Posts filed under ‘Raising Awareness’

All news is not good news

Have you heard of the expression “all news is good news”? In a nutshell, it’s a school of thought about promotion contending that, no matter what is written about you, as long as you’re being written about, it’s a good thing. Is this true?

Not even close.

In the old days (like 10 years ago), this may have been a more accurate adage, considering that most people still got their news from traditional sources like newspapers, radio, and TV. Today, with the bewildering amount of information choices, everybody has a voice, and everyone is their own network. Heck, even a chucklehead like me can have a forum and an audience for all of my mundane thoughts.

With all of these sources, it’s easy for a company to get a lot of bad press, especially if they create a poor product or don’t utilize marketing/PR. A popular blog can influence a devoted follower, who happens to be the director of a TV show, who suddenly pumps it out to millions of people. Problem is, a huge portion of the new media sources are unreliable, biased, and potentially untrue. If someone’s got an axe to grind against you, they can’t generate a lot of ink, but none of it may be good. That’s a problem. Another pitfall occurs if you try to control the message by either generating your own content and creating a corporate shill, or by moderating others on your company blog. People don’t like the idea of having their thoughts policed, and will inevitably lash out against you and your company.

So what can you do to a) get good ink, and b) avoid bad ink? Answer: not much. Just kidding. You can keep the good ahead of the bad by treating your constituents right: produce a quality product, engage in honorable business practices, provide a quality experience, maintain your professionalism, and constantly dazzle your customers. You can also build and maintain friendly relations with people in the press and blogosphere, creating allies that are willing to say good things about you.

If you like my advice, feel free to spread the good word with one of the bookmarks below. Spread the love, spread the love.

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August 20, 2009 at 10:12 pm Leave a comment

Capitalize on your brand equity to gain market share

Frank Sinatra had a Vegas-inspired song called “Luck Be A Lady.” One of the lines in the song is:

“Stick with me, baby, I’m the guy that you came in with.”

In many ways, marketing is like Lady Luck that ol’ Blue Eyes is singing about, especially when it comes to branding. This is one of the trickier subjects to explain to someone new to marketing. In a nutshell, branding is the sum total of experiences and perceptions that a company has with its customers, competitors, and marketplace. The tactical elements of marketing — websites, brochures, advertising, etc. — are physical manifestations of branding. There’s also something called brand equity, which is not only a perceived value of a brand, but it can also be a tangible value. In fact, many organizations carry their brand as an asset on their balance sheets, with an actual dollar amount attached to it. Google has the highest brand value in the world, which is estimated to be worth more than $100 Billion. Software giant Microsoft has the second highest rated brand in the world, worth over $76 Billion.

There’s a reason why I mention these two examples together. You’ve undoubtedly noticed the “Bing” logo at the top of the entry. You may also be asking yourself, “what the hell is Bing?” As it turns out, Bing is the newest incarnation of Microsoft’s search engine, renamed from Windows Live Search. In my opinion, Microsoft made a big mistake and squandered a golden opportunity. They took one of the most high-profile aspects of the Internet (search engines), went up against the 800-pound gorilla, and didn’t take advantage of the Microsoft brand equity. Even worse, when you go to the Bing home page, the Microsoft name is nowhere to be found, so they can’t springboard their new brand off the established Microsoft name. How can you realistically pit a $100 Billion brand against a brand with zero equity? Frankly, you can’t. Microsoft doomed Bing to the ash heap of history before it even launched, just like another one of their infamous failures. The rest is just an exercise in futility.

What’s the lesson here? The Microsoft branding team should have told the Bing team, “stick with me, baby, I’m the guy that you came in with.” The only thing left is a roll of the dice and the hope that Lady Luck is on their side. I wouldn’t bet on it.

