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(from Marketing Maven’s Blog)

2011 is here and that means B2B marketing professionals are evaluating plans and allocating budget for the upcoming year. Each company has unique goals as well as challenges, and what works for one company may not work for another—there are no universal marketing solutions. However, the same key trends will impact every company, and marketers who capitalize on these trends will be better positioned to achieve their objectives.

Buyers Crave Content
Industrial buyers crave useful, relevant content to help build their internal business cases and justify buying decisions. It’s up to you to provide valuable content to help buyers make informed purchase decisions and help your company earn new sales.

Take stock of your existing content and match it to your audience needs. Then fill in any gaps. Maybe you’re short on content aimed at the economic buyer. In that case, create an ROI calculator. Maybe analytical buyers don’t understand your novel approach to solving a problem. That might call for a case study. If you need more visibility and authority in the market, launch a blog.

Also, you don’t have to start from the beginning when developing content. Often you can re-purpose existing content for use across several media. For example, the white paper that becomes a Webinar that becomes a video. Or the technical article that becomes a presentation at a conference that becomes a series of blog entries.

Users Want a Multimedia Experience
As with audiences everywhere, the industrial professional is now reading and watching and listening online. Take advantage of this trend by offering more than just words on paper or screen. Thanks to inexpensive technologies and high bandwidth, media such as video is simple to produce and easy to deliver to your audience.

There’s plenty of source material to create videos. You can record interviews, product demos, presentations—delivering anything from expert analysis and advice, to product announcements, to quarterly results. You can also use videos to promote events before they occur and to record and archive them for future consumption.

Don’t forget to promote your videos everywhere you can: on Web sites using links and banners, in blogs, through e-mail, and via social media tools.

Social Media Requires Your Attention
Many marketers are not sure what commitment they should make to social media right now. While there is a great deal of buzz and noise surrounding social media, adoption in the industrial sector remains low. It’s important to understand how your prospects and clients are adopting social media, and ensure that your level of investment matches your audience’s use.

Your first task is to understand how your target audience uses social media and what platforms they prefer. Our research has identified LinkedIn, video, and Facebook as the most popular social media platforms for the industrial audience. You may want to survey your own base for their social media preferences.

Once you understand how your audience uses social media, you can develop an appropriate social media strategy. Remember that social media doesn’t take the place of other marketing, but is a complement to other marketing efforts. You’ll need to place someone in charge of social media efforts, integrate social media into your existing marketing program, and establish success metrics to measure ROI.

New Marketing Channels Await
With the near universal adoption of the Internet by your customers and prospects, you now have more marketing channels than ever to choose from to reach your target audience. From search engine optimization and paid search, to online directories and searchable catalogs, to social media and e-newsletters.

One marketing channel that’s experiencing significant growth is the online event. These virtual tradeshows offer a complete interactive experience for both suppliers and attendees, with features such as live chat, virtual booths, discussion panels, keynote presentations, content distribution, Q&A and more. Plus, no one has to leave their desk or incur travel and other related costs.

It’s important to integrate all of your online marketing channels into a cohesive program that can become more than the sum of its parts. Work with media partners who understand your needs and can help you pull together the right programs designed to meet your goals.

Maintain Focus on ROI
The requirement for marketers to demonstrate ROI is a trend that is here to stay. For 2011, choose measurable marketing programs and define your objectives and the success metrics against which you will measure your success. It’s an old saying in the business world, but it never really grows old: you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

By making marketing plans for 2011 with these trends in mind, you will put your company in position to gain an advantage, because the decisions you make will help you become highly visible to, and discovered by, more potential customers.

Why do some smart people make stupid mistakes? Furthermore, why is it that some great ideas go absolutely nowhere while others go on to find fame and fortune?

This is a question that I have thought about before, partly because I touched on it in my recent book, Future Minds, and partly because the issue of why people make mistakes is something I read about in a great book called Why We make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average by Joseph Hallinan. So here’s a little something on why good ideas can go bad and why intelligent people sometimes get things catastrophically wrong.

Looking back over a few decades of dealing with innovators, large and small, there appear to be five reasons why some ideas make it and others don’t. This is not an exhaustive list. Neither does it take into account factors such as finding a customer need state (or inventing one), financial issues or a host of other things budding innovators need to worry about. This is merely a summary of why some people seem to succeed and others don’t, especially when it comes to making critical decisions about new ideas.

