Archive for January, 2011

(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.