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June 15, 2009 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Get the most out of your trade shows

If your company participates in trade shows, you know there are many differing opinions about whether or not you should be there. There are probably even more opinions about how to define “success” when you are there. I’ve managed, attended, and participated in more trade shows than I care to mention, and I’ve discovered there are some undeniable truths when it comes right down to it:

  1. If your upper management is either undecided or split regarding whether to attend, you have no chance of making your participation as successful as it should be.
  2. Anything less that complete support from your senior management team spells doom. If their heart isn’t in it, if they’re just going through the motions because “that’s what we’ve always done,” others in the organization will recognize this lack of enthusiasm and follow suit. Given the fact that you’re probably spending a good chunk of change, it’s in the best interests of upper management to buy in and embrace it.

  3. If you have not created a specific set of goals that are clearly identified, communicated, and understood, you can guarantee yourself a below-average experience.
  4. What do you hope to accomplish by attending the trade show? Why are you going to this particular show rather than another one? Is success measured in revenue, leads, news articles, brand awareness, internal perception, or something else? You can’t provide an answer without first knowing the question, so lay this all out beforehand, solicit feedback, engage all groups within your organization, and use all means at your disposal to promote your attendance.

  5. If the management and participation of your trade shows is solely in the hands of your marketing team, whether by autocracy or by disinclination from other teams, you will not achieve the buy-in or participation required to succeed.
  6. Marketing people are great… heck, I’m one of them. But I also know they are single-minded when it comes to execution. Without participation by other teams, marketing will invariably defer to marketing-specific goals, which most of the time are functions of larger goals. Consequently, they may not achieve everything that other teams, like sales or product management, would have hoped for. If you are one of these other teams, I suggest that you get involved early and often so that you’re not disappointed.

  7. If you focus more on number of leads, rather than quality of leads, you are destined to waste massive amounts of time chasing people that will never generate a dime of revenue.
  8. In an earlier blog entry I discuss how to identify and focus on hot leads instead of sheer quantity. Just remember that all leads are not created equal. The best rule of thumb is to focus on your target audience, develop good incentives to encourage continued conversations, use best practices to qualify your leads, and create programs that will fill, but not overwhelm, your sales pipeline.

  9. If you do not have a strong events manager firmly in charge, your salespeople will spend more time on their Blackberries than on the trade show floor.
  10. I love salespeople. I really do. But I know they have a tendency to be a bit, um, ornery. Let’s be honest… without a strong personality keeping them on a short leash, most salespeople will walk into the trade show booth, zoom over to the first empty chair, and start answering emails on their Blackberries. They tend to view trade shows as a waste of time that’s cutting into their ‘face time’ with customers. The truth is that they can engage more customers spending 3 hours in a trade show booth than they can if they spent a week on the road. A strong-willed events manager can help them remember this and keep them on-task. Remember, the booth is there for the benefit of sales more than any other team, so they should learn to take advantage of it.

  11. If you do not reserve a meeting room, you will lose out on many important opportunities.
  12. The noise of the show and the buzz in the booth can make it difficult to engage in deeper conversations, the kind that close deals. Your solution is to reserve a meeting room when you purchase your booth location. The meeting room can be used for prospects, interviews, PR functions, and a variety of other high-quality activities. The booth brings ’em in, but the quiet meeting room helps to keep ’em.

  13. If you don’t choose your booth location carefully, you might as well not even be there.
  14. Whenever possible, do an on-location reconnaissance as early as possible to determine the best location for your booth. If you can’t do this, or if you don’t have enough budget to get into the highest traffic areas, don’t worry. The next best places are: near the meeting rooms, next to the bathrooms, near the concession stands, and close to the sitting areas. Another trick… if your booth has a place to sit down and/or offers food & drink, you will probably double your traffic.

You’ve spend a lot of money on registrations, booth design, marketing, and T&E, so follow these tips to maximize your ROI. Happy hunting!

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June 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

Promote your products with case studies and success stories

Quick… name your most effective salesperson. Nope, it’s not your high-performing outside rep who’s made quota for the past five years. Guess again…

It’s your customers.

