Tom Levers

Partners Then or Now?

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on June 13, 2010

As with most issues around “Partner Marketing Land” our story covers another medium —  Web Portals!

Back when Bewitched, and Trout and Ries were innovative in the marketing world… those who revolutionized marketing never imagined communities promoting and marketing for the company without asking. The allure of Social Marketing can not detract from classic marketing and fails when lulled to only use self service alone.

Partner marketing portals that expect participation have the same inherent problem as all “Social Media for Business sites” such as forums, social bookmarking, blogging, YouTube, twitter and social networking sites

The Results Then and Now

There is no longer an 80 /20 rule with Partner Marketing Participation, now partner portals suggest that for every 100 people online, one will actively initiate, create and participate with the portal content, ten will somewhat interact with it and the other 89 will just view it (also known as lurking in the Blog business).

Earlier metrics garnered from online partner community sites suggested that about 80% of the Partners marketing programs were utilized by 20% of the partners, but the growing move to generate on-demand marketing portals creates a different picture.

The Lesson

A website/Partner Portal must be sold (pushed) because a pull only effort using Partners that demand too much interaction and content review from users will see nine out of ten people just pass by.

Some massive Corporations and their Partner Alliance Sites recognize too much “Low Touch” self service participation from the prospects and their Partnerships . The result is worse than the old 80/20… it is now the 89/11 rule without working closely with the partner.


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Channel Partner Relationship Management

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on June 6, 2010

Using the Cloud is key for your Partners – but your Channel Size, Partner Stage and Confidentiality Requirements Drive the type of Partner Portal you may need.

For the large mature partner organization there are many tools around Channel Partner Relationship Management. TreeHouse Interactive, is an enterprise class SaaS solution with ALL the bells and whistles. TreeHouse allows vendors to keep track of leads and opportunities along side their partners but also provides information to partners on their requirements and benefits, deal registration, and links to marketing automation.

TreeHouse while expensive, allows different navigation for different tiers of partners so your top tier partners are able to see the appropriate information for them but it is blocked to your lower tier partners. MDF and Co-op can be uploaded to the system from distribution partners and channel partners can then apply for MDF and get approved. Partners can also link to marketing automation like Salesforce.

The interface is very intuitive and the ability to assign leads to partners iseasy and efficient! Of course with such a great solution comes a price and TreeHouse wouldn’t be worthwhile if a vendor doesn’t have hundreds of partners with millions of revenue dollars.

Syndication allows relevant content to be pulled from a vendor’s website and displayed on the channel partners’ websites. There is usually a container page with the partners’ look and feel around the top and along the left side and the content is updated on a regular basis. Vendors get their product and value prop information relayed accurately up-to-date in hundreds of other sites and the Channel Partners are able to inform customers on their own sites without having to send them elsewhere. How many times has a partner’s site shown the old model or the current model with the wrong image or information!?

When I was at Business Layers / Computer Associates I evaluated a company called WebCollage to make this happen. I don’t know if they’ve changed their process at all but it was incredibly manual to the point where we had requests from partners in email and would then fax or email them to our client manager to initiate the service. SharedVue’s tool Syndic8 is completely automated. Partners can even login and change their current view of products or services shown on their website.

SharedVue also provides some lead generation and tracking tools (don’t think PRM but every little bit helps right?). Using their tool Communic8 vendors can provide traditional and new media tools so partners can launch campaigns and track them all on the SharedVue tools. Partners of course get worried if vendors can see their leads (more so with some vendors then with others) so SharedVue offers a way to turn the visibility on or off.

 There are more bells and whistles that I didn’t go into here including their specific new media features (webinars, SEM, and Google AdWords). I haven’t used WebCollage in 2 years but SharedVue is certainly more user friendly and robust than WC was back then.

Are their other systems people have seen and liked? I’d love to hear about them. Drop me an email. tlevers@comcast.net

Methods of Understanding in Sales

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS by Tom Levers on December 17, 2009

Selling is one of the classic and obvious domains where changing minds is a core skill.

The skills that are part of every rainmaker can be applied by the novice if they internalize methods of understanding…  where determining motivations and distinguishing the buying behaviours of individuals who hold the keys to selling services or product can facilitate building relationships and creating partnerships to become the vehicle for providing mutual value.

Techniques that are not genuine to your personality yet imply you must follow, like mirroring and matching techniques, body language, etc were considered progressive for connecting with prospects and customers twenty years ago. Now each person when using methods of understanding can be themselves, while improving the sales process with a new power to better understand the factors in your customers making a decision.

Methods of understanding…. is a collection  of tools for thinking.

In my previous article I covered that we all instinctively lean toward some approaches rather than others, but the key to applying the principles is to internalize the different constructs, so everyone can appreciate the influences on better communication. The first four types were:

  • Attribution – we need to attribute cause, that supports our ego.
  • Constructivism – we use constructs as perceptual categories.
  • Framing – mental combinations that affect perception.
  • Schema – structure to organize and interpret the world.

Now lets finish with the final four:

  • Personal Constructs – constructs represent understanding.
  • Symbolic Interaction  – we derive meaning around symbols.
  • Objectification –  we simplify complex things into concrete images.
  • Story Models – most marketers instinctively piece together complex situations into stories to build understanding.

 

Personal Constructs

People develop internal models of reality, called constructs in order to understand and explain the world around them in the same way that scientists develop theories. Like scientists, they develop these constructs based on observation and experimentation. Constructs thus start as unstable conjecture, changing and stabilizing as more experience and proof is gained.

Constructs are often defined by words, but can also be non-verbal and hard to explain, such as the feeling you get when your football team just won the championship.

When constructs are challenged or incomplete the result is emotional states such as anxiety, confusion, anger and fear.

