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During Word War 1 there were two types of soldiers in the trenches, one who played a support role in terms of logistics, communication, developing battle plans and provisioning and those who went over the top and engaged with the enemy. If you are a business-to-business marketer, do you stay in the trenches or do you go over the top?

“Online business-to-business marketers who stay in the trenches are never going to derive tangible value from their participation on the social web”

If you want more leads and prospects and your marketing department is spending most of their time doing the following, it is time to revisit your B2B social media marketing strategy:

Presenting management with reports that ONLY reflect the number of page views and visitors to your website and blog, number of Twitter followers, Facebook Likes, LinkedIn followers, subscribers to the blog, YouTube views, etc

Use words such as communication, reputation management, branding, public relations, corporate identity and do not use words such as engagement, conversations, interaction.

It is no coincidence that marketing colleges and universities are rewriting their marketing management syllabus because the playing field has changed and marketers have to radically rethink how they do things.

For organisations who sell products, services and solutions to other companies, PR, branding, reputation management and corporate identity are still fundamentally important but do not underestimate the importance of using the social web for what it was designed for ie to connect, interact, engage and build relationships.

You need to identify the people in the trenches in your marketing department and those who are prepared and willing to go over the top into no mans land. The trench dwellers are very important but you shouldn’t use them when the whistle blows and the troops start climbing the ladders.

The soldier who goes over the top has to be brave and when he is in no mans land he has to improvise, depending on what he encounters.

If you are planning on generating new business opportunities from your participation on the social web, one way broadcasting and reporting on page views will not cut it. Identify your soldiers, equip them with the right tools and training and you will see the results!

Do you agree or disagree? Do you have anything to add? Would you like to comment? I would love to hear from you?

I invite you to engage and interact with me on Twitter and LinkedIn

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I am participating in the Ride for Rhino on the 21st September in memory of one of the 668 rhinos killed in 2012.

If you would like to support me, please make a donation to the Wildlands Conservation Trust’s Project Rhino.

Click Here to donate

I will appreciate it if you share this blog post with your friends

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It is widely acknowledged that LinkedIn is THE social network of choice for business people globally. With new features and functions being added on a regular basis and user numbers growing at a phenomenal rate, it has become a highly attractive platform for business-to-business (B2B) marketers. Here are five things you should do more of to improve your interaction and engagement with clients or prospective clients on LinkedIn.

1.      Ensure your profile clearly articulates your value proposition

Before you start connecting with anyone, ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and contains relevant information. Whether you are a recruiter, subject matter specialist, job seeker, business owner or a representative of a company, make sure your profile clearly articulates what you do and how you add value. If you are a supply chain specialist who has been consulting to the top five consumer goods companies for the past twenty years, then make sure this appears in your summary. Ask your current and past clients to provide recommendations and endorsements and include any awards and achievements to add more credibility.   

2.      Give the person a reason to connect with you

I receive many connection requests from people who use the standard LinkedIn “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message. This doesn’t tell me what I will get out of the “connection”. Your success rate will improve significantly if you put a little more thought into the introductory message. Articulate why you are connecting and how the person will derive value from the connection.

3.      Find reasons to follow up or respond

LinkedIn provides you will numerous opportunities to follow up with connections. Here are some examples:

When a person accepts your connection request, reply to thank them for connecting and invite them to subscribe to one of your communication channels (e.g. weekly email, your blog, your Twitter account, your Facebook page or your LinkedIn group)

When someone who you are not connected to joins your LinkedIn group, send them a note welcoming them to the group, ask them what information they are interested in, send them a connection request and/or invite them to subscribe to your other communication channels

If you are posting content on a regular basis, keep an eye on who is liking, commenting and sharing your updates. If you are connected with the person, you can send them an email to thank them and to send them additional content that may interest them.

4.      Introduce connections to your network  

If a CIO of a mining company connects with you, take the time to identify others within your network to introduce the person to. This can also include subject matter specialists within your company. If you are responsible for marketing or sales, the subject matter specialists within your organisation will appreciate these introductions. It has been proven time and time again that business executives will more readily accept a meeting invitation when the request comes from a person they are connected with on a social network.

