The B2B Social Spotlight: Joy Gendusa

Joy Gendusa

To hear some marketing gurus tell it, social media is the only game in town. While they may not want to hear it, every channel has its place.

When it comes to reminding, thanking, inviting and acknowledging customers, the simple paper post card continues to be connective and effective.

No one knows that better than Joy Gendusa, Founder and CEO of PostcardMania.

Starting her business at her kitchen table 15 years ago, Joy now oversees 200 employees at PostcardMania’s production and fulfillment facility in Clearwater, Fla. The self-proclaimed artist, designer, foodie and entrepreneur built the company on the simple premise that business owners need to be informed marketers.

Joy has generated an impressive quantity of content about direct mail and marketing, eagerly and regularly helping her customers become smarter, years before the term “helpful” became part of the modern marketing lexicon.

What did PostcardMania intentionally set out to do – or do differently – using social media?

I didn't put a lot of attention on social until it had a lot of attention from just regular people. We just kept concentrating on adding content and driving traffic to our website. I wrote most of the content until I started hiring copywriters and getting people to help me with content probably five or six years ago.

I would try something to market my own company and either fall on my face or have success, and I would try something else. I just felt it was my duty to educate my clients and prospects about it so they wouldn't make the same mistakes I made.

How did you arrive at your content strategy?

I was creating content for PostcardMania's website when there was no content,“online”.  I was literally winging it for years. I wanted to educate people on what I was learning. I simply started writing article after article.

What kinds of useful or helpful information do you deliver to your customers?

We supply a real basic how-to approach with case study data. When we explain something, like I did in a series on PPC in my newsletter, I get a lot of real good feedback from people.

I present things simply; this is my story, this is how we do it, this is what this means. We really give good information, usable information, and we don't throw in a lot of terminology. Those kinds of articles get the best responses and the most downloads.

How does PostcardMania target its social outreach?

We have over 60,500 customers, and we only have a few thousand people following us on Facebook. A lot of them follow me personally, but not even a lot of them if you look at the numbers. Of course we did all the normal things like putting our "connect to me" buttons all over the blog and the website and the bottom of email, etcetera.

Now we're on a campaign to actually reach out specifically with email and phone calls to get those people connected with us, so that we can use social media to build trust and get them to like us.

We can make our customers into much better customers, just by being interested in them, and staying in communication with them on social media. That's kind of what gave me the idea to reach out and actively grow that list with our customers, and reach our prospects.

Any traction in closing business through those efforts?

A couple of Valentine's Days ago we did a little project where we took our top 500 customers, and we sent them wax mustaches and wax lips. We said if they'd take a picture and post it on our wall, we'll give them some kind of discount. I think it cost us about $3,000, all said and done.

In the end, we only had a handful of people actually post pictures, and I think we gained maybe 20 likes on our Facebook page, but we wound up selling to 68 of those 500 customers. Those 68 customers, that week, I'm talking about Valentine's Day week, spent $120,000 with us.

What’s your primary channel that connects PostcardMania with prospects?

Our primary channel is direct mail and secondary is PPC. Our newsletter has over 100,000 subscribers and each week we email it out and it routes prospects and customers to our blog. There I can kind of get in their face and say, "Okay. Buy this now; this is a good tool you could use, and this is what it costs; get a deal if you click today," or that kind of thing. But mainly it’s helpful data and not ads at all.

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"We can make our customers into much better customers, just by being interested in them, and staying in communication with them on social media."

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What do you regularly measure to see what is working?

We are measurement FREAKS… we measure everything and primarily it’s calls we receive via our marketing efforts because, in my particular business, a call indicates a hot prospect – the hottest. We also track downloads, through the information we would offer directly, and via Google through sponsored ads. Of course we measure all the usual things too – email open rates, unique visitors to the site, but conversion is where it’s at in the end.

On the social sites, where people aren't expecting to be sold to, and where it annoys them, we're just trying to make them like us enough to go back to our website where we can get serious.

How have your social media activities influenced PostcardMania’s bottom line?

We don't really use social as a revenue generator, except for that one little thing that we did with the wax lips. While it was effective, it’s not yet a business driver. I don't have a big enough list in social to affect my bottom line. We send out 140,000 postcards every single week to generate PostcardMania's revenue, and we spend between $15,000 and $20,000 on PPC a week. That's really how we affect the bottom line.

In the age of social media, is it a bit ironic that you’re promoting items that rely on regular mail?

People are somewhat surprised that our business is still growing as much as it's growing, because it is snail mail and there's so much bad PR about the post office and the expense of postage. But direct mail is still the very best way to target and enlighten. There's a whole group of people searching for what you have, and another large group that have no idea they need what you have, so they're not searching for it. THOSE people need direct mail.

We have integrated digital into our offerings with our Direct Mail 2.0 product, a post card with a call tracking number, a mail tracking number, and a re-targeting campaign all in one.

People don't just call a phone number on a post card anymore. They go to the website, get cookied and see the ad on all the different sites of the Google Network. The repeated message is great and it’s taken DM to a completely new level. Users are getting ridiculous ROI. It’s been a great boost to our company.

What online tools do you rely on everyday? 

We use Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. I personally don't do a lot of social except on my own personal Facebook page. I have a social media manager, and she's on LinkedIn everyday, joining groups, trying to get involved in the conversation, answering questions.

