1
Feb

Participating in Discussion Group Topics can Drive Not Only Engagement but Sales

In contrast to creating and moderating discussion groups on social media, dedicating lead generation personnel to monitor discussion groups, and, where relevant to reply to topics posted by other participants can be very productive. In fact, not only can this type of online dialogue stimulate response, and, thereby, engagement, but, more, this type of online dialogue can actually produce sales opportunities.

Roughly speaking, at least two criteria must be met in order for this tactic to produce positive results. The first of these criteria relates to an assessment of whether, or not, the discussion group in question is designed as a self-help forum, where the expectation is that any advice will be provide at no charge. There are, in fact, lots of these groups online. Usually they exist to support users grappling with specific technology, for example, LINUX, or other open source software. We don’t see a meaningful return on the time that will need to be invested in monitoring topics of conversation within these discussion groups.

On the other hand, where discussion groups exist to support proprietary applications, it certainly makes sense to monitor conversation topics. Spending some time each working day to quickly review abstracts of discussions can certainly produce useful opportunities to at least engage with a target audience for one’s market. Opportunities are very likely to arise where participants have already acknowledged an interest in identifying 3rd parties for specific tasks. In our experience, participants will often post a query like this on the expectation that any resources that may be identified will, in fact, be recommended resources, for which some first hand references may be forthcoming, upon request.

Nevertheless, in order to obtain true benefit from the time and effort it takes to participate in one of these topics, personnel selected for this type of product promotional task must be credible representatives with a legitimate right to participate in the topic discussions that may arise. Usually credibility can only be established for personnel who are actually involved, as users, of the technologies that often provide the basis for these discussions. Therefore, we think it makes a lot of sense for businesses to train operational personnel to perform some rudimentary prospect qualification should an opportunity arise where it makes sense to participate in a topic of discussion.

We should note that where personnel are clearly selected from a sales team, we have had rather poor results from this tactic. In part, we attribute these poor results to a “self help for free” style which characterized some of the discussion groups where our personnel have attempted to participate in discussions.

In the next post of this blog we will start to look at the passive aspects for these same methods.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

31
Jan

Posting News and Other Announcements is a Legitimate Use of Social Media, but, Often, an Ineffective Method of Driving Engagement

We have never been big proponents of using Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media as a method of letting an audience know our whereabouts, or what we may be up to at any particular time. In fact, we see little use for this type of online content creation to be of use to businesses in need of product promotion. Rather, we make a lot of use of each of these venues to post news and announcements of client products, services, and even commentary (crafted in the form of blog posts around products and services).

Nevertheless, we can’t claim good results from this type of active tacticv of online product promotion. We think the best return on the time invested in posting news and announcements is still to be found in the legacy activity of posting press releases. In other words, the prime audience for news, in our opinion, remains an audience of journalists, who, in turn, can craft follow up content around a company’s announcements and news to better reach specific communities of readers.

Our attitude about press releases is that they are, largely, a mandatory effort for clients targeting business audiences, but not an effort that produces much in the way of tangible results. The publishers that we work with appear to be aware of this gap. Most of them — PR Newswire, PRWeb, Businesswire — now offer the tools that product marketers require to track how press releases are distributed, the individuals, organizations, and even businesses that apparently open and read them. Nevertheless, in our experience, there is still a pronounced gap between all of this information and any truly useful indication of how an audience actually engages with the information.

Rather, we are working on including text within the press releases that we craft for clients that, literally, drives engagement, whether that text amounts to a invitation to register for a webinar, or to obtain one’s own copy of some new information. In fact, we see little reason today to produce press releases that do not include some form of call to action on the part of the reader. We simply don’t see the return on investment by simply publishing news for a presumed audience of journalists, who, in fact, are no longer to be found online reading this kind of content.

The best method we’ve found of crafting a real opportunity for engagement from a tweet on a piece of news, or an announcement is through an annotation that has prompted engagement for us in the past.

In the next two posts to this blog we will present some of our thoughts on discussion groups as a method of driving engagement with an audience.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

30
Jan

Moderating Discussion Groups can Provide Businesses with a Means of Driving Engagement

Electronic discussion groups have been around for quite a while, and certainly predate the world wide web and the Internet as we know it in 2013. Usenet provided a realm of data communications over the Internet prior to the advent of the world wide web. The type of data communicated over Usenet amounted to a near real time exchange of information between human beings over computer terminals, on topics of interest. Highly sophisticated examples of Usenet were to be found on AOL, Compuserve, etc.

Now, in 2013, Usenet is very much history. Nevertheless, the same discussion groups that provided the reason for data communications across Usenet in the past are ubiquitous today. Almost every example of social media offers a discussion group feature. One method of using discussion groups is to build one around a topic, typically a topic that is relevant to one’s products or services, and then to provide the moderation service required to manage the group. As early as in the mid 1990s it became apparent that group moderation was a necessary activity, as the amount of promotional information disguised as discussion group topics became excessive. If left exposed to this topic abuse, without moderation, most of these discussion groups became ineffective as a method of driving legitimate engagement with an audience.