Constructs are often polar in that they have opposites (and are hence dichotomous). Thus the construct of good implies another of bad. Polar constructs create one another: thus ‘good’ cannot exist without ‘bad’.

Although we share the idea of constructs through words (ie Good and Bad), the detail of constructs are particular to the individual and hence are called personal constructs.

Constructs that are important to the person are core constructs, while others are called peripheral constructs.

Constructs may be expanded to accommodate new ideas or constricted to become more. An example would be ownership of an idea. I look at how the executive talks about a business division that they originally came from and consider him more focused on improving that group. All of these are constructs that I have created or learned in order to explain the behaviour of those I have met.

Using it

Listen to people. Hear the constructs they use. They will be amazed at how much you understand them. You can also lead them in building new constructs.

Defending

When you are building new ideas, consider where these have come from. Was there a conversation with an influential other person involved?

 

Symbolic Interaction  

People act based on symbolic meanings they find within any given situation. Thus interact with the symbols, forming relationships around them. The goals of our interactions with one another are to create shared meaning.

Language, math, selling methodologies are itself a symbolic form, which is used to anchor meanings to the symbols.

Key aspects are:

  • We act toward others based on the meaning that those other people have for us.
  • Meaning is created in the interactions we have with other people in sharing our interpretations of symbols.
  • Meanings are modified through an interpretive process whereby we first internally create meaning, then check it externally and with other people.
  • We develop our self-concepts through interaction with others.
  • We are influenced by culture and social processes, such as social norms.
  • Our social structures are worked out through the social interactions with others.

Using it

Pay attention to the symbols within the persuasive context and utilize them. You can place the symbols there. How people interpret them includes how you interpret them. 

Defending

Pay attention to the symbols within the persuasive context and notice how they are affecting what happens.

 

Objectification

Complex ideas are, almost by definition, difficult to understand. To help us make sense of them, we turn them into concrete images. There are three processes by which objectification is done:

  • Ontologizing gives an idea physical properties, for example by using close metaphors like the ‘mind as a computer’.
  • Figuration turns the ideas into pictures or images, for example traffic ‘jams’.
  • Personification turns the idea into a person. For example, a genius as Einstein.

The term ‘objectification’ or depersonification is also used to describe the way we treat other people as objects, in particular the way men can treat women as sex ‘objects’. By reducing other people to things, it permits us to treat them with less care and human concern, bypassing our values around this subject.

This car is like a thoroughbred race-horse. Just imagine thundering up the roads, with trees and houses flying by. People will think you are Michael Schumacher.

In war, effort is often put into depersonifying the other side, thus legitimizing and even encouraging killing them.

Using it

Explain your ideas through analogous or metaphorical things, pictures or people.

Defending

Just because the other person can explain their ideas clearly, it does not mean they are good ideas.

Story Models

One way in which we explain the world around us is to create stories about it. In particular when we are face with complex situations, we will pick out what seems to be key elements and then turn these into a story.  

For example people were shown a movie of a trial. They found that in order to make sense of the wealth of detail, the participants constructed stories about what happened. 

In another experiment, they found that when evidence was given in an order which made the story easy to construct, the participants were more likely to construct the same story. When the evidence was in story order, 78% of participants found the defendant guilty. Yet when the evidence was out of order, only 31% voted for the guilty verdict.

A common technique for remembering a complex list of unrelated information is to weave them together into a story.

Using it

Help the other person understand your case by presenting it as a logical story, pausing to emphasize and repeat the key points you want them to remember and include in their remembered interpretation. 

Defending

Just because the other person presents a nice story, it does not mean it is true.

Conclusion

The trained sales person learns the process of selling from their training courses in Relationship or Consultive Selling, Strategic Selling, Customer Centered Selling, Spin Selling, Platform Selling, and Scientific Selling… but none will better educate you on understanding people, how they think, and their motivations.

These techniques, when internalized will allow you to objectively recognize a “No Decision” earlier in the selling process, as well as, allow you to better understand yourself and how you “make or react to decisions” in your every day business and personal life.

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Sales and Methods of Understanding

LightBulb“Methods of Understanding” will get what you need done in your business.

No matter if it is working to build a “Company Culture”, or becoming a sales “Rain Maker”, or “Marketing Positioner” of the next Widget… you will get further if you apply the toolkit of how individuals use “Methods to Understand”.

You may know Sales Methodologies, but the “Rain Maker” applies Systems of Understanding. Most natural “Rain Makers” unknowingly identify how others are using these various types of Understanding Methods, they just identify these throughout all aspects of their lives… without even knowing they are using them. By identifying what individuals use when they try to understand can enlighten the situation. 

WARNING! This is not for everyone. Some people are so locked into their individual method that if you are a “hammer” everything looks like a “nail”! The “Rain Maker”, the “Corporate Motivator”, and the  “Customer Requirement Aggregator” ” all must identify which “Methods of Understanding” is being used and how to adapt to it. 

We all instinctively lean toward some of these approaches rather than others, but the key to applying these principles  is to internalize the different constructs so we can better communicate. The different types are:

  • Attribution – we need to attribute cause, that supports our ego.
  • Constructivism – we use constructs as perceptual categories.
  • Framing – mental combinations that affect perception.
  • Schema – structure to organize and interpret the world.
  • Personal Constructs – constructs represent understanding.
  • Symbolic Interaction  – we derive meaning around symbols.
  • Objectification –  we simplify complex things into concrete images.
  • Story Models – We piece together complex situations into stories to build understanding.

Lets first cover the first four in this article and try to identify after reading how you and others are using them in your professional and personal life.

 

Attribution

We all have a need to explain the world, both to ourselves and to other people, attributing cause to the events around us. This gives us a greater sense of control. When explaining behaviour, it can affect the standing of people within a group (especially ourselves).

