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.       

Advertisements

WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) posted five tips on becoming a Company Evangelist for your company (dated 5-31-06). Below are Betsy Weber’s five tips. 

Betsy Weber was a panelist at the June WOMBAT event (my post about event) in San Francisco.  She is delightful and was helpful to everyone at our table—sharing her experiences as Chief Evangelist at the software company, TechSmith. 

Betsy’s company makes SnagIt, a screen capture and recording software for individual and professional use.  Sounds like a great new tool right? Well it is a great tool—however the product has been making it easier for folks to capture images for about 15 years.  (Here is the link Betsy Weber’s Blog)

5 Tips from TechSmith’s Betsy Weber

“The way we look at it, word of mouth is not marketing. It’s building relationships and learning from each other,” says Betsy Weber, Chief Evangelist for TechSmith. “Word of mouth marketing is all about creating deep, authentic relationships and then bringing those conversations inside to TechSmith.”Here, Betsy shares her five tips on becoming a Company Evangelist.


Tip #1. Be a power listener
Listen as much as you talk (if not more). Then, bring those conversations with customers into your company so the user’s voice is heard. Keep the conversations going. Relate the feedback you hear to product teams, be the voice of the customer, and fight for what they want at your company.

Tip #2. Get out of the marketing department
This isn’t a marketing job. This isn’t to create sales. It’s about customer care and customer relationships. Dump the marketing lingo. Be transparent, open and honest. You have to be an extrovert and people person. It’s almost a way of life you’re either suited for it or you’re not.
    

Tip #3. Get your whole company onboard
It takes more than a Chief Evangelist to create customer evangelists. Every area that the customers interact with must be on board with creating customer evangelists. If one department fails to give outstanding service or gives the customer a negative experience the whole company is affected.
Tip #4. Open the front door and be accessible
Give out your direct phone number and real email address. If you hide behind voicemail and an email alias you might miss a great opportunity. Give VIP tours and arrange for customer meet-ups. Customers will appreciate it and it can be a competitive advantage. (If you’re a gadget lover, you’ll be right at home, as you’ll need a BlackBerry or Treo to keep in touch with everyone.)

Tip #5. Have passion
You must love and believe in the products, and you have to be passionate about the people who use them. If you won’t, who will?

–end

So how soon will you begin your Company Evangelist role?  If you have experiences blazing the Company Evangelist trail, I’d love to hear them.

                                                                                                

We hear about overnight success stories of marketing and selling lots of products and services via the web, in a short time.  In the new world of customers who are completely-in-charge of when they learn about and analyze new products and services it’s fun to find out exactly how some of these successes unfold.   So at Small Company, Big Image, we like to share examples of companies that have gotten it right.

Under Development, Inc., with their new product, The Beer Belly, is a brand new company that did just that.  I posted about the entrepreneur and his successful product launch here.

My partner, Jim Butz, recorded an interview with Under Development’s president, Brooks Lambert, and if you have 14 extra minutes you might want to listen to his success story.  The audio file (Podcast) is here—you can listen on a PC, iPod or other MP3 player.  You can download the file (download takes about 3 minutes to download on a high-speed Internet connection) and listen immediately, or save to listen later.

Brooks reached out, with a brand new product, brand new web site, and drew the attention of a very popular blog Gizmodo—The Gadget Guide—in November 2005.  Hear how Gizmodo’s posting about TheBeerBelly got lots of media attention, CNN interviews and more and turbo charged sales, and still does.  

Brooks is not only is an entrepreneur with a passion for designing products, he also volunteers in the Bay Area helping special needs kids experience surfing.  He tells us how he combined his product design passion with helping out others.   Enjoy!

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

On July 30, the Sunday New York Times, a favorite ritual of mine, ran an insightful article, All the Internet’s a Stage. Why Don’t C.E.O.’s Use It? by Randall Stross (author and professor of business at San Jose State University).

Stross points out how few Fortune 500 chief execs are currently blogging and possible reasons for the lack of engagement.  The top two reasons: fear and time shortage.  His poster child for successful CEO-bloggers is Sun Microsystems’ Jonathan Schwartz, widely recognized as a natural communicator/blogger.

