Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book Review: The Logic of Life


A book written by an economist, that attempts to use economic theories to explain pretty much everything in life, probably sounds more like a cure for insomnia—perhaps even masochism—than a page-turner. But in The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World, author Tim Harford, writer of the Undercover Economist column for the Financial Times, pulls off a truly amazing feat, making economics not merely interesting, but fascinating.

Just to make sure he's got your attention, Harford begins his book with discursions on the economic rationales underlying teen sex, Mexican prostitutes, and the world of professional poker. In this last topic, Harford introduces us to Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, a doctoral student at UCLA who used John von Neumann's game theory to become one of the top professional poker players in the world:
    "By the late 1990s Ferguson was one of the most recognizable sights in poker, earning the nickname `Jesus' as he hid his face behind a long beard and hair that cascaded over his shoulders, buttressed by wraparound mirror shades and a big cowboy hat. He never spoke during play, trying to remove any sign of human emotion; he didn't pay much attention to other players' nervous tics either. He drew his information only from the cards, like a computer—or like von Neumann himself."

After these first few sections, Harford gets more serious, but no less engrossing. He addresses a wide range of topics, demonstrating in each case how rational economic theories explain seemingly irrational human behavior: nuclear war, cigarette smoking, our choice of snacks, speed dating, marriage, divorce, and why young women are often attracted to older men (and vice versa, though economics seems superfluous in that case).

He devotes significant space in the book to the problem of racism, particularly in relation to blacks in America, showing that while racism is reprehensible, it is also, unfortunately, rational. The contention is that blacks, as a group, have under-invested in their own education and skills development, believing that white racism prevented them from getting a fair shot at economic opportunities. In response, employers (of many colors, not only white) have preemptively denied opportunities to blacks. The result is a tragic downward spiral.

The problem is vexing. Obviously, blacks have faced significant discrimination in America, unfairly and in many cases maliciously. On the other hand, the problem can't be reduced to "white people don't like people with dark skin." Look at southeast Asians as an example of a group that has had a very different experience in America (and elsewhere), that of a virtuous upward spiral. While an employer may invite Mary in for interview before Latoya, Krishna may very well get the interview before Mary. Sterotypes can be unfairly positive as well as negative.

The solution, therefore, is going to require changes in behavior, and beliefs, on the part of both blacks and whites. Not an easy task, but possible.

Along the way, Harford explains why your office, dysfunctional though it likely seems, is perfectly rational: with a relatively small number of exceptions (sales, windshield replacement, pole vaulting), most professions are either hard to measure, or easy to measure but nevertheless difficult to compensate on that basis: "In most jobs, there are more than two variables at play and some are very hard to pin down. For those jobs, managers need a more holistic, all-encompassing measure of performance." This leads to a discussion of "tournament theory"—paying employers based on their performance relative to each other, as in a tennis tournament. The trick to applying tournament theory to employee pay, of course, is to make sure bonuses incent employees to do great work, not merely to undermine and backstab each other.

While Harford's book is very, very good, it does have three minor weaknesses. First, the author approvingly and at length quotes from Freakonomics, a book which had an unfortunate tendency to extrapolate from the specific to the general among other logical fallacies. John Lott's Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don't, though lesser known, is a far superior work.

Second, while Harford does an outstanding job of demonstrating how various economic theories can be used to explain particular decision processes or types of behavior, he ignores the possibility of other causes. In other words, while he does a fine job of showing how A causes B, he fails to even acknowledge that C, D or Z might provide a much better explanation. On various topics, religious faith, patriotism, family ties, environmental concerns or a one of a host of other factors may be more important that economics, but Harford simply ignores that possibility. A very strong case can be made, for example, that Brits would be better off economically with the Tories in charge, yet the majority don't vote that way.

