Friday, December 31, 2010

Want to Book More Business? Write a Book.

Wall Street Journal columnist Sarah Needleman suggests publishing may be the key to acquiring more customers.

She profiles a Richmond, VA-based dentist who's published five books recently, including This Won't Hurt a Bit.  

The books have brought the dentist 450 new patients, at an acquistion cost of only $90 each.

Most entrepreneurs-turned-authors seek not only to capture new customers, but to generate "invisible income," writes Needleman. 

The latter comes from consulting, media appearances and speeches

"The trend wouldn't have been possible without the emergence of print-on-demand publishers," she notes. 

Thanks to firms like and, authors can publish for little or no cost, in exchange for a percentage of sales.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Paint Me a Picture

I've been researching a hot technology lately.  My efforts have included reading the Websites of 40 firms in the "space." 

In doing so, I've encountered statements like these on every, single site:

"We are committed to continually driving innovation within the industry."

"Innovation is the backbone to everything that we collaborate, develop and deliver."

"Our passion for developing innovative software solutions is surpassed only by our commitment to our clients‘ success."

"Our team ranks among the best in the industry."

"Our goal is to empower your organization with the revenue it needs to advance its mission."

Not persuasive.

You might advise the firms to ditch such drivel as, "Our team ranks among the best in the industry."  That would help a lot.

But what else could they do to improve their Websites?
  1. Tell me why the technology matters to me.  Who cares if the firm is "continually driving innovation within the industry?"  What's in it for me?
  2. Deep-six the fuzzy words.  Don't require me to think so hard.  Words like "collaborate" and "empower" are way too vague.
  3. Paint me a picture.  Use language the way it should be used.  "Show, don't tell."  And employ clear, colorful words.  As Winston Churchill (pictured above) once said, "Short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Marketing is All

How do you define your business?

I hope your definition, whatever it is, features the word marketing.

As Regis McKenna once said, "Marketing is everything and everything is marketing."

On that note, editor extraordinaire Alan Webber offers a "Book Store Parable" on his blog this week.

Recounting a visit to San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore, Webber writes:

"Once I walked into the book store it was clear to meobvious beyond any need to state it, actuallythat I was going to buy a book.  At least one. I didn't know which one.  But I kind of knew I'd buy at least one.  Which made the following proposition clear: The task of a book store isn't to sell books.  It's to get people to walk in the front door.  Selling books: easy.  Getting people to walk in the front door: hard."

In other words, your business is marketing; it's hard; and it's all.

Monday, December 27, 2010

B-to-B Buyers and Social Media

In August, producers of the incentive travel-industry show IMEX asked 1,000 B-to-B buyers to share their views on social media

The responses offer a good glimpse into buyers' current preferences.

LinkedIn is the networking site of choice.  It's used by 64% of B-to-B buyers.  Facebook is used by 60%; Twitter, by 27%; and YouTube, by 23%.

Blackberry is the smartphone of choice.  Blackberries are used by 57% of buyers; iPhones, by 31%.

Nearly half the respondents (46%) also said they've increased their use of social media for networking in the past six months.

How beefy is your LinkedIn profile?  How mobile-friendly is your Web site?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Getting Personal

Personas are the latest craze among B-to-B marketers.

For good reason.

Like the GPS in your car, personas guide you in your quest to find new customers.

Jeff Ogden, president and CMO of Find New Customers, offers these five tips for creating strong personas:

1. Start with the companies of your ideal customers.  Begin by developing profiles of your best buyers' companies.  Think about the problems you solve for these businesses.

2. Identify your customers' job titles.  Ask your salespeople who the decisionmakers are.

3. Ask 13 questions.  What’s the prospect's role in the buying decision?  What keeps her up at night?  What motivates her?  Is she acquainted with your organization?  Where does she get news?  How does she make decisions?  What associations does she belong to?  What events does she attend?  Does she seek advice from colleagues and peers?  How is she dealing with problems today?  What words does she use to describe the problems?  Does she prefer high-level or detailed information?  What prevents her from choosing you?

4. Leverage all contact points.  For answers to these questions, talk to all the people who deal with customers.  Ask both sales and customer support.  Pose questions on Linkedin and Twitter.  Use internal surveys.  Participate in blogs and online communities.

