Marketing PR


Yesterday, Jeanette Gibson of Cisco’s new media group talked about the launch of their new Web 2.0 site on October 2.  (See my post here about the site.)  Why did Cisco add Web 2.0 features?  They’ve recognized that there is a shift of power in the market, according to Jeanette. They are changing the way they communicate and collaborate. It’s clear that consumers now drive content. Cisco marketing launched the ‘human network theme’—and asked consumers to post their own pictures and share stories with Cisco about how the network has changed their lives.  She said that they learn from their customers every day. (Very cool statement, right?)

Other key web site changes at Cisco:

  • Press room contains lots of videos. They are exploring how to maintain interactivity with customers and partners on the site. For example, how to deploy video, click to talk and more.
  • The ‘employee experience network’ internal blog, and wikis (project workspace/web site that all members can update) is place for employees to learn about new interactive communications and provide feedback.
  • Customers want more personalization on web site. Cisco offers folders for customers to add info that they want to return to—favorite white papers, etc. (Doesn’t ‘favorite white papers’ sound like an oxymoron?)
  • According to focus groups, personalization should also include the ability to post a sticky with notes about a piece of content, a great video and email to their boss, friend.

On how to measure results.  (Isn’t measurement always a sticky-wicket?)  Some of the ways Cisco is  gauging how the new Web 2.0 features are working. Execs ask:

  1. Who are the influencers we want to reach? Are they blogging/talking about Cisco?
  2. What are the Alexa (site that shows traffic rating for web sites) results for key pages. 
  3. How does info flow? They have to maintain a genuine dialog with each community. Cisco knows they cannot just shove messages out any longer. 
  4. How well are they pulling in new and different people (A-list bloggers) into mix with traditional influencers (editors, analysts). 

The Policy Blog is the top public Cisco blog.  Visitors find more specific, targeted views on a blog. They get the opinion of someone inside Cisco—more interactive, not just a press release.

In the future, brochures could become more authentic, like a blog. And lose the spin.

They know they need to engage with customers honestly; with more openness and authenticity.

How can you engage more interactively with your customers, web site visitors?

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B2B Marketing Trends has an excellent article that summarizes good public relations news for small business selling to businesses. 

According to B2B Marketing, today:

  • More than 30 million Americans a month use Yahoo! News and Google News, according to Nielsen/Net ratings from 2004.

  • More than 70 percent of Americans use a search engine news portal

  • And 84 percent use a search engine to find information, products and services

Small businesses can take advantage of the lowly press release and tap the best of both worlds—marketing and public relations.  In the old economy, businesses were subject to the whims of major media outlets (journalists/reporters and editors) in order to get coverage. Now the new, new press release can help you generate website visits and sales leads.                                                                                                                   

You can use any of the wire services to distribute the release.  I like PRWeb.  They provide educational webinars and their staff is always available to answer questions.)  Key to driving web visitors and sales leads, is using keywords and embedding hyperlinks that your prospects are likely to use when searching for products and services.

The B2B Marketing Trends’ article highlights a success story: 

  • It’s easy to measure successes in marketing PR campaigns – you either generate sales leads or you don’t. Leade Health, a provider of health coaching services and an HRmarketer.com client, measures its success in Web traffic and search engine visibility, both of which generate tangible leads. They consider media placements a means to an end.

  • Since the company started sending marketing press releases in early 2006, Web site traffic has jumped considerably – a recent white paper announcement netted 400 downloads. Another key metric for Leade Health is SEO success; Leade’s goal was to appear on Google’s front page when potential customers entered targeted keyword phrases. Releases contained relevant words and phrases, which were included as hyperlinks back to the company’s Web site. Before Marketing PR campaigns, the firm was not even in Google’s top 100. Today, a search for “health coaching” finds the company squarely on page one.                                                                                                                  

Leade Health followed the sage advice of David Meerman Scott, one of my favorite bloggers, Web Ink Now.  Check out David’s smart, free e-Book, The New Rules of PR.
                                                                                                                                

So, dust off that press release, enter your keywords and leverage the web!   When should you send a press release?  When you have a customer success story (testimonial) , when you have a new white paper or article, or any time you have a new solution for the biggest problems facing your customers.       

Michael Stelzner, of WritingWhitePapers.com blog, gave us some interesting food for thought regarding my post on How To Write A White Paper in 25 Minutes.  View Michael’s comments here.

So, Michael believes that White Paper Podcasts are a potential, but not here yet.  And he cites recent well-documented research.  I suggest, to businesses selling to other businesses—especially small/growing companies, why wait? 

From the perspective of Geoffrey Moore’s longstanding technology adoption curve, Podcasting is easily out of the innovation stage.  And it’s most likely more than half way through the early adopters’ stage.   ‘Barriers to entry’ are low:  iPods or other MP3 players are not necessary in order to listen to a Podcast (despite the name).  Podcasts are played easily on any computer with a sound card.