FaceWhen another person has erred, we will often use internal attribution, saying it is due to internal factors. When we have erred, we will more likely use external attribution, attributing causes to situational factors rather than blaming ourselves. We will take credit, due to the good business skills that were applied. And vice versa. We will attribute the successes of competitive rivals to external ‘advantages’. 

When a football team wins, supporters say ‘we won’. But when the team loses, the supporters say ‘they lost’. Our attributions are also significantly driven by our emotional and motivational drives. Blaming other people and avoiding personal recrimination is a very real self-serving attributions. We will also make attributions to defend what we perceive as attacks. We will point to injustice in an unfair world. 

In practice, we often tend to go through a two-step process, where we start with an automatic internal attribution, followed by a slower consideration of whether an external attribution is more appropriate. Key to this is, if we are hurrying or are distracted, we may not get to this second step. This makes internal attribution more likely than external attribution.
Example of Use: I have no support and no budget there for I cannot do a good job.

Using it: Beware of being a complainer (i.e. making internal attributions about the situation). Also beware of making excuses (external attributions) that lead you to repeat mistakes and leads to Cognitive Dissonance in others when they are making internal attributions about you.

Defending: Watch out for people making untrue attributions.

Constructivism

We try to make sense of the world by making use of constructs, which are perceptual categories that we use when evaluating things.

People who have many different and abstract constructs have greater flexibility in understanding the world and are cognitively complex, whilst others are cognitively simple. Cognitively complex people are better able to accept both complex and inconsistent messages. They also have a greater need to understand things and will question deeply anything that is new to them. However, once persuaded, they stay persuaded and are less likely to change their minds as their new constructs will support the argument.

Example: Some people have a construct about being fat that says fat people are lazy and greedy. Others may perceive it as a medical condition. 

Using it: Help cognitively complex people to build new constructs that support your argument. Do not bother with this detail for the cognitively simple.

Defending: Do not let others take charge when building new constructs.

Framing

A frame is the combination of beliefs, values, attitudes, mental models, and so on which we use to perceive a situation. We effectively look through this frame in the way we would look through tinted spectacles. The frame significantly effects how we infer meaning and hence understand the situation.

Example: I see a holiday in the hills as an opportunity for outdoor exercise. My friend sees is as a chance for a quiet read. My son sees it as a long period of boredom.

Using it: Change elements of a person’s frame (reframing) and hence how they view the world). This is a powerful persuasive technique. 

Being able to see things through many frames yourself gives you a broader perspective and able to understand more of how others think.

Defending: When people ask you to look at something from another viewpoint, be aware that there are many viewpoints, many of which are valid and legitimate. 

ShoesSchema

A schema is a mental structure

Schemas are also self-sustaining, and will persist even in the face of disconfirming evidence. This is because if something does not match the schema, such as evidence against it, it is ignored. Some schema are easier to change than others, and some people are more open about changing any of their schemas than other people. Schemas are also known as mental models, concepts, mental representations and knowledge structures(although definitions are different–for example some define mental models as modeling cause-effect only).

Schemas affect what we notice, how we interpret things and how we make decisions and act. They act like filters, accentuating and downplaying various elements. We use them to classify things, such as when we ‘pigeon-hole’ people. They also help us forecast, predicting what will happen. We even remember and recall things via schemas, using them to ‘encode’ memories.

Schemas have inferences and appear very often in the attribution of cause. The multiple necessary cause schema is one where we require at least two causes before a ‘fit’ to the schema is declared. Schemas are often shared within cultures, allowing short-cut communications. Every word is, in effect, a schema, as when you read it you receive a package of additional inferred information.

We tend to have favourite schema which we use often. When interpreting the world, we will try to use these first, going on to others if they do not sufficiently fit. 

Example: Some people dislike police because they have a schema of police as people who perceive everyone as guilty until proven innocent. Other people feel safe around police as their schemas are more about police as brave protectors. 

Using it: Find people’s schemas around the area of interest, then either create trust by utilizing their schema or reframe to change their schema.

Defending: Become more self-aware, knowing your own schemas and why there are useful for you. When people try to change them, you can then more rationally understand whether your or their schemas are better.

This is a lot to absorbs,  so look for these in your every day business or personal life and check back for the second part of this Article after I try this myself!

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Blogs – the DoDo Bird of SEO

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, Partner alliances, PUBLIC RELATIONS, SEM by Tom Levers on September 30, 2009
The DoDo Bird of SEO

The DoDo Bird of SEO

Have you started a blog only to lose interest, or stop contributing  because no one is reading it?  What should you do differently?

There’s all sorts of  blogs and yet so many have content that is never read.  In fact, there are a tremendous number of business blogs that are not realizing much of their potential. Take this blog as an example.

Why? Because it is not optimized…. so focused on content creation that even though I know what to do… I do not use my own knowledge.

This is very much the same scenario that occurred with web sites  pre-and post tech bubble. I worked with lots of computer industry partners and I mean Lots of them. But afterthe largest management consulting sites got their site up and running, the traffic didn’t come by itself. So we optimized for search engines and that was the start of my SEO experience. Blogs can generate traffic without search engines, but WITH search engines it can be even better.

With blogs, there exist as many or more optimization opportunities to optimize as with a web site. The thing about internet marketing is that there is no “one right way” to solve a single problem. So much of the advice and commentary about content optimization for search engines at conferences and on blogs is tactical. While most blog software is more search engine friendly out of the box than many web sites, the opportunities for blog optimization are readily available. There is a long list of blog optimization tactics to employ.Why optimize your blog?

  • Increase rankings of the blog on BOTH regular search engines as well as blog/RSS search engines
  • Increase traffic to the blog from multiple sources such as social search and social bookmarking sites (del.icio.us, Digg, Furl or Blogmarks)

A blog is just a website that uses a content management system, so most standard SEO tactics apply. There are also optimization tactics specific to blogs.

