sewrvice offering, or they can be insights into the current state of your marketplace. You don't necessarily want to "sell" in these messages, you just want to demonstrate that you have market expertise that can prove useful to your prospective clients. They'll make the sales connection on their own, and they won't feel like they're being spammed.

Announce Upcoming Events — Got an industry event or trade show coming up? Announce it, and be sure to include a link to the event. If you'll be exhibiting, provide your booth location and on-site contact info. If you're just attending an event, let your audience know if you'll be available for meetings or general networking. And, if an event has already passed, highlight photos of you with clients or industry figures.

As you can see, ideas for content are limited only by your imagination. You can include sales promos, or even industry news. And once you’ve identified the types of content you'll be using, you can begin preparing the actual emailing, building your e-mail list and creating an email template that properly reflects your brand image. There are several ways to approach this, starting with using Microsoft Outlook as your basic foundation, to stand-alone email software packages, all the way to hosted email management solutions, which can range from simple (inexpensive) to complex (expensive.) Unfortunately, a serious discussion of the merits of each method is well beyond the intent of this article.

Finally, it's a good idea to send out a preliminary e-mail in which you introduce yourself and establish expectations about what type of information your subscribers can expect to receive, and the frequency with which they'll be receiving it. Encourage an ongoing conversation by asking for feedback. This will not only engage your customers, but their suggestions and feedback can also help you improve and better target future campaigns.

The next step is to draft an e-mail marketing plan for the entire year. Look at the calendar from the perspective of your customer, being aware of significant industry events that might be of interest to them. Map-out topics and promotions that can help you reach them with pertinent information at the "right" time, throught the year. The time you spend in front-end planning will greatly improve the performance of your campaigns, while ensuring that your audience receives information that is both relevant and timely.

When it's time to push-out your campaign, be sure to do a couple of "test" emailings, to your personal email account, and to family members or friends. Check against not only your "Office" email client, but also against web-mail clients like Yahoo or G-Mail, to be certain that everything looks the way you've intended. Make sure that any included graphics show up where they're supposed to. Proofread, then proofread again. And be sure to proof your "Subject Line," as well. Then, make sure that any included links function properly.

Lastly, be sure to include an obvious "Opt-Out" mechanism on your email, even if it's a simple "Reply with UNSUBSCRIBE in the Message Header" link. There will typically be some folks who — while appreciating your company as a resource — prefer not to receive unsolicited email promotions, and it is vitally important that you respect their wishes.

Five Tips for Better Presentations

There are few things as deadly as a poorly-conceived business presentation. We've all sat through more than a few, so you know exactly what I'm talking about. So why, then, do we persist in making the same mistakes on our own presentations? Here are 5 simple rules to follow that can help you make your next presentation much more effective:
  1. What's Your Point? — Before you even begin working on your Powerpoint deck, you need to ask yourself "What is the One Main Point I want to get across to my audience?" If you can't answer that question, then you probably aren't ready to even give a presentation. You presentation should start with this ONE Main Point, and each section or slide should essentially provide support for this One Main Point.
  2. The "Jerry Maguire" Rule, a.k.a. "You Had Me at Hello" — Your audience will decide whether or not they like you (and your presentation) within the first 10 seconds, so you need to be completely ready to go, when it's time. Don't be fumbling with a microphone, or fussing with your laptop, while folks are waiting for you to start. Stand tall, make eye contact throughout the room, smile, and be confident. You should know your first three slides cold, and be totally prepared to speak about them without having to look at them. That will help you feel more relaxed, and will help set the tone for a successful presentation.
  3. Repetition is Your Friend — Remember that One Main Point you're trying to get across? You need to make certain that your audience does, too. Even during the most compelling of presentations (you know, like the ones Steve Jobs gives), your audience's minds will wander. So don't be shy about repeating your main point or supporting argument. It's like that old, three-step adage: "Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em; Tell 'em; and lastly, Tell 'em what you've just told them..." YOU know your material. You need to be sure that, when you're done, that your audience knows it, too!
  4. Include Audience Participation — Folks who make pre-packaged cake mixes figured this one out a long time ago. You know that Duncan Hines could have easily used powdered eggs in their cake mix, but they chose not to. They understood the power of having the "baker" contribute to the recipe and "create" the end product. You can do the same with your audience, by including leading questions and facilitated exercises within your presentation. Every time you involve an audience member, you bring them a little closer to accepting — and supporting — your point of view.
  5. Deliver With Passion — Remember when you were a little kid, and a grown-up would read you a story from a book...? The uncle who read to you with an excited, animated voice is the one who got your attention! Bring that kind of passion to your presentation. Get out your old copy of "The Cat in the Hat," and record yourself reading it aloud. THAT is the kind of excitement you need to bring to your presentation. Because if YOU can't get excited about what you're saying, how can you expect your audience to get excited...? This, of course, really starts with the words themselves. So, when you're writing your presentation, think about that 10-year-old inner child, and try to bring that kind of excitement to your writing. And don't forget non-verbal cues and body language, all of which go a long way to creating a presentation that's memorable, long after it was given!
There are many other valuable ideas to consider when preparing your presentations, notably minimizing the amount of information that appears on each slide (It's a slide, not a book!), and having a script that doesn't just read what's already on the slide. But the five points listed above have been extremely useful to me in creating succesful presentations, and I hope that they'll be useful to you, as well!