Finally, Harford at times ignores his own conclusions. After demonstrating convincingly that human prosperity is directly correlated with two factors—freedom and innovation—he expresses concern over pseudo-problems like global warming. If he believes his own research, and he should, he would realize that global warming cannot be a problem. When the incentives to change behavior become significant enough, people will change them. And even if the most dire theories of global warming are accurate, and human burning of hydrocarbon fuels is a significant cause, then only the innovation of free economic actors—not the regulation preferred by those on the left—can ultimately solve the problem.

These quibbles aside, The Logic of Life is a fascinating and enlightening book that deserves a wide audience.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Best of 2008 (So Far) - SEO Guidance, Part 1

This content has been moved to Best of 2008: SEO Guidance on the Webbiquity blog.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Using Google Knol as a B2B Marketing Tool

Knoll-Welcome-Page
Yesterday, Google officially launched Knol, its Wikipedia-like tool for crafting encyclopedic expert articles. As with Wikipedia, subject matter experts can write or contribute edits to a Knol page on a specific topic. Unlike the case with Wikipedia, however, the author(s) is identified, so readers know who contributed to the article and understand any biases the author(s) may bring to the topic. For example, a technology vendor may write a very different page on a specific topic than what a user would write. Politically, a Libertarian is likely to define a term such as "healthcare reform" very differently from a Green.

This makes Knol at least potentially much more democratic than Wikipedia, a significant problem with which has been the ability of a small cabal of self-appointed high priests to unilaterally delete content for any reason (or apply their "rules" differently for different contributors). Also unlike Wikipedia, Knol will permit multiple Knol pages on the same topic; that's going to be interesting. No word on how Google will choose to rank competing Knols for search engine placement, but presumably quality will matter in some way.

So, why is this exciting for B2B marketers? Think of how many subject matter experts hold valuable knowledge in their heads, but don't have the time to commit to a blog. Until now, the only alternative was to either write an article for publication (beneficial but challenging) or to write a guest post for an existing blog (often even more challenging). Now, the SME can write a Knol page—with full authorship credit for the writer and company—and publish it for the world, with no pressure to write on a regular basis. Like a blog post, the content is interactive, but the shelf life of the Knol is potentially much longer. There is also potential SEO value, though details remain to be determined.

Among the better posts written about Knol thus far are Web development on Google Knol from Bluemilkshake, Google Introduces Knol as Wikipedia Alternative from Clint Boulton's Google Watch, Google’s Knol product is now open from David Crotty at Bench Marks, and Google Knol Released. It’s Not Wikipedia. from The Radioactive Yak.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Google and the Parable of the Turkey

In The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes about the life of the turkey: for 100 days, the turkey is sheltered, fed and cared for by the farmer. The turkey grows to trust the farmer completely, even perhaps developing a fondness for the farmer (and of course the feed). Then, on the 101st day (with Thanksgiving quickly approaching), the relationship between the turkey and the farmer changes abruptly and permanently. The rationale behind the farmer's apparent benevolence become clear in a final flash before the turkey takes the necessary step preceding de-feathering, vacuum-packing, freezing and shipping off to the market.

Taleb's lesson for us from this: don't be a turkey. More succinctly, don't assume that the future will resemble the past, or, in the words of mutual fund prospectuses, "past performance is no guarantee of future results." Also, remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Of course, that doesn't take into account the perspective of the turkey farmer. The farmer would point out that he's making an honest living, providing a valued product in the market. Taking advantage of the trust of turkeys is his job—it's how he feeds his family. And finally, those turkeys wouldn't have gotten so plump and healthy in the first place without his care and feeding.

Now, what if we're not talking about a farmer and his family, but a corporation and its shareholders? The stock market can be brutal when a company fails to meet earning expectations, such as it was last week when Google's stock price fell by 10% despite a 35% increase in earnings. Like the farmer's hungry children, investors are demanding that Google squeeze more out of its turkeys. Err, advertisers.

Before this analogy goes any further, I just want to make it clear that I love Google. Adore it. Eric, Sergey, Larry, Matt—they're like rock stars. Benevolent. With a great sense of humor. It's just that, you know, some people might be thinking these things, so I have to write about them.