Not much has changed today. We participate in a number of these groups on behalf of clients and for our own purposes to drive business development for IMB Enterprises, Inc. We see the same topics repeated from group to group, and, further, the same group participants doing much of the topic posting. Therefore, in our opinion, if discussion groups are to be successful, businesses must plan on a substantial effort to moderate them, for, potentially, little return in the form of truly useful engagement.

Further, we think that discussion groups, as a tactic to drive engagement, also are susceptible to the problems that often plague other similar methods. These groups can, in fact, become no more than a hang out for customers and prospects looking for free information on a topic, or technology. Once again, skilled group moderation is required to ensure that the flow of conversation does not, unknowingly veer into the freeware area. If one’s product is open source software, freeware discussions may be fine, but the same is not the case for companies with proprietary products and/or services.

We cannot claim much success, at all, moderating discussion groups that produced productive engagement. On the other hand, we are certain that some experts can deliver excellent results from this method, but we think the skill is highly specialized.

In the next post to this blog we will discuss posting to discussion groups as a wholly separate method of driving engagement.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

29
Jan

Curation is a Method of Presenting a Theme, through Selected Content, to an Audience

Curation is a tactic of driving engagement through online product promotion. Curation is a subtle (we think subliminal) technique of setting a tone (or you might say it is a process of building a theme) with content, or for that matter, products. In our opinion, a definition offered by Minter Dial, What is Social Curation? The 3 key success factors is helpful on the topic, and certainly worth a read.

Curation is nothing new to the Internet. In fact, Delicious, which has been around for years, is an almost pure example of curation. What’s different about curation in 2013, and of interest to us from an online product promotion perspective, is the opportunity afforded to tech businesses to pursue joint marketing opportunities, reciprocal blogging and even linking, within the context of an active content curation program. In fact, strategic alliances can be presented, quite effectively, to an audience through a shared content theme, which has been assembled by curating specific content which is presented, consistently by all parties in the strategic alliance.

Certainly every social media venue, whether one looks to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or LinkedIn, is built on curation. In the case of Facebook, at its purest level, the content curated amounts to the personal artifacts of friends who all like the same things. These artifacts can amount to no more than electronic scribbling on Walls. Not to be outdone, the same process can be accomplished with Google Plus, LinkedIn and even Twitter.

We think the day has still not arrived when curation will successfully demonstrate its usefulness as a method of driving engagement. For example, do Twitter users really care about who they follow for any other reason than to attempt to capture an opportunity of collecting a new follower as the result of re publishing someone else’s Tweet at just the right time to capture the interest of a new set of eyes.

On the other hand, if a tech business marketer understands the role, which we think is a subtle one, that curation plays as a nevertheless essential method of building an appealing, familiar surrounding for one’s audience, then we think the important points will have been communicated. For the record, we have no success, to date, implementing curation as a method of driving engagement. Further, from what we understand of the history of Delicious, we think that a truly effective method of capitalizing on this activiy has yet to be found for online product promotion.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

24
Jul

Use Teleprospecting to Validate Decision Making Processes for Complex Sales

I use prospecting over the telephone, or teleprospecting, to perform a key function within the sales planning process for complex sales to enterprise prospects — test and verify all important assumptions about the prospect. Important assumptions include:

  • Who needs the complex product or solution
  • Why the need makes sense for the prospect
  • When will they need to satisfy this need
  • Who will approve the purchase
  • Who will use the complex product or solution
  • What the final integrated solution should look like, and
  • How they plan to get to the final integrated solution

In my experience, acting on untested assumptions, more often than not, results in wasted time and effort for the sales team. Close ratios can be doubled by simply increasing the number of conversations with contacts at the prospect business and verifying that answers to my Who/Why/When/What/How questions, as listed above, are accurate and, therefore, useful.

Examples of untested assumptions include job titles, published prospect initiatives, and planned capital expenditures. The facts are that job titles are often poor indicators of decision-making authority; published initiatives can, and often do change and, finally, budgeted capital expenditures can be preempted. Better to learn what the real drivers are for the prospect and who is leading the charge.

A team of telemarketers who are dedicated entirely to prospecting and gathering specific pieces of information about prospects can be used successfully to test any and all sales campaign assumptions. Candidates for membership in such a team must be able to demonstrate an ability to engage high level individuals in meaningful dialogue crafted to produce required answers. Further, these candidates must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the complex product or solution and a commensurate understanding of how the complex product or solution interconnects with other complex products or solutions already ensconced within the organization or on the schedule to be added within the same time frame envisioned by the sales campaign.

Once the teleprospecting team has been selected, depending upon the size of prospect businesses, this information gathering activity can be ongoing. Be sure not to start validation efforts until the sales team approves public discussion of contacts, prospect plans, etc. This timing requirement is critically important. Keep in mind that the actual names of contacts, and apparent prospect plans, must be topics of discussion within the teleprospecting calls if they are going to produce any useful information. In reciprocal fashion, steps in the sales campaign should be timed correctly so that important meetings transpire after the information collected by the prospecting work has been discussed and plans modified as required to better align with emerging facts about the prospect.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved