Friday, February 27, 2009

BMA-Minnesota to Explore the Use of Social Media within the B2B Marketing Arena

A panel of social media experts will discuss how business-to-business organizations can effectively use social media strategy to help achieve business goals

MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Minnesota chapter of the Business Marketing Association (BMA-Minnesota) will host a panel discussion on how business-to-business (B2B) marketers can use social media to boost their performance metrics and support a customer-centric business model. The session will be held on March 11, 2009 at the Metropolitan Ballroom & Clubroom in St. Louis Park, Minn. from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Featuring local social media experts, the session will provide an overview of social networking sites, search engine optimization and emerging new media to watch for as well as discuss what’s working, what’s not and what’s here to stay within the social media universe. Moderated by Beth Fischer, market research advisor from The TCI Group, panelists include:
  • Mark Palony, marketing manager of SAP Solutions at SoftBrands
  • Jared Roy, president of Risdall Integration Group
“We’ve all heard about business-to-consumer companies joining Facebook, Twitter and blogs to generate consumer business and brand loyalty but there is little discussion about how the same strategies can be applied for B2B companies,” said Chris Schermer, president of BMA-Minnesota. “This panel will dispel the misperception that social media can’t be applied in the B2B arena by illustrating how tools like Twitter and blogs can be applied to monitor, communicate and engage audiences.”
Sponsored by Minnesota’s only professional organization dedicated exclusively to the needs of business-to-business marketing professionals, the event will be held at the Metropolitan located at 5418 Wayzata Blvd, Minneapolis.
The program will run from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. with registration and continental breakfast beginning at 7:30 a.m. The cost of the event is $25 for BMA members and $40 for non-members. Attendees can register online at www.bmaminnesota.org through March 10. A limited number of walk-up registration is available.
About the Panelists
  • Beth Fischer. Beth Fischer, PRC is Principal of The TCI Group. Over the past 30+ years, she has taken her 53 year “young” marketing research firm to new levels by partnering with her clients as a trusted advisor, helping them know more, get close and stay connected to their customers better than any of the competition in their marketplace. The TCI Group offers a total spectrum of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, including methods that harness the power of technology. Currently Beth is on the University of St Thomas’s College of Business MBA Adjunct Faculty, a trainer for Optum, a United Healthcare Division, and serves on a number of boards for local non-profit organizations.
  • Tom Pick. Tom helps clients—independently and through B2B technology marketing and PR firm KC Associates—increase visibility, credibility and business success through interactive marketing and PR activities. He has helped dozens of B2B clients improve their online business results through search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) programs. Tom has also created successful interactive marketing and PR programs including video, blogging, podcasting and social media optimization. Get to know Tom at: https://twitter.com/tompick and http://www.linkedin.com/in/tompick
  • Mark Palony. As a global marketing manager for SoftBrands, Mark is responsible for all aspects of marketing, communications and public relations for the SAP Solutions division of the global enterprise software provider. With approximately 5,000 customers in more than 60 countries, SoftBrands is a leader in providing software solutions to the manufacturing and hospitality industries. Mark manages all aspects of the social media strategy -- including the blog, Twitter, podcasts, videos and KPIs. Get to know Mark at: www.linkedin.com/in/markpalony, www.twitter.com/markpalony 
  • Jared Roy. Jared believes in the power of connecting brands with consumers in new and innovative ways. As President of Risdall Integration Group Jared focuses on leveraging the strengths of Risdall Marketing Group's divisions to develop solutions for clients that harness the power of integrated marketing. Jared’s focus is on managing the convergence of traditional and new media to effectively influence, inform and engage key audiences. On a daily basis, he develops integrated digital and social marketing campaign strategies to help achieve client objectives. Get to know Jared at: www.linkedin.com/in/jaredroy
About Business Marketing Association
Business Marketing Association is the leading professional resource for business-to-business marketers and communicators. The organization develops and delivers services, information, skill enhancement, and networking opportunities that help its members grow, develop and succeed throughout their marketing careers. For more information on BMA-Minnesota, visit www.bmaminnesota.org.
*****

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Social Media Isn't Only for Virtual Events

Note: this is a guest post from Cece Salomon-Lee, social media relations expert and author of the PR Meets Marketing blog. Cece has previously guest-posted here on best practices in PR and blogging outreach.