Social Media Marketing: Where's the Value?

As companies look for cost-effective ways to market in the down economy, many are experimenting with social media campaigns, employing a host of tools, from YouTube videos to blogs to applications on Facebook and Twitter. But it begs the question: Is Social Media Marketing actually paying off for marketers, and how can you measure ROI? While proponents of Social Media Marketing point to increased brand awareness, and — to some degree — more concise targeting, few are willing to go out on a limb and attribute any significant revenue growth directly to their Social Media marketing initiatives.

Social Marketing Initiatives Grow, In Spite of Lack of Useful Metrics

Still, according a report prepared for eMarketer by research firm Aberdeen Group, 21% of best-in-class companies plan to boost their social media marketing budgets by more than 25% this year, in spite of the fact that Aberdeen's research also showed that 39% of companies found it somewhat difficult to measure the impact of social media, and 20% said it was very difficult to measure.

So where does that leave you? Aberdeen and eMarketer believe that by 2013, an estimated 52% of all Internet users will be regular visitors to social networking sites. No matter how you slice it, that's a significant number of users, and many of them will be potential targets for your product or service. The steady stream of updates and news from "friends" are becoming a weekly — or even daily — habit for many people. That stickiness is good news for social network providers. The bad news is that — sticky or not — social networks are still struggling to develop workable revenue models.

"Yes" to Facebook and LinkedIn; But a Definitive "Maybe" to Twitter

To date, the more established social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have gotten most of the attention, and, among business users, Facebook seems to have gotten the most traction. But a lot of attention has been paid of late to microblogging service Twitter, with celebrities and even politicians (using "ghost-Twitterers"), entrepreneurs, business leaders and everyday users apparently flocking to the service in large numbers, generating lots of attention and activity. Twitter enables the distribution of web-wide messages, called "Tweets," consisting of 140 characters or less, to "followers" and to other social networking sites like Facebook. The initial response to the service has been strong, and eMarketer projects that the number of Twitter users will jump from 6 million U.S.-based users in 2008 to over 18.1 million in 2010. However, Nielsen vp of research David Martin suggests that the retention rate of new Twitter account holders is not particularly strong, and that as the novelty wears off, Twitter use may well drop dramatically. Given that sites like MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn already provide a Twitter-like short messaging system through their "Status Update" functionality, many who have signed-on to Twitter have suggested that Twitter may have actually taken a step backward, in creating a web service that offers only a "Status Update" function.

Social Network Marketing Initiatives CAN Lead to New Opportunities

All things considered, Social Networking as a whole has gotten some serious traction, and savvy marketers are including it in their overall marketing mix. For many B2B tech marketers with big-ticket, complex sales and long sales cycles, there is a pronounced need to influence and to build rapport, with both clients and prospects. In this environment, creating demand is really about building relationships, and about establishing you and your organization as a valuable resource and a trusted advisor. Participating in social networks is just one way in which you can accomplish these goals. Your social network marketing initiatives don't need to be enormous, in order to increase awareness of your product or service, and to create additional channels of communication. Use networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to provide information and advice; to pose leading questions; to promote events (both traditional and web-based); and to build alliances and partnerships.

As always, be sure to provide a simple means for other participants to reach you, and even consider providing specific "landing pages," where necessary. And remember to track exactly where your leads are coming from (and what they're responding to), so that you can fine-tune your initiatives for the next go-round!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Smart Social Networking for B2B Companies

Whether they realize it or not, businesses have been using the "social" power of email marketing for a number of years now. It's just that we've been referring to it as "viral" marketing. Sure, our email campaigns have gone out regularly to house (or acquired) lists, and recipients have been encouraged to forward these e-mails to friends and colleagues. Which actually happened, from time to time. And when it did, it was helpful. But not overwhelmingly so.

The problem, even with broadcast email, is that email that's just "pushed out" is lacking in the interactive dynamics that are essential to maintaining the interest of busy workers who are typically trying to do several things at once. So, while you might capture their attention momentarily, the lack of an immediate and meaningful interaction or a "call to action" means that, at best, your email might get filed in a "To Read Later" folder, or at worst, it just might be deleted outright.