What aspects of social haven’t worked for you? 

So many things have not worked for me over all, not just social. I don't tend to keep my attention on those. We will throw the spaghetti at the wall a thousand times until it sticks. At this point, 15 years into this, we pretty much know how long it needs to boil for it to stick. We're so metric-orientated; we only do what already works.

What's the one thing people would never know about marketing a direct mail and printing company?

They don’t realize how much technology is used. It seems so brick-and-mortar, and it is, because we're a manufacturer, but full on web developers and programmers working full time on various projects are all part of the future. We've really evolved into a technology company in so many ways.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

They probably don't know that I CrossFit, because I'm so new at it that I don't post a lot of about it. I'm addicted.

What three blogs would you recommend?  

I’m also a HUGE Flint McLaughlin groupie.

How can people connect with you?

I answer all my email joy.gendusa@postcardmania.com. I'm not super speedy, because I do get a lot of communication, but I do really enjoy helping people, regardless of whether or not they ever buy from PostcardMania, or want to buy from PostcardMania. I really, really just enjoy helping small business owners. People can also reach via Facebook. I get private messages all the time.

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Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating and using social media to fuel their businesses? I want to talk to them and share their story  Drop me a note at bob@rurelevant.com or via Twitter @RAReed.

The B2B Social Spotlight: Roger Phelps

Roger Phelps

No one simply picks up a professional chainsaw for the first time and jaunties off to fell a tree, just as no major global brand starts using social media without knowing how to strategically implement the tools.

Roger Phelps knew that integrating social media for STIHL, the number one selling brand of gasoline powered handheld outdoor power equipment in America, required fundamental business reasoning behind which tools and platforms would deliver the right result for the company, its dealers and customers.

As a Naval Academy grad, active service veteran, experienced event planner and PR pro – and presently Promotional Communications Manager for STIHL Inc. (the U.S. subsidiary of the worldwide STIHL Group) – Phelps knows strategic process and planning. He took the better part of a year to assemble the company’s approach before launching the company’s social media program.

As an established global brand, what did STIHL intentionally set out to do – or do differently – with social media?

I’ve always said that you earn the right to be heard. You can’t expect someone to listen to you unless you’ve established first that you’re worth listening to.

I started with the fundamental business reasons why our company was going to tackle social. Not because it was cool. Not because it was trendy. Not because everybody was telling me, “Oh you need a Facebook page”. You don’t “need” one unless you have first figured out why it benefits your business.

Our premise – and our promise – is this idea of family. We’re family owned. A STIHL dealership is often family-owned. When you buy a STIHL, you are in a way joining our “family” and we wanted to capitalize on that. Our business goals and objectives were to increase our brand awareness, influence brand preference, and create an open dialogue with our customers. Then I worked to find what platforms could deliver on those goals with our desired audience. In some cases, it was a B2B audience; in others, it was a professional consumer or a homeowner.

I think that’s what social media does; it enables people to become part of something bigger; this family, this group of STIHL followers. The content and information we share will hopefully be interesting and helpful to them, and will inspire them to share their own stories and interests.

STIHL caters to wide range of users and industries. What steps did it take to connect with those distinct and diverse segments?

It comes down to simple word of mouth. STIHL chain saws were initially built for professionals – loggers, landscapers, smoke jumpers, firefighters and rescue workers. A passion built up between these pros and their tools. Then we branched out into consumer tools. The influencers, what we call “Eddy Experts”, were the people everybody else in the community asked about the chain saw and trimmer they use.

Social media is word of mouth gone high-tech and makes it easy for people to share their stories and identify with our brand. They know they may not be a smoke jumper, but if that pro depends on a STIHL then if they need a tool for their backyard, they should buy a STIHL because if it’s good enough for a pro, it’s good enough for them. And now as part of the STIHL “family”, they can share their own story.

What is STIHL doing to build followers and connect with prospects and customers? I see that video plays a large role.

We’re active on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as our primary platforms, as well as our blog, and video is our next big focus. The lifespan of content on a platform makes it that way. Twitter is probably hour and Facebook maybe one to two days. You look at YouTube and content there lasts a comparable lifetime. A key metric for us on YouTube is subscribers, which represent our truly engaged users.  They are the ones who have indicated they want content from us, leave comments and share with others the videos that have been uploaded.

How is STIHL using social to engage its dealer channel? To what extent are they using social?

When I first mapped out our social media approach, we knew our dealers would be an important part of the strategy but they weren’t part of the initial approach. A couple of them are very active both on Twitter and YouTube. One dealer even created his own cable TV show, and uses Twitter and Facebook to organize viewing parties and discuss the show afterwards. But it really was not widespread.

I wanted to make sure we understood how the brand was going to be represented and received before we started actively advocating or pushing out social media to our dealers. These are independent businesses. We can’t necessarily tell them what to do or how to do it, except when it comes to how they treat our brand, so I wanted to be sure we knew what we were talking about before assisting them in their efforts.

Now that we are in our third year of social media experience, we are shifting our efforts to assisting our dealers with their social media efforts.  We are creating content that they can easily reuse, customize, and personalize, such as tips, how-to’s, blog posts and videos. We have also just launched formal dealer social media training as part of our company’s online training program. And we’re researching the way social media activates locally so we can help our dealers understand that as well.

How have your social media activities influenced STIHL’s bottom line?

