Tom Levers

Low Friction Sales… the way Customers Buy

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on April 4, 2010

Sell the Way Customers Want to Buy

Smart companies are providing their prospects with much of the information they need to make a purchase decision when they need it… but true frictionless sales allows the customer to slide into using the product before they make a major investment. When we talk to businesses people they want to be communicated with, but on their own “just in time” terms. In general the business purchase process expects that a product need can be illustrated quickly, with no strings attached, and delivered through whatever best fits the least resistance for acquisition.

Low resistance can be free for now… but does not mean free forever!!!
The more you adapt and satisfy the way your customer wants to buy, the easier it is to close. The easier it is to close a sale, the easier to scale and the faster and more efficiently you can grow.

There are various grades and limitations of friction in different selling models… but there is always more than one methodology for success. So have you honestly evaluated if you are using the most efficient approach?

Don’t know? Well take a look internally. Are you insisting on touching the customer through the A to  Z