For example, the first reason that many individuals fail to get their ideas off the ground is that they sink too much of themselves into projects. They continue to back fixed strategies well past the point of no return in a futile quest to get their sunken time, and especially their sunken money, back.

In contrast, smart innovators practice fast failure. When projects reach a point off diminishing returns they get out fast to avoid losing even more time and money – and then they start again in a different way. This trait of not letting go or adapting is especially prevalent with sole inventors. These individuals will not adapt their idea, or change their vision, even when doing so might attract investors or make the final route to market much easier.

Sometimes dogged determination and persistence can pay off. Indeed, history is littered with examples of might be called ‘endurance invention’, where individuals struggle for years (often decades) before an idea finally becomes a reality. James Dyson, the inventor of the bag-less vacuum cleaner, Trevor Baylis, the inventor of the windup radio, and Colonel Sanders (KFC) are well-known examples. But such stories are misleading. Most of the time the desire for absolute control over flexibility, kills good ideas stone dead.

At the extreme, sole inventors will not share their ideas with anyone because they fear that their idea will be stolen or misused. This does happen. But no non-disclosure agreement will prevent this from happening unless you are prepared to spend enormous sums of money on lawyers (i.e. much more than the other guy). This is also a very negative mindset. Yes, there are people out there that will rob you blind, but most people will not. Moreover, you cannot do everything yourself. At some point you will have to let go and let others craft and polish your idea, especially if your aim is scale.

What else goes wrong? In my experience, the second reason that good ideas go bad is too much time and money. With small firms austerity and necessity can be the father and mother of invention. But with large organizations (e.g. multi-nationals) too much time and money can be fatal.

Large companies are generally risk-averse perfectionists. They are inherently conservative (often rightly so), but the downside is they often focus too much on the legacy (existing) business and move at a snail’s pace when it comes to anything new. They move so slowly, in fact, that any market opportunity has often expired by the time a ‘perfect’ idea has been developed and launched. I won’t name any names, but most large FMCG firms inhabit this terrain, which is why they are regularly out manoeuvred by smaller, less cash-constrained start-ups.

Linked to this thought is the idea that people behave very differently with things they own compared to things they don’t. If overcommitted individual inventors not letting go is one problem, people in large companies not having any skin whatsoever in the game is another. After all, why fight to the death for an idea if there is no personal financial benefit, or if there is a chance that the support or investment for an idea will be withdrawn once a senior decision maker moves upwards or outwards.

The third reason that good ideas can go nowhere is that our brains are designed to deceive. Essentially, all information and experience gets a ‘tag’ and gets stored away deep inside our heads. However, such information and experience do not sit quietly on the sidelines, waiting patiently to be called up to play when they will be most useful. No. Ideas are connected to other stored ideas deep inside our heads. Normally this isn’t a problem, because we use these stored ideas to make decisions and judgements.

But occasionally these connections let us down. Sometimes memories attach themselves to information that results in false pattern recognition or understanding. We think that we understand a problem based on previous experience when in fact we do not. An example might be Segway. This was a technically brilliant idea, but I suspect that Dean Kamen failed to see what was hidden in plain sight, namely, that the Segway was kinda problematic on the freeway and also the sidewalk.

The fourth reason for failure or mistakes is what’s called egocentric bias. The idea here is that we usually think that we are right. This isn’t generally a problem with sole traders (companies with just one employee) but with corporate teams you can imagine the consequences. Everyone in a team (or corporation) has an opinion about what should be done and spends most of their time ensuring that the opinions of other team members (or departments) don’t prevail. Throw in some alpha-male (or female) behaviour and it’s a wonder that anything ever gets done in some corporations. I suspect that political parties, falling behind in opinion polls, and brands lagging in second, third and fourth places in a category, fit with this too.

Confirmation bias is the fifth reason that things can go from good to bad very quickly. In short, our brains subconsciously seek out facts and opinions that strengthen our existing opinions. For example, if we believe that Microsoft is a bad company then any mistake they make will be used as evidence to support this opinion. Equally, if we think that Apple is a good company then any mistake will go unnoticed or will be quickly forgotten.

Linking this back to innovation, if someone has an idea that they believe in, then any fact that supports the idea will be quickly seized upon, whereas any fact that questions it will be instantly dismissed. Many CEOs suffer from confirmation bias. They seek out people that agree with their opinions and dismiss (literally) those that do not.

Why else do good ideas go bad? The list is almost endless, but it would probably include overconfidence, expediency, conformity, distraction, not listening to customers, listening too closely to customers, distribution issues, pricing, quality, marketing and so on.