5.      Ask for introductions from existing connections

For every new connection you make, you have access to new 2nd level connections. As you develop your LinkedIn network, it becomes easier to access 2nd level connections through existing connections. It is a simple exercise to ask for an introduction and your connections will generally assist, if you ask them nicely and provide a good reason why you would like to be introduced. This also provides a reason for you to connect with existing connections and a reason to follow up to thank the person for facilitating the introduction.

Summary

Here are a few ways you can get more out of your LinkedIn investment. The golden rule for all social networks is providing good content and regular interaction. If you constantly post relevant, topical, interesting, value-adding content, your connections will continue to share, like and comment, providing you with the opportunity to engage and interact, invite them to interact on other platforms, present additional business content, provide introductions to other like-minded individuals and invite them to engage off line.

There are many other ways to engage and interact on LinkedIn. What LinkedIn tools, features and functions do you use?

I invite you to connect and interact with me on Twitter and LinkedIn

 

baby rhino

I am participating in a mountain biking event called Ride for Rhino on the 21st September in memory of the 668 rhinos that were poached in 2012. The field of riders will be capped at 668 so each entrant will ride in memory of one of the rhinos that were killed. I am hoping to raise R1000 for each rhino killed.

If you would like to support this initiative to help save our country’s dwindling rhino populations, click here to make a donation to Wildlands Conservation Trust.

How will your money be spent?

Wildlands Conservation Trust and their partners have developed 4 strategies that will provide a coordinated and effective response to the crisis we face:

  1. Supporting the establishment of a network of NGO’s working together to stop the poaching (Project Rhino KZN http://www.projectrhinokzn.org/)
  2. Project Rhino Tracker – Piloting innovative GSM based tracking technology
  3. Project Rhino Aerial Support – Complimentary helicopter surveillance
  4. Project Rhino Investigations & Prosecutions Support

 

 

b2b marketing

People have turned to the social web in their droves to market themselves and their companies. The very medium that people are using to connect and sell their services also provides all the information, advice, guidance and tips needed to do this properly. Even though this information is readily available online, people still resort to tactics that do not work. Here are the top 4 things I have identified.

I invite you to interact with me on LinkedIn and Twitter  

1.      No research conducted

If you plan to use the social web  to engage and interact with new and existing clients, spend time finding out where they are first. All too often companies use platforms that are not frequented by their target clients. Conduct surveys or acquire research to identify their platforms of preference. You should also consider influencers and brand advocates. Even though your clients may not use a particular platform, people who influence them may do so.

2.      Too much selling and no interaction

According to Wikipedia, “social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks”. If you look at this definition, the word “selling” does not feature, but the words “create”, “share” and “exchange of information” are mentioned. Wikipedia defines marketing as “the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the PURPOSE of selling the product or service”. The first definition does not mention selling and the second definition mentions selling as a by-product, so if companies practiced “social media marketing” properly, information relating to their product, goods or service will be shared amongst their social media communities, and in time, their clients will make a “buying decision”.

3.      Too much focus on quantity and not enough on quality

Whatever platform you are participating on, concentrate on the quality of the conversations and interaction rather than the number of subscribers, connections, followers, friends, shares, likes and retweets. The other consideration is the quality of the people you are interacting with. Are they potential or existing clients, influencers and advocates? If you are having quality interaction with the quality people, the quantity will come of its own accord.

4.      Too much attention on yourself

The biggest mistake companies make is to initiate engagement by talking about themselves and their products, services and solutions. Take the time to understand the markets and industries you work in and their challenges and talk more about that instead. Anything relating to your company and what you do should always be secondary. If you create, share and interact around relevant content, the propensity for your communities to interact will increase substantially.

To summarise, find out where your clients are first, communicate with them on their platforms of process, understand the definition of social media marketing and develop your strategy accordingly and talk to your clients about their industries and business challenges.  

I have only listed four things which B2B marketers get wrong on the social web. What would you add?  