Virtual events have received a lot of attention recently as an effective way to communicate with your audiences without the costs associated with an in-person event. One argument against virtual events is that you would lose the intimacy that face-to-face interactions provide. Proponents state that social networking technology can help promote similar interactions in a virtual environment.

I recently wrote that virtual events aren't necessarily the answer to replacing physical events. The same goes for social media technology. In this case, social media isn't only for virtual events. For example, the TED and South by Southwest (SXSW) events are known for their innovative use of technology to engage audiences—both in person and online—with the events themselves.

Three factors for success

Before you start using social media technology, first consider why these conferences were successful to begin with. I believe these three factors contributed to their success:
  • Know Your Audience: These organizers know their audiences are invested in the content and success of the events. They also know that their audiences are early adopters of technology to receive, consume and communicate information to each other. If your audience prefers pen and paper to a keyboard and computer screen, then social media technology may not be appropriate for your event.


  • Use Technology to Enhance the Experience, Not Replace it: SXSW is where Twitter gained its prominence as a way for people to stay in touch with what was happening throughout the whole venue. This past year, SXSW allowed people to vote on the panels they wanted to hear at the conference. This increased the level of participation and ownership that audiences had with the content and speakers, as well as forced speakers to plan months before their actual presentation date. With TED, they started posting videos of the presentations online to share the knowledge with individuals unable to attend. And they did it for FREE. This doesn't cannibalize on their paid registrations. Rather it enhances the experience for those attending the conference.


  • Build a Community: Conferences tend to be unsatisfying one-night stands. You get excited to go to the event, you see everything in three days, but you never hear from the organizer until they're ready to promote the event again. The difference with TED and SXSW is that they created a sense of community over time. While not every conference will be an instant community, I do believe that the "traditional" ways of marketing and driving attendance to an event have changed.

So You're Ready for Social Media

If the above doesn't daunt you, then how do you begin incorporating social media into your event? Here are four ways to start incorporating social media for your next event:
  • Promote engagement BEFORE the event: Look at how technology, such as microblogging, blogs or group pages, can increase your engagement with audiences, as well as connect people with one another. As I mentioned above, SXSW solicited input on speakers and panel topics as part of the call for papers process.


  • Provide a channel for communications DURING the event: Conferences are ceasing to be one-way presentations to audiences. Rather, there are back channel conversations happening throughout an event. Look at how you can tap into these conversations to help enhance live presentations or to promote discussion with your attendees. For example, use Twitter to solicit feedback and questions from the audience during a live panel discussion.


  • Consider different avenues for distributing your content: Conference proceedings are typically provided to only paid attendees. Consider how to leverage the different ways to distribute your content—photos, video and audio—not only to paid attendees but key audiences who become interested in your event due to the "buzz" online. For example, post presenter slides on Slideshare.net in advance of the event. Attendees can provide feedback or questions which can further enhance how the speaker presents at the conference. The preso also serves as a promotional vehicle to drive registrants to your event.


  • Continue the conversations AFTER the event has concluded: This may be the most difficult part of social networking. If your event is targeting an audience that doesn't have an existing community or your event is unique enough, then you may be able to create a community. The tendency is to create a proprietary platform for your community, but your audience may dictate using an existing platform, such as Twitter or Facebook.

Conclusions


Like any event, social media takes time and patience. There is no magic technology or technique for success. Rather it takes strategic planning, time-consuming execution and constant evaluation to find the right mix for your event. If you're willing to put in the time and effort, then your social media efforts will succeed.

The key thing to keep in mind is that social media is to help promote communications not only with you and your audience but also amongst the attendees as well.

About the Author

Cece Salomon-Lee is the author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, social media and marketing. Her blog is ranked on the Ad Age 500 and other top ranked PR lists. If you're interested in learning how Cece can help your programs, she can be reached at cece.lee[@]gmail[dot]com.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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Friday, February 13, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Stimulus

First off, this post will not be a political rant, just an appeal to common sense.

The U.S. House has passed the economic stimulus package, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (that's a link to the full 647-page PDF document, which isn't as easy to find as you might think).

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated the total cost of the bill at $3.27 trillion over the next ten years, making this by orders of magnitude the largest spending bill in history. The Senate is poised to vote on the bill as well.

Given the magnitude and complexity of the bill, the only responsible course of action at this point is to give both congress and the American public some time (the bill was not publicly posted until 11:00 p.m. last evening) to examine the legislation, comment, and then act in a thoughtful and informed manner.