I’m not advocating that recording white papers as audio casts or Podcasts will replace all white papers.  Highly technical white papers focused on selling to engineers and requiring detailed schematics to make the case, will continue to be paper-documents.   I’m suggesting that with a new product or release, along with all of the other marketing content—technical sheets, capabilities brochures, etc.—you add in a 20-25 minute audio recording with the design team.  It’s an informal conversation with you team. 

A Podcast reveals the actual ‘voice’ and passion behind the product.  Prospects will think to themselves, “Hey—this is not just a widget or piece of software. There are authentic, real folks at this company who believe passionately in what there’re doing.”  You could also add a beta customer to the conversation, making the Podcast communication a word of mouth tool as well.

Why wait for your competitors to be the first to Podcast white papers in your industry?

My anecdotal findings:

  • Based on discussions with technology entrepreneurs and C-Suite members of startups is that they listen to business Podcasts or audio casts while commuting, working out, or during other ‘dead’ times (plane trips) —they’re not just listening to music on those iPods/MP3 players.   Additionally, they also listen at their desks, on their computers, as background while working.
  • Podcasts are showing up even in more traditional industries—Instrumentation & Automation for example.   ControlGlobal.com, the online version of Control Magazine, now includes a Podcast Library. 

MarketingSherpa’s new Business Technology Marketing: Practical Benchmark Data for 2006 report includes fresh insights on the Podcast topic–among tons of other useful updated findings.  (A free overview of report in a PowerPoint is here)

As part of the study, they asked approximately 650 technology and services buyers what most influenced a purchase made in the last year that they were actually a part of.  Now admittedly, Podcasts scored the lowest 2.7 percent—but they are on the radar screen.

As a side note on MarketingSherpa’s Technology Marketing: Practical Benchmark Data for 2006 —word of mouth scored as the highest influence to a tech or service purchase—48 percent.  And when you add in other word of mouth-oriented influences (blogs) the word of mouth influences are pretty high:

vendor blogs: 4.6 %

technology professional’s blogs: 19.6%

industry bulletin boards: 19.6%

(The numbers exceed 100 percent because interviewees were asked to list all of the influences on a recent technology, services purchase.)

Source: MarketingSherpa’s Technology Marketing: Practical Benchmark Data for 2006

What does it all amount to? Giving your small company, a big image.

White Papers Are Here to Stay

You might be surprised to learn that nearly 90 percent of technology buyers surveyed by the CMO  (Chief Marketing Officer) Council start the buying process by researching products and services on the Web.  So we know that Internet-centric, B2B, technology buyers are in complete control of how, what and when they learn about your products or services. 

White papers are widely used by technology decision makers to educate themselves before making major purchase decisions.  The 2005 CMO survey also revealed that “vendor white papers” are the most-popular content downloaded by tech buyers and shared with peers. 

Let’s accept that the humble online white paper is a powerful tool for demonstrating your company’s unique expertise and the distinctive capabilities of your products. How can your business easily tap into the overwhelming interest in Web-based research? 

But, however wonderful and useful white papers are for buyers, penning these techno-educational tools can be a time-consuming, pick-and-shovel effort for the authors. White papers that will attract and inform buyers are not puff pieces churned out by your trusty marketers. Tech white papers must demonstrate that the expert author/company:

  • understands the buyer’s problems and risks

  • has a handle on all of the available, competitive products

  • can make a valid case for the pros and cons of all options

  • can explain why your product/service delivers the best solution

Forget Writing, Record An Audio White Paper

The difficulty for most technology companies is that the engineers, directors of R&D, vice presidents of product development, and user-interface specialists who are the best spokespersons are also very busy people.

Record your white paper in the form of a conversation that can be delivered as a Podcast via your Web site.   Instead of reading about a product or service feature, now your prospects and customers can:

  • listen to your key message, in your voice,

  • hear, firsthand, the reasons behind your product development rationale,

  • understand how you solve problems better than anyone else.

Make It a Conversation

There are many benefits to sharing the knowledge of your product or service using an audio white paper.  Here are just five. Your Company can:

  1. Have a conversation with your top engineers about the key features of your product instead of forcing them to write, in simple terms, a similar description. Remember, you should write at an 8th grade level.  No one says you must have a conversation at an 8th grade level!
  2. Record a 20 minute Podcast in a fraction of the time it takes to outline, write, edit, and re-edit a multi-page white paper
  3. Allow your experts to spend a fraction of their time preparing to answer the Podcast interviewer’s questions—compared to writing and editing a traditional white paper

  4. Easily put your experts in the shoes of the decision maker—what do they need to know to make the best choice?   What are the factors to consider? Why did you select certain features and how do they work? What ROI can buyers expect?  What will reduce the risk in their decision making?
  5. Make the entire experience conversational for your customers—let’s face it, most (not all) white papers can be pretty boring

The audio white paper, or Podcast, is the perfect method to introduce a new product or service.

Your entire design team can get together around the table, relax a bit and then explain how they approached the product’s development.  Just like they would if they were chatting with a customer, after hours, at a trade show or other event.  

Podcasting (some of) your white papers will help you stand out from your competitors.  After all, it’s really just a conversation