Monday, July 30, 2007

Viral Marketing for B2B Lead Generation, Part 1: Viral Media


Viral marketing campaigns can be effective for B2B marketers—but they aren't easy to pull off. The next three posts here will offer some ideas about programs, promotion, and pitfalls to avoid that may help in developing successful B2B viral marketing campaigns, based both on my own experience and research by MarketingSherpa.

Most Popular Forms of Viral Media
  • Online video is the most popular viral medium for both B2C and B2B use. However, with the novelty of web video long since gone, your videos will either need to be really funny or really useful (e.g. the kind of content you could charge people for – but decide not to) in order to really go viral. Keep in mind that humor is more difficult to do well, and while a very amusing video may be widely shared, it may not pick up a lot of viewers who are actually qualified prospects. Videos that are targeted and focused on your industry, on the other hand, are likely to attract fewer but more targeted viewers.

  • Online games are also hot viral items and can be a lot of fun to develop. Ideally, the game should be unique, relevant to your industry, and neither too simple nor too difficult to play. A competent player should be able to finish a complete game in no more 15 minutes, preferably less. Themed variations of common game types (e.g., "whack-a-mole" or first-person shooter type games) have been pretty much done to death and are unlikely to spread wildly (unless you're able to devise a super-creative adaptation).

    Vodafone, for example, ran a "quite successful" viral game campaign promoting its mobile office solutions. At the game microsite, visitors could choose the type of desk they want to see destroyed, then press a large red “destruct” button to watch the desk get crushed.

    An interesting variant of online video games is industry-related trivia games, with prospect-qualifying questions mixed in. These are unlikely to get wide viral distribution, but more likely to appeal to people within your target market. In addition, these have multiple uses; for example, they can be used effectively at trade shows to attract booth traffic while also pre-qualifying your show leads.

  • Microsites are a third highly-rated viral tool. Studios use these for virtually every major film release; B2B marketers can do the same for key product areas. DMNews referred to microsites as "the next big thing in B2B" in this helpful article. Mark Walsh at MediaPost also provides some helpful advice on creating successful microsites in this interview; though his focus is on B2C sites, the same principles apply on the B2B side.

  • A corporate blog, if done well—that is, focused on industry issues and customer problems as opposed to company "news" and product pitches—can be an effective viral tool. As content grows over time, authors of related blogs will increasingly link to it, the blog's search engine rank will rise, and the blog's author(s) will become recognized as thought-leadership contributors within the industry. It's important to remember, however, that a blog will not "go viral" overnight; it takes time and consistent, high-quality content to build readership. To be successful as a blogger, an individual's position in the organization or functional area is far less important than writing skills and a strong grasp of what interests customers and prospects.

Other Viral Ideas
  • Audio files or podcasts; these generally aren't as successful as video campaigns, but can be effective, particularly if done by a “name” in the industry.

  • Online comic books; a light-hearted treatment of the real problems solved by a company's products or services are an easy and quick to read alternative to blogs or podcasts. However, they are also more expensive to produce and must be carefully designed to avoid campiness.

  • Finally, an emerging viral concept is incorporation of public online discussion forums or other Web 2.0 social media functionality on a company’s website or a microsite. This can be as simple as starting a blog or incorporating a wiki using free or commercial tools, or as complex as implementing a social media platform from a vendor such as BeeTooBee.com or Awareness.


Next: Viral Promotion

*****


The web marketing news portal: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Twin Cities-based marketing & PR firm exclusively focused on lead generation and sales strategy for B2B IT clients: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Another New Report on Webcasting Benchmarks


The team at webcast and rich media marketing producer ON24 recently published their second report on webcasting trends and benchmarks. The new report offers insights and metrics to assist B2B marketers in planning and measuring the success of their own webcasting programs.

Among the findings in this study:
  • The average cost per webinar or webcast registrant is $35.

  • Typically, just over half of registrants actually attend or view the webcast.

  • Generally, about 30% of registrants participate in the live webcast, while another 25% view the archived event.

  • Nearly half of all registrations occur within 10 days of the webcast; 10% happen on the day of the session.

  • More than one-third of attendees participate in interactive polls and surveys conducted during webcasts.

Again, you can download the full report here.

*****


The Internet marketing portal: WebMarketCentral.com

The B2B IT PR and lead generation specialists: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Monday, July 23, 2007

B2B IT and Social Media 2: The Vendor Perspective


The first post on this topic focused on the IT buyer use of social media, outlining an ITtoolbox study which found that IT decision makers spend more time each week reading or interacting with social media than they do with editorial content, vendor-produced content or the research of analyst firms—and that they trust social media more than any other source. Here is the vendor perspective.

According to recent white paper from Robert Lesser, publisher of LeadGenTools.com, and Paul Dunay of the Buzz Marketing for Technology blog, "B2B marketers are not just embracing Web 2.0 tools, they're pushing the envelope on adoption. They're using the new tools to reach prospects, not just reinforce existing customer relationships. They're rolling Web 2.0 tools out to their teams and organizations. And they're quickly moving up the learning curve."