So how do you engage your primary audience -- and, your secondary "network" audience -- more effectively, while still retaining the speed and economy of scale afforded by the web-based medium? A simple solution is to combine your e-mail marketing initiatives with currently-available social networking offerings such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

By including a Social Networking component in your email marketing mix, you enable the sharing of your content not just to an individual or two, but to an expansive network of individuals. This creates an environment conducive to discussion and feedback, all from just the click of a link. By capitalizing on the traffic found on uber-active networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, businesses can reach and engage both decision-makers and influencers, in ways that were never before possible.

Looking to start add a Social Networking component to your marketing mix? Here are a couple of ideas that can help get you up and running, quickly and cost-effectively:
  • First, if you're not already registered on Facebook or LinkedIn, do so now. By joining these web forums -- and by becoming active on them -- you can begin to establish yourself as an authority on both your company and the industry it serves. Once you begin participating on these forums, both asking and answering questions within the many "interest Groups" that are to be found there, you will find that more and more people are interested in what you're saying, helping you to establish yourself as a "trusted source."

    By joining LinkedIn and Facebook groups, then responding to questions and getting involved in discussions, you set your company up as a resource and an expert.

  • Use your Facebook or LinkedIn "status" field to publicize your events, newsletters, landing pages or other initiatives. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter all give users the ability to publish information in just seconds, so it's ridiculously easy to begin promoting your initiative, as soon as you have the basic details nailed-down. For example, if you have an e-newsletter set to publish on Wednesday, you could publish a status update a day or two before the drop, to get your audience talking about it. You could even send non-subscribers to your website, so that they can subscribe in time for the "new" edition, as well as giving them impetus to visit and peruse your web site.

  • Add clearly delineated opt-in links to all of your marketing collateral, print or web-based. If, for example, you post a new video on your Facebook page, make sure that video contains a link at the end so that your viewers can opt-in. Once it's shared across your new "virtual" network, you'll be reaching hundreds of prospective new customers. Give them an easy way to request additional information. And if you’re planning to send visitors from a social media site to your web site, or are asking them to download a white paper or view a video, opt-in links must be extremely visible. You don't want to bury the link at the bottom of a page. If someone cares enough to check something out, you need to give them a very obvious way to remain engaged.

  • Use the search power of the internet. You're already (or should be) following your company, products, and industry issues via Google e-mail alerts. You can essentially do the same on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, enabling you to gain valuable market knowledge and insight, as well as timely content for e-mail marketing initiatives. For example, Twitter's search function allows you to follow everything that's being mentioned about your company, giving you real-time access to things you might never otherwise hear -- or hear when it's too late. You can then take both the good and the bad of what's being said and respond appropriately within your e-mail marketing. For example, "Here's a tweet we recently heard about a problem with one of our products, and here's what we're doing in order to resolve the situation."

As you can see, Web 2.0 has provided businesses with many low-cost tools for carrying your brand and message to your target audiences, for a competitive advantage that can pay dividends for a long time to come!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Is Mobile Marketing right for your B2B business?

The notion of "Portability" and "Beyond-the-Browser" has created potential new ways for brands and content owners to interact with consumers. Advances in smart phones are providing new options for delivering news, information, and social networking, on-the-go to a diverse audience. These advances have enabled content to become "unhinged" from traditional legacy devices such as radios, TVs, and even movie theaters. But what does this all mean for B2B marketers?

It really depends on what it is that you're attempting to accomplish. Are you looking to merely promote an existing brand, or to provide additional information to an existing (or target) audience? In countries like Japan and China, where consumers are generally much more mobile-savvy, current opportunities are more abundant. But in the U.S., B2B marketers will likely find more immediate success with traditional on-line marketing channels like Search. Still, it will pay to keep an eye on the Mobile arena, and smart marketers will begin setting the foundation for future mobile endeavors through optimizing their current online initiatives for mobile audiences.
  • Optimize your website content for the mobile experience. I regularly use my BlackBerry to conduct searches when I'm on the train. And a surprising number of websites have content that is virtually useless on a mobile browser. For example, a problem with many Flash-based websites is that the website content itself becomes unusable to the mobile browser. So, if Flash is vitally important to your company's online experience, be sure to provide "alternate" content for mobile browsers. Better still, limit the use of Flash to home page banners, or to interactive explainers within interior web pages. But keep your main content in html or xhtml format, so that the highest percentage of potential viewers can do so easily and without unnecessary obstacles.
  • Maximize Use of Mobile Tagging. Work to improve the mobile user experience via "tagging." Developed in 2003, Mobile tagging is still relatively new, but can be used for brand management and brand protection. Other opportunities with tagging include the recently announced "Microsoft Tag," ( which transforms physical media (such as print advertising, product packages, or even video images) — into live links to enable users to access related information online.
  • Optimize press releases and news stories about your company. When folks conduct searches, they're looking for specific information. Making certain that your stories and releases show up in aggregator's feeds is important, so pay close attention to the keywords and tags that you associate with each story or release.
So while mobile search and marketing are slowly becoming more mainstream in the U.S., B2B marketers should begin to leverage this innovative medium to improve brand awareness, and develop new touch points with both existing audiences and targeted prospects. As Mobile Search and the Mobile Web gain in both functionality and importance, the effort you make today to optimize your web properties for mobile will enable you to interact with your target audience in areas that were never before imagined… in a mobile environment.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Social Media Marketing Basics

