Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Metaphorically Speaking

On BNET, angel investor John Warrillow tips his hat to the "strategic metaphor."

A strategic metaphor is powerful not because it's apt, but because it's handy. 

Swamped by inbound messages, consumers need a convenient hook to hang yours on.

Provide that hook, and they're more likely to listen to you.  

"A strategic metaphor gives people a cheat sheet for understanding what you do," Warrillow says.

He cites as examples:
  • A start-up that offers a "deal of the day" on chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists is "the Groupon of alternative medicine.”
  • A classy car dealership is “the Ritz-Carlton of Ford dealers.”
  • A manufacturer of sexy sportswear is “the Victoria’s Secret of cycling apparel.”
  • A retailer of furniture for the corner office is "the Mercedes-Benz of office furniture.”
It's easy to find your strategic metaphor, Warrillow says.  Decide what you want your brand to stand for; go to Interbrand’s list of the top 100 brands; and choose one that represents your aspiration.

So, within your niche, if you want to represent "the most reliable," you're FedEx; "the speediest," McDonald’s; "the most rigorous," McKinsey; "the most upscale," Rolex.  And so forth.  

Find your strategic metaphor, Warrillow urges, "because the faster you can describe your business to new customers, investors, and employees, the better your chance of holding their attention long enough for them to buy what you’re selling."

My strategic metaphor?

I'm "the Jaguar of copywriters."  

What's yours?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How to Get More from Marketing Automation

Marketing and sales are notoriously independent.

But when the two team up, the results can be the stuff of legends.

One golden opportunity for teamwork between the two is the adoption of marketing automation.

Marketing automation uses software to qualify, score and nurture leads on an individual basis until each becomes “purchase ready.”

To pay off, marketing automation demands that marketing works with sales to perfect the “handoff” of purchase-ready leads; and sales works with marketing to perfect the “take-back” of not-yet-ready leads.

But merely introducing the software doesn’t mean marketing and sales, after years of acting like Lone Rangers, will suddenly partner up.

Mac McConnell, writing for Marketing Automation Software Blog, identifies three reasons organizations “get stuck” after adopting marketing automation—and how to tackle the issues:

Lack of fresh leads. Many organizations that adopt marketing automation soon discover they simply don’t have enough leads to fill the pipeline. In such cases, the marketing department should “go back to the drawing board,” McConnell advises, revisiting lead-generation activities that may have been discarded because they were thought to be low-yield. Tradeshows and rented direct marketing lists are prime examples. “Cast a wide net and revitalize tactics that have fallen out of favor.”

Lack of content. Other organizations can’t kickstart marketing automation because they don’t generate enough content—the gas that makes the engine run.  The correction here is simple: the marketing department has to get on the stick.  “Start working on fresh content that actually helps your buyer meet their goals, not yours,” says McConnell. Research reports are ideal. Buyers also crave short pieces, like checklists, executive briefs, industry overviews and glossaries.

Lack of a lead-scoring model. Marketing automation’s “secret sauce” is lead scoring, but many organizations never enjoy the recipe because marketing and sales can’t agree on definitions. The solution? Bring the two departments together, McConnell recommends. Insist they reach consensus on which attributes of a lead are important and which behaviors represent “buying signals.” That’s the only way leads can be scored.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How to Torpedo Your Marketing Efforts

I have a confession to make.

I love to watch movies about submarine warfare.

Especially the parts where the sub is forced to play cat-and-mouse with the enemy destroyers on the surface.

That's when the sub has to "run silent" to avoid being blown to smithereens.

If your organization occasionally runs silent, I have a warning.

You're sinking your chances of closing more sales.

On B2C, Drew McLellan describes this all-too-common marketing error.

"Too many organizations go hot and cold with their marketing," he writes.

"They’re aggressive or at least active one month or one quarter and then are dormant for months at a time."

Organizations guilty of "running silent" market only when sales are weak.  

When sales are strong, "marketing falls off the radar."

That's foolish, as McLellan makes clear.

"But we know our customers," you insist.  "And we know the buying cycle in our industry.  We like to time our marketing efforts to cooincide with it."

The simple fact of the matter is that, "unless you sell Christmas trees," you can't know when a prospect will begin her buying journey.

She'll start it when she's good and ready.

And if she starts her journey while your marketing is on hiatus, you'll probably never convert her when she eventually does buy.

"In most cases, a prospect isn’t going to give you their time and attention for more than a few minutes," McLellan says.  "So you have to go with the 'be present all the time, so when they need/want you, you’re there' model."

Got that?

Be present all the time.

No more running silent.  

Full speed ahead.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Makes a Good Slogan?

After headlines, slogans are my favorite kind of copywriting assignment.

A good slogan, like a good business card, is one of the least expensive marketing tools you'll find.

If nothing else, a good slogan will make buyers a wee bit more receptive to your firm. 

At best, a good slogan will make you more memorable.

Slogans can connect the dots between your goals and buyers'.  They can act as shorthand guarantees.  They can crystallize your brand's "essence."  They can put into a phrase your buyers' dreams.

Good slogans aren't always short, dramatic, edgy or even original.

But good slogans are always authentic.  The communicate what you're really about and slip safely past buyers' built-in BS detectors.

And good slogans are always distinctive.  They help buyers tell you apart from competitors.  That's why a pedestrian slogan like "Organic supplements for ethnic grocers" can be spot on.