According to the study (which can be obtained for free by completing a short survey here):
  • The majority of B2B IT companies embracing Web 2.0 tools are marketing complex products and services which generally have long sales cycles.

  • More than half of marketers embracing Web 2.0 tools work in small to mid-sized companies. Web 2.0 tools are an inexpensive way for these businesses to increase market awareness. Smaller companies are also more often free of the legal and accounting department obstacles that limit Web 2.0 activities.

  • Nearly 90% of respondents are using Web 2.0 tools such as blogs and podcasts to target prospects. "This suggests a high degree of confidence in (Web 2.0 tools)," according to survey co-author Robert Lesser.

  • Blogs are the most frequently used Web 2.0 tool, followed by RSS feeds and podcasts.

  • WordPress and Blogger are the most popular blogging platforms, while Feedburner is the preferred RSS feed creator.

Clearly, Web 2.0 and social media aren't just for teenagers and garage bands; they are being embraced in a big way by B2B technology buyers and vendors alike. Again, you can get a free copy of the entire LeadGenTools B2B vendor report by taking the short online survey here.
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Get your Blogging Tips from Douglas Karr at The Marketing Technology Blog

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*****

The website marketing strategies portal: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minneapolis-based agency focused exclusively on
marketing, PR and SEO services for B2B technology companies: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's Official: WebMarketCentral is the Fastest Growing Web Marketing Portal

Thank you to everyone who's visited WebMarketCentral.com over the past few months—you've made it the fastest-growing web marketing portal site. It's gratifying that so many online marketing professionals have found value in the web marketing resources, news, tools and guides on the site.

According to Alexa (yes, I know it's not perfect, but it does provide an accurate ballpark measure), WebMarketCentral.com is growing rapidly while other popular web marketing sites such as MarketingSherpa, ClickZ, Marketing Profs, and Web Digest for Marketers (wdfm.com) are seeing traffic declines.










These are all fine sites, which I visit frequently and highly recommend. And, granted, they are all ranked in the top 100,000 on Alexa, and in some cases the top 10,000 (having a staff to keep site content updated certainly helps). WebMarketCentral is ranked...somewhat lower. But to paraphrase the famous Avis commercials, when you're number 545,003, you try harder.



These are all fine sites, which I visit frequently and highly recommend. And, granted, they are all ranked in the top 100,000 on Alexa, and in some cases the top 10,000 (having a staff to keep site content updated certainly helps). WebMarketCentral is ranked...somewhat lower. But to paraphrase the famous Avis commercials, when you're number 545,003, you try harder.

*****


The web marketing services portal: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minnesota marketing and SEO agency focused exclusively on B2B IT companies: KC Associates

Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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Monday, July 16, 2007

B2B IT and Social Media Part 1: The Buyer Perspective


White paper syndicator ITtoolbox recently completed a study of buying influences in B2B IT purchasing decisions. They asked more than 2,100 IT decision makers about the information sources that were most critical in their buying decisions. Specifically, ITtoolbox wanted to determine how IT decision makers use social media tools (such as blogs, podcasts, discussion groups and wikis) to assist in purchasing decisions. The results are eye-opening.

Among the key findings:
  • Overall, IT decision makers spend more time each week reading or interacting with social media (3.5 hours) than they do with editorial content (2.9 hours) or vendor-produced content (websites, webcasts, white papers, etc. - 2.7 hours).

  • Executive decision makers spend more time on social media each week than other IT buyers or influencers.

  • When conducting research specifically to assist with a buying decision, vendor content is the most referenced source, followed by social media and trade editorial. All three are more frequently referenced than paid analyst research (so...YouTube beats Gartner Group?).

  • However, decision makers trust social media content more than any other source. Vendor content came in second, followed closely by trade media.

  • The primary value of social media is the access it provides to objective feedback on products and services. Smaller numbers of respondents valued social media for interactivity with peers and accurate information about news and trends.

  • Overwhelmingly, IT decision makers and influencers said that social media allowed them to discover more options (a critical point for smaller vendors who lack wide name recognition) for solving business problems, and that it made their research activities more efficient.

  • Need help with your messaging? Among executive decision makers, "enabling innovation that drives competitive advantage" is their top goal for this year. Among all IT decision makers and influencers, efficiency and cost reduction are the top goals, though followed closely by competitive advantage.

  • And some good news for vendors: 60% of respondents across industries said that their IT purchasing budgets are rising this year.

Again, you can download the full study here and also check out a podcast with survey author George Krautzel and blogger extraordinaire Paul Dunay. The survey was co-authored by marketing agency PJA.

*****


The web based marketing portal: WebMarketCentral.com

The only St. Paul-based PR & marketing agency focused exclusively on lead generation and PR strategy for B2B IT companies: KC Associates

Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Two Online B2C Campaigns Worth Checking Out

B2B technology companies generate leads and revenue through smart online marketing by promoting thought-leadership content. Examples include Kinetic Data's Glossary of Business Service Management Terms, Astrocom's explanation of why redundant Internet access is important and how it works, and real customer stories from unified voicemail and PBX-VoIP integrator Unimax.