Seriously, I am a big fan of Google, which is good because recent news could certainly cause one to spin paranoid fantasies. This tale will have a happy ending. But first, the paranoid fantasy.

Now, unlike a farmer, a corporation can discard part of it's family for the benefit of the other children, as Google did when it shut down its Dallas and Denver offices earlier this month and laid off those employees. But that's not a long-term strategy.

Over the long term, Google has to find new ways to make money, and that means getting more out of its turkeys advertisers. It has unique market power to do this. As Michael Arrington points out on TechCrunch, Google "controls 60% of the search market and perhaps as much as half of all online advertising revenue." On some small company websites, between organic search and AdWords, Google can drive 70% or more of total traffic.

Google could manipulate natural search results based on a company's PPC activity, but ultimately probably has something a bit more sophisticated in mind. Philosophically, the company has laid the groundwork for changing its strategy; in the wickedly funny What Eric Schmidt Really Said; Five Google Statements Translated on Marketing Pilgrim, Andy Beal points out that, for example, Google has backed away from its "Don't be evil" mantra and has plans to be more than a one-trick pony.

Practically, Google is pulling its advertisers ever closer, increasing the dependency of its turkeys, so to speak. Move over SharePoint, Google’s got a challenge on the Enterprise3 blog states that "With the announcement of Google Sites, Google has unveiled a tool that incorporates email, calendars, excels, documents and presentation software." This is positioned as a challenge to Microsoft Office and SharePoint, which it is, but its potentially much more than that.


Consider how much knowledge Google potentially has about its advertisers. If they are running an AdWords campaign, Google knows which keywords the company thinks are important and how highly the company values each term (through its bids) as well as which keywords are really effective. Through Analytics, it knows how much traffic the company's website gets, where the traffic comes from, which pages get visited most frequently, and who is visiting those pages. Through it's search crawling, it knows which other sites link to that company's site, which publications and bloggers write about it, and what gets said about the company (if anything) on social media sites. And now with Google Sites, it has insight into the internal workings and finances of the company (through Docs and Spreadsheets), can eavesdrop on its communications (through Gmail), and even knows where its key people are scheduled to be at any time (through its calendar software).

That's a tremendous amount of information to know about any company, much less about a lot of companies. Actually, an unprecedented amount. And as Sir Francis Bacon said, "knowledge is power."

What will Google do with this? Hard to say, but even assuming that its top executives are angelic figures with only the purest of motives (which I do—really!), those
hungry childrengreedy shareholders, will exert pressure on the company to
take advantage of its turkeysmonetize that knowledge of its advertisers.

Such power, and its attendant temptation, is normally tempered by two forces: competition and the threat of legal action. Unfortunately for online advertisers, neither may be of much avail in this situation.

Competition

As Michael Madej points out in Google's erratic behavior and relevancy declines -- is Google getting greedy?, Google could be dethroned as the king of search, either through its own missteps (possible, though "google" has become a verb and habits are hard to break) or through the emergence of real competition, though "a new player would need Rupert Murdoch kind of money to even make a dent."

The most likely candidate is (was?) a Microsoft-Yahoo combination, though even with the intervention of Carl Icahn, both sides still appear too incompetent to consummate the union. Besides, even with Steve Balmer's reported determination to "f***ing kill Google" the company's past acquisition activities in this space have been mostly ineffective flailing. And how comfortable can anyone really be, recalling the Bill Gates is Satan hysteria of not-that-long-ago, with the idea of Microsoft as a savior?

Furthermore, Steve Baldwin speculates in Inside Microsoft’s War Room that in the "titanic clash between Microsoft (aka 'The Evil Empire') and Google aka 'The Don't Be Evil Empire'), Microsoft may already be thinking of throwing in the towel and making "contingency plans for a Google-ruled web."

Sean X Cummings in The X Factor: The ad network you'd kill to buy on tries to make the case for IAC as a Google killer, but being that Google gets 15 times the search traffic of Ask, is that really realistic?