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To assist me in articulating to my clients how online marketing aligns with a typical sales process, I produced a diagram which shows the different stages in the marketing and sales process and how online marketing is used to drive leads, prospects and sales opportunites down the sales funnel.

online marketing pipeline

1. Awareness

Using a combination of your company website, search engine optimisation, search engine marketing, content marketing, your personal or company blog, social media marketing and smart phone and tablet apps, you create awareness and build credibility and encourage people to follow, connect, join your groups and subscribe to your blog and newsletter and interact with you.

2. Nurturing subscribers

People who have subscribed to your newsletter have given you permission to communicate with them on a regular basis. This is where you continue to build credibility and stay top of mind. Producing good content is crucial in order to retain subscribers and to encourage them to continue consuming your content and sharing your content with their respective communities.

3. Offline sales activity

This is where you make the transition from an online to an offline engagement and where the online channel can still play a part in building credibility. This is where you meet face-to-face with prospective clients, build relationships and present proposals.

4. Closing business

The is the last phase of the sales process and the start of an ongoing relationship with your new client. This is still an important element of your online marketing process because new and existing clients will (hopefully) provide favourable references online and can potentially allow you to publish case studies and testimonials on your website.

 

digital organisation1

Companies around the world are still undergoing digital transition. Some believe they are there already whilst others still have their heads buried in the sand. Digital is a loose term and can encompass many things, so for the purpose of this article, I am talking specifically about the use of digital as an organisation’s “window to the world”. Here are five “digitally transformed organisation” indicators.

1. Digitally educated employees

You generally find pockets of expertise in companies, with groups of individuals managing the website, online advertising, search engine optimisation, the corporate blog, social media channels and direct marketing. Whilst this should still be the case in a digitally transformed organisation, every employee should know what the company does online, know where they can contribute, understand what content and interaction is managed and how the company, and individuals within the company, benefit.

2. The digital channel is always considered

In the digitally aware organisation, every individual will consider how they can use the digital channel in their day to day activities, when developing strategy or planning ahead for an event. Employees will ensure that they have an updated LinkedIn profile, those managing Twitter accounts will generate tweets on a regular basis, employees will take photos and post on the corporate Facebook page, all thought ware and opinion pieces will be blogged regularly and shared across relevant channels, activities and thought leaders will be video-ed and uploaded to the corporate YouTube account and employees will be responsive to online questions, queries and conversation.

3. Optimised paid, earned and owned media

Companies that are well and truly on the digital bandwagon will be reviewing their investments in the three main media buckets of earned, shared and paid (which each give opportunities to influence customers) and will be measuring their returns in order to set their investment at the right level. Owned media includes the website, mobile site, blog and social media accounts. Paid media includes display ads, paid search and sponsorships. Earned media is “word of mouth”, creating “buzz” and going viral. Digital companies optimise each of these to maximise the return on their digital investment.

4. Online channels are the digital extension of the company

The digital channel is described by some as cold, so the digitally astute company will use the the online channels they have at their disposal to humanise wherever possible. With proper use of words and images and video on the corporate blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and email, they give their online presence a personality to which their communities form an emotional attachment. Companies that get this right are the ones who build loyal online communities and produce content that is shared and hopefully goes viral.

5. Digitally transformed companies should have fun online

I left the most important point to last. Digital companies have fun when participating online and this is noticed by their online community. These companies post content, comments, blog posts, images and video that encapsulate the essence, spirit and personality of the company. When they are hosting and/or attending events, these are captured and shared. Client experiences are captured and shared (with their permission of course). When they are doing pro bono work at a local orphanage or school, they take photos and publish them. It is all these collective experiences, when captured and shared that humanises their online presence and encourages their communities to form real connections.

Do you agree or disagree with some of these points? Is there something I have left out? Do you have any comments? I would love to hear from you.

 

b2b

Based on my digital marketing efforts and experience to date, I have identified eight areas where you need to focus your efforts to optimise the effectiveness and return on investment from the business-to-business online marketing process within your organisation.

If you would like to continue this conversation in more detail, I welcome your comments at the end of the blog post or interact with me on LinkedIn and Twitter

1. Content

Adequate production of suitable thought ware across your relevant service lines and industries is an absolutely essential.  The content you create must “showcase” the products, solutions and services your organisation provides. The content you produce should be suited for the different channels you manage. For an email introducing an article, the article in question should be quite detailed, content for a blog post should be shorter and to the point. If you are using YouTube, arrange to have a short video clip produced where the thought leader discusses the specific content.    