5. Keep revising the personas.  "Personas are an endless quest for perfection," says Ogden.  So set bimonthly meetings to review them.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Highest Possible Praise

During a recent phone call, a client said to me, "Your blog post today was better than Seth." 

What I heard was, "better than sex."

I paused for maybe 10 seconds, at a loss for words.

"Seth Godin," he added, feeling the need to clarify.

High praise nevertheless.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Building Blocks

Here's a fundamental law:

The majority of B-to-B buyers engage with a supplier only when they're ready to buy.

That's why all the "pushing" in the world won't budge them.

But you need to stay on buyers' radar screens, so when the "moment of truth" arises they seek you out.

So instead of pushing, try pulling.  Use these five building blocks:

     A. Social networks (especially LinkedIn)
     B. Blogs
     C. Public relations
     D. E-newsletters
     E. Paid search

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Two Fail-Safe Words of Advice

"Ask customers."

They're committed to your brand, too.

But, unlike insiders, customers will provide the Emperor-has-no-clothes appraisal you need when an idea lacks merit.

I'm ceaselessly puzzled by organizations that don't seek an outside reality check before investing in some initiative.

They're everywhere.

On the other hand, be careful to ask the right customers the right questions.  

Because a lot of them (most) have puny imaginations.

Henry Ford famously said, "If I asked my customers what they want, they simply would have said a faster horse."

Monday, December 20, 2010

How to Report from Live Events

While most live-event producers encourage participants to push out content, software giant SAP goes one better.

In advance, SAP maps out the social media coverage of its annual sales meeting. 

SAP identifies a dozen newsworthy topics, then deputizes skilled "reporters” to cover them at the event.

The employees SAP co-opts as reporters must meet a couple requirements.  One, they must be proficient in social media.  Two, they must have online followers. 

They're provided tools and training by the company, so their reportage is even.

During the meeting, the reporters get legal permission to publish interviews and testimonials by asking interviewees to sign index cards with simple "release" language.

The reporters also carry special-purpose business cards with Web addresses printed on them.  They hand these to interviewees, who predictably ask, "Where will this appear?”

You can learn more about SAP's efforts by visiting Andy's Answers at SmartBlog.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Content Rules

Marketing gurus Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman have authored the new book Content Rules.

In a word, it rocks.

Although the authors would hope "to discredit the notion that creating content is complicated and difficult," Content Rules makes one thing crystal clear: it pays to tackle social media marketing with care and know-how.

If you're at all shy in the latter department (who isn't?), Content Rules will help.

Part One provides 11 do's and don'ts, the "rules" touted in the title.  It's packed with advice about writing, curating, co-creating, repurposing, sharing and other activities essential to good content marketing.

Part Two delves into how-to's.  

The authors, like most social media marketing experts, insist a blog forms the "hub" of any sound content marketing strategy.  There's a strong chapter on blogging with 12 more rules on that activity alone.

Fanning from the blog are Webinars, white papers, case studies, FAQ sheets, videos, podcasts and photos.  Part Two includes hundreds of pointers for perfecting these.

Part Three offers 10 case studies. 

Profiled are content marketing grand slams by big and little players, including Boeing, HubSpot and Kodak. 

Included with each case study are "Ideas You Can Steal."  These alone justify the price of the 250-page book.

While co-author Chapman, a "thought leader" in the space, is no slouch, Ms Handley is chief content officer of the much-lauded Website MarketingProfs.

So you can guess the advice in Content Rules is fairly sound.

After all, 365,000 followers can't all be wrong.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bye, Bye, Beefheart

I can't allow the moment to pass without noting the death last week of Don Van Vliet, who performed in the 1960s and '70s as Captain Beefheart.

Many an hour of my youth was spent (some would say misspent) grooving to Beefheart.

We toss the word around lighty, but Van Vliet was an artist.

He was the only big-name rocker I ever saw walk off the stage at the beginning of a performance, because the audience wouldn't accept his latest work. 

"You don't deserve this, [expurgated*]," he announced mid-song, and stormed off.

The concert was held in 1972 in George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium.  It lasted about 12 minutes, as I recall.

