Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Art of Creating Art (in Marketing)

Modern marketing is half science half art.

Science is easy. Can’t argue with MQL/SQL conversion rates, or RPM, or CPL (well actually you can, but that’s a topic for another blog post…).

When it gets to art, the creative process can quickly turn into a political/psychological ordeal. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is an expert. The CEO’s wife thinks the new logo is revolting. The VP of Sales dismisses the new website design as “lame”.

With so many opinionated and often vocal stakeholders, the result is compromise. And how can you do something remarkable when you need to appease the “committee”? Well, you can’t.

Over the years I’ve been involved in creating a fairly large number of new websites, presentations, demos, logos and user interfaces. I have taken two very different approaches:

1. Get only a handful of peers involved in the design process. The good: mostly friction-free and faster cycles. The bad: some of those not involved may be upset and will likely hate whatever comes out.

Or:

2. Get a larger group of peers involved. The good: everyone feels they’re a part of the process, so you’re more likely to get support. The bad: the process might be sluggish, and when you choose to not accept people’s comments, they’ll hate whatever comes out…

What’s a better (or least-worst) approach? I quite honestly don’t know.

Navigating the design process without making too many professional compromises is art in itself. It requires you to be a leader, an expert, a politician, a psychologist, and most importantly, thick-skinned. Whatever you do, don't forget that the worst feedback is no feedback

Friday, August 17, 2012

Top 20 webinar promotion tactics

Webinars are a highly effective tool for B2B marketing. At Zend we used to run over 100 webinars a year. We mapped webinar content to the sales funnel - some webinars were purely educational, nothing to do with our products; some were delivered by customers, partners and community members; a small portion of our webinars were Zend product-centric.

Webinar Promotion Checklist
Webinar Promotion Checklist
Running the program was a huge undertaking. It involved many hours of planning, promoting, building content, securing presenters, rehearsing, delivering, recording and editing (luckily we had people like Andrea, Nili and Lydia on the team to make all of this happen). But, it was worth it. We usually managed to get great numbers of live attendees, especially for educational webinars targeted at the very top of the sales funnel. And we got 10x or more views of the recordings in the months following the live events. We also re-purposed webinar content and shared it on SlideShare, YouTube and more.

If you put so much effort into your B2B webinar production, you better make sure you're doing the most to promote your webinars.

I recently compiled a list of 20 things you should consider doing to promote your next webinar - here's a summary (the full information is in the beautifully designed Webinar Promotion Checklist, which you can download from the Leadspace web site):
  1. Create a title that stands out and attracts just your target audience
  2. Write a compelling, search optimized abstract
  3. Post the webinar on your website
  4. Write a news release about the webinar
  5. Tweet about the event several times with the right hashtags
  6. Write a blog post about the webinar and any associated offers
  7. Work the relevant social networks with a focus on LinkedIn
  8. Create a LinkedIn event
  9. Create a Facebook event
  10. Post in member-only business community sites
  11. Promote the webinar in event listings
  12. Share a webinar trailer on YouTube
  13. Post several slides as teaser
  14. Run a telemarketing or inside sales call campaign
  15. Add a webinar registration link to company's standard email signature
  16. Email your house list
  17. Run an online ad campaign
  18. Use your current webinar to promote your next one
  19. Use local event services
  20. Leverage your guest speakers for promotion
The details and some useful links are all in the checklist document which you can download here (or drop me a note and I'll gladly email it to you, if you hate filling out forms).



Thursday, August 16, 2012

The comeback of offline marketing. Yes, offline.

Online marketing, inbound marketing, content marketing, social media marketing - unless you spent the last 10 years in a cave, you are probably dancing the marketing 2.0 dance yourself.

Problem is, online marketing has become a crowded, noisy party. It's open to all, and it's virtually free.

We all understand the importance of building value adding content, of connecting with our tribe through social media, of sending drip email campaigns, of creating dazzling infographics and running virtual events. We do all of the above and more at the company I work at now, Leadspace, too.