Our main business goal is to promote the brand, our products and our dealers, but as social media tracking becomes more sophisticated we’re getting closer to being able to track the impact of social media interactions on sales.

We don’t sell online, but our STIHL Express service enables people to reserve online. Through tools provided by Facebook and Google Analytics for instance, we’re tracking individuals leaving the Facebook page, landing on the STIHL USA page, and to pages, they navigate to when they get there. So now, we’re able to tie content on our blog or other platform to the STIHL USA page and then track them all the way through the STIHL USA process including a STIHL Express transaction.

We have enjoyed significant sales and market share increases over the past 5 years, and I would say that social media has played an important role in this as part of a coordinated marketing plan.

What do you regularly measure to see what is working and what is not?

We review online mentions of STIHL on a daily basis. At the end of the week, we receive a “buzz report” from our social media agency that provides us a summary of mentions, tone, links, and trends. This assists us in getting a feel for what is being said about us and where.  We also measure the number of followers for our various social platforms, and most importantly the degree of their engagement with our content.

I get jazzed every time I read the monitoring reports. Because we’re two-step distribution we’re somewhat removed from our customers. With social media, we are able to develop a relationship with our customers more directly, and hear exactly what they think about our products, our dealers, and us.

What aspect of social hasn’t worked for STIHL? 

Content development has been a learning process. In the beginning, I would cut and paste standard press releases into the blog, and then maybe a part of it became a Facebook post. I quickly figured out that this was not what our fans wanted. I learned that we needed to pay attention to the tone and type of conversation that was taking place on each of these platforms and adjust the content to fit what was expected.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

I was a nationally ranked collegiate saber fencer.

What three blogs would you recommend?  

I tend to be eclectic regarding the blogs I read, but for the PR side of what I do, Mr. Media Training is phenomenal, and Mashable is regular destination.

How can people connect with you? 

Twitter: uphelpsr (Personal), STIHLusa (Professional)

Blog: STIHLusablog.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/STIHLusa

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/roger-phelps-clp/3/717/968

YouTube: www.youtube.com/stihlusa

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Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating and using social media to fuel their businesses? I want to talk to them.  Send me a note at bob@rurelevant.com or via Twitter @RAReed.

The B2B Social Spotlight: Dennis Salazar

Lenora and Dennis Salazar

Nuts to peanuts.

No, not the kind you eat, rather the messy, clingy polystyrene foam bits that may have come along with that eBay item you just won.

What do you do with them? How do you get rid of them?  And what happens to them when you do?

Dennis Salazar and his wife, Lenora, decided they needed to help reduce not just that problem but to change the attitudes and practices around environmentally sustainable packaging when they started Salazar Packaging, Inc. in 2007.

Just six years later, after the two left lucrative jobs with a much larger packaging distribution companies, Salazar Packaging is a certified green business; it’s products vetted by numerous organizations; and is a leading voice in packaging, environmental and business circles. More than 800 articles have been written by them and about them.

Apart from a laser focus on his niche and endless knowledge about his industry, Salazar’s dedicated blogging has helped drive the company’s growing national brand awareness from the its home in Plainfield, Illinois.

When it comes to marketing Salazar Packaging, what did you intentionally set out to do differently and how did social media/marketing fit in?

We recognized that interest from business in general about more sustainable packaging practices was very high. A friend, who was also in the industry, knew the direction we were heading with the company and suggested that we write about what we already knew about and recommended that we educate our market, develop a voice, and even be a bit controversial.

So, my first post was called, “Am I Retrainable for Sustainable?”, a tongue-in- cheek piece about how sustainability was all about waste reduction, and all of the things that I had been doing for decades anyway. I sent it on to one of my favorite blogs, Sustainable is Good, and was later picked up by five other blogs and eventually wound up on Reuters. From there, inquires for speaking rolled in, and invite to write for Packaging Digest not to mention many inquiries about business. Six years ago, a lot less people were talking about sustainability, but I guess I was leading the pack and got ahead of the curve in the industry.

Social begins with developing relationships and supplying valuable content, but it must produce a business outcome. What is Salazar doing to connect with prospects and customers? 

We looked at the way our customers want to do business. One of the strategies we use is to cater to a diverse customer base through our store and various websites. We collected and packaged our products to low volume users in a way to market them and sell them in an efficient manner. You don’t want to spend 10 minutes on the phone with somebody who wants to buy a case of tape or 100 boxes. The exposure to small and medium sized companies is helping us attract and serve much larger customers, which is where we’re headed next.

How have your social media activities influenced the firm and its bottom line?

The more I was blogging the more I was speaking. The more I was doing, the more inquiries we were getting, and it really turned out to be a major part of our marketing. Because of all this activity, the search engines love us. We were all over Page 1, and Page 2 on Google for almost any “green” term searched for. Some of it I refer to as “dumb luck” and some of it is timing, but it’s been a lot of hard work.  Hours and hours have been spent on my blogs. I think I have over 400 posts just on one of them.

What do you regularly measure to see what is working with your marketing?

I think a lot of it was a matter of being at the right place at the right time.  Some of things people are talking about, optimizing key words and things like that, we’ve learned and we did along the way, but I can’t say that we ever sat down and formally created this grandiose strategy for ranking them on Page 1 under particular terms. We do run analytics, but we also mostly monitor our feedback, our call-ins and our inquiries.