Consider keywords when writing your blog post titles. Some blog software allows plugins that can suggest keywords. Otherwise, you can use Google Suggest or one of these free keyword suggestion tools: Digital Point, SEO Book or Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Keywords should NOT determine your content (unless it’s an AdSense blog).
Optimize the template. Make sure post titles appear in the title tag and append the title tag (hard code) with the most important phrase for your blog.

Neanderthal SEO for Blogs

Neanderthal SEO for Blogs

Also use the blog post title as the permalink. If you’re using keywords in the blog post title, then they will occur as anchor text in the permanent post link. While you’re at it, just make the post title a permalink.

Make it easy for your blog readers to subscribe and include RSS feed subscription buttons or “chicklets” in a side bar or on a dedicated Subscription Info page. Here’s a handy RSS Feed Button creation tool.

Optimize Categories. When you create categories for your blog, be sure to consider keywords in the titles. When you post, be sure to default to a general category that is relevant no matter what the post is about. Choose multiple categories on each post when appropriate.

Social bookmarking sites can be excellent sources of traffic to your blog, so be sure to make it easy for readers to bookmark your blog posts. You can do this by adding some code to your blog template for each of the major social bookmarking sites. Here’s a tool for social bookmarking links. Submit your blog to RSS and Blog directories. Also submit the blog to regular directories such as (DMOZ, JoeAnt, GoGuides, MSN Business Central, etc) that have categories for blogs.

There are many benefits to publishing a business blog and improved search engine visibility is one of the most popular.  It’s pretty common advice to hear: start a blog and the fresh content will attract links, improving your search results.  Such tactical advice can be very effective.

Unfortunately, the advice gets filtered and distorted, not unlike what happens in the game “telephone” kids play. Pretty soon one or more blogs are implemented for the sole purpose and expectation of improving search engine visibility and nothing else. At least nothing else that’s accountable.

What’s wrong with this picture?   Blogs started solely for SEO objectives will inevitably fail.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. Lack of planning and oversight – After the honeymoon of starting a blog wears off, those tasked with writing content often get distracted by their other responsibilities. Bit by bit, posts look less and less like keyword optimized web pages and sink back to the familiar writing styles common to public relations and corporate marketing. Gone are the keywords that consumers are searching on. Gone is the traffic that used to come from search engines.

If SEO efforts persist, they can get sloppy without ongoing oversight either by an outsite SEO consultant or an internal blog champion (more about that in our next post). Keyword usage in blog posts can become disparate or worse, evolve into a keyword stuffing exercise.

2. No passion for the topic – With over 100 million blogs indexed by Technorati, it’s a wonder what happened to the 90% or more than have been abandoned or that don’t post more often than every 4 months. It takes commitment, thought out ideas and a sincere interest in a topic to be able to blog about it on an ongoing basis over the long term.

Can you imagine watching a 30 minute TV show or 2 hour movie you’re not interested in? How long does that last? How about a job you’re not interested in? Do you really excel at it? Do you do the best job possible and and do you stick with it? No, no and no.

As a result, bloggers who are not personally interested in a topic will encounter blogger’s block quickly and with a shallow level of knowledge on what’s being blogged about, readers lose interest quickly and do not return, subscribe or link to RSS and Blog directories. Also submit to the regular directories such as  (DMOZ, JoeAnt, GoGuides, MSN Business Central)  

 

Blog Extinction

Blog Extinction

Ping the major RSS feed and Blog search engines each time you post. This can be configured with blog software such as Movable Type or WordPress to work automatically. If you’re using Blogger.com, then you can do this manually with Pingomatic or Pingoat.

Comments and Trackbacks – Be sure your blog software is configured to send a trackback ping to blogs that you cite within your posts. Pay attention to press releases distributed by PRWeb. If you cite a release, and ping the trackback link, the press release will in turn link to your blog. This is better for driving traffic than for link popularity.

Make useful comments on other blogs. Your name will be linked to the blog url that you enter. Do NOT make comments that offer no value to the blog post. Do NOT use keywords in the field for your name, use your name or blog name.

Offer RSS to Email. Almost 30% of blog traffic comes from readers that perfer to read blog posts via email. There are several free services available for this including: FeedBlitz , Squeet, Zookoda (this one is more for using blog posts as a weekly newsletter), RMail and Bloglet.

No matter how many optimization tactics you employ on a blog, there is no substitute for quality content. Blog optimization is only as effective as the quality and usefulness of the content you’re optimizing.

Here are some simple steps for managing blog content, long term:  Create a keyword glossary, much like you would for a website SEO project. Identify an editorial guide as well as post types and key topics. Assign a blog champion, someone that “owns” the success/failure of the blog. The blog champion will provide content and editorial oversight as well as recruit other contributors.

The blog champion performs another important function, feedback to the contributors. This goes beyond a simple “thank you” but may also include reporting on the number of comments on posts contributed, inbound links, increases in RSS subscribers and mentions of the blog post on other blogs. Providing individual as well as overall feedback to contributors helps them see what impact their efforts are making.

Socialize.Blogs are a big part of what makes up social media, so it’s important that bloggers are social for a successful blogging effort. A few of the ways blogs can be social include:

Wrap up For a successful business blogging effort that leverages search engine optimization, it’s important that the blog serves a functional purpose intented to help the business reach a particular goal. SEO is involved in order to extend the reach and “discoverability” of the blog.

Blog optimization is both a one time event with the templates but is also an ongoing process involving keyword glossaries that help determine post level keyword usage, internal anchor text and off site anchor text.  Running out of ideas and people to contribute to the blog can mean certain death, so be creative with content sourcing and formats. Listen to what blog readers respond to and give feedback on to guide editorial.