As head of Marketing at a tech startup, I'm a prime target to hundreds of software vendors, numerous agencies and herds of freelancers. On an average day I get north of 200 emails, hundreds of tweets, dozens of webinar invites, e-book download offers, e-newsletters, content shares... you get the drift.

Take LinkedIn as an example. When was the last time you took part in a genuine, valuable, educational discussion on any LinkedIn group? Post a question and a dozen vendors are hitting you. Social networks have become a hunting ground for salespeople 2.0.

Perhaps it's just me, but are we beginning to experience social media fatigue? Is content marketing past the peak of inflated expectations?

Is it time for a comeback of the "old" way of marketing? Of "look 'em in the eyes" type of of marketing? Of the trade show, the seminar, the in-person meeting?

Ok, online marketing isn't going anywhere. Nor is social media marketing, or content marketing. But it seems that people are clamoring for a little more personal touch.

Something to think about as you build your 2013 marketing budget.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chimps, monsters and super heroes - the new world of software

Google proved you can hide ultra sophisticated technologies and mountains of big data under a page that has one text field and two buttons. Apple showed you can create a phone-to-die-for that does not even have a search feature. At some point, some software companies got it. Simplicity is the new black (white too, if you're Apple).

Alan Cooper, the father of Visual Basic, once said all users want is to "not feel stupid".

The old generation business and IT apps made all of us feel stupid. Real stupid. But the world of software is changing. Some examples:

Marketing automation can be fun!

MailChimp enables marketers to execute and manage email campaigns. It requires no training whatsoever. The interface is beautifully crafted, and the application "hand holds" you from the moment you sign up until you complete your first campaign. A few more features and I bet they will start winning accounts from the higher end, painfully more complicated Eloqua and Marketo.

MailChimp

Monitoring e-commerce sites can be fun!

Shoppimon helps Magento online store owners improve conversions by finding site problems, such as broken shopping carts or unusual slow responses. It is the first service that lets non-techies take matters into their own hands and see how their store performs. Sure, they'll need techies for fixing issues, but they will never leave their store unattended again, and the app is ridiculously easy to set up and use.

Shoppimon - Magento Monitoring

Server provisioning can be fun!

PHPCloud is a full-fledged cloud environment for building PHP applications. If you're a PHP developer that hates the hassle of going to IT every time you need a new test environment, PHPCloud is the answer. Sign up and within minutes your environment is ready for you.

PHPCloud

There are dozens of other examples. DropBox, SEOmoz, New Relic, Balsamiq, Wix, SlideRocket are some that I used and loved.

The world of software is changing. "Simple" wins.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Social media is not about free advertising!

Ask heads of marketing if they use social media as part of their marketing strategy, and I bet you 9 out of 10 will say yes.

The question is how many really get social media.

If you're like me, you are a member in several groups on LinkedIn, you're on Facebook (although if you're like me, you rarely use it nowadays), you're on Twitter, you're on Quora. Now think about LinkedIn groups. Although I haven't done any formal analysis, it seems like the vast majority of posts on these groups are either people selling or people recruiting. Genuine value-adding discussions are rare. They are rare on most social networks and it ain't getting better. Why? Because we marketers jumped on the opportunity to reach highly targeted audiences. And hey, it's free.

But social media is not about free advertising space.

Those who use it merely for promoting their products or upcoming events are not really getting the true essence of social media. It is all about interaction. It is about sharing knowledge, helping others, entertaining. This is the reason why you need subject matter experts to get active in your company's social media outreach.

Unless you're selling to marketers, if you have the word "marketing" in your title, you should probably stay away and let the experts engage with the community.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Top 10 rules of software demos

Over the years I have delivered more demos than I can count. I demo'ed to investors, prospects, customers, analysts, journalist and other vendors. I also got to watch many others deliver demos.