5 ways to stop good ideas going bad

1. Be pragmatic. 90% right and in market is better than 100% and not.

2. Think like an upstart start-up. Apply half the time and half the money rule.

3. Walk in the shoes of the final customer. Do the shoes hurt?

4. Say to yourself, maybe the other person is right.

5. Seek out the opinions of disinterested outsiders. Is it still a good idea?

 (article originally appeared in Fast Company)

(from USA Today)

If “making more money” is one of your goals for your small business in 2011, then add “do more marketing” to your list of new year’s resolutions.

To make money, your prospective customers must know about you. That means marketing, and I’ve got some key marketing tips to help you succeed.

Marketing options are more confusing than ever: Is it really worthwhile to spend your time tweeting or building a following on Facebook? What about mobile devices? How can you be visible when customers check smartphones to find the best place to shop?

In the midst of navigating these new marketing options, don’t forget tried-and-true methods. Even in a new mobile, connected, global business environment, many time-tested marketing principles still apply.

As you begin your 2011 marketing efforts, keep these 11 key marketing tips in mind:

1. Get out there. People do business with people they know, so build your business network. Attend industry conferences, join community organizations. Be seen frequently. Connect in person and not just online.

2. Get listed — free. Want to show up in search engines and mobile devices without spending a cent? Be sure to set up your free business pages in Google Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp and others. You can list your products and services, hours of operation, specials, even add photos or offer specials. It’s a key, free way to market on mobile devices and Web search engines.

3. Keep your top prospects in view. Make a list of your top 10 prospects or referral sources and keep it on your desk, your mobile phone, or use it as the “wallpaper” on your computer. Contact each of these key income-generators at least once a month.

4. Create a strong company brand and identity. Start with a distinct look-and-feel — logo, colors, typeface, etc. — that conveys what you’re about. Use those consistently on everything — your website, business cards, packaging, newsletters, marketing materials, job ads. If possible, give your brand some zip and personality that makes it memorable.

5. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This is the golden rule of marketing. Whatever marketing tactics you use, you must repeat your message to the same audience in the same place, over and over again. It takes a long time for your message to sink in.

6. Tell people what they get, not what you do. In your marketing materials and messages, focus on the benefits the buyer receives — rather than just long lists of features of your products or descriptions of how you perform your services. Of course, customers compare features and services, so you’ll need to include those. But always emphasize the benefits those features bring.

7. Create an e-mail newsletter. An e-mail newsletter is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to regularly stay in front of customers, prospects, and referral sources. Make sure your newsletter provides some value for the recipient, such as useful information, details on discounts or a special offer.

8. Get a tagline. Devise a short phrase conveying what you do or makes you special (like “The world on time” for FedEx). Even a simple descriptive phrase can set you apart (like “Bonded janitorial services for banks”). Give prospects a reason to remember you. Use your tagline on your website, business cards, even e-mail signature.

9. Attend or exhibit at a trade show. Trade shows are great places to find many customers in one place, do research on your competition and meet referral and information sources. Research which trade shows target your customers attend and check them out.

10. Be visible online. Make sure you have a website. Learn about social media. If you sell to consumers, get a Facebook page and consider a Twitter feed. Monitor your reviews on Yelp and other review sites. If you sell to businesses, look for industry-specific social media sites.

11. Get a contact management system. Keep track of past and current customers, prospects, referral sources, and more. This data is an invaluable business asset — use it for staying in touch, making sales calls, announcing new products or sales and more.

Most important, make marketing a priority.

After all, customers can’t buy from you unless they know about you — so get out there and toot your own horn!

Marketers will spend more money on social media this year. However, they’re still mastering their use of social websites to reach consumers, according to a survey from integrated marketing services provider Alterian.

Marketers said 2011 will be a turnaround year when the spending cutbacks of the recession are reversed to increase engagement levels across digital media. More than half (57%) of respondents expect their budgets to increase this year, while only 10% expect budget cuts. Three quarters (75%) of those polled said spending on social and digital media will rise.

However, marketers said they are still struggling to get a handle on social media. One-third (33%) said they have little or no understanding of the conversations happening about their brand, while 40% said they’re using some ad hoc tools to parse them. Another 27% said they report those exchanges regularly to management.

“The primary issue here it that it is a new medium…people are figuring out how to tap into it,” said Donnell Wright, Alterian’s senior director of global research and insights and sales support. “The tools for tracking and analytics exist, but marketers are faced with a challenge in choosing among them what lines up with their business needs.”

