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


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


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


Engagement is the Holy Grail of Online Product Promotion

Engagement is the holy grail of online marketing. Broadly speaking, like any other type of product promotion, there are two methods of promoting products online:

  • Passive
  • and Active

Several recent posts to this blog have focused on the active method of using online resources to promote products. Specifically, we’ve talked about email marketing, and, specifically, why, in 2013, it makes more sense for tech businesses to use email marketing as a method of stimulating engagement than it does to use traditional cold call telemarketing.

It’s worth noting that there are several other tactics specific to online marketing at tech businesses can, and should exploit to actively pursue engagement. These other tactics offer users opportunities to push information out to an audience. The tactics, in one form or another, are included in social media applications like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and GooglePlus. They include:

  • Group Discussions
  • Activity Updates
  • Targeted News and Announcements
  • and Annotation

We have substantial current experience with 3 of the above tactics. It’s worth taking a few moments to look at the last of these, annotation. After all, we, ourselves, were slow to understand this tactic. Therefore, we hope that, at the start, our readers will benefit from a definition of annotation. The literal definition of annotation, per the Merriam Webster online dictionary is a note added by way of comment or explanation.

A useful definition of the term, which, perhaps, better presents how it is commonly used in 2013 as a method of pushing engagement, is specific to venues like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, Yammer (within the confines of an enterprise) and even Salesforce.com (the Chatter feature). Each of these online applications provides an activity feed or status text box. In the case of Twitter, this text field (which offers no more than 149 characters) constitutes the top level feature. All of the engagement features of Twitter depend upon the 149 character text box, and what a user does with it.

What we do with the Twitter text box is usually publish short, pithy notifications to our audience of the availability of content elsewhere, in other words, on blogs, news sites, or even other Twitter pages. Usually we produce the pithy notifications by simply republishing information already published somewhere else. This republishing process is referred to as a “retweet”.

But, rather than simply “retweet”, we like to annotate these pithy notifications with our own very short (usually no more than 20 – 25 characters) original content. Often this original content is produced in the form of an opinion about the pithy notice that we opt to “retweet”. These annotations have produced engagement for us. Specifically, we have engaged directly with the authors of the content promoted by the pithy notices and also, directly with other readers of these notices. In the next post to this blog we will take a look at curation which is very closely related to annotation.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


More of an Effort to Lead with eMail Marketing Makes Sense for Tech in 2013

As we finish this current series on our opinion of the usefulness of cold calls for sales lead development in 2013, we need to present an approach that we think has more promise, namely a planned campaign that utilizes targeted email delivery of promotional collateral. As a preface, we need to note that we’ve substantially changed our opinion on the usefulness of email marketing over the last year.

Our approach to a coordinated direct marketing campaign, which, at a right moment, will also leverage telemarketing engagement with interested prospects, implements email as the method of delivering the marketing collateral that paves the way to engagement for the prospect. Our method is designed for tech businesses with highly targeted markets, and rather far removed from the type of email campaigns (often referred to as Drip Marketing campaigns) that are currently ubiquitous.

Perhaps, in this context, our present opinion of the usefulness of email delivery for marketing communications pieces of promotional information is more consistent with our earlier view. To put it simply, lots and lots of enterprise tech buying activity is presently happening online, in the form of product research, customer ratings reviews, and even actual purchasing. Therefore, we think it makes sense for tech businesses to support the market’s interest in exploiting online resources, by communicating with potential prospects via email, at an early stage in lead development.

What we favor is an exchange of information. In other words, we design our email communication piece to solicit engagement with a prospect. We request information about something and offer some information of our own, in exchange. Of course, our intention is to establish a basis of communication with a prospect in a mutually safe space: We are not pushing, nor are we asking our recipient to buy anything. With little to lose but time, our bet is that recipients of our email communication will be more likely to share a glimpse of their specific experiences on a relevant topic, which will afford us an opportunity to send them a position paper, case study, success story, or press release.

Once the information exchange has been completed, our next piece of marketing communications collateral is sent to gauge any thoughts that our recipient may have on the information that we’ve sent to them. Of course, our inquiry also includes some candid thoughts of ours on the information that our recipient has offered to us.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Can You Fast Track an Endorsement for Your Product by Hiring an Influential Person with an Address Book?

Technology businesses familiar with the positive impact that can be produced by winning the endorsement of an individual who is well respected in a market, often attempt to obtain comparable results by hiring staff members (usually for a sales role) who seem to know all the right people in a specific geography or market segment. This type of sales person is referred to as someone “with an address book.”