What aspect of social hasn’t worked for Salazar Packaging?

We are not great believers in social media. Our strategy is to be found on the web. We were active on Facebook and Twitter, but as a business-to-business company, we felt those platforms were attracting consumers who are not our customers. As for LinkedIn, I think we haven’t taken advantage of it the way could or should. I don’t doubt there is a strategic use for it, but we haven’t found it and frankly, we haven’t had the need.

What blog posts in particular have stood out?

We monitor feedback and when you have a good one, you know it. A post from late January, Custom Printed and Branded Packaging FAQ and Tips, has been a monster hit for us. We’re just getting all kinds a neat emails, comments, and inquiries.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

I really have a passion for old-time television shows like The Honeymooners. I like revisiting some of that stuff because of the quality of entertainment without profanity, the nastiness, and the meanness. It was just good, clean entertainment.

What three blogs would you recommend? 

Marc Gunther

Environmental Leader

GreenBiz

How can people connect with you? 

Salazar packaging.com

info@salazarpackaging.com

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Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating and using social media to fuel their businesses? I want to talk to them.  Send me a note at bob@rurelevant.com or via Twitter @RAReed.

 

 

The Problem With “Down and Dirty” Marketing

I have to get something off my chest.

I like strategy and process.

I like developing communications roadmaps that take companies someplace and accomplish something.

I’m not one of those “pull it out of no where” communicators. A strategy based on engaging in correct and extended tactics during a long period of time will pay off and yield tangible returns.

Call me crazy but cogent plans help me sleep at night.

Yet, so many companies persist with the need for instant gratification. They persist with short-term thinking brought on by even shorter-term attention spans.

I don’t mean to go on a rant here (apologies to Dennis Miller and not the current one; the one at the time when he was funny), but precision is needed to strategize and execute integrated social media marketing campaigns and to measure their business outcomes. Anything else is mud wallowing.

Having said that, I propose the following phrase be banned from our business lexicon forever:

Down and dirty

These three words are the harbinger of wasted time, effort, and budgets. I’ve worked on the agency side of PR and marketing for most of my career, and out of the list of useless business jargon, “down and dirty” is the one that makes me clench my teeth to the point of cracking a molar.

Too many marketers use it to convey to their agency they want to just get something out quickly and inexpensively. “Keep it simple,” they say. “You know, don’t spend too much time on it; just get it out. ”

So much for strategy.

Executing something with the down and dirty mind set is like sitting inside a German dirigible brimming with hydrogen while holding a match.

Oh, the humanity.

The only aspect remotely strategic about the phrase is the person saying it is being lazy, cheap, or both.

I’ve created a list of talking points here so next time you get asked by your client or employer for down and dirty, you’ll know what to say.

Down and dirty marketing:

  • Threatens brands because of a lack of strategy behind the efforts.
  • Does nothing to enhance reputations.
  • Won’t build products, services, or your business model.
  • Will not positively ingratiate your company to people and their needs.
  • Is sloppy.
  • Won’t encourage others to share what is good about your company when you don’t care enough to do it for yourself.
  • Is for poser marketers.
  • Doesn’t engender trust.
  • Won’t keep your company top of mind.
  • Won’t position you as a thought leader.
  • Won’t help you invest in the best marketing strategies (whatever those maybe) to boost customer loyalty and retention.

Well, almost never. There’s only one use of down and dirty will ever be acceptable:

Down and dirty describes the kind of work ethic that is needed to succeed.

A version of this post originally appeared at Spin Sucks.

The “Be Less Like A Guy” Approach To Marketing

Sometimes, the approach to a problem lies right in front of our eyes. It can be as big as a parking lot.

On the sun-splashed asphalt of our local high school, I saw visual demonstration that proves that sometimes the direct approach to solving a problem may not always be the best course. Typical male thinking, right?

Generally, guys don’t want to talk about problems, they want to fix them. Guilty as charged. And that’s the general issue about how some companies go about their marketing.

Working in agency marketing/pr/social media/whatever you want to call it these days, we’re hired to solve a problem – build awareness, increase sales, suppress a crisis, tackle an issue, etc.

There I sat at a four-way intersection, waiting to pick up my daughter from a mid-afternoon summer music class. Cars to my left and my right were stacking up, some leaving with and some arriving to pick up their kids.  No one seemed to be able to move.

Waiting there, I quickly noticed a pattern. In an area with five rows of parking spaces and an outer access way, all the cars, and I mean all of them, were converging on just one row of spaces closest to the door where the kids were exiting. Yet, with all that available real estate, no one thought of going out of their way just for a few seconds more to circumvent the choke point to access the pick up line.

Except me.

Finding an opening, I went straight and made the wider arc, bypassing the bulk of the traffic. This got me to the front door where my daughter was just coming out. I pulled up. The car door opened and closed and we were on our way home.  All of it was accomplished faster than some of the cars that arrived before I did, but instead of jockeying for position in that single, cramped row of parking, I drove a greater distance, but got my result more quickly.

I realized that what I did physically was what we need to do more of with our marketing. Instead of trying to cram in where everyone else is, we need to take a wider view of the landscape to see where the opportunities for access are. That means taking a longer pause and a harder look at your position in relationship to everyone else’s.

This “do-it-now, get-it-done-yesterday” attitude of business is only getting worse.  I’m not saying don’t hustle. We have the tools to get more stuff done faster, but in the same vein, those same tools shouldn’t force us to truncate the processes of discovery and research.