Blog software offers many social features. Use them! Grow a network that leverages the blog as resource and as a way to recognize contributors.  Monitor real time content opportunities as well as blog analytics so you can offer the kind of feedback that motivates continued contributions both from the C-Suite in the form of funding and from the B-Suite in the form of content and comments.

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Evaluating Partner Alliance Opportunity

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING by Tom Levers on March 19, 2009
Partner Marketing

Partner Marketing

Recently a major management consulting firm delivered the final engagement  “Evaluating Partner Relationships”,these are some of the general conclusions.

Partners deliver new sources of revenue, and are the genesis of efficiency, speed and market share. Often large organizations have too many and the small have none.

The complexity of variables to facilitate relationships is daunting, but partnerships can validate a new  product or service. It is the “Divergent ” components of partners that influence the  “business natural selection” process.

There are  Six Indicators or factors that significantly impact the  success and failure of a Partnership outcome. These are:

New Partner Attractors – Sometimes partners get together because of hot topics (ie environmentalism), some because of market buzz (company success), others have “hot” technology (technical advantages), more have functional ability, and for some it is the quality of people.  The true attractor is if the Partnership delivers a  “new value” to the customer.

Technical Domain Competency – The more similar the area of domain the less divergent, the less dependent and the more an organization can rely on in-house expertise rather than the partner.  Because an organization has a strong internal technical resource the emphasis shouldn’t necessarily measure technical competency, but more important it is the experience of doing (i.e. the number of successful implementations completed or product sold), and how complex or amount of time the domain discipline requires, is really how domain competency is measured.

Professionalism – The more strategic a solution or the larger the account, the more likely the final customer will expect a high level of “Competency” and “Professionalism”. It is the combination of “Competency” and “Professionalism” or “Service Quality” that creates the reliability of the  product and ultimate service solution.

Other key values are localization, demand generation, and sales capabilities that allow their team to drive new “up-sell” and “cross-sell” opportunities. These new capabilities provide a reasons to engage with existing clients, and a new way to introduce yourself (a foot in the door) with a new client. This can be supported by:

Localization – Thinking locally, looking local, behaving like a local, while acting globally is the key. It provides client connectedness, capability relevance, and local resilience.

Demand Generation – Hot markets can create leads from the brand and be easily integrated into the existing corporate marketing, such as Webinares, Events, Case Studies, Thought Leadership, SEM (see SEM Channel Partner Methods ) and more. If a Partner Demand Generation capability is a Pull-through only relationship often a “Technology Alliance” (i.e.”Intel Inside”) exists.  So often when competitive products or services enter the market the functional differences may not retain as much value (ie. AMD shows up and the only customer difference is “No Sticker” on the PC). The Partner successes use this to strengthen divergence by delivering partner marketing programs and tactics that both Push and Pull interest.

The Sales Cycle – Partners will likely add “speed to market” and “new market opportunity ” when selling  a complete partner solution. Some brands have a huge opportunity leveraging existing sales organizations that utilize their partner sales stakeholders. By having a partner sales force that supports the different vertical disciplines and complete product solution throughout the end-user customer buying process, rapid growth can flourish. Establishing the combined partner sales process for different products and services across different kinds of markets improves touch points, cycle speed and probability.

Divergence defines a stronger Partner

This is why ideally the best outcome for a Partner Program is “all of the listed factors of divergence”. Understanding these principals ievaluating-alliance-partner-relationships2s key to creating a strong Partner / Brand. By putting together a business relationship that generates long-term Partner Alliances, the use of divergence outreach can differentiate when direct competition creates market confusion. When multiple vendors and sub brands start to appear, creating similar functional value. Building the right Partner organization can deliver the additional momentum and breadth to support confidence and expertise that sustains market leadership.

A non-proprietary summary of the final delivery of a “Partner Marketing ” Engagement, from a major Global Management Consulting Firm for their client.
*Over 50 partner interviews were conducted for this engagement. Applying Organizational Science principals of Divergence has been used to predict outcome by defining the qualitative metric  of “New” ability over the alliance “Interdependence” (N/I)  delivered. The quantitative component is composed of organizational “Quality” as a multiplier of the “Functional” execution that uses a fraction of “Market” size and forecast market potential (Q x F)/M. This is then built into an Input /Output engine to quantify the “Opportunity” potential of a Partner relationship.->

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The Design Science of Partner Business Development…

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on February 26, 2009

partner-alliances6With the downturn in the business landscape the challenges for growth and profitability continue. Using partners and improving  existing alliances can:

Reduce marketing and sales costs;
Increase new markets;
Reduce cycle time;
Improve the quality of sales effectiveness.

No matter what the product  or service the key to designing a partner sales and marketing engine is to multiply results.

When Best-of-Breed Vendors have  good Business Partners they successfully grow.  These partnerships can  kick start the efficient cornerstone of new business growth through the creation of cost leadership, differentiation and focus.

With new business models emerging from the impact of the economy, and customer demand of higher value and lower cost solutions; companies must use better organizational best practices to find ways to deliver what customers want. Partner alliances help to turn an organizations isolated competitive challenge into a new business development opportunity.

I started learning this when I worked for one of the first companies in the US to develop a 3 tier computer reseller organization. This company did not build the hardware and it did not build the application software… it made everything work! We allowed brand name hardware vendors to deliver unique niche vertical applications solutions… and make a lot of profit doing it. It was the partner model that was one of the keys to their rapid growth.

