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Great social media resource - Marketing in the Groundswell

I just read a great little book called Marketing in the Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I want to emphasize that it’s a little book. 119 pages, to be exact. And each page is tiny. You would think a book that small wouldn’t have enough meaningful content to be really valuable, but this one does. It’s chock full of interesting ideas and case studies about current social marketing trends.

The “groundswell” as the authors define it, is “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies.” This trend scares most marketers, because if people don’t need companies to get the things they need anymore, they certainly won’t need marketers either. The authors take a very practical approach to soothing overwrought marketers, including suggesting vendors to help get you started with groundswell marketing, outlining typical costs and ROIs for each approach, and suggesting where you might want to start. It’s a very helpful little book, and I highly recommend it to anyone still sitting on the sidelines of social media.

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What is the next great marketing trend?

Over the years, I’ve learned that marketers love to reinvent themselves. This is how brand marketers became direct marketers, and direct marketers became digital marketers and digital marketers became social marketers. We ride the waves of opportunity that cross through the marketing space, and push ourselves to continue to grow and change with the opportunities that surround us. Sure, some marketers stick to their knitting and remain in the space they started in. But many of us seek out change and find ourselves looking for that next great opportunity to expand our skill set. It is in our DNA to do so.

I may be premature on this one, but I’m already starting to wonder what the next great trend might be in the marketing space. It seems to me that everyone who is going to adopt social marketing has already jumped on that bandwagon. There are some marketers who are not going social, but not many, based on my informal study of this question. Of course, those who have embraced social marketing will continue to progress and grow their skills in this area over the next few years. But the time will come when another new type of marketing seems more relevant and influential than the old types of marketing, and thousands of marketers will shift their careers once again.

Thinking about this, I have searched the web to try to anticipate what trend will be next. My search wasn’t comprehensive, of course, but as far as I can tell, the only trend currently on the horizon is a back-to-basics movement that is re-emphasizing traditional marketing skills like closed-loop direct marketing, rather than developing any new style of marketing. I suspect this trend got its start in tight budgets caused by the struggling economy, but it also seems to be driven by recent improvements in marketing automation that codify traditional marketing skills. This is not the most exciting trend I have seen in my career, to be sure, but I suppose it demonstrates the value of those traditional marketing skills we picked up years ago, gives us the opportunity to refresh our traditional marketing skill set, and leverages a lot of the technology skills we have picked up in recent years, so it’s not all bad either. There is still room for personal and career growth in this environment, and just when you start to think you are bored with it, I’m sure another type of “new marketing” will surface, and we will be off and running again, just like in the go-go days.

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Great Free Resource - The Essential Marketing Automation Handbook

I recently attended Dreamforce, the Salesforce.com conference in San Francisco, and dropped by the MarketingGenius booth on the expo floor. After speaking to a great sales rep, Brandon Binder, I found myself in the posession of an equally great marketing resource to take home with me. It is called The Essential Marketing Automation Handbook, by Ardath Albee, and you can download it here. This 48 page handbook details everything you would need to know to upgrade your marketing process to produce better results. It includes chapters on how to implement lead scoring, how to nurture leads by mapping content to buying stages, and how to optimize your lead nurturing strategies so that they accelerate leads through the pipeline to a closed sale. It doesn’t recommend or even discuss any particular product that might help you do these things, just lays out the conceptual framework for why you should do them, and how to go about doing them. Very helpful. While most tradeshow handouts go in the trash pretty quickly in my experience, I’m hanging on to this one.

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Salesforce.com entering social media space

Last week, I attended salesforce.com’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. It was a great event, with all sorts of exciting announcements and fun activities. One I found to be most interesting was salesforce’s announcement that they would be entering the social media space, with their new product named Chatter. CEO Marc Benioff described Chatter as Facebook for the enterprise, a tool that will enable co-workers to network and collaborate in whole new ways. In addition to bringing people together, Chatter will also bring other workplace entities (e.g. projects, content, plans, etc.) to collaborate along with the people. With Chatter, employees can follow and easily interact with members of their workgroup, their cross-functional project team, influential peers around the company, or key executives; they can also follow and provide inputs into various projects, content, strategies and reports as they evolve and are updated by others around the company.

Facebook’s astounding growth would indicate that there was an unmet need for social interaction services. That need is certainly just as high within the enterprise as outside it. Motivated employees always want to be better informed about things that are going on around the company, and Chatter will be a great tool for feeding that hunger. Salesforce’s timing is great too, because millions of working adults are already familiar with social media, and so adoption should be quick and easy wherever the service is acquired. My question is how many companies will consider a service like Chatter to be a “must have” vs. a “nice to have” in this economy. But the experts keep saying that our economy has turned the corner, so salesforce’s timing may turn out to be great in that respect too. For companies that do adopt, I’m guessing that effective use of Chatter will quickly become a performance criteria, just as effective use of social media in general is starting to become a key hiring criteria, at least for marketers (see post on that topic below).