Legal Action

C'mon, if Google really, intentionally, harmed someone, that individual or organization could sue, right? Sure—but don't count on beating the search giant in court. As Eric Goldman reported on his Technology & Marketing Law blog, a company called KinderStart sued Google in March of 2006: "Google has been sued for downgrading the PageRank of websites in contravention of its stated 'objective' policies. In KinderStart's case, they got kicked out of Google in March 2005 and immediately lost 70% of their traffic."

One year later, Goldman reported on the outcome of that suite in his follow-up piece, KinderStart v. Google Dismissed--With Sanctions Against KinderStart's Counsel: "Google has won big in the lawsuit brought by KinderStart due to their unhappiness with their search engine placement. Not only did Judge Fogel dismiss the complaint...but he issued Rule 11 sanctions against KinderStart's counsel Gregory Yu--meaning that Yu will have to pay some of Google's legal fees."

What the judge said essentially was that a site's search position on Google for any given term is determined by Google's algorithm, which is...whatever Google wants it to be. There is no intrinsically "right" or "wrong" search position rank for any website on any term. No matter how highly a particular site shows up for a specific search phrase, or how long it has enjoyed a high position, if it falls to page 40 tomorrow such is life.

Still, people keep trying.

A Different Kind of Farmer

One obvious argument to make here is that Google is more like a dairy farmer than a turkey farmer—it doesn't profit from butchering its dependent domestic
animalsadvertisers, just milking them. Therefore, it has an interest in keeping them fat, healthy and happy.

True, though even the dairy farmer can turn cows into hamburger if they don't produce. Remember KinderStart above, and there is the case of Wikipedia: there's no question that it wouldn't have become the seventh-most visited site on the Web without serious help from the #1 site. As Michael Gray demonstrated in Google Loves Wikipedia - Even the Empty Pages, Google seems to rank Wikipedia pages highly even when there is little or no content on them. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Google position of Wikipedia pages once Knol is launched, no?

Self Interest

But I promised a happy ending and here it is: Google will ultimately refrain from going completely over to the dark side purely out of self interest, and an understanding of history. After all, even the biggest and most powerful companies can falter if they screw up badly enough. Think General Motors and Sears, for example. After reigning for nearly a century as the world's largest retailer, Sears lost the top spot back in the 80s and is now in ninth place.

Searchers expect highly relevant results, and advertisers expect advertising that produces a reasonable return on investment. One KinderStart is a minor distraction, but lots of them could cause real problems. To whom much is given, from whom much is expected (Luke 12:48). The marketplace has given Google a great deal of power. If Google uses the knowledge its tools enable it to gain for the benefit of advertisers and consumers, it will be difficult to topple. If not, Steve Ballmer—or someone else—will take it down.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digtialrdm.com

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Monday, July 14, 2008

B2B Marketing Fast Fixes

The slowdown across some sectors of the economy is forcing B2B marketers to pull back on spending, yet continue to produce great results (or else). With that in mind, MarketingSherpa last week presented their Top 10 B-to-B Marketing FastFixes: How to Generate & Nurture More Qualified Leads. Here are the highlights from the webinar.

Revisit SEO

Technologies, needs and customers change over time. If your website is still optimized for the same keywords as 18 months ago (or longer), now is a good time to re-validate your key search phrases. Start by looking in your analytics program to identify the top phrases prospects are using to find you.

Next, run those phrases through a keyword tool to find similar phrases and their relative search frequency. Finally, make sure your site is well optimized for those phrases that are both frequently searched and most relevant to your prospects.

In addition, since those phrases resonate with your prospects, make sure to incorporate them in your copywriting and SEM programs as well.

Speak Up

Speaking engagements are an excellent source of high-quality leads. When budgets are tight, focus particularly on local gigs to minimize travel-related expenses. To spread your reach without breaking the bank, seek out opportunities to be interviewed for podcasts by well-known traditional and social media types in your industry.