*Rhymes with suckers

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dear Santa

My mom and dad said, if I write you a letter, you'd bring me all the things I want this Christmas.

So here goes.

Transformers.  Bring me as many of these as you can, Santa.  Sometimes I run out of ways to transform dull first drafts into inspiring copy.

Stinky the Garbage Truck.  I can use this to haul off the ideas I come up with that my clients reject.

Spy Net Video Watch.  I can use this super-special watch to keep tabs on competitors.  But, more importantly, I can use it to show up on time for appointments.

High School Musical 3 Game.  I want to relive high school this way.  My actual high school was more like the Revenge of the Nerds 3 Game.

Speedster Fire Truck. I need this to rescue the numerous clients I have who are too busy to notice their hair is on fire.

Thank you, Santa. 

If you bring me all these things, I promise, promise, promise to be good.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baby Steps

Today’s customers demand simplicity, even in complex matters.

Seth Godin reminds us in a recent blog post"You can't sell complicated to someone who came to you to buy simple."

You can't persuade "masses of semi-interested people to embrace complicated answers," Godin says.

So don't try. 

Instead, he urges, break down the complex.  Communicate baby steps.  "Teach complexity over time, simply."

And don't aim for masses.  Aim for the few.  "Teach a few people, the committed, to embrace the idea of complexity."

Find more tips in my special report, Path of Persuasion.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

While paying lip service to "social" in the virtual world, far too many organizations remain decidedly anti-social in the real one.

Whenever I'm the victim of such an outfit, I recall the motto of W.C. Fields, "Never give a sucker an even break."

Truth be told, the anti-social organization holds this motto dearly.  No matter what it spouts on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

"The customers are just suckers.  Let's never, ever give 'em a break."

On Social Media Today, guest columnist Alexis Karlin takes anti-social organizations, deservedly, to task.

She's a tad more generous in attitude than I.

Forget what the social media gurus advise, Karlin writes.  "Organizations need to start by indoctrinating every employee with a customer support mentality before they even begin to think about social anything."

She offers her own example of anti-social corporate behavior.

Recently, Karlin cancelled a license for software she'd been using. 

Two months later, she received an email from the vendor.  It claimed Karlin was four payments in arrears.

Karlin shot back an email.  Why hadn't she been notified earlier?

The vendor's reply: "someone else" in her firm had been notified.  

But Karlin's was the only name ever given to the vendor.  She then asked to see copies of the late-payment notices.

There has been no response.

Karlin feels anger over the incident.  "Even though we spend all this time talking about engaging, energizing, supporting, and embracing," she writes, "I strongly feel that companies are forgetting to do this in the day-to-day dealings through email, over the phone and face to face. 

"My guess is that this vendor has a great social strategy and plan in place, but didn’t bother to instill the prerequisite customer service mentality."

My guess is slightly different.

Yes, this vendor has a great social strategy and plan in place.  But it doesn't have a lot of scruples.

Engage.  Energize.  Embrace.  And never give a sucker an even break.

What do you think?

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Potentiate is a boss word that people outside the medical sciences rarely use any more.

It means to strengthen something; to enhance its power or effect.

I just wrapped up a week at the annual meeting of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events.

More than 2,000 people were present.

All 2,000 didn't share the same agenda. 

Some came to study; some, to sell; some, to job search; and some, to schmooze.

But all shared one purpose in common.

All were there to potentiate their personal brands

Maybe that's the ultimate reason we convocate in large groups.

It's an awesome thing to behold.

What are you doing to potentiate your brand?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's Old is New Again

The fellas in MetLife's marketing department wouldn't have known "Brand Journalism" from a Bronx Cheer.

But that didn't stop them from issuing nifty booklets, free to customers throughout the 1920s and '30s.

The Metropolitan Cook Book opened:

"It is sometimes difficult to feed the family nourishing food and at the same time give it the variety which quickens the appetite. 

"This book has been prepared to help the housewife in her ever-lasting question, 'What shall I have for dinner tonight?'

"We hope that you will find it useful and helpful."

Brand journalism, as the boys at MetLife instinctively knew, gives customers value and spares them the product pitch.

In 2010, smart marketers are still using booklets like The Metropolitan Cook Book to provide customers value. 