She added that marketers need to set up analytics and key performance indicators to better understand social media.

“It’s new. It’s tough to wrap their heads around it, but they need to get very proactive,” said Wright. “Social media is there and it’s going to continue to evolve and mature, but your customers are waiting to engage with you now. If you’re not there, it’s really a disservice to you and your brand.”

The survey polled 1,462 marketers, agencies and service providers in December.

U.S. companies’ employment outlook improved to a 12-year high this quarter after sales strengthened and economic growth picked up, a survey showed.

The percentage of businesses expecting to increase payrolls in the next six months exceeded the share projecting more firings by 35 points, the most since the question was first asked in 1998, according to a survey by the National Association for Business Economics issued today in Washington. Sixty-two percent of respondents planned to boost spending on new equipment this year, up from 48 percent in the October survey.

“Things are headed in the right direction,” Shawn DuBravac, chief economist at the Consumer Electronics Association in Arlington, Virginia, who analyzed the results, said in an interview. “Topping everything is the high number of firms suggesting they will increase their headcount in the future.”

The report adds to evidence, including a drop in claims for unemployment benefits, showing the job market is strengthening in early 2011. Payrolls rose by 103,000 workers in December, less than the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, and the unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent from 9.8 percent a month earlier, according to Labor Department figures released Jan. 7. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg this month forecast unemployment will average 9.3 percent this year.

Sales, which the report showed climbed in the last three months of 2010 for the sixth straight quarter, and higher profits are making businesses optimistic enough to consider expanding staff.

More Hiring

Forty-two percent of respondents said they anticipate an increase in hiring within the next six months, compared with 39 percent in the October survey. The share planning to trim payrolls fell to 7 percent from 11 percent last quarter.

A jump in payrolls “won’t happen overnight, and we’re probably several years from seeing the unemployment rate that we enjoyed prior to the downturn,” said DuBravac. “The fact that you see them thinking about hiring shows businesses are likely feeling comfortable with the recovery.”

Eight out of 10 respondents, the most since the October 2006 survey, projected the U.S. economy will expand from 2 percent to 4 percent in 2011. Last quarter, 54 percent said the economy would grow by that much. The median estimate of 71 economists surveyed by Bloomberg this month forecast a 3.1 percent growth rate for this year.

Payroll-Tax Cut

As part of the January survey, the group asked respondents about the $858 billion bill President Barack Obama signed into law on Dec. 17, which extended Bush-era tax cuts for two years. The measure also renewed emergency jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed through 2011, cut payroll taxes this year by two percentage points and included accelerated tax depreciation for equipment purchases.

While 53 percent said the legislation will probably boost sales, 62 percent said it will not sway decisions on business investment, and 68 percent said it will have little influence on hiring, the report said.

Of the 56 percent surveyed who said a portion of their firms’ sales come from abroad, about 4 of 10 said international sales increased last quarter, according to the survey. Two percent said exports declined.

Eighty-four NABE members responded to the survey, conducted between Dec. 17, 2010, and Jan. 5. The National Association for Business Economics, founded in 1959, is the professional organization for people who use economics in their work.

(from the Associated General Contractors of America)

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 39,000, seasonally adjusted, in November, and private-sector payrolls grew by 50,000, the 11th straight monthly increase, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Friday. Construction employment, in contrast, remained in near-recession condition. It slipped to 5,615,000, 5,000 below a downwardly revised October total; 117,000 (2.0%) below the November 2009 total; and 2.1 million (27%) below the August 2006 peak of 7,725,000. Of the five BLS categories of construction employment, only heavy and civil engineering construction was higher than a year ago, gaining 0.2% for the month and 2.9% year-over-year with the help of federal spending on stimulus, base realignment and Gulf Coast hurricane protection projects. Employment among nonresidential building fell minimally in November and 1.1% over 12 months; nonresidential specialty trade contractors, -0.4% and -2.6%, respectively; residential specialty trade contractors, 0 and -3.0%; and residential building, +0.1% and -5.2%. Architectural and engineering services employment, a harbinger of future demand for construction, rose 0.2% for the month but slipped 0.9% year-over-year. The unemployment rate in construction was 18.8% in November, not seasonally adjusted, down slightly from 19.4% a year earlier but still the highest of any industry and double the all-industry rate of 9.3% (9.8%, seasonally adjusted; BLS does not publish seasonally adjusted industry rates). Average hourly earnings in construction rose 4 cents for the month and just 23 cents (0.9%) compared with November 2009, to $25.30, seasonally adjusted.