These are my very own top 10 rules for delivering a killer demo:
  1. Establish goals - every demo must have a very specific goal (otherwise why do it). If you're in enterprise software, the goal is often to get to a proof of concept. If you're meeting with a potential investor, the goal might be to explain the problem and how your product solves it differently from alternatives. Make sure every member of your team agrees on the goal prior to the meeting.
  2. Customize - in most cases, you have ample information about the audience before going into the meeting. The more you customize the demo to talk to the specific prospect's processes and pain points, the more effective it will be.
  3. Prepare - Murphy's law holds true when it comes to demos. The more important the demo is, the more likely it is to fail. Make sure your VM's are ready, you have enough battery power, Internet connection is working, etc., and always have a back up plan. If you're meeting in a hotel and Wi-Fi isn't working fast enough, you already made a bad first impression.
  4. Time - make sure you allocate enough time for the demo. When you demo to executives, keep it short. You should be able to get your points across in less than 5 minutes. When you do a deep dive technology demo, plan for 45 minutes or more. Always re-confirm the time when you start.
  5. Tell a story - the worst demos are a reflection of a reference manual - a laundry list of technical features. Every demo should tell a story. A good demo tells a story the audience will identify with using the prospect's terminology (see point 2). Remember that most chances are your prospect doesn't care much about your product or technology. It's all about solving particular problems they have or letting them do things they weren't able to do before. Make the prospect think what her life would look like if only she had used your product. Demo is about storytelling, not reading from a fact sheet.
  6. Explain - always explain what happens on the screen, what you do and what happens as a result. Remember this is the first time your audience sees your product. Don't ask them to imagine. Tell them how every capability will work in their environment and help them meet a need they have.
  7. Lay land mines - your audience is likely to see competitor demos, so try to weave in land mines - capabilities your competitors will have a hard time demonstrating. For example, if your differentiator is ease-of-use, show workflows that emphasize this attribute of your product.
  8. Interact - giving a 60 minute monolog is easy. It's also a bad idea. Make your demos interactive. Ask the audience questions like "how would you do X in your company?" or "would this help you do Y?". Asking questions keeps your audience engaged and helps you determine sentiment and fine-tune your script. This is especially critical for remote demos, when you can't see if your audience watches your demo or does email.
  9. Maintain course - especially when demo'ing to a large group, there will always be a wise guy trying to side track you, usually by asking some real deep questions about a non-important part of your product. It's always better to ask that person to take it offline after the meeting, otherwise you may run out of time and cause everyone else to lose interest.
  10. Know when to stop - the golden rule is you need to end the demo as soon as you have reached your goal (see point 1). Remember, the demo is just a means to get to the next phase of the sales cycle, so use any extra time to discuss the next step, or cut the meeting shorter than planned. Your audience will appreciate it.
Happy demo'ing.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The lost art of listening

I wrote here before about how marketers should be conversing with prospects and customers. I'm still struck by how many marketing and sales professionals excel at talking and terrible at listening.

Reading from a sales script or 'shouting' about your ultra cool product/service/webinar/video via email, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest is is so much easier than listening to what the prospect/customer/community has to say.

I recently attended a meeting with a sales rep from one of the leading marketing automation tool vendors. Before the rep went into the demo, we mentioned that we are already pretty educated about the tool, we think it can do the job for us, and only have a couple of questions we would love to get answers to.

The rep acknowledged, but rather than answering our simple questions, gave us a 45 minute rundown of every possible feature in the product. "You can do this", and "you can see that". Needless to say the demo was generic and did not relate to any of our use cases. 45 minutes later we again raised our question, just to hear that the rep doesn't know the answer and will need to "get back to us".

In all my years in hi-tech, I have delivered hundreds of demos. One of the biggest questions you always face is when to end the demo. The answer is astonishingly simple - stop when you have reached your goal and the prospect is ready to move to the next phase, e.g. discuss a POC. The problem? You need to listen to what the prospect says. You have to watch his body signals. You have to ask questions.

We have an unprecedented number of communication means, yet it seems we're losing our ability to converse.

The Conversation Prism www.theconversationprism.com