Your sales and marketing teams can talk about your products and value propositions until they’re blue in the face, but a company’s spokespeople talking about themselves will always lack a certain amount of credibility. A customer, however, is an independent organization that has chosen you over your competitors, and carries genuine credibility and legitimacy. Their word-of-mouth endorsement can easily land a sale. How can you capitalize on this loyal group of enthusiastic supporters? By asking them to participate in a case study or success story. There are benefits for everyone:

  • For your company – you can promote big name customers and add instant recognition via case studies, success stories, YouTube videos, and press releases
  • For your customers – gives them a great opportunity to co-brand with your company. In addition, references and links to their website will help increase their organic search results.
  • For your salespeople – provides fantastic sales tools to further build your company’s customer base
  • For your future customers – takes the guesswork out of purchasing and enables them to confidently make a decision based on the results of current customers

But you don’t have to take my word for it… you can read my success stories and see what I mean. Don’t blow your own horn, let your customers do it for you. Toot toot.

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June 11, 2009 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

Secrets to a great webinar – Part 3

Here’s the third and final segment to running a successful webinar. In the first two parts, we discussed some helpful hints and best practices for preparing and presenting your webinar. Today we’ll discuss what you should do after your webinar to help you achieve your desired goals.

  1. Always have a post-webinar discussion. In Part 2, I discuss the fact that you always want to make your webinars one hour long. However, many times you’ll find several attendees that want to talk beyond the stopping time. No problem. Invite those folks to stay on the line for a post-webinar discussion, which can last as long as they want. You have a motivated, interested, and invested audience just sitting there, waiting for the next step, so take advantage of it.
  2. Have a demo, sample, download, and trial ready to go before the webinar starts. Assume that every attendee will want to take the next step (“Call To Action“) and be prepared to share/send your customary giveaway, whether it’s a demo, product sample, software download, online catalog, etc. Webinars are all about capitalizing on the buzz of the moment, so be sure to accommodate the needs of your attendees without making them work for it or making them wait.
  3. Measure. This goes all the way back to the first point I made in Part 1: Determine your goals. Keep track of attendees in your sales management system, and actively track their activity over time. Depending on your products and sales cycles, the realization of your goals may either be immediately known, or it may take some time to determine. Either way, be diligent and keep accurate records of interactions, activities, and purchases.

I hope you found this series to be helpful, interesting, and entertaining. If done correctly, webinars can be tremendously beneficial for lead & revenue generation, and can set you apart as an industry thought leader. With proper planning, goal-setting, and execution, you may find yourself taking your company to the next level faster than you thought possible. If you’d like more information, or would like to utilize a consulting firm to help you with your webinar needs, please contact me directly or though our web form.

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June 10, 2009 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

Secrets to a great webinar – Part 2

Part 1 gave helpful pointers about what you should do before your upcoming webinar. Part 2 of this three-part series explores some tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of your webinar during the presentation. You’ve done your homework, you’ve worked hard on your delivery, and you have your audience captive. Here’s how to make the most of this opportunity.