Some B2B marketing efforts are highly inventive, such as the Superhero campaign executed for outsourced supply chain services vendor Zomax by KC Associates. But B2B IT marketing is generally a very practical and highly budget-conscious business. B2C marketing is simply a different world. Here are two examples of the kind of "wow" campaigns that can be produced when money is apparently no object.

First, Mercedes has produced one of the most incredibly creative websites ever (this can be a tad slow loading but it's worth it). The site was produced by Agency Republic in London, recently named Marketing's Digital Agency of the Year. Their own site is surprisingly bland (a "shoemaker's children" kind of thing perhaps?); a bit of geek insight as to how they produced the Mercedes site would have been fascinating. You can view other samples of their online marketing work here.

Second, VEX, a Canadian maker of hard lemonade and similar adult beverages, has produced an online campaign for its new strawberry-orange-banana flavor which spoofs schlocky horror films at Sliced, the Movie (note: use IE as the site doesn't load properly in Firefox). In this mock movie trailer, a group of fruits—strawberries, bananas, lemons, kiwis—head off to remote country house for a farewell to summer get-together. But as night falls and the power mysteriously fails, they head to the basement to look for a breaker, and...some gruesome slicing, dicing, blending and other horrible fates ensue. The campaign, produced by GJP Advertising in Toronto, also features banner ads running on several highly-trafficked Canadian sites, with lines such as "When a killer comes knocking...how will you run...when you don't have legs?" and "More horrifying than Hostel. More chilling than Saw. More disturbing than Britney."

The VEX campaign may have been inspired by Scary Mary, which has be among the most clever recut movie trailers ever. You'll never look at Mary Poppins the same way again.

*****


The online web marketing portal: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Twin Cities-based marketing & PR agency focused exclusively on B2B lead generation and interactive PR for IT companies: KC Associates

Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Generating Word of Mouth Buzz Through Interactive PR

Seana Mulcahy at MediaPost recently wrote a piece about using social media and other tools to build word-of-mouth promotion online. There are a number of online tools and methods to spread word of mouth online, but a key one is interactive PR.

In The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott writes about designing PR efforts that are actually for the public: "The Internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on the media. Blogs, online news releases, and other forms of Web content let organizations communicate directly with buyers...and here's something really neat: if you do a good job telling your story directly, the media will find out. And then they'll write about you!" That's online word of mouth.

So what is interactive PR exactly? The term, originated (I believe) on the Six Pillars blog, includes a number of tactics, including keyword-optimizing your news releases and promoting them through online services such as PRWeb.com, social media and blogs. WebMarketCentral now includes a more complete guide with links to related web marketing strategies. Wikipedia also provides a pretty good definition. It's also been embraced by the Council of Public Relations Firms.

But in short, interactive PR is about rethinking your PR strategy. Instead of writing press releases as one-way, frequently ignored communication exclusively with the media, write news releases about thought-leadership content, directed at prospects. Distribute and promote your news through Web 2.0 venues. Give your readers a way to respond to you and share your information. And most importantly, give them news and information worth sharing.

*****


The website promotion marketing site: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minneapolis-based marketing & PR agency focused exclusively on B2B lead generation and go-to-market strategy for IT companies: KC Associates

Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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Monday, July 02, 2007

The Journey of Our Backyard Tree Deck

Since almost no one is working this week (other than me), the WebMarketCentral blog will take a break from web marketing coverage as well, to showcase one of my other activities: ongoing construction of a tree house, or more accurately, a "tree deck," for the kids.


It started innocently enough in the summer of 2005 as a small platform up in a tree, reachable only by rope at first, though a ladder was soon added.



Later that year, the platform was extended to wrap
around the tree.







In 2006, the kids and I decided the tree deck was a bit cramped, and needed a second level. But first, I needed a scaffold of some sort to enable me to reach the higher level. I also needed some kind of shelter for our firewood to keep the rain off it. Left photo: the wood hut is constructed, but a mess. Below right: still a mess, but a ladder is added.















Left: wood hut is cleaned up, but still no wood. Right: after five hours of quality time with a 20-ton log splitter and another five hours of stacking, the wood hut is finally complete.












With my "scaffold" in place, I set to work on an upper deck which wrapped around three sides of the original platform. As this corner shows, my carpentry skills were improving.





Here's the tree deck in the bleakness of early spring 2007. It's okay, but—it looks a little bare without a top. The kids decided the tree deck needed a roof.










The first step was to get the frame in place.










Under the close supervision of our cat, the roof begins to take shape...










...and is finally complete.










Wired with 10 strings of white Christmas lights, the tree deck really shines (literally) at night, though it's difficult to capture the true look in a photograph.










Hope your summer is fun and constructive as well. And now I'm tagging Ardath Albee, Yvonne DiVita, Brian Carroll, Jay Lipe and Shawn Hessinger to write something interesting, seasonal and non-work-related as well.

*****

The site for Internet website marketing new and resources: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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