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The buzz about Web 3.0

I recently was a guest at a really interesting meeting of a new consulting firm. We talked about cloud computing and Web 3.0 and various other ‘hot’ technology topics. Since the participants were at various levels of understanding of these technologies prior to the meeting, they assembled a reading list for those who were less experienced to come up to speed. Among the readings was a guest blog post on TechCrunchIT written by Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com. It characterized the evolution of the web this way:

  • Web 1.0 allowed everyone to transact, by taking away the cost and access barriers to certain types of transactions that were previously somewhat exclusive and expensive, for example trades at a brokerage house, purchases at an auction etc.
  • Web 2.0 allowed everyone to participate, by taking away the cost barriers to publication and geographical and timing barriers to making personal connections. As a result of Web 2.0, pretty much anyone can blog, wiki, network, etc., largely for free.
  • Web 3.0 allows everyone to innovate, by taking away the technology and capital barriers to creation of digital applications. As a result of Web 3.0, pretty much anyone can inexpensively create an application for their own purposes, to share with others or to sell for a profit. No more waiting for the big software company to solve your problem; you can solve it yourself cheaply and easily.
  • As a non-techologist, I am particularly excited about Web 3.0. Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 gave me faster, better, cheaper ways to do things I was already able to do on my own without the web. Taken to its logical conclusion, Web 3.0 will expand my skill set, and the skill set of many people who are much more creative than I, to do things that were well beyond our reach in the past. That’s worth all the buzz that technology marketers are creating about it.

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    Lifecycle marketing for technology firms

    A few years back, I switched from marketing financial services to marketing technology products to financial services companies. It didn’t seem like a very big leap at the time, in fact, I told my friends in the financial services industry that I hadn’t really left financial services at all. But it quickly became apparent that things would be very different in my future than in my past. In financial services, products are fairly commoditized, and marketing is important to promote differentiation where there is not much real differentiation. In technology, at least the part of the industry where I worked -enterprise software - the products are much more differentiated, and therefore marketing is much less important. Sure, these companies still need to generate awareness of their brands and consideration of their products, but they don’t need to close the sale with their marketing, they have a sales force to do that. In this respect, it was clear from the start that I had entered a whole new world.

    There were other big differences as well, but those took a little longer for me to figure out. For example, the financial services world largely operates on a lifecycle marketing strategy, where potential clients are identified and nurtured until they buy, and then nurtured some more until they buy even more of the firm’s services. These firms tend to think in terms of lifetime value of a client, and not get discouraged by a period of limited (or no) profitability up front while they are still building that relationship. In technology, the marketing model is much more focused on new product launches, and less on the lifecycle of the client. The marketer’s role is to get a product launched with as much “buzz” as possible, so that it opens doors for sales people who are calling into those prospective clients trying to make a sale. In general, I think technology marketers are pretty smart, but on this point, I think they could learn something from their financial services brethren.

    What would lifecycle marketing look like for technology firms?
    Lifecycle marketing isn’t difficult, it just requires a little more advanced planning and coordination between functions than individual marketing campaigns. You start by identifying the stages in a customer’s lifecycle. This varies by firm, so you should identify stages that are relevant to your firm, but they might look something like this:

    1. Brand Awareness
    2. Consideration
    3. Conversion
    4. Increased Adoption
    5. Increased Understanding of Value
    6. Advocate for the Brand

    Once identified, you should assign each stage to a group in your firm. Of course, everyone likely contributes to every stage in this cycle, but whose responsibility is it primarily to execute each stage? For example, is it primarily marketing or sales’ responsibility to initiate brand awareness? Most firms would say it’s marketing. Continue down the list for each stage. Some stages may have groups sharing responsibility, and that’s OK too, as long as it’s explicit, and everyone knows their role.

    Once these assignments are complete, determine what steps will be taken by the responsible groups to nuture a prospect or client in each stage, to get them through it to the next stage, and what criteria you will use to determine if they are eligible to move on to the next stage. Success in lifecycle marketing is defined by movement through the lifecycle. Your goal is to get as many prospects/clients as possible through the lifecycle to the last stage, because that is the stage where they are worth most to your firm.

    Metrics are also a bit different in the world of lifecycle marketing. Since success is defined as getting the most customers through the lifecycle as possible to that most valuable final stage, the metrics you use need to assess how many prospects/clients are at each of the preceding stages, and how long they have been there, so that you can get a sense of the pace of movement through the lifecycle and the loss rate you are experiencing along the lifecycle. This approach will help you to identify challenge areas in your lifecycle, so that you can increase focus or investment in those areas, as appropriate.

    As I said, it’s not difficult, just a slightly different way of thinking that I believe could really benefit technology marketers, as their products mature, and their marketing budgets come under greater scrutiny. Rather than just marketing a product launch, and then hoping for the best, this approach enables marketers to influence future purchasing behavior as they deepen the client relationship, producing revenues that are typically substantially higher than those associated with the initial product launch.

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    What’s the point of this blog?

    As a new blogger, I’ve spent a little time thinking about why I want to blog, and the topics on which I plan to blog.

    Why I Want to Blog
    The why is easy. I have been in marketing for over 15 years, and over that time, I have learned a lot about brand marketing, product marketing and all the traditional and newer marketing channels, like events, advertising, public relations, web, direct mail, email, and telemarketing. In recent years, it seems like the pace of change in the marketing field has accelerated, and a number of new tools have been introduced. Marketers as a group need all the help we can get to stay on top of our game in this environment, and still be perceived as necessary and valuable. It wouldn’t be fair for me to take learnings from others, and not contribute in any way myself. So, after reading other people’s blogs for awhile, I have finally decided to start my own.

    The Topics on Which I Plan to Blog
    Given the pace of change in this space, it’s possible that I don’t yet really know what I’ll be blogging about a year or two from now. Having said that, here are the topics I think I’ll start with:

      Marketing strategy
      Marketing leadership
      Brand marketing
      Product marketing
      Demand generation
      Marketing operations

    This list should leave me plenty of room to find and/or create great resources on a regular basis. So, please check back, and watch as this blog grows over time.

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