Optimize Ads for Content and Search

MarketingSherpa recommends setting up completely separate accounts for search and content network ads. At the very least, keep the two in separate campaigns. Why? The environments are completely different—in search, people are looking for relevant ads. They are on a search page and are going to click on something based on the results of their search. Your ad is competing only against the other search results.

On the content network, people are doing other things, such as reading articles, so ad copy has to be punchier and more action-oriented to get someone to click away from the page they are reading.

Also, on content networks, investigate the sites your ads are showing on, particularly those sites which are drawing the best results. This research is excellent for finding new sites for PR, direct advertising buys or blogger outreach.

Test Their Knowledge

Quizzes are a relatively inexpensive, easy and fun way to collect leads. People love to be tested on their knowledge, particularly engineering and IT audiences. In addition, you can mix in "research" type questions that can be used to collect information for later production of a research report / thought-leadership piece.

Small companies can use tools like SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo or Zoomerang to create quizzes. Larger enterprises and government agencies may already have an enterprise survey management application such as Vovici or Kinetic Survey in place.

Quizzes can be promoted through PR, blogger outreach, AdWords, home page promotion and through company email.

Give Your Knowledge Away

Studies have shown that dropping registration barriers for content such as white papers, webcasts and podcasts significantly increases the exposure to your materials—according to MarketingSherpa, by about a factor of seven on average.

Still, many marketers are reluctant to do this; "If I give away my white paper, how will I ever capture the lead?"

The answer, again according to MarketingSherpa, is to offer some knowledge of value free and then ask for contact information once you have the prospect's interest. For example, Red Hat software has provided no-registration-required webcasts. At the end of each webcast, prospects are presented with another offer (such as a whitepaper download or live webinar registration) which does require them to provide contact information.

Love the One You're With

Maintaining and even increasing sales during an economic downturn isn't just about generating new leads, but also moving the prospects already in your database along in their buying process. In round numbers, 80% of the leads in your database are people who aren't immediate prospects, but do have longer term potential.

According to MarketingSherpa, about 10% are mid-term prospects who could potentially be converted to more immediate opportunities. The remaining 70% are either long term prospects (who could be converted to mid-term prospects) or influencers (who could help immediately with lead generation).

Follow-Up is Crucial

When you manage to capture a precious lead, handle with care. Make sure your auto-responder email is engaging and interactive. And follow up with a phone call quickly—if you are slow in responding to a sales opportunity, prospects assume you'll be even slower to respond once they are a customer in need of technical assistance or inquiring about a billing issue.

IT staff in particular work all hours and expect fast response. The first vendor to respond to an inquiry—particularly if that response is fast, within the first 30 minutes or so after contact—has an inordinate chance of winning the business.

Use Plain Old Snail Mail

With email burnout increasing and ever-tightening spam filters in place to keep out anything that smacks remotely of marketing, email promotion is becoming less effective. Although physical mail obviously costs more, it can help your offer stand out. First, the medium has become less crowded as more marketing dollars have shifted online. Second, it shows the prospect that you're willing to pay to get their attention; they know as well as you that email is easy and virtually free, while postal mail requires greater effort and expense. Third, it offers unique creative possibilities (and people will almost always open "lumpy" mail, curious about what's in the package).

Evangelists, Branding and Measurement

A few final points from the webinar:

  • Few companies do a good job at reaching out to evangelists in their industry, such as bloggers. Flag evengelists in your marketing database, court them properly and you'll both increase your credibility and generate more pre-qualified leads.

  • Even in a downturn, branding is critical. A CEO isn't going to download your whitepaper. But the CEO may very well be asked to sign off on a final purchase, and is likely to question a purchase from a vendor he or she has never heard of. PR, brand advertising, and speaking opportunities are all great ways to go beyond lead generation and increase brand recognition with C-level executives.