Among more than 18,000 U.S. employers who were asked about hiring plans in the first quarter of 2011, 14% plan to increase their workforce and 10% plan to cut it for a net employment outlook of 4%, not seasonally adjusted (9%, seasonally adjusted), Manpower Inc. reported on Tuesday. That was an improvement from the seasonally adjusted 5% or 6% in each of the last four quarters. Construction was the only industry out of 13 with a negative net outlook: -9% (10% of respondents expect to increase headcounts, 19% to cut them), compared with -8% in the fourth quarter outlook survey.

Employment rose in 182 metropolitan areas from October 2009 to October 2010, fell in 178, and was unchanged in 10, BLS reported on Tuesday. An analysis by AGC of BLS construction job data for 337 metro areas showed 67 with increases during the past year (the largest number of 12-month gains in two years), 224 with decreases, and 46 unchanged. BLS combines mining and logging with construction in some areas to avoid disclosing data about industries with few employers. Phoenix added the most construction jobs (4,100 jobs, 5%). Hanford-Corcoran, California, added the highest percentage (44%, 400 combined jobs). Other areas adding jobs included Kansas City, Kansas (1,700 combined jobs, 9%); Columbus, Ohio (1,700 combined jobs, 6%); Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Maryland (1,500 combined jobs, 5%); and Greeley, Colorado (1,400 combined jobs, 16%). The Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metro division of the Chicago region lost the most construction jobs (-19,200 jobs, -14%). Napa, Calif.(-1,100 jobs, -37%) lost the highest percentage. Other areas experiencing large declines in construction employment included Las Vegas-Paradise (-12,200 jobs, -21%); the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale division (8,600 jobs, -8%); Northern Virginia (-8,000 combined jobs, -12%); the Philadelphia division (-6,500 combined jobs, -10%); and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (-6,500 jobs, -10%).

The number of job openings in October was 3.4 million, seasonally adjusted, up from 3.0 million in September, and an increase of 1.0 million (44%) from the trough in July 2009, BLS reported on Tuesday. But seasonally adjusted job openings in construction slumped to 56,000 in October, down from 71,000 in September and 65,000 in October 2009. The rate of hires in construction rose to 6.6 per 100 employees from 6.0 in September and 5.7 in October 2009. The rate of total separations in construction (quits, layoffs and discharges, and retirements and other) was 6.2 in October 2010, 5.9 in September and 6.6 in October 2009.

Bid prices for construction were flat from July to October, consulting firm Rider Levett Bucknall ( reported on Thursday. Out of 13 cities,“Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. experienced some quarterly inflation with overall construction costs rising by nearly 0.3%. Construction costs declined in Boston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle markets, with deflation of between 0.1% and 0.4%.”

Materials costs for construction appear headed higher. Copper futures on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange closed on Tuesday at the highest level since the record set in May 2008: $4.01 per pound, 26% higher than a year ago. The national average retail price of on-highway diesel fuel was $3.20 per gallon on Monday, the highest weekly level in two years and 15% above the year-ago mark, the Energy Information reported. Diesel fuel will average $3.23 in 2011, up 8.1% from an average of $2.98 in 2010, the agency said in its Short-Term Energy Outlook it released on Tuesday. Purchasing managers at manufacturing firms listed the following items used in construction products as having risen in price in November, the Institute for Supply Management reported on December 1: aluminum, copper, plastic resins, titanium dioxide, stainless steel and steel (steel was also listed as down in price).

New orders from U.S. manufacturers (other than semiconductor manufacturers) fell 0.9% in October, seasonally adjusted, after three consecutively monthly gains, the Census Bureau reported on Friday. Orders for construction materials and supplies were flat in October. Orders for construction machinery rose 3.5%.

Most companies know that there are traditionally four components to sales growth: customer retention, customer business growth, new customer development and new market development. But what might be new is Skyhawk’s approach to this strategy.

Our Quick-Start program targets the four traditional growth components with our unique approach. We use research (of our client) and communications to strengthen the bond between customer and supplier. In the research phase, we identify our client’s core competencies and capabilities. We then craft a custom communication program that reaches your customer’s key decision makers and other valuable contacts. This is particularly important in nurturing those customers who do not see a vendor representative on a regular basis, not to mention those customers who seldom, if ever, see a vendor representative.