In a best case scenario for this strategy, prospects will gravitate towards a product based upon an endorsement from this sales person with an address book, who either “knows everyone” or looks as if she played a key role in a number of successful implementations of similar products for the same markets. In our experience, sales people with address books are generally no more productive than their peers. There a couple of reasons for the rather poor return on effort:

  • the hiring business failed to carefully review the contacts listed in the sales woman’s address book
  • or the sales woman did not actually play the project role that she should have played if she were to successfully deliver on her potential for the hiring business

In either case, it should be clear that obtaining the most benefit from hiring someone who looks like an influential party in a market depends upon thoroughly checking credentials, and really understanding the roles of individuals who will make purchase decisions on one’s product. Successfully implementing a background check can be a difficult task for a technology business that is new to a market, and otherwise unfamiliar with the information that must be collected to make an accurate call as to whether a candidate for the position can deliver on an investment, or not.

Simply put, if the contacts in an address book are to be useful, then they must be widely respected as individuals with a long history of successfully implementing comparable solutions for projects. Further, the candidate, herself, must be able to demonstrate, without a doubt, that she either sold the components to these decision-makers, or played a key role, herself, in the project, itself.

Often, the individual hired into one of these positions proves to simply have all the right names on her list, but not much more. Perhaps she worked alongside a successful colleague who actually closed the sales, or she played a role in the implementation of competitive products, but in a capacity far removed from the actual decision-makers. If either of these scenarios are at hand, the hiring business should pause to carefully consider the hire. Better to move slowly, for a right candidate, than to move quickly where there are clear gaps between what a candidate offers and your business requires.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Participants in Project Planning Usually Maintain a Need to Know Policy About Technology Options

Participants in technology project planning usually maintain a “need to know” policy about options. There are few enterprise class businesses, or comparably staffed organizations in either the public or not-for-profit sectors that will be satisfied, in 2013 with any technology project plan that does not include a review of at least a broad sample of acceptable solutions along with specific recommendations for actual components of a recommended system. The rationale here for larger organizations is to ensure that a best effort has been made to select the most reasonably priced solution for the requirement.

It’s worth taking a moment to provide the reader with further detail on what constitutes an “acceptable solution.” An “acceptable solution” is one that has earned a level of credibility in the market. Larger organizations usually allocate resources to benchmark their performance against peers to ensure that they are using the products that have gained market credibility in a manner that conforms with industry best practices. The objective of this benchmarking effort is to ensure that an organization’s operations are operating on par with those of its competitors. Achieving parity with one’s peers can dictate that so-called “best of breed” solutions be implemented along the same lines as is found to be the case for one’s competitors. These “best of breed” solutions are synonymous with the “acceptable solutions” to which we have alluded, above.

Vendors promoting “acceptable solutions” will generally get attention from project planning teams at enterprise businesses. Where enterprise organizations have an option of selecting the same “acceptable solutions” (for example, Microsoft SharePoint for Enterprise Document Management requirements) from any of a range of potential vendors, in our experience the same scrutiny will be applied. In other words, an enterprise will be on the lookout for a vendor that has been used by its own competitors, to ensure that a right choice is made with regards to a partner who can get a job done right on a first try.

If a coordinated marketing communications effort fails to produce useful engagement with these contacts (who should be receptive to unsolicited contact), then ISVs, systems integrators, etc. should plan on including the endorsement of well respected individuals in their marketing efforts. These well respected individuals usually carry with them a useful address book, which amounts to a highly promising contact list. The individuals on these contact lists usually participate in project plans; therefore, a marketing communications piece built around a recommendation from one or more of these well respected individuals will often deliver better results, and, therefore, should be explored.

In the next post to this blog we will look further at why it makes sense to include individuals with a track record in an industry within sales and marketing teams.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Technology Project Sponsors will Often be More Receptive to Follow Up Telephone Calls

As marketing communications teams and their counterparts in sales ponder over contact lists to identify individuals likely to be receptive to telemarketing calls once promotional content has been received, we think it makes sense to include any individuals identified as sponsors of relevant (not to mention current and ongoing) technology projects.

Of course, the challenge is to verify the freshness of information on any contacts who look suitable for inclusion in this group. An individual’s past history as a technology manager, 5 years prior, provides little indication, if any, of the suitability of including the individual in the targeted group for technology that a business plans to sell today for implementation in the near future. Therefore, some initial work is required to put together a truly useful list of contacts for one’s coordinated direct marketing effort.

The initial work to which we have just alluded falls into the category of research. In our opinion, news — as current as possible — provides useful content for research efforts. Press releases, case studies, and success stories often include quotes from project sponsors. As well, industry-specific articles on technology in relevant publications often do the same. There are 2 impediments to the usefulness of the information obtained from news:

  1. Usually the news is historical, meaning that the project has been completed. Certainly this point is not an impediment for companies with products intended for implementation after a successful technology roll out, but for other companies with offers meant for inclusion in an implementation plan for technology, these names will likely be of little value
  2. The individuals named in press releases, case studies, or success stories are usually inundated with unsolicited contact after their names have been published. They are not likely to welcome receiving yet another piece of unsolicited marketing collateral.