Now partner alliances are common. However, the number of partnerships publicly launched  has  recently fallen, typically due to poor execution. Some organizations just slap a partner program together and are not committed to the detailed execution required. Other partner organizations need to cut loose a partner participant because they achieved  their original objective. No matter what organization,  a successful partner organization needs best practices to guide their success. Many alliance organizations have developed a design criteria requirement definition for their strategic business development channel.

partner-strategies1These are only a few of the more important generic design criteria of any Partner Business Development effort:

1. Barriers to Build – Determine when communicating to the customer your value, that it is more economical and easier to achieve by creating an alliance than a direct marketing / sales effort. Typically partner alliances are developed when a partner has a service or domain expertise complementary to the need, or when there is little in-house knowledge of the final complete deliverable of product or service, or there is a high barrier to customer availability. ( i.e. Sometimes it takes too much time, expertise, and money for the prospect to be willing to talk to you, but they will talk to a partner.) Even when you have a strong direct marketing organization or strong service deliverable, multiple touch points around your customer make for a much stronger sales and service organization.

2. Choose the best partner – Look at how a potential partner would fit. Both companies must be able to enjoy short-term and long-term wins from the relationship. That’s the potential of the alliance. But executive and operating resources are the commitment for whether or not the partnership will succeed. Without these commitments, partnerships often fall apart.

3. Create a business plan. Key components include a clear view of the customer value proposition; realistic, shared goals; effective executive sponsor relationships; and investment tied to milestones and successes. Perhaps the most frequent mistake companies make is rushing out an announcement of a new alliance or partnership without having first done the due diligence needed to ensure success.

4. Act on the results – The business plan and alliance goals will determine what should be measured. Establishing up-front goals and mutually agreed-upon metrics for measuring progress, or lack thereof, are two critical success factors to ensure alliances drive top-line revenue for both companies. Track alliances’ success with detailed operational dashboards customized to reflect the specific business goals and metrics of each relationship. Values can include quantifiable data like market share gain and market acceleration, joint revenue/contribution, customer satisfaction, and new solutions launched but also qualitative metrics such as progress in standards efforts of mutual interest.

5. Know when to walk away – Partners must review the alliance in light of the established metrics and determine if it has been successful. Important at this stage is not to see alliance end-of-life as personal or business failure. Rather, this stage may even be a reflection of success – that the partnership has achieved its objectives – or a consequence of changed market conditions or business strategy on the part of one of the partners. It’s important to plan every bit as diligently for alliance end-of-life or transition as for alliance launch. Customers need to be protected. Relationships must be kept professional because there could be another joint opportunity waiting down the road.

6. Build best-in-class capabilities – Identify the skills needed, hiring the right people, building a solid partner management system, and having a strong commitment from the operations management team are all critical. The company has developed an in-house team that can rapidly design a customized curriculum for each new partner to get  up-to-speed on whatever knowledge they need, thus ensuring consistent, quality and service.

Alliance Partners Anticipate  Needs

The Bottom-Line Impact is that when executed correctly this key organizational business strategy delivers customer benefit and the partner organization continues to focus on their core competencies while extending its products and services to new markets.

“Best-of -Breed” solution Partners help to differentiate beyond the “Suite Vendor” or “Acquisition/Agregator” competitors.  The customer value that a high quality “Best-of-Breed” vendor delivers in focus, domain dicpline and customer commitment over the many “broad-brush” organizations privides depth that it can not deliver alone. Instead of the customer going out and trying to fit various solution pieces together, the well executed alliance partner organization uses it’s multiple stake holders to anticipate their customer needs better, resulting in increased sales and customer satisfaction.

SEO is behavioral

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on January 5, 2009

 

semWhat does Web search have to do with behavior?

 

Everything!

 

Did you know that if you have a B 2 B site that has not been modified in 6 months you have lost significant readers, prospects and sales. This is because GOOGLE is becoming more and more behavioral. Behavior is the Google direction to improve the quality of their ranking algorithm.

 

I won’t go into who’s money funded these qualitative findings, or why, or how, or who in GOOGLE guided me (like deep throat) threw to the conclusions below. But my investigation was founded on other SEO experts that have made the same conclusions from their quantitative perspective. So, here are a few of the more current  issues that are now impacted by search algorithms.

 

For SEO professionals or The Person Who Got Stuck With SEO, its time to make sure you are focused on three areas:

  • Usability – Be helpful to those who have reached your site. Looking at how people get to your site is easy,  more importantly get more people to stay on your site.
  • Analytics – It is not just measuring if keywords work or do not work, you’d better be good at analyzing the metrics to identify why and where you should make site improvements.
  • Writing – Be a consultative thought leader not a blatant promoter.

Behavior is the Google direction to improve the quality of their ranking algorithm. Here are the facts to improving your web rankings:

 

Search Behavior Fact 1:  Impressions are Nothing and Click-Thru is everything.

People who click on a native search listing versus those who see it and don’t click will tell Google you are more accurately addressing “the search need”. Those who are chosen to fulfill the need are rewarded in ranking.  This means your copy should be aligned with the most relevant and current topics… obviously, but without getting into the details, if you have not changed your web copy / topics recently, you are being penalized.

 

Search Behavior Fact 2: Bounce Rate Impacts Ranking.

Search engines are  incorporating user behavior data, like bounce rate, into their algorithms. How many visitors from organic search look at one page and leave without clicking to another page? The more folks that leave, the higher your bounce rate. So don’t generate traffic that promotes hit and run, search algorithms will interpret it as abandoned visitors. A high bounce rate impacts your ranking.

 

Search Behavior Fact 3: Time On your Site Impacts Ranking.

The amount of time someone spends on your web site from their search query will impact ranking. This is why building thought leadership and good usability to flow through your site is critical.

 

I have heard from some very “in the know Google types”, and I am now reading it from other search experts that “time on the site” impsearch-engine-marketingroves organic rankings.  What you need to do is to deliver value to your reader: Clarify your offer, and watch your analytics.