By using our Quick-Start program, you can get your company’s message to your clients on a regular basis in multiple platforms.

The ultimate responsibility of customer retention rests with you. But we can provide a program to assist in your success.

For more information, visit our Website at

Next Issue – Customer Business Growth

Try these seven low-cost ways to boost small-business sales.

(from Entrepreneur Magazine) 

Small changes to your marketing mix can have a big impact — especially if you tap the wealth of low-cost tools available to you online.

Here are seven small marketing changes that you can make now to boost your sales in 2011:

1. Put a Twitter link in your e-mail signature. By including a link to your Twitter page at the bottom of the signature file in your e-mail messages, you can spread the word about your business every time you hit the Send button. “I use Twitter religiously to promote my company and my clients,” says Stacy Kelly, CEO of Mobile Previews LLC, a New York City company that promotes movies and other products by creating engaging experiences that consumers can access on their mobile phones. “I also link to it to help build up my list of followers. The cost is nothing but a little thought power.”

2. Turn the back of your business card into a promo. Can’t afford to advertise in print or broadcast? The back of your business card is advertising real estate that you own, and, best of all, it’s free. By featuring a photo of yourself, a picture of your product, a 10 percent off coupon, or a list of services that your company provides, you can turn your business card into a powerful marketing tool. “That extra info can be a great conversation starter,” says John Fletcher, president of Johnny Agency Inc., a New York City graphic design firm that creates marketing materials for growing businesses. “It also allows you to convey important facts about your business during those precious moments when you have someone’s attention.”

3. Revamp your website. If you’ve already spent the money to build a website, it may be time for a facelift. Rather than spending big dollars to redesign your home page, try creating a series of low-cost “landing pages” to test different ads and offers for your products and services. “Your website is not a brochure,” says New York City consultant David Ronick, co-founder of Upstart Bootcamp, an online school for startups. “Most people today come in through the back door and through blog posts.” Be sure that your site is easy to read — not only for people browsing the web through their computers but accessing your site through their iPhones and BlackBerrys, too.

4. Position yourself as an expert. There’s nothing that builds your brand faster than free advice. Whether you’re a landscaper, a handbag designer or a dog walker, your expertise will have customers knocking at your door offering to pay you to help solve their problems. “The key is to give away thought leadership to build an audience,” Ronick says. Once you find out what works, go out there and replicate it.” One of Ronick’s clients, a luxury outsourced concierge service, regularly tweets about hot, new restaurants, clubs and bars, generating new leads from prospects who need the company’s service.

5. Swap lists with sites that have similar demographics. There’s no reason to pay big money to rent a mailing list when you can get sites that attract a similar audience to let you borrow theirs for free. Ronick says that one of his clients, a site that publishes a newsletter about women in finance, used this technique to build a list of 50,000 subscribers. “They did lots of trades that didn’t cost them anything out of pocket,” he says. “The key is to create great content and give it away for free on the web.” Be careful to respect the privacy of the subscribers whose e-mail addresses are on the lists you swap, or you may get labeled a spammer by your ISP. To avoid trouble, ask the site whose list you’re borrowing to handle the mailing itself and to include a link to your site that their subscribers can click to sign up for your newsletter.

6. Get a vanity phone number. Just because the phone company stuck you with a random number when you signed up for their service doesn’t mean that you’re saddled with it for life. Torya Blanchard, a former French teacher who opened Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes LLC in Detroit two years ago, was looking for ways to bring customers in the door when she found Ring Ring LLC, a company that provides small businesses with vanity phone numbers. Blanchard picked 1-877-PARISCREPES, and her phone has been ringing off the hook every since. “I’ll never give up that number,” she says. “That’s how people know us.” The cost: approximately $25 a month, says Aaron Beals, Ring Ring’s CEO.

7. Test, measure and test again. Just because you’ve found a marketing strategy that seems to be working doesn’t mean that you should blow your entire budget on, say, business cards or vanity phone numbers. Test, measure and test again before rolling out your campaign. Google Analytics will measure your traffic for free and tell you where your site visitors are coming from and which search terms they’re using to find you. “Test every piece of your marketing campaign,” Ronick says. “Once you’ve found the right formula, follow it.”

The bottom line: You don’t need to have a big marketing budget to make a big splash. A tweak here, a tweak there, and soon your phone will be buzzing with new business.

An article by American Expess discusses ways in which some companies have leveraged social media to boost their business. To view the original article, click here.