  • Measure the right things. Particularly in a downturn, it's crucial to have metrics that demonstrate the value of marketing to sales and the business. Tracking the right measurements will not only protect existing budgets (and maybe even make room for small experiments), but also ensure that you are focused on the highest value-added activities for the organization.
Again, you can download the Top 10 B-to-B Marketing Fast Fixes slides here.

Update: the audio from the webcast is now available here.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Book Review: Marketing That Matters

This content has been moved to Book Review: Marketing That Matters on the Webbiquity blog.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

ON24 Launches Virtual Tradeshow Platform with Real Potential

The concept of virtual tradeshows has been around since at least 2001. The appeal, to both exhibitors and attendees, is obvious. No travel costs. No lost productive time due to travel. No limit on the number of employees you can use to staff your booth or "send to the show." No need to limit the duration of the show to just a few days. No geographical boundaries (assuming you have a way to staff the odd hours). No environmental concerns. No panic because your booth staff flew to Chicago—but your booth ended up in Atlanta.

Yet in practice, uptake has been very slow. This is partly for cultural reasons (can I buy you a virtual drink?) but also because the technology has never quite delivered a user experience that's a viable substitute for physical presence. Now, the folks at ON24 believe they may have changed that. Their new Virtual Show platform combines the company's expertise in webcasting with rich graphics to create a compelling visual environment with useful tools for presenting information and qualifying online "booth visitors." It's almost like Second Life for trade shows.


Virtual Show is targeted at both individual companies and show organizers/event planners, including trade publications. On the individual company side, the platform could appeal to any company that's large enough to already host its own user group type events, but may be even more attractive to companies who are right on the edge of that—large enough to have a sizable base of engaged users, but not quite large enough to justify the expense of a live event. An online forum could be used in place of a live event for companies at this stage, while enabling firms that already host a live annual event to add supplemental online conferences throughout the year. Companies could also spread out the cost by selling virtual booth space to channel or technology partners.

The platform may have even more value for publishers. It enables them to offer advertisers a much richer and more interactive way to reach subscribers than the usual mix of enewsletter sponsorships, banner ads and white paper syndication. For aggressive publishers willing to get a jump on this, it also provides differentiation in a highly competitive online advertising market.



Virtual visitors to an event can:
  • network with peers at the show, exhibitors and sponsors (through online chat);

  • get documents (beyond the normal limited tradeshow marketing collateral, since the booth rep can now provide any document from within their organization);

  • view a presentation (similar to a webinar) and ask questions;

  • chat with a booth rep;

  • have content recommended to you via ON24's patent-pending Smart Booth technology;

  • engage in group discussion and interact with people; and

  • upload a cool avatar.

Depending on the number of booths and degree of customization, pricing generally ranges from $20,000-$50,000 per event. For a large enterprise hosting its own user group or other forum, that's competitive with the cost of a live event—and again, with no travel costs or travel-related lost productivity. Publishers should be able to provide advertisers with attractive pricing for an online presence that goes well beyond the standard webcast.

Other recent coverage of ON24 and Virtual Show:

ON24 Announces Virtual Venue Platform from Worlds In Motion

UP Media, ON24 partner for virtual trade show from DMNews

ON24 Enters Virtual Event Space with New Solution; Adds Flash to Webcasts from DemandGen

ON24 Aims to Turn Desktops into Conference Halls with Virtual Show from Streamingmedia.com

Kill the Business Trip from Forbes

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, July 07, 2008

What Works Now in B2B Lead Generation, Part 2

Part 1 of this review of MarketingSherpa's just-released 2008 B2B Lead Generation Handbook discussed the dramatic changes in B2B marketing practices over the last decade, why SEO and SEM have become critical components of any successful B2B lead generation strategy, and why B2B companies should consider hiring an integrated marketing-PR-online agency to help with these programs. Here are a few more nuggets of wisdom mined from the report.

Blogs and Microsites Can Help with SEO—Eventually

Creating a blog or topic-specific microsite can supplement SEO efforts by providing a venue to share thought-leadership content, in a more casual tone than a corporate site, free from content management or other technological constraints that may apply to a company website. However, as the MarketingSherpa report points out, "This is NOT a short-term strategy. Getting a brand new URL ranked for important keywords can take six months or longer...If you launch a new site for SEO purposes, consider it a permanent part of your online presence."