Similar to many women who like to discuss and talk out issues, what we men tend to do, rather than assess and discuss, might actually deliver a less informed and slower action. Active observation and listening can deliver a faster result.

How actively do you observe before setting off in a particular direction?

Creative Destruction, a Close Shave and Social Media

Yes, you can compete with large, established competitors if you’re a small company or start up.

Yes, you can use a more human approach to attract attention to your sales messages.

Yes, social media works. (Despite being a B2C example, this story holds lessons for all marketers).

Dollar Shave Club (a start up) is proof of all three – its YouTube video attracted 12,000 customers within its first 48 hours online.

How?

With a very human and humorous approach that address a pain point in the market: the high cost of razors.

Dollar Shave has a solid business premise:

  • Basic razors at low prices.  As Michael Dubin, founder and chief executive, points out in the video, do you really need the latest razor with a vibrating handle?  Because the only way the big players can increase price is by adding features, they keep adding them.
  • A new way to sell a consumable — by monthly subscription, delivered by mail.

 

The company tells a story in a very human, personal way.  The founder just plain tells it like it is:

… In simple language (likely not professionally scripted)

… With passion

… With personality and humor (btw, the CEO was trained in improv comedy)

Viewers can relate!  For the same reason people like Super Bowl commercials – they’re creative, and fun to watch.

Taking a cue from zappos.com, diapers.com, and now even soap.com, Dollar Shave is giving consumers a new and attractive option.  It saves them money.  It’s more convenient.

Investors are noticing – willing to fund companies that are shaking things up.  And so are the traditional media.  The story has been covered in Fast Company, Forbes, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and more.

And big competitors?  They seem to have no fear of “just another low-cost provider.”  With views to its video at 4 million and counting, perhaps they should.

And one more lesson for B2B marketers: with social media, you don’t need a huge marketing budget to build a following.

Pointing again to the crucial nature of YOUR MESSAGE –not just its guts, but how it’s presented.

And, pointing to the opportunity represented when you can find a hole in a staid, competitive market.  Consider your own industry.  Can you find a new option for designing, packaging or delivering your product or service?

Creative destruction like this can happen in the B2B world.  If you’re looking for new or better ways to compete, or an impetus for making your marketing more creative, make this story the basis for a team brainstorm, and let the ideas flow.

The B2B Social Spotlight: Krista Kotrla

Krista Kotrla, Vice President, Marketing for Block Imaging International

The “B2B Social Spotlight” interview series profiles B2B marketers who are putting social to work to elevate commoditized products and services.

Where do used MRI machines, PET/CT scanners and Digital X-Ray gear go as newer models come on the market? Like any other piece of used equipment, some are refurbished and sold to new owners, typically located in smaller domestic operations and developing markets all over the globe.

One of the biggest providers of pre-owned and refurbished medical imaging equipment worldwide is Block Imaging International a 75-person firm operating in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Krista Kotrla, vice president of marketing for the company, worked her way from an administrative assistant to her current post over the last decade. She sees the company more than just a sales conduit for a secondary market. The medical imaging machines get a second chance to give people a second chance.

While Block Imaging’s headquarters is located in Lansing, Michigan, Krista works out of her home in Lewisville, Texas, with her husband and two kids. She’s expecting her third child later this year.

When it comes to marketing Block Imaging, what did you intentionally set out to do differently and how did social media/marketing fit in?

Last summer we were in the midst of what was turning out to be a not great sales year and morale was low. I knew there were things that we could do to change our direction, but it meant involving everybody and getting people excited that we were going to aggressively pursue growth the through content marketing.

The more that I learned from seeing how businesses were starting to utilize social media for business purposes, I was just fascinated to think that those could be powerful mediums to reach more people. Knowing the expertise that our team possessed, Block Imaging could be very effective at it if we just had a better way of making it easy for our employees to participate.  Not just to give them the tools, but show them how to reach out to people and help them empower and educate buyers.

What did you do?

We decided that if the company went all in together as a team instead of just a few people being responsible, we could get out ahead of the pack by leaps and bounds very quickly.

Last summer we were planning a two-day company retreat and I pitched our management team about devoting the entire time to launching this new culture of content marketing. We brought in Marcus Sheridan to lead the entire first day, where he not only explained content marketing but most importantly, helped our team catch the vision and enthusiastically buy-in to team participation. Day 2 was hands-on workshops and activities that helped everyone dive in and get their hands dirty practicing what we just learned from Marcus. We brainstormed blog titles, began developing personal brands by learning how to inject some personality into our content, as well as getting comfortable with video. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

How does Block Imaging target its social outreach?

At first, we let people blog about anything that would answer the broad range of common customer questions and supplying how-to tips on service, maintenance and trouble-shooting. The strategy now is advancing our use of HubSpot to know where the best strategic opportunities to blog about are next, based on the high volume of search traffic for a particular phrase. Knowing how difficult it is, competition wise, to rank consistently high on the first page (of Google), we build layers of information around those key word phrases and extend it to our content.

Social is about producing business outcomes, but it begins with developing relationships.  What is Block doing to build dialogue? 

It’s been eight months now building relationships though our content. Even as early as last November, we were at our biggest tradeshow of the year and people already perceived us to be a much larger company than we really actually are and that was within one month of starting to blog every workday. We have a lot more leads coming in now and the quality of leads is remarkably different.