Unlike any technology before it, social media lets marketers engage directly with customers and prospective customers. That’s important because when companies get close enough to build relationships, sales rise.

“You look at companies that are killing it on Twitter. They’re killing it because they’re connecting on a personal basis,” says social-media marketing consultant Paul Gillin, who has written three books on the topic.

Consider Ford Motor Co., which Gillin cites as one of Corporate America’s top users of social media for marketing. Last year, Ford gave 100 social-media savvy influencers new Fiesta compacts to test drive for six months. Their tweets and blog posts about the experience led 125,000 prospective buyers to register their names with the automaker.

Those kinds of results explain why marketers at companies of all sizes have embraced social media. In 2009, 43 percent of the Inc. 500 rated social media as “very important” to their marketing strategy, up from just 26 percent in 2007, according to a study from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Mid-size companies are using social media to connect with consumers whose buying habits are changing. “People are literally bypassing the home pages of corporations. They are bypassing the flyers in the mail and the television commercials, and they’re going to social media,” says Derick Schaefer, whose Dallas-based firm, Orangecast, manages social-media marketing campaigns for roughly 30 clients.

Many of Schaefer’s clients invest in social-media marketing to build their brands, and with good reason. In a March 2010 study, researcher Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB) found that consumers who follow brands on Twitter and Facebook were more likely to buy after engaging with them in the social sphere.

While some marketers invest in social marketing to find leads, others use it to build community and still others to manage a crisis, all with impressive results.

Blogging for leads

Before the advent of social media, companies spent their marketing dollars buying lists, surveys and advertising campaigns to generate leads. Today, marketers are taking that money and pouring it into social media.

In Rick Short’s case, that means paying for blogs. Short is marketing communications director at Indium, a mid-size maker of electronic components in Utica, New York. In lieu of other marketing, Short uses a web-based program to create keyword-based blogs the company uses to generate leads. In all, Indium runs 73 blogs organized around keywords and phrases that pertain to its business, including words such as “heat spring” and “solder paste.” Maintaining 73 blogs is easier than it sounds. Thirty Indium engineers and other employees create the content, but blog software from a vendor called Compendium Blogware automatically repurposes a single post to any of the company’s blogs where the material is relevant. To capture leads, each blog runs with the employee-blogger’s contact information, allowing prospective customers to leave a comment, a question, and if all goes well, their email address.

“People are literally bypassing the home pages of corporations. They are bypassing the flyers in the mail and the television commercials, and they’re going to social media.”

Derick Schaefer, managing director, OrangecastThe company’s blogging strategy has paid off. Since adopting Compendium’s blogging software in the second quarter of 2009, Indium has seen its opt-in contacts rise 600 percent. “Most people would be happy with a 10 percent, or a 20 percent or a 50 percent increase,” Short says.

Linking up a community

Other companies rely on social media to cultivate online communities where participants could eventually turn into customers.

That’s the case at uTest, a Southborough, Massachusetts, company that gets paid to match professional testers with clients that have websites and software that need testing. Without a large enough community of testers, uTest wouldn’t have a business. To build that community, the two-year-old company uses a company blog, Twitter, a Facebook page and a LinkedIn group. The company has also created its own community-building tools, including a web-based app called “Meet the Testers.”

According to Matt Johnston, uTest’s vice president of marketing and community, creating all those groups helps the company build credibility by starting discussions that interest testers. “We do that because it’s one of the best ways to engage people in our community,” he says.

So far, so good. A total of 30,000 testers have joined uTest’s various social networks, and in 2009 its community building tools received a “Commendation of Excellence” award from the Society for New Communications Research.

uTest also advertises on social networks to prospect for companies that might need its services. On LinkedIn, uTest presents ads to members whose demographics suggest they have something to test, and therefore a need for uTest’s services. As a result, Johnston has been able to generate 1,000 leads from a single campaign for half of what he expected to spend.

Disaster recovery

Some companies use social-media marketing to get out of sticky situations, or prevent them from happening in the first place.

Boingo Wireless is one of them. On April 10, the Los Angeles WiFi company’s email marketing system malfunctioned and erroneously notified thousands of customers they were no longer eligible for unlimited wireless service.

Within minutes, Boingo PR and social media manager Baochi Nguyen’s iPhone and Nexus One smartphones buzzed with the epileptic frenzy of thousands of angry tweets forwarded from the company’s Twitter feed.