This is because, as the report notes, it takes time to build external links and a significant body of content, which are critical to establishing credibility with both search engine spiders and human readers (and why persistence is one of the most vital components of effective business blogging).

YouTube and the Paradox of Video Quality

Online video is hot for many reasons: it's engaging, portable, re-usable and increasingly searchable. MarketingSherpa's report provides useful advice for incorporating video into B2B lead generation plans, such as best practices in properly tagging corporate videos uploaded to YouTube.

However, the report authors' advice that "B-to-B videos should employ high-quality, professional techniques to reflect your brand and convey authority" is...not exactly wrong, but too simplistic.

This is where the paradox of video quality comes in. For small companies trying to establish and expand a brand presence in the market, high production values are critical. That's because the objective of a company in this stage is to look bigger than it actually is, and convey a level of credibility that it hasn't yet earned across the market place. It's also more critical the higher the level at which a company sells into its customer organizations (e.g. C-level vs. IT staff) and the larger the target customer organizations.

Ironically, however, the best approach for large organizations may be just the opposite; the "homemade look" that MarketingSherpa considers inappropriate for B2B videos can help to make large corporations seem more human and personal. Microsoft's Robert Scoble became legendary for this, and in this interview with Rodney Rumford of FaceReviews, he talks about how a large corporation like P&G could use very informal video to communicate with their market:



The importance of polished production values also depends on who a company is trying to reach with its message. Software developers, for example, will generally be far more interested in a video perceived as "real" advice from another developer, even with fairly low production values, than a glitzier production perceived as more "commercial." So the key is not so much to produce beautiful video as to produce it in a way appropriate for your objectives and audience.

The Most Interesting B2B Content

B2B marketers don't always understand what kind of information their prospects are looking for (which creates a fabulous opportunity for those who do get it). According to MarketingSherpa's research, B2B marketers believe that case studies, top 10 lists of ways to improve business, and new research on some aspects of an industry are the top three most interesting types of information, with case studies five times as interesting as research.

Their prospective buyers, on the other hand, view case studies, new research, and how-to guides for better using a product or service as the top three, ranking all fairly closely.

B2B marketers and their buyers agree, however, that interviews with analysts or executives on the state of an industry are the least compelling types of content.

It's Always About Your Prospective Customer (Not You)

Finally, the critical importance of relating the benefits provided by your product or service to your customers' interests can't be overstated. While B2B products can't be marketed in the same manner as clothing, sports cars or soft drinks, emotion still plays a vital role in B2B buying. There has to be rationality in the decision, of course, but that doesn't mean any B2B buying decision is purely rational.

Understanding what these emotions are, and shaping communications to address them, is what separates effective B2B marketing messages from self-absorbed noise. The researchers at MarketingSherpa have elegantly encapsulated these B2B buying emotions:

    "Prospects are interested in content about themselves, their income, their industry (as defined by them, not you), their department, their organization, their daily working life and the future of their career. Content becomes must-read (or must-view) by appealing to one or more of these top five job-related emotions:

    A. Safety—keep your job, keep your company safe in a risky time, safeguard your department, avoid looking foolish, pick the most careful course of action, peer-vetted, proven, time-tested.

    B. Ease
    —make your job easier, save time, reduce stress, how-to, assistance, help, quick-and-easy, simplify.

    C. Greed
    —salary increases/bonuses, wealth, profits, rewards, more of something, stockpiling.

    D. Power
    —power to convince a boss or committee to agree with you; power to get your budget passed; powerful insights that can change one's direction for the better.

    E. Ego
    —knowing or proving you are better than other people; being recognized as outstanding in the company of your peers."

There you have it. Once again, the MarketingSherpa B-to-B Lead Generation Handbook exectuive summary is available here.

*****


tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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