Despite both of the above points, any individuals named in these publications can be safely assumed to play a current role as a sponsor of a relevant technology project. The task, going forward, is to create effective marketing communications content that will cut through the haze of notoriety and get some attention.

It is worth taking a moment to mention 3 other resources that can be useful as your business identifes individuals sponsoring technology projects relevant to one’s product. These methods include studying membership lists of trade associations, discussion groups on related topics, and even alumni lists from prominent educational institutions. If your business can subsidize the type of in-depth contact research activity required to collect useful information from these 3 sources, you may even get a jump on identifying promising candidates for your next critical hire.

In the next post to this blog we take a moment to explain why project sponsors will likely be more receptive to a coordinated product promotional campaign that includes editorial content and judiciously selected opportunities for direct engagement via telemarketing.

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


It Makes Sense to Revisit the Usefulness of Cold Calls in 2013

Where possible it makes more sense for technology businesses to implement what we have referred to as coordinated direct marketing campaigns than it does to merely implement unsolicited telephone calling, otherwise known as “cold calls”, as a means of breaking ground on engagement with a market sector.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. offers considerable current experience with both approaches. In our opinion, the costs associated with the amount of wasted effort that can be made on unplanned, ad hoc, “cold call” programs are prohibitive, regardless of whether the costs end up being shouldered by a third party service provider or by a technology business, itself. Of course, carefully planned campaigns that make use of cold calls may, in fact, be successful.

A number of factors, including

  • the quality of a contact list given an objective for a campaign
  • the titles and responsibilities of prospects targeted for calls
  • the visibility of a company’s brand in a chosen market
  • and, finally, the level to which the reason for a call amounts to a topic of general interest in a market

have a direct bearing on whether or not a cold calling campaign will produce useful results, or not.

Each of the above factors are much better handled within the context of a coordinated direct marketing campaign. For example, a dedicated effort can be made, in advance of actually initiating the kind of campaign that we recommend, to put together a truly useful set of names for a contact list. In fact, the marketing communications piece, itself, can provide a method for testing the usefulness of the names on the contact list. To implement this method, language should be included in the marketing communications piece that qualifies the level of involvement (if any) of specific individuals on a list with a set of targeted activities. For example, specific pieces of marketing collateral can be designed for audiences of technology users, buyers, and even sponsors (meaning stakeholders with a vested interest in ensuring that technologies successfully deliver on their promise).

Following further, it may well be that it will makes sense to provide telephone call follow up for some of the roles specified, while it may not make sense to plan on such follow up for others. Therefore, using a list carefully, and, specifically, in conjunction with a range of marketing communications options based upon role, can help, substantially to ensure that the right follow up efforts are made for the right set of contacts.

In the next post to this blog we will look further at why prospect titles should be used as an important indicator of whether or not it makes sense to follow up on marketing communications with a telephone call.

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


Follow On Promotional Literature Must be Designed for a Progressive Inquiry by Prospects

Now that the initial editorial content has been designed for the promotional campaign, then the task of writing the editorial content for the campaign moves to the follow up information that will be sent contacts as engagement opportunities develop. We think it makes sense for follow up information to be designed to move the interest level of the prospect further along a progressive path towards a purchase inquiry.

Let’s use our example to illustrate how this progress can work. Once again, our hypothetical product is a method of successfully collecting a very high percentage of email messages by employee, regardless of whether the email message is sent by on premise servers, private cloud servers, or public cloud servers like GMail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, etc. The prospect market for this product are businesses in heavily regulated industries, for example, oil and gas exploration, banking, etc.

The message communicated by the initial component of our promotional campaign is that the risk represented by employees sending out emails in any manner that they choose, to whomever they wish, and whenever they wish, is too great for business management to ignore. The intended audience of this first promotional piece are managers who will “feel the pain” of regulatory action. The urgency of stopping the pain represented by this risk is the likelihood that the fines that result from regulatory action may go beyond anticipated amounts, with unpredictable consequences on the overall business.

The prospect profile should dictate the topic of the next piece of information in the promotional sequence. For example, if our email management solution has been on the market for a while, then we can look at past purchase history to determine the type of prospect most likely to purchase the solution. If our research shows that most of the current customer base for our product amounts to businesses that are either too big to risk an unpredictable exposure like the fine that we have presented, or businesses that have actually had to pay a fine of this type, then it will make sense to offer prospects a case study, or white paper on the specific topic of recent past history of fines levied by relevant regulatory agencies on corporate offenders.

The likely readers of this tier II collateral should be individuals with a specific interest in learning more about the frequency of these fines, as well as about the actual magnitude of the cost of the fines. Obviously, other parties may request this information who have little or no purchase interest, but we should be on comfortable ground that most of our interest will come from the right market segment.

In the next post to this blog we will look at 5 pieces of information that should be collected from anyone interested in receiving this tier II collateral.

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