Debbie Weil, corporate blogging guru and author of recently released, The Corporate Blogging Book was quoted in the article.  Weil believes that blogging could save executives the time they now spend on hundreds of daily email exchanges.  Why no do it more efficiently? She suggests in her book that “Instead of a one-to-one communication, why not a communication from one to many thousands?”

So—since at this blog we’re about Small Company Big Image—let’s assume that chief execs and small business owners have similar feelings (fears) about blogging.  A partial list might be:

  • I do not have time to blog.
  • What will I write about?
  • I have to write??
  • I’m the CEO, business owner, President—don’t I have a pr agency for this sort of thing?
  • It’s risky…

What is risky about blogging for a CEO/Business owner?  Two risks come immediately to mind: tipping off the competition, or thinking out loud too candidly.

Tipping off the competition: 

  • Blogs are not the place for proprietary information or for breaking news. 
  • Blogs are excellent for communicating thought leadership with all key audiences—both inside and outside the company.  Key audiences that will benefit from a CEO biz owner blog:
      • investors, industry leaders
      • partners
      • current  and potential customers
      • employees

What do these audiences want to read about?  They want to hear about the driving force behind the company.   What is the company’s leader thinking with regard to key industry issues including:

  • Directions of the technology and the industry
  • Needs of customers and users today, next year and beyond? 
  • What you learned from your customers that caused you to choose the specific direction of your most recent product or service 

So in summary—the CEO-blog is one of the best tools for a firsthand chronicle of (Stross’ words) the way a company is growing.  A blog from the company’s leader provides a window into the company.

Thinking out loud too candidly:

If markets are conversations, then communicating is job-one of a business owner, leader.  A business owner’s blog allows her to speak directly to each audience, with passion and conviction.   There are lots of topics (beyond your products and services) that allow you to communicate, without being too candid.

A business-owner blogger can talk about such topics as:

  • The reasons she founded, or joined, the company

  • What got her excited about the business/industry in the first place

  • What he learns from his customers

  •  Why the industry should go in a particular direction

  • How globalization (or other trend) is impacting his company and the overall industry

  • What he thinks the industry ought to do about it

  • The technology, the industry, educating the blog readers about  whatever his or her particular area of business expertise is

  • How exciting it was to release the most recent product and why

  • The background of why you believe your company’s approach works best for your customers and partners

  •  Answer the most often asked questions she receives from customers, partners, analysts, employees

When blogging as the business owner, you are having a conversation, in your own words, with your “market”.  You are not selling, exactly. You’re talking about the types of things you’d discuss over a Starbuck’s.  Topics that are of mutual interest and that you have something to say about.  You know. The way you talk when you’re having a business-like conversation with friends, colleagues, customers.  

Only instead of a small group of customers, the blogosphere makes it a conversation with (potentially) thousands of customers/partners at one time.  Anytime they wish to read what you have to say.  And blogs are infinitely more interesting than emails.

How cool is that?

And as for blogging taking too much time. Well, as our friends at Nike tell us, Just do it.

Tom Peters, a legendary business speaker/author since his watershed books of the 1980s, i.e., In Search of Excellence and tons of others. 

If you’ve ever heard Tom Peters speak in person, you know how unlike the other 99.99% of speakers he is. I had the luxury of hearing him in the early 1990s—he was light years ahead when it comes to down-to-earth approaches and plain talk to get his elegant, insightful, visionary business and leadership ideas across.   Okay, I admit it. I am a devoted Tom Peters fan.

So, am I thrilled that I found this at a recent post of his blog, Tom Peters Weblog? Yes!  He posted the slides from his presentation at the National Enterprise Innovation Conference B2B/London/27June 2006 

Now he does not actually call it word of mouth, but tell me if you don’t agree that in fact that’s what he’s saying…

Tom Peters slides in (very small) part say:

This is not about … “customer centrism”
“integrated marketing”
etc
etc
etc

It is about …sellin’ a whole lotta stuff and
having customers go berserk with 
love  to the point that they
tell every damn friend they have
and then start buttonholing strangers on trains and planes and busses.

By the way, he creates the most unusual PowerPoint slides anywhere. Be sure to download them and tell me what you think. 

Now all we have to do is uncover ways to make our customers “go beserk with love….”