Social Media marketing lets you harness the power of "word of mouth," to help you circulate your message to specialized targets, quickly and cost-effectively. It's another marketing tool that can help you to:
  • Build and maintain brand awareness
  • Build website traffic
  • Track prospects and conversions
  • Increase ad exposure and page views
  • Expand customer reach
Interacting with others through the social web helps you to quickly create and promote content and events. The "viral" nature of social media can help you to reach key influencers, enhancing mind share and supporting a variety of traditional marketing objectives. is an example of a Social Media network that is being used to connect family, friends, schoolmates, and business associates, both individually and through "groups." If you don't already have a Facebook account, get one. Once you have it, you can begin searching for and connecting to family, friends, and colleagues, and you'll begin to see connections that might prove useful for promoting your business. Search Facebook Groups for groups that might be of particular interest to you or your company, and join them. Once you've gotten that far, it's easy to begin taking advantage of the power of social networking! Got an event or webcast you want to publicize? With a platform like, it's ridiculously easy to create an "event," and send "invitations" to your connections as well as to groups to which you belong.

Some general tips to increase the effectiveness of your social media marketing initiatives:
  • Establish Reasonable Social Media Goals. Establish goals and a process for how to get there. Too many companies dive in too fast, with no real plan. If you don't know where you're going in the first place, how do you expect to know when you "get there"...?
  • Research Your Audience and Identify Influencers. A couple of hours spent on Facebook, et al., will clue you in to which groups and sub-groups are generating the most interest and activity, as well as helping you to identify key influencers and thought leaders in the space. Reach out to these folks with a message that s polite, honest, and sincere, and you might be surprised by what this kind of "brand advocate" can do for you.
  • Create Quality Content. While people are reading a ton of material online, a much smaller group is actually contributing content. By providing interesting content that is actually meaningful to your social media audience, you increase the viral nature of your campaign, helping to ensure success.
  • Position Yourself for Your Audience. Social Media users are not just "all business," but have fairly diverse interests. You will need to tailor your message to the context in which it will appear, which may well vary from one Social Media group to the next.
  • Blog. If you don't already have one as a part of your web presence, now is as good a time as any to start one. Make use of that grey matter, and share, for example, your ideas about how others can improve their business results. It creates goodwill, and helps to elevate your "thought leader" quotient.
  • Technorati. OK, now that you have a blog, claim your blog at Technorati. This helps to ensure that you are indexed in their search engines for blogs, and updates are automatically broadcast across the network, along with your own blog network updates.
  • Make Generous Use of Links. Don’t be shy about linking to other blogs and websites in general. Links are the life blood of search engines, and linking raises your own search profile.
  • Make Use of Videos. Create a “how to” or “top tip” videos and submit to YouTube. It has wide reach, and you could conceivably have millions of people see it. For even wider distribution, you should try or, tools that can help with automation. In generating your content, while it’s fine to brand with a URL at the end of the video, limit your use of aggressive, direct selling... it puts viewers off. Humor can work well, so don’t be afraid to "test" your work, internally or with friends and acquaintances.
  • Maintain a Schedule of Research. Subscribe to feeds, and use iGoogle, My Yahoo Web or other favorite RSS readers. Keep an eye out for changes (use also), and, when a topic of interest comes up, be the first to comment and engage in your topic. "First commenters" frequently get more visibility and traction.
  • Monitor Analytics. Open an account with one or more of the social networks from the list below, using your brand name as identifier. This will establish your brand or company name, and help to minimize "corporate" identify theft. Begin by working with one or two from the list below. Then, check your website's web analytics and track referring domains and review traffic movements, ,at least weekly. This will give you an idea of which sites are providing the most traction for you.
Here are some of the current top Social Media resources (in no particular order):
  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. YouTube
  5. StumbleUpon
  6. LinkedIn (use the Q/A section to gain readership and clients)
  7. Flickr
  8. Digg
  9. Reddit
  10. Technorati
  11. Techcrunch (subscribe to their feeds)
The real beauty of social media marketing -- and a key to its effectiveness -- is the central idea of developing and maintaining relationships. If you're ready to tap into the power of the social web through connected networks and consumer-oriented media, there are quite a few publications that cover it in greater depth. A couple of good starting points:
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