2. Channels

Constantly review your processes to optimise the digital channels you are utilising. Remember that you are dependent on the channels your prospective clients choose to use. Monitor the market on a regular basis. Try new things. Poll your prospects and clients and ask them what they prefer. Marketers who anticipated Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube as future channels of choice for their prospects and clients will have benefitted from this foresight.

3. Change Management

You cannot manage B2B digital marketing in isolation. It has to be owned by the entire business.  Develop a change management strategy to educate the relevant persons within your business on the positive effects they will experience by utilising the digital channels effectively. Showing them how to create a Twitter account and how to tweet is not enough. Take them through the full process from cradle to grave and show some examples of business meetings being created, proposals being requested and business deals won.  Make B2B Digital marketing part of your organisation’s DNA!

4. Communities

The products, services and solutions you provide will determine how your market will prefer to interact with you. Figure this out and build your communities accordingly. Once you have acquired a Like, Follow, Connection, subscription, make sure you nurture this audience appropriately. If you are targeting a finite, known market, do the research and identify who you are connecting with and devise a strategy to develop an online relationship with the rest.  Don’t worry about quantities but rather on the quality of the conversations you are having. Identify social media influencers, relevant people in the media and brand advocates and look after them.

5. CVs

If you are using digital effectively, it is a good idea to create online resumes for all your thought leaders. If you share a thought piece and include the name of the thought leader, you should also provide a link to the person’s LinkedIn profile. Their LinkedIn profile should contain a decent photograph, a good summary explaining their personal value proposition and adequate connections, endorsements and recommendations.

6. Call back

Successful B2B digital marketing models have a golden thread from start to finish. At a specific point in the B2B marketing process, you may have to pass leads onto your sales team or someone responsible for taking the process to the next step.  As a follow up to all B2B digital marketing campaigns, the relevant persons need to follow up timeously and ask for appointments, set up meetings, ask if the person requires additional information, etc.

7. Closing the loop

Obtaining adequate feedback from the business in terms of meetings, requests for proposals and business won is very important. Make of point of asking the “business” on a regular basis on what happened with the leads you sent them. File this information away so that you can report back to the business on a later stage on all the successes as a result of your B2B didgital marketing activities.

8. Compliance

There are all kinds of legislation already out there and proposed amendments that may be passed soon. Consult with a digital communication legal specialist, get them to assess your existing environment and to provide you with feedback in terms of where you do not comply with existing legislation, what you need to do in order to comply and what plans you should be putting in place now in order to comply with legislation that is coming soon. This can be a big differentiator for you if your competitors are not doing anything about it.

I hope these eight points will be of assistance to you. Do you have any comments? Have I left something out? Do you agree or disagree with some of the points?  I would love to hear from you. 

online marketing2

So many organisations are missing the trick completely in the online space because they are incapable of ridding themselves of dated marketing behaviour of the past. I have listed five things you should do to derive tangible benefit from your online marketing activities.

1.     Provide value at all costs

Good content marketers keep harping on about this but so many do not listen. The Internet was developed all those years ago for people to find information that would add value to their lives. The emphasis here is on the recipient, not the person developing and sharing content. Online marketers that want to truly see notable results must produce information that is interesting, insightful, value-adding, intriguing and sharable. The more content you share that carries these attributes, the more people will continue to listen to you.

2.     Change the “I” to “you”

Go on a first date and talk about yourself all the time and see how well you fair. Generally, your will not make it to the second date. Online marketers that want to get noticed must talk about the customer, not themselves. Lose words like “I”, “we”, “us” and “our” and replace with “you” and “your”. The more you place the emphasis on the recipient, the more you instill a feeling that you actually care about them.

3.     Give away content

Ensure that at all times, that you give away content without ever expecting anything in return. It may take some time for recipients to realise that you are not going to ask them for anything in return, and when it does, you are on the road to developing some good online relationships. What happens during this process is that people continue to listen to you, but you are building credibility along the way and being viewed as a trusted adviser. As you are communicating regularly with your community, you are staying top of mind, and there is a greater propensity for your subscribers to contact you when they have a business challenge or a requirement that may be addressed by the services you provide.