Through our content, we’ve found our web visitors have been educating themselves for weeks or months, already trust us as the source that they want to buy from, and know that we’re not going to be the cheapest option but that’s okay because we have already provided them value on the front end and they are confident in our expertise and capabilities.

Give me an example of how you’re connecting with prospects.

You know, we have to understand what problems they are facing or what questions they are asking to even be able to serve them better and provide them better products and services.  It’s a big cultural shift in so many ways.

There is a random, obscure component of a C-Arm (a c-shaped mobile x-ray system used in orthopedic and surgery centers) that we taught people how to troubleshoot and identify if this part was the cause of their system boot-up problems. The manufacturer was telling one facility to just junk their entire system and upgrade to a newer $150,000.00 system. Prospects found our blog article where we showed them how to troubleshoot it.  They talked to one of our engineers to confirm it and ordered what was only a $1,500.00 part to fix their system that is now back up and running versus writing the manufacturer a huge and unnecessary check.

Within three weeks, that one blog about that very obscure part and troubleshooting delivered leads of people who were ready to buy that part right away. Before then, we had no idea how many we had sold previously.

What online tools do you rely on everyday? 

We work through Twitter and have mainly focused on Linked-In. It is the one other place where we find lots of people from our industry talking and participating in groups. One tactic that is particularly helpful was showing our team how to identify the key word phrases that they would want to be known for and how to build that out in their profiles so that they would start showing up in searches if people were looking in Linked-In for help.

How have your social media activities influenced the firm and its bottom line?

Let’s start with traffic. Since we started team blogging last September, organic search traffic went from averaging less than 4,000 visits a month to now over 10,000 visits.  And it’s still growing. The team has helped author over 100 blog posts and have had 40+ team members participate in authoring blogs. We are still building momentum as we figure out how to turn this into a well-oiled blogging machine.

Culturally, we make sure to have a lot of fun celebrating milestones along the way. We announce two Inbound Marketing Super Hero awards every two weeks at the all-team meeting and describe a little bit about why each person was awarded. It is a great opportunity for recognizing people and reminding people of ways to participate/contribute, tell them what’s working, and hopefully motivate late adopters.

As for sales, the volume and quality of leads has grown so much that we’ve hired several new sales people and we’re also experiencing dramatically shorter sales cycles.

What hasn’t worked using social media?

Attending Social Slam last month confirmed that we’re actually doing a lot right. Overall, I’d say I wish we had done it earlier.

I also wish that I had invested sooner in developing a dedicated person to carry more weight in helping overseeing our blogging machine. One of our own employees emerged as the perfect SEO copywriter who loves writing and can take a very rough draft or even just an outline provided by a sales person or an engineer and he develops it out into a much more blog-like, informative article. He’s also incredibly funny so there is some crazy weird humor injected in what would otherwise be a very information-heavy piece. I love the personality that now also comes through on many of our blog posts.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

I realized Block has a purpose bigger than ourselves in what we do and knowing that the equipment we sell can help people around the world. Last summer, as I was preparing the social media pitch to our leadership team for our retreat, I found out that I had cancer in one of my abdominal muscles. I was able to have surgery within a month after they found it and they got all of it out. At the time, my baby boy was only six-months old and something about that experience helped shape my passion for our industry because it was imaging equipment that identified this tumor in the first place.

I had access to all of this equipment and great doctors and surgeons, but many people don’t. What about the mom with the little six-month-old boy in Africa or some remote town in South America? As a company, we have this opportunity to try to reach more people across the globe and give this equipment a second chance at life to do what it was designed for. For me, personally, it was a second chance at life for me to kind of go through that and realize that the equipment we provide can help many more people by getting these early diagnosis. It’s more than just job now… it’s a mission.

What three blogs would you recommend?

The Sales Lion

Mark Schaefer’s Grow Blog

Thoughts from an 8pm Warrior

How can people connect with you?

Webpage – http://info.blockimaging.com/krista-kotrla/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/#!/kristakotrla

LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/in/kristakotrla

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/109257208954119446067/posts

Instagram – @kotrla

Email – krista.kotrla@blockimaging.com

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Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating social media? I want to talk to them.  Send me a note at bob@rurelevant.com or via Twitter @RAReed.

Google Search Changes and the Importance of Content

Continuing our recent discussion about ensuring your company’s visibility in Google searches: at the end of April, Google made changes to its search algorithm – and those changes are affecting many websites, but both positively and negatively.

Fortunately, Google provides ongoing tips in its Webmaster Central blog to help companies put forth “the best user experience” – especially useful for those who can’t invest in regular, professional oversight of their websites (Google makes an estimated 500 changes annually to its search algorithm to combat those attempting to ‘trick’ the search engine into giving their sites higher organic rankings, via keyword stuffing, paying for links, and an assortment of other shady practices).

Google: “Focus on Building Useful Sites with Compelling Content”

The algorithm change is further reinforcement for the advice B2B marketing and PR firms like ours have been hammering home with clients for a while now: the gains that can be made by generating and sharing content.

Content on your site should be useful and educational versus commercial.

Content should be fresh and original, and, generated and posted continuously.

Blogs are one of the most expedient ways to keep website content fresh, given that much of the content on most sites is evergreen (for a reason).