Make sure your description and tags are aligned with your current site. To improved time on site give people what they expect when they click on your listing in the search results. Take a leadership role by educating to increase interest. Track your organic landing pages vs. your paid. Organic search engines pick the page they’ll list in the ranking, – you pick the landing page for paid search and track back promotion.  So watch the pages that draw search traffic and backtrack with an understanding of why it is behaving in a specific manner. Figure out the keywords that are generating traffic to those pages. Then adjust those pages so they make sense in a behavioral context.Use your analytics for more than PPC. Watch time spent on each organic landing page and test those pages. Find the best combination of headline, copy, layout and offer. Then do it again.Be creative. This means that the one product long tail company needs to get more creative than those competitive companies with many products and many reasons to navigate the site.

Search Behavior Fact 4: Social Networking will matter.

This one’s been evident for consumer companies for a while, but even B to B is moving in this direction: Search engines are  adding bookmarking, stumbles, Diggs, Technorati, and other information into the equation. If you can get more folks to live at your site, or promote it to the top of Google Search wiki, or bookmark your site on Del.icio.us, your ranking’s are going to improve.

 

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The New Marketing Revolution of Demand Generation

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 30, 2008

Marketing has changed more in the past 3 years than over the past 30

Just think about the reaction you would have received three years ago if you heard that Sun Microsystems was going to encourage employees to blog and set up a contest for its employees, asking them to make the best YouTube video to advertise Sun products. 

Unquestionably a marketing revolution has been unleashed and we see all sorts of marketing organizations talking about new brand experiences. The focus is on customer engagement, in particular trying to reengage consumers who find a lot of the tried-and-true marketing techniques of the past–direct mail (including e-mail), telemarketing, advertischange4ing, not generating the results they once did. By utilizing the old with the new, content is now the key building block of how companies want to engage their customers. The new approaches, technologies and channels, have raised the expectations of the online prospect. Customers want relevant information on their terms and bi-directional communication. Moreover, businesses realize that reaching their customers without simultaneously alienating them is becoming more difficult. Two-way communication gives them a chance to talk to their prospect, instead of at their prospect. 

Measures are everything

With 2009 marketing budgets that are generally flat or decreasing, marketing professionals are under increasing pressure to show a return on marketing spending. The chief marketing officer needs to show relevance to the business, and do more with less, resulting in increased budget scrutiny and the challenge to deliver measurable return on investment (ROI). With the demands for more creativity and accountability, marketing organizations need to be part artist and part scientist.  So instead, marketing organizations need to produce structures to keep the creative…creative. This means fostering breakthrough brand experiences and simultaneously establishing better marketing discipline through processes, controls and metrics. 

Process practice… makes perfect

When you talk abtypewriter1out any process there is a basic lifecycle. In marketing conference rooms you often see documents to map out the process. The diagrams often represent the lifecycle stages from concept to content creation and through to delivery, metrics and feedback. 

 

The next step is to provide an underlying marketing infrastructure to orchestrate and execute on the process. To bring these marketing process diagrams to life, the global brands use a common technology platform. This is so people can seamlessly work with the content, through the process approvals, plan or budget activities, to deliver marketing messages to multiple channels: print, web, mobile and by geographic markets.

 

Solution: Integrated Demand Generation 

To drive marketing performance to new levels, marketers have begun to embrace and implement integrated demand-generation. Unlike delivering marketing as separate tactics, we must synchronize the entire spectrum of offline and online marketing to include speaking panels, word of mouth buzz, email, direct mail, interactive and traditional advertising, SEO, call center, tradeshows, partners programs, and the sales force.  There is an integrated marketing tool box that drives the metrics, methods and processes for the new customer experiences:

Creative –> For users to create compelling content. Platforms to reduce creative bottlenecks, streamlining access to content and creative functions like user experience designers,  so that you don’t make a 1990’s mistake of creating websites from brochures. Delivery –> Web interaction, mobile, video, social networks and integrated communications provide pull to your brand… not just push, but bi-directional and highly dynamic communications. Innovative examples include an XML-based publishing system for multi-channel make a publishing and the ability to participate, capture and report on user generated content, such as blogs and product rankings. Interface –> New interactive experiences are being driven by new Web-based applications and interfaces, including interfaces written and maintained expressive web applications that deploy consistently on all major browsers, desktops, and operating systems. Less clicks, more interaction and the ability to create information context are the goals of better interfaces to drive customer experiences. Innovation examples include facet search, intelligent guides and Flash-based applications. SEM and Analytics –> The Long-Tail and other segmentation models have driven a need to better map message content and segments. The market sees a lot of innovation around how analytics, user-generated content and reporting with campaigns is integrated. Manage your SEO, SEM and Google Analytics (okay, it was Urchin 3 years ago!) Brand Management –> Managing digital brand assets so you can search, access, modify, and repurpose rich media, including photographs, design graphics, interactive media, video, and flash animations. Central repository, intelligent content hanging and workflows helps ensure the right assets are used with the right campaigns. Interactive Communications –> Deliver highly personalized and dynamic content through multi-tactical publishing of thought leadership. Promote bi-directional communications with Web 2.0. Web content management, dynamic XML delivery and publishing workflows help ensure the right message is delivered to the right audience. Marketing Resource Management –> Campaign plans, calendars and budgets, including integration into MRM applications. Reporting and dashboard functions help ensure campaigns are executed on time within budget. Relationship Marketing –> The sales funnel depends on a progression: inquiry to lead to qualified lead to opportunity to sale. Yet, too few companies have a documented and agreed-upon demand-creation and management process between their sales and marketing organizations. According to research conducted by CSO Insights, these companies pudemand-generation2t themselves at a significant disadvantage. Companies with mature, defined lead-generation and management practices have a 9.3 percent higher sales-quota achievement rate than companies that do not, a 16.5 percent higher conversion rate of leads to first calls, and a 7.0 percent higher sales-win rate. The statistics strongly suggest that the impact of documented marketing processes at the top of the funnel is felt deep into the sales pipeline. Leverage relationship management. These processes help ensure that you execute segmented campaigns and turn leads into sales. For organizations with longer sales cycles and higher price-point solutions, process alignment is critical to sales performance. Often the opportunity size between deals that were the target of marketing campaigns while in the sales pipeline versus those opportunities that sales team shielded from further marketing campaigns resulted in the delta in average selling price of several hundred thousand dollars was striking, suggesting that marketing can dramatically increase deal size when it is properly aligned with sales.