In fact, distinction is the ultimate purpose behind using a slogan and the reason the device caught on in the first place.  

The slogan became the signature weapon of advertisers in the late 19th century, when factory-made goods began to flood America's retail stores. 

Advertisers found they needed something besides a name and package to distinguish what were, for the most part, commodity products.

Evocative slogans (like "Ivory Soap. It floats.") helped do the trick.

Below are just four sample slogans, culled from recent magazine ads.  

While none has quite the magic of "Breakfast of Champions" or "Just Do It," consider in each case how much these few words add to your impression of the advertisers.

For a manufacturer of tractors for sheep breeders:

Kioti. Run ahead of the pack.

For a manufacturer of broadcaster's equipment:  

NewTek. Innovative Solutions for Graphics, Film and Television Production.

For a manufacturer of skin care products:

Origins. Powered by Nature. Proven by  Science.

For a nonprofit:

The Nature Conservancy.  Protecting nature. Preserving life.

What do you think makes a good slogan?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Are Hybrid Events for Real?

I've been researching the subject of hybrid (part physical, part virtual) events recently, because I'm compiling a workbook on the subject.* 

My conclusion?  Hybrid events are for real.

Business marketers think so, too.

According to research by Unisfair86 percent of them believe hybrids will represent half of all events within five years.

Why are hybrids so appealing?  

Hybrids enlarge a marketer's social media footprint.  Hybrid events add a thrilling new dimension to a brand's social media presence.  Hybrids aren't just "one more outpost," but immersive, targeted, community-centric platforms.

Hybrids increase the value of physical events.  Hybrids open physical events—no matter their location—to a worldwide audience, a big plus for exhibitors and sponsors.  Experience also shows that, over time, hybrids boost the attendance of physical events.  They transform them into pilgrimage sites.

Hybrids fill gaps.  Budget pressures are driving a lot of corporate customers to skip physical events.  They want to learn from them, but lack the means.  The virtual complement restores the means.

Hybrids enable multitasking.  Time-deprivation is often the reason people can't travel to a physical event.  Hybrids allow them to participate and get their work done.

Hybrids do a big favor for small businesses.  Small businesses are typically starved for both time and money, yet they're the largest group of employers and the engine driving innovation.  Hybrid events help them compete effectively with their Fortune 1000 counterparts.  Hybrids also appeal to green-minded folks.  

Hybrids help preserve industry knowledge.  Producing a virtual complement to a physical event automatically creates an archive of the content and conversations, many of which might otherwise have been lost.

Hybrids keep improving.  The extension of real life into virtual life gets more compelling with advances in technology and producers' skills.  It won't be long before the online experience they provide matches TV news and talk shows for quality.

* It's for the EastVirtual Event Workshop, May 18 in Washington, DC.  Disclaimer: I'm co-producer of the event.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In the Year 2020

Here's a startling prediction: according to Gartner, by 2020, corporate buyers will manage 85 percent of their supplier relationships without once interacting with a salesperson.

Salespeople used to serve as the face of a companya prospective buyer's first contact with the brand.

No more.  As Jon Miller, CMO of marketing-automation provider Marketo, writes in his firm's blog, "Today, buyers create their own brand preference by conducting research online, particularly within their own social networks, before they even touch base with a sales rep."

What does the trend mean?

Companies have to change how they use both marketers and salespeople.

In a few years, online content will be the only way to reach nearly 9 out of 10 prospects.  So marketers, for all purposes, will present the "face" of the company until the crucial moment of decision, when salespeople step forward (and, with luck, cinch the deal).

"Unless companies begin to sell the way their customers want to buy," Miller warns, "they might as well write a prescription for their own failure."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Transparency in Social Media

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said that, while he couldn't define pornography, "I know it when I see it."

Defining transparency in social media is equally difficult.

Writing for Social Media Today, Elissa Nauful tries to do so anyway in "What Does It Really Mean to Be Transparent?" 

She defines transparency in social media five ways:

You gotta be "you."  Transparency rules out any fudging or posturing.  Being true to thine own self entices customers.  "Your authenticity will translate as both honesty and integrity."

You gotta be tolerant.  Transparency means you'll accept praise and criticism.  That tolerance "will immediately build brand trust."

You gotta be generous.  To be transparent means to share, openly and often.  Not top secrets or tawdry details, but enough hard news to keep people interested.

You gotta be forthright.  Transparency demands that you disclose commercial interests in anything you're plugging.  (The Federal Trade Commission demands that too.)

You gotta be chatty.  Transparent companies socialize.  "They reply to comments, they retweet funny ideas, and they treat their customers like new friends."

How do you define transparency?  Or do you only know it when you see it?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Approximating Authenticity

The term "authenticity" is a social media shibboleth.

After all, consistent promise-keeping is the real rule of the authentic organization (think Amazon).

But we can at least be approachable in our social media exchanges, according to online community consultant Richard Millington.

In his recent blog post "Interact With Your Community Like a Human Being," Millington sets out his codes of conduct:
  • Write in the first person.  Phrase questions as personal ones. "Has anyone had experience with ....?"
  • Engage first, tell second. Lead with a question, not content.  Only if others reply should you respond with information.
  • Begin with a story. Why are you asking for others' opinions? What's your opinion?
  • Speak with emotion.  "Don't default to a customer-service tone for engaging members of your community," Millington advices.
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