Original content enhances your organic rankings – but that’s not the only reason to create it.  The same information you develop for your site surely has multiple other uses – for existing customers, as sales support material, as the basis for a webinar, published article or white paper, or e-mail blast, etc.

To keep your site ranked as high as possible, Google offers these further tips:

  •  Keep track of algorithm changes on the Webmaster Central blog.
  •  Make sure you’re aware of your top keywords and keyword phrases – how people search for your product or service – and how these may change over time.

 

If you’ve never generated a list of potential keywords and run a traffic report, do so.  Now! Google makes this relatively easy to do yourself with its traffic tool.  And make a point to rerun the report at least quarterly, to stay abreast of and leverage those search terms in your online marketing.

Knowledge of keywords can be incorporated back into your standing site content (content optimization being one step of the SEO process) and can be a springboard for new marketing ideas.

While you’re at it, set up a Google Alerts for your key terms, seek and follow the online conversation and get involved in pertinent blogs, forums, etc.

Doing so will set you up for interaction with members of your industry and prospective customers — those people searching for and talking about your area of expertise.

  • Use social media.  Share links to your site content on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, SlideShare, etc.  Get professional help to at least get you started on these platforms (if you’re not there already).  Learn how other B2B companies are using social media.
  • Google advises companies to go beyond the search engine requirements and drive traffic to your site in other ways, such as through ads special promotions and the like.  Many B2B companies have no trouble with this tip – but may not be using “drive site traffic” as a clear objective.

 

With so many tools available at the touch of a button, there’s no reason your company can’t step up its online visibility even in small increments.

Abana1pc

AJ Huisman – The B2B Social Spotlight

AJ Huisman, Marketing Director, Kennedy Van der Laan

The “B2B Social Spotlight” is a periodic interview series that profiles B2B marketers who are putting social to work to elevate commoditized products and services.

Let’s do a little word association, shall we?

Law firm.  Boring.

Law firm.  Staid.

Law firm.  Stuffy.

Law firm.  *Yawn*

Law firm and social media.  Growing.

It’s true. There are plenty of law firms that are integrating social into  their marketing, but as you’ll read below, one professional marketer in particular wants to take things much farther.

Albert Jan (AJ) Huisman is Marketing Director for the Dutch law firm Kennedy Van der Laan in Amsterdam. AJ understands professional service company marketing. He’s been working in that realm for 17 years. Before joining Kennedy Van der Laan last year, he was Marketing Director, Continental Europe for Towers Watson, a huge global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management.

AJ is not only an experienced B2B marketer, he’s a noted advocate for content marketing, becoming a recognized speaker on the subject. In fact, he spoke at the first ever Content Marketing World gathering.

Off the job, AJ, his wife, and three kids live in a historic old bakery (1732) in what he calls a “wonderful” small village a half hour North of Amsterdam.

When it comes to marketing Kennedy Van der Laan, what did you intentionally set out to do differently and how did social media/marketing fit in?

When I started last year, I wanted to transform the traditional way marketing was viewed internally into a totally new way of thinking about marketing. Marketing is not a bunch of secretaries ordering pens and brochures. It’s about helping the firm grow by facilitating ways to realize business goals. Content Marketing is my way of helping my firm grow.

Content Marketing is about showing value. People don’t want to know when you started your business or how many subs you have. They just want to get some answers, how to solve their problems and how to make their life easier. To learn about issues that they should care about but don’t know they should. And preferably consume that info in a pleasant way. Maybe even have some real fun in the process.

Law firms, depending on the practice, can be niche focused. How does Kennedy Van der Laan target its social outreach?

Most professional services firms tend to work in a silo approach. Every specific practice area works in its own little silo and has its own way of doing things, like trying to attract the same clients. Here, the marketing department can play a crucial role. Not only in getting the right content together but also maybe, just maybe, helping the firm adopt a more client centric approach.

The marketing department should be in tune with all content that is being produced in the vertical silos. Only then are they able to cut across horizontally and combine all relevant content for a specific client group. In this way a broader and more joined up proposition will be the result.

We take a subject that appeals to a certain client group and gather information from every practice area that might have interesting content for that group. We don’t let our internal organization structure drive our external communication and that works.

How do you work to attract not just clients, but create relationships and build dialogue? 

The traditional approach to marketing is dead. Transmitting useless features is no more. Or at least it should be. The new kid on the block is content marketing. While not entirely new, it’s the logical next step in this fast moving, transparent and critical world we live in. Transform your business and become a publisher!

Content marketing is a great way to engage and build relationships through dialogue. Funny enough most businesses don’t get this. They’re stuck in a mindset where they cling to their own “send” mode. Sure, it’s safe to list those 20 bullet points about why you are great, but who cares!? The only way I know that you’re the real deal is for you to show me. Not tell me, but show me. Show me you’re an expert in the field that I care about. We do that by giving training and seminars but also blogging about our clients’ favorite subjects. Via www.mediareport.nl, for example, we engage with (prospective) clients in the media sector in The Netherlands. Here, lawyers of our firm blog almost daily about media related topics and Tweet about it as well to drive traffic.

What social tools and approaches seem to be working for you?

We will be launching a new website after the summer which revolves around content. It will be the hub for all our other channels, like Linkedin, Twitter and YouTube. It will have a lot of video, an easy way to create and distribute content, especially in an environment where lawyers tend to be busy with clients. We have built a simple but sufficient video studio where we can quickly interview lawyers on the fly and distribute these clips easily. All the channels revert to the site, which is the main repository for the content we produce.