4.     Never mention the products, services and solutions 

If you are an opportunistic salesperson or marketer, then mention all the products, services and solutions you sell, but remember this will be a once off exercise. You may land a few orders, but you will also upset a great deal of people who will report you for spamming them or who will unsubscribe from any future communication.

5.     Focus on subtle promotion

Online marketers who employ best practice techniques will:

  • Focus on the clients challenges and problems
  • Offer solutions, methodologies, approaches, tips, advice and guidance to resolve problems
  • Not talk about themself, their company, their products, services and solutions
  • Give selflessly without expecting anything in return

but this does not mean they will not include links to:

  • Their website where they talk about their company, products and solutions
  • Their LinkedIn profile and company page where they showcase their skills and qualifications
  • Invitations to meet to discuss specific business topics in more detail
  • Business events which they are hosting or attending

This advice is based on our past experience and results we have achieved through the adoption of this approach. Do you have any anything to add?

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I participated in a conference call earlier today with colleagues in another region where I was describing my role and what I do on a daily basis. After going through all my daily responsibilities I was somewhat bemused when one of the persons on the call said “But that sounds like a full-time job”. After hearing this I thought it may be a good idea to explain a “day in the life of an online marketer”

Preparation of content

Any online marketer is dead in the water without good content to fuel their online marketing fire. In order to source good content, you need to meet with thought leaders on a regular basis to encourage them and assist with the creation of content. Any good content marketer will know that content has to be fit for purpose, depending on the channel they are using.

Publishing the daily blog post

There are no hard rules around the frequency of blog posts but the general rule is not too many, not too few and focus on quality. I attempt to schedule one blog post per day, preferably first thing in the morning.

Sharing blog post across online channels

Depending on the social networks you are participating on, you may want to introduce your published article differently. As you know, Twitter has a 140 character limitation so you want to be brief but still attempt to attract attention. In terms of Twitter I try to attract the attention of social media influencers and journalists and editors from popular business publications. In some cases I will contact certain individuals through a Direct Message (DM) and email or mention their Twitter handle in my tweet.

When sharing on LinkedIn and Google+ you are able to prepare a longer introduction to the content and ask your community for their comments, opinion and feedback. Besides the LinkedIn update, I also share the article on the relevant LinkedIn groups I manage and other groups I have joined. I also include specific people I am connected with on LinkedIn. In the LinkedIn groups I manage I will also use my weekly announcements feature on the groups to send an announcement to group members.

After creating updates on all the relevant social networks I then add a scheduled update on Socialoomph for Twitter and LinkedIn.

Preparation of email campaigns

For our email subscribers, we will identify specific content and determine which roles within organisations and which industries we should be targeting. I then need to prepare the templates for the relevant emails, create the filters, insert links, send a test to check that all is in order and then schedule the email.

Dialogue with community

Any online marketer or community manager has to ensure that all comments on blog posts, DMs on Twitter, shout outs on Twitter, replies to email campaigns, requests for information, CVs sent, comments on LinkedIn updates, comments on LinkedIn groups, requests to connect on LinkedIn, requests to join LinkedIn groups, discussions submitted on LinkedIn groups which require authorisation (I will end it there) are attended to and responded to timeously. This is an all day task and depending on what campaigns you are busy with, varies in intensity.

Measurement and feedback

This has to be done on a regular basis so that the relevant stakeholders within the organisation are kept abreast of all online marketing activities, understand the effectiveness of the channel and are able to react quickly to sales leads that are generated through my efforts.

Writing articles and supporting other influencers

I also need to find time to identify suitable subject matter to write about for subscribers to my personal blog and for sites where I am a guest blogger. Over and above that, I need to spend time reading, commenting on and sharing articles written by thought leaders.

So if you are looking for someone to manage your online marketing, I can assure you that if you want to do it properly and get results, then budget for a full time person.

Is there anything I have missed out? Please add to my list.

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