 

 

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SEM Channel Partner Methods

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 14, 2008
partners3
by Tom Levers

Adding an SEM perspective to your partner programs can generate a better quality lead.

Today few corporate brand owners are thinking creatively when developing partner programs. While manufacturers and others offer traditional co-branding marketing programs, they often fail miserably at executing Search Engine Marketing.

The brand owner needs to know: Why is the partner not selling more?  How are they generating leads? What did they do with all the leads?  What’s the return on the co-op dollars they were given?  In general what is their marketing plan and tactics for the product?

Channel partners, on the other hand, often complain about the lack of support. We need more co-op dollars. Why don’t you give us more leads? The leads you give us aren’t qualified. What are you doing to improve promoting us?

Both sides are generally justified in their stance. The root issue, however, lies not in the money spent promoting channel partners, but in the effectiveness of channel partner initiatives. With all the evidence that search plays a huge role in B2B purchases, few brands have made the investment to properly optimize their own sites for search, let alone optimize their sites to promote or advise partner search marketing. Yet SEM can be one of the most effective, cost-efficient ways to drive traffic to channel partners and generate leads and sales.

It’s hard to explain topartner28 a partner how to optimize its site for search of your product. Typically, you cannot mandate how channel partners should do their PPC campaign. At the corporate brand level, it’s hard to justify pay-per-click campaigns that drive traffic to channel partners and not to the corporate brand (it would be like sending partners a check for every click). The answer lies, however, in organic optimization. A well-designed landing page for each channel partner on the corporate brand’s site is largely a one-time expense. Done right, it can generate channel partner leads in perpetuity with little to no ongoing investment.

SEM is still in the Wild West phase of marketing and the PPC range wars are not touched in partner marketing.  But with one unique page for each channel partner, one that speaks to their expertise and value as a partner can create a lot of business and improve overall keyword rankings. Too often, partner contact information is merely an address and a link that goes to each partner’s site or worse… nothing at all. There really isn’t much for the search engine to index. And that’s the problem. If you want to drive traffic to channel partners (and you should), you need to create optimized landing pages that speak to the prospect in key word searches that target your partners value add to your brand. These pages differentiate and add value beyond just the product feature set. Prospects often start their search by looking for solutions close to the solution, e.g., “software tools”, but often drill down to narrow thrier requirement. The partner page should provide more segmented keyword differentiation, “software testing tools and testing services in California.”

Also, make sure you use generic search terms. Don’t adopt the myopic and arrogant position that every person knows your brand and is going to use that brand name in every search. Yes, most dealers, reps, and distributors carry products from other companies, and optimizing channel partner landing pages using generic terms may send channel partners leads that ultimately buy another brand, but wouldn’t you rather drive traffic to your dealer. If your products are good, your partners will sell them. If they’re not, your problem likely isn’t your dealer network.

Try to support the partner on both their site and yours.  That’s right… you need to put it on your website as part of your reseller program. Often the execution of the Channel partner contact page can look very similar; the only thing that changes is the name of the channel partner and its contact information. This can lead to duplicate content issues. The key to avoiding these issues is simple. Don’t be lazy. If you choose to create a bunch of channel partner contact pages on your site, don’t use the same page for all channel partners by merely swapping the name of the next distributor or dealer. If you do, the search engines will likely only index one of these pages and consider all the others duplicate content.

Think of how much money you spend on supporting your channel partners through meetings, tradeshows, traditional co-branded print literature, developing relationships, travel, etc. The number gets big quickly. All you need to do is spend a little time to develop a unique, non-duplicate-content page for each partner? And doing so will not only speak volumes regarding your support of each partner, but it will also generate tangible returns for them, something you can clearly point to as evidence of contributing to their success.

Make sure your channel partner contact pages can be indexed. Too often, these pages are database-driven pages that can’t be indexed by the search engines. Make sure your site and its content are designed so the search engines crawlers scan and index each of the partner contact pages.

But there is even more you can do with partner blogs.

An optimized landing page for each channel partner on the corporate site is only one of the ways to help create demand in the channel. Don’t fpartner27orget about other ways, too. If you have a corporate blog, use it to promote happenings at the channel partner level. Be smart about your blog entries, ensuring the content of your posts is optimized for search terms that prospects in your channel partner’s market are likely to use.

The same is true for public relations efforts. Take advantage of optimized news releases that promote channel partner happenings. Perhaps your dealer or distributor is going to carry a new line of yours, open a new location, or doing something to further support your brand. Chances are your dealers may be less sophisticated regarding search marketing than you are. Effectively distributing optimized news releases is another way to ensure your channel partners are found by prospects in their markets.

The role of search marketing is about assisting in the evaluation process and generating sales. There are many ways you can use search marketing to do this. But remember, it’s not all about promoting you and your brand. It’s about having more touch points, and more people at the street level to recommend and close the sale. Smart search marketing promotes not only the brand, but also its channel partners. Make sure your search marketing efforts drive channel traffic to your partners. Driving prospects to channel partners will improve relationships and translate into driving sales to you.

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