What do you regularly measure to see what is working and what is not?

Via Google Analytics, we measure everything that’s relevant for us about our website. And we also use a tool to connect our CRM system to our newsletters and here we can drill down to what’s read and what’s not. In this way we monitor subjects we could do a more in depth article about or even a training or seminar. We also ask our clients regularly about their business issues. After each seminar for example we ask all the attendees what they would like to see as the subject of our next seminar. What we are actually asking is: “What is on top of your mind, what business issues are keeping you awake at night?” and that fuels our content creation. It’s a bit early to tell if this has impacted our firm’s bottom line but we are constantly fine-tuning our marketing in ways to grow our business.

What hasn’t worked using social media?

We are constantly trying out new things, so we are constantly learning but haven’t made any huge mistakes, a few small ones that’s for sure. I am not sure interactive magazines are the most effective for our communication. Neither do I believe in integrally streaming seminars or any long (YouTube) video’s for that matter.

What’s the one thing people would never know about marketing a law firm?

That law firm marketing should be boring! We firmly believe that we have great content and that we go out of our way in communicating this in an entertaining way. This helps consuming and sharing this content in ways you can’t imagine. For our 20-year anniversary, we made our first corporate movie ever and it was not the traditional “old founding fathers looking back”-type. We asked ourselves a question: “What if our firm was a 20-year old girl?” what would she do, say, wear, etc. We wrote a script along the lines of our core values and had an actress play Kennedy Van der Laan. We showed the 5-minute movie to all our clients, which they loved, at the 20-year event and afterwards we all sent them the link: http://www.c360.nl/kvdl20/ embedded in a 360o photo of all attendees.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

I don’t think there’s a lot that the on-line community that I’m part of does not know about me ;)

What three blogs would you recommend?

The Content Marketing Institute: everything you ever wanted to know about Content  Marketing but were afraid to ask

Copy Blogger: about content marketing advice and solutions that work

HubSpot: about inbound Internet marketing blog about SEO, blogging, social media,   landing pages, lead generation and analytics

How can people connect with you?

See my Tweets on: www.twitter.com/ajhuisman, see my photo’s on: http://statigr.am/user/ajhuisman or you can send me an email at albert.jan.huisman@kvdl.nl

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Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating social media? I want to talk to them.  Send me a note at bob@rurelevant.com or via Twitter @RAReed.

 

Content Mitigation: How Sharing Service Details Could Keep You Out of A Crisis

So, you’re using content marketing — articles, blogs, e-newsletters, case studies, videos, and social media platforms — to build brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation and customer retention. Work all of these as far as you can take them.

Then take it one step farther.

Producing helpful, educational and valuable content isn’t just for attracting customers. It can be an invaluable ally if something between your company and a customer goes awry, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Because somewhere, somehow, someone will find something with which to take issue.

Supplying varied and detailed information on your company’s product or service in the form of an ongoing blog series or an expansive FAQ that answers an exhaustive series of questions could help mitigate potential problems and even help tamp down a full-blown crisis if enough instructive information is available and accessible.

Leaving these elements out of your content mix could cost you time, money and potentially your firm’s reputation.

Realistically, not everyone is going to read everything related to your product or service, but having it available within a couple of clicks on a keyboard could be enough to make a news organization beg off a story if information countering an issue is within easy reach.

What should you share in content mitigation program?  Everything possible, such as:

    • Guarantees/Warranties – Be explicit and don’t bury the fine print.
    • Cost/Price – If you have a service that doesn’t have set price because each situation is different, explain what the variables are and supply a range of price, from the lowest to the highest.
    • Problems/issues – No service can be all things for all people. Detail the limitations of your product or service.
    • Comparisons with Competitors – Explaining differentiation between all comers in your niche lets prospects self select and lays bare stark differences.
    • Regulatory Compliance – If you work in an industry where adhering to federal regulations differentiates you from more lax competitors, ensure you explain why you do and how you do it.
    • Scope of Work/Payment – Particularly for potentially high-priced services where scope could change based on circumstances, keep the customer apprised of the charges so there won’t be a surprise at the end that could turn into a public issue… and a potential lawsuit.
    • Accolades/Awards/Testimonials – Your customers, third party endorsements and awards for quality weave a powerful story.  Tell it.
    • Approach/Philosophy – Most businesses have a story of why they began the business and/or guiding principles of how they work. Creating narratives like this make you appear more human and accessible.
    • Limitations/Usage Policies – Your business isn’t super human.  Explain what your business and service is and is not capable of doing.
    • Training/Education – Do your employees undergo intensive education about how to execute their jobs for optimum outcome and value?  Spell it out.
    • Personnel qualifications – The job your company does is only as good as the employees that do it.  For highly technical and regulated industries, offer up details of the training and experience of your employees
    • Consumer/Client Ratings – If you receive consistently high ratings from internal surveys and external ranking services, promote those high scores to help validate your value.
    • Accreditation/Endorsement– Positive reviews from third parties, such as associations and non-profit groups can help bolster credibility.

 

All of these suggestions may or may not be applicable to your business, but err on the side of caution in supplying as much about your service as possible. Because anything that could be misunderstood and misinterpreted will be.