  1. Utilize a solid, industry-standard, universally accepted technology. Under no circumstances can you half-ass this. Your image and perception will be defined just as much by the production of your presentation as the presentation itself. No matter how pure your intentions are, it won’t mean Jack Squat if the technology fails. Do yourself a favor and invest a couple bucks in a known, proven commercial product. Here are my recommendations:
    • DimDim. This is a fairly new open source technology that works great and is gaining a large following. Free for up to 20 people, which is perfect for small or one-on-one webinars. If you need something a little larger, you can present to 50 people for just $25 for a month. These are the month-to-month, no commitment prices; the longer-term commitment prices are even lower.
    • WebEx: The whole world knows and uses WebEx, so you can’t go wrong if you choose them. They’re a bit pricier, but still dirt cheap in the grand scheme. They are also your technology of choice if you have a really large webinar. For $69 for a month (again, this is the month-to-month price) you can present to as many as 1,000 people. Frankly, if you’ve managed to assemble 1,000 people to attend your webinar, you can’t afford not to get WebEx.
  2. Always make your webinars exactly one hour long. This is a standard length of time. Any shorter and it may feel rushed. Any longer and it starts to feel like a Fidel Castro speech to your attendees.
  3. Never, ever be late. Be respectful of people’s schedules, so never start late, and never end late. ‘Nuff said.
  4. Make it an open forum, not a closed sales pitch. After all, the purpose of the webinar is to develop leads, build your pipeline, and increase sales opportunities. Give your attendees the chance to ask questions and participate, which will make them more engaged and desirous to learn more. Do what you would naturally do if you were giving an in-person sales presentation.
  5. Survey. This is a step that many webinar hosts forget to do. Before you finish, ask your attendees to complete a short survey regarding what they liked/disliked, whether they found the information to be worthwhile, if they’d recommend this to a friend, and whether they have additional questions. And make sure you capture their contact information. If they’ve stuck with you for the entire hour, chances are very good they’re hot leads, so you’ll get a very high survey completion rate. If they’ve asked to be contacted, follow up with them as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours.

Tomorrow – Part 3, which will focus on what to do after your webinar has concluded. Stay tuned!

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June 9, 2009 at 12:16 am 1 comment

Secrets to a great webinar – Part 1

Several of you have asked me about webinars: what they are, how to conduct them, how to attract an audience, and how to generate revenue from them. Every industry is a bit different, which means there’s no magic answer, but there are some fundamentals you should follow to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts. There are plenty of places to go online that explain the nuts and bolts of webinars, so I’d like to focus on best practices and tricks of the trade I’ve obtained through years of experience.

This is a pretty lengthy topic, so I’m going to break it up into three parts: what to do before, during, and after your webinar. Today we’re going to focus on what to do before.

  1. Determine your goals and define “success. The importance of this activity cannot be overemphasized. Without goals, there’s no way to determine whether you’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing. Goals can be as concrete as website visits and revenue, or as abstract as brand awareness, lead generation, and industry leadership. Either way, predetermine your goals and define “success” as the attainment of those goals.
  2. Give attendees a month to get it in their calendars. Everybody’s busy, so the longer lead time you give people, the more likely they’ll attend. Let me put it another way… if you want to guarantee your failure, send out an invitation three days before the webinar.
  3. Invite a friend. Whichever webinar technology you use, be sure that it has a “invite a friend” function. You can expect 1/3 to 1/2 of your attendees to be invited friends, who will in turn invite their own friends. Set the viral marketing beast loose.
  4. Utilize Webinar Central or another webinar aggregator / directory to help promote your event. Let the web do the work for you. Along with inviting your colleagues, prospects, and customers, open the webinar to anyone that wants to attend (unless, of course, you’re presenting proprietary information). After all, the name of the game is ‘butts in the seats,’ so do everything you can to ensure this.
  5. If at all possible, use someone with a good radio voice. Monotone and mushmouth presenters can make an hour feel like an eternity, and all value in your message can be lost. You don’t need to hire Ryan Seacrest, but your presenter should have the ability to change tone, alter pitch, understand the value of pauses, and be engaging and conversational.
  6. Practice. I know that practice takes time and it’s no fun. But listening to a presentation that’s never been rehearsed beforehand is one of the more painful experiences one can endure. It gives attendees the impression that you’re unprofessional, unprepared, even uncaring. On the other hand, a well-rehearsed presentation sounds great, looks great, and puts the presenter and his/her company in the very best light. The question you have to ask yourself: if I were a potential customer listening to me, what would be my impression, and would I feel confident to buy from this person?

Tomorrow, Part 2: What you should do during your webinar.

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June 7, 2009 at 10:43 pm 1 comment

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