Boingo was quick to act. Within five hours of getting the first complaint, CEO Dave Hagan posted an apology on the front page of the company’s website. Nguyen followed with her own contrite blog post, resulting in kudos from customers and observers. Nguyen then spent the rest of Saturday through Monday morning answering 700 tweets, emails and Facebook posts, reassuring customers they’d been exposed to a bogus message.

The day of the malfunction, it was by luck that Nguyen was monitoring the company’s Twitter feed, since Boingo had no formal social media monitoring system.

They got one fast enough afterward though. Today, under the company’s new policy, during business hours Nguyen and a fellow Boingo employee respond to any customer tweet within 30 minutes. The extra vigilance has paid off. Since the email malfunction, the number of people following the company’s social media accounts – on Facebook and Twitter particularly – has risen 50 percent, Nguyen says.

“By and large they were really understanding,” Nguyen says. “After the apology, it was so amazing to see the folks that came forward to support Boingo.”

Gillin, the author and social-media marketing consultant, gives Boingo credit for acting fast. But he also credits the channels, arguing that social media’s ability to engage immediately and authentically sets it apart. Top marketers recognize this, and they’re mixing and matching services to meet customers where they are, instead of waiting for them to show up at their virtual doorstep.

Indium’s Short agrees. “The content that we publish in our blogs today is an answer,” he says. “Tomorrow, somebody’s going to type in the question.”

An interesting report prepared by GlobalSpec looks at the future of Business-to-Business marketing. Several key points in the report are the following:

1. The economy is improving and manufacturers are responding with
increased marketing spend.
70% of companies expect sales to increase in 2010 over 2009 levels, a strong indicator that the  economy as a whole and the industrial sector in particular are improving. Only 7% anticipate sales to be down in 2009. In response to improving conditions, manufacturers are increasing their marketing  investments.

31% are reporting an increase in their marketing budgets in 2010.

2. Manufacturers are investing more marketing resources online.
Manufacturers now realize that the vast majority of their target audience goes  online in search of suppliers, products and services—and in response are increasing online marketing investments in 2010 to connect with this audience.

47% of manufacturers will spend more than one-third of their 2010 marketing budget online; 27% will spend more than half of their marketing budget online.

The majority of manufacturers (51%) are increasing the online portion of their marketing budget over last year and 68% are increasing spending in online social media channels. In addition, online marketing channels occupy the top six areas where companies will be increasing marketing spending over 2009.

Conversely, spending on traditional media channels will be down: 25% are decreasing trade magazine advertising and 24% are decreasing use of printed directories.
3. Quality of leads delivered ranked most important when allocating marketing
When asked to rate the importance of various factors in allocating marketing budgets, marketers ranked lead quality most important—8.6 on a scale of one to ten—with fit of audience exposure and reach of audience exposure placing second and third.

Quantity of leads and quantity of clicks to a company Web site placed a distant eighth and ninth,  respectively, out of nine factors. In terms of generating leads, three of the four top sources are online: company Web sites, e-mail marketing and search engine optimization.

4. Industrial marketers face the same challenges year after year.
For the past three years, marketers have listed the same three marketing challenges at the top of their  list: too few marketing resources, not enough high quality leads and a need to improve ROI. While most manufacturers are shifting resources to online marketing, the transition is not happening fast enough or broad enough.

Despite online marketing’s proven ability to deliver high quality leads, 48% of respondents still said they are not generating enough high quality leads for their sales teams. And although online programs deliver easily measurable results, 34% stated they need to improve their marketing ROI. It’s true that 47% of marketers are spending more than one-third of their marketing budget online, but that means 53% are spending less than one-third online. These manufacturers are behind and should increase their online marketing investments to help achieve their goals and overcome their marketing challenges.

Other Highlights of the survey responses include:

• 70% of companies anticipate an increase in sales compared to 2009.

• Marketing budgets are recovering after a down year in 2009, with 31% reporting an increase in their marketing budget this year.

• 74% stated that customer acquisition or lead generation is their primary marketing goal. These have been the top two marketing goals for the past three years.

• The top three marketing challenges in 2010 are having too few resources, not enough quality leads and a need to improve marketing ROI.

• Three of the top four sources of leads are online channels, including the company Web site, e-mail marketing and search engine optimization.

• 68% of companies plan to increase spending on social media in 2010. LinkedIn and Facebook are the most popular social media applications currently being used.

• 47% will spend more than one-third of their marketing budget online, and the majority (51%) will invest more in online marketing in 2010 than they did in 2009.

Will try to delve further into the report in the near future.