But they're also using blog posts, Tweets, ebooks and mobile apps to accomplish the same end.

Imagine if the MetLife boys had Facebook.

And while we're on the subject, what shall we have for dinner tonight?

Silly Beats Serious

The rise of social media marketing has prompted Advertising Age to suggest it's time to redefine "relevance."

"Relevance has long been a central tenet of effective advertising, but the rise of Facebook and Twitter are forcing a redefinition of the term," writes reporter Matthew Creamer.

"There's increasing evidence that the most-effective kinds of marketing communications on these websites are simple, random, even banal statements or questions driven by the calendar or the whim of a writer that may not have anything to do with the brand in question."

"Conversational posts" in fact produce 8 to 12 times the response of "brand-oriented" ones, according to Creamer.

As an example, he cites a Facebook post by Blackberry in November.  The com
pany posted a simple Happy Veteran's Day message that received 8,000 likes and 500 comments.  The response far outran reactions to other recent posts concerned with Blackberry products and product tips.

Monday, December 6, 2010

5 Best Books of 2010

Here are my nominations for the year's top five marketing books.

Chris Brogran's Social Media 101. Tons of primers like this have appeared in 2010.  But Brogan's towers above the rest for depth and clarity.

Ardath Albee's eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. You won't find a better guide to B-to-B marketing success in the age of social media.

David Meerman Scott's Real-Time Marketing and PR. I cannot say enough praiseworthy things about Scott's 200-page treatise.  It's mandatory.

Mitch Myerson's Success Secrets of the Social Media Marketing Superstars. Everything you ever wanted to know about social media marketing (but were afraid to ask).

David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan's Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. Informative, inspiring and a delight to read.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Marketing Lessons from the Walking Dead

Some marketing tactics never wear out. 

Others survive long past their prime.

Here are five that should be put out of their misery.


Greenwashed product names. Branding consultants, please advise your clients: the mere act of inserting "Eco" in front of a product name doesn't reduce that product's carbon footprint or make it healthy to consume.

Blatant self-promotion masquerading as e-newsletters.  No one likes these travesties.  That's why they're wearing out.  I just received one that announced it will no longer include fresh material, due to "author fatique."  Instead, the newsletter will consist of old blog posts.  Now I'm fatigued.

Those annoying three-word headlines.  You know the sort I mean: 

Define. Design. Deploy.
Entice. Excite. Engage.
Originate. Optimize. Outsource.

Yes, yes, yes, alliteration is powerful.  But enough, enough, enough.

Gated white papers that don't even download.  These add insult to injury.  I provide you my contact info, budget, buying authority, age, gender, eye color and last known whereabouts.  You provide me nothing.  Except phone calls from India.

Unwanted inbound telemarketing calls.  Securities salespeople, when will you finally get it?  No, thank you, I don't wish to review my investment portfolio at this particular moment.  I already feel lousy enough talking to you.

Your turn.  Nominate a zombie you wish to put out of its misery.

NOTE: Apologies to David Meerman Scott for corrupting the title of his wonderful book.  I urge you to read it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How to Kill Sales

Seth Godin offered a crucial reminder in his blog yesterday.

Marketers make overkill a habit.

Desparate to generate incremental sales, they add, add, add.  

More special offers.  More rewards.  More messages.  More links. More banner ads. More, more, more.

But, he warns, "Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention."

"More" doesn't spur sales.  It kills them.

That's especially the case when it comes to copy.

Overkill kills.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The End of Digital Correctness

In a recent conversation with Blogworld founder Rick Calvert, I mentioned the tribe of critics who insist that access to live events like his should be free.  

Rick responded, "Yeah, the 'hippies.'"

Free access to content, a founding principle of the Web's early developers, is soon to go the way of Flower Power.  (You can learn why from two terrific articles on the topic, one in Atlantic Monthly, the other in Wired.)

Since babyhood, the Web has been captive to this principle.  It was "digitally correct" to provide content free; boorish to ask dough for it.

But with the ascent of mobile apps, the model is about to flip. 

We're soon to see most Web content become subscription-based.  And the subscriptions will be pricey, to boot.

Capitalist pigs, one.  Hippies, nothing.

It was nice while it lasted.
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