Regardless of your political persuasion, you can't possibly state categorically that you are in favor of or opposed to this bill unless you have managed to read and absorb its 647 pages in the last 16 hours.

Given that much of the spending won't happen this year or even next year—and that even Barack Obama's "economics adviser Larry Summers cautioned against raising expectations too high, (saying) 'I think this is a key part of what's going to be a multipart strategy to contain this decline...the problems weren't made in a week, a month, a year. It's going to take time to fix.'"—there is no compelling argument to rush through passage of this sweeping legislation.

Please, call your senators and let them know that this is an occasion for careful consideration, not a rush to judgment.

John Boehner expresses the same thoughts a bit more emphatically here:

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Five Ways that SEO is (a Little Bit) Like Sales

SEO consultant or sales pro?

Most people probably have two very different mental images of those professions. And in all honesty, if you met one individual of each stripe at a party, you could likely figure out who worked in which role fairly quickly. Yet the two professions do share several common attributes and requirements.

1. Address the needs of multiple "buyers." B2B sales people know all about this one—they rarely have the luxury of selling to only one individual. Usually the sales person must sell at least to the actual user of a product or service plus his or her boss; and often must sell to some combination of the CFO, CIO and CEO as well.

SEO consultants have a similar challenge. They must first "sell" a website to the search engines—using onsite techniques like title tags, headings and proper keyword density in the copy plus external link building—in order to get the site ranked within the first few search results. They must then "sell" the click (using intriguing meta description tag text) and the page (using professional design and compelling copy) to attract the human visitor to the site and get him or her to take a desired action.

2. Possess a mix of "hard" and "soft" skills. Top sales pros combine some level of technical and mathematical acumen, as well as product knowledge and psychology, with an outgoing personality and professional demeanor.

SEOs need to combine creative skills like writing, design, and persuasiveness (when asking for links) with technical knowledge of HTML, Javascript and CSS coding.

3. Guide the process from initial contact through closing the deal. This is pretty obvious for sales: once a sales person has qualified a prospect, he or she strives to keep the process moving predictably from one milestone to the next, to avoid unnecessary delays or worse—losing the sale.

Similarly, SEOs seek to guide visitors through a website, from initial interest, through information gathering to conversion. Compelling copy, logical and intuitive navigation, and clear calls to action are the tools SEOs use to keep this online process on track.

4. Demonstrate mastery by achieving (the right) measurable results. Both sales people and SEOs are measured on results, but in both cases, its critical that the correct results are measured. For sales pros, measurement is obvious, right? Higher sales.

Not so fast. Consider this scenario: salesperson A focuses on maximizing sales at all costs. He defines a lead as "anyone with a checkbook" and exaggerates product capabilities in order to close more deals. Sure, his sales figures are great, but he has a lot of unhappy, unreferenceable customers. Salesperson B, on the other hand, carefully qualifies leads and sets proper expectations. Her gross sales figures are a bit lower, but here sales are profitable and produce customers who will rave about the company's products. Which one is really successful?

Similarly, SEO success is more than just achieving high rankings for a bunch of rarely-searched phrases or drawing a large degree of inappropriate, high-bounce traffic. SEO success comes from using established best practices, drawing relevant traffic to a site, and maximizing conversion through either online sales or qualified leads. This leads to the final similiarity, which is that both sales professionals and SEOs...

5. Can use ethical or unethical practices to get results. As illustrated in the example above, unethical sales practices can lead to a variety of problems, from negative word-of-mouth and high return rates to reduced profitability and even lawsuits.

Similarly, the potential short-term gain of using dubious SEO practices isn't worth the potential long-term risk of wasting time and resources, tarnishing the firm's reputation, and possibly even being banned by the search engines. Sticking with white hat SEO techniques produces the best long-term success.

With all of that said, there is (at least) one important difference between sales and SEO: sales people, generally, have no direct control over the quality of the product they are selling. Their job is to present it, shortcomings and all, in the best possible light. SEOs do, ideally anyway, have control over the quality of the website: ease of navigation, removing dead links, fixing or removing improperly functioning code, optimizing copy, adding features, incorporating techniques to reduce page load time and more.

So there are many similarities between SEO and sales. Have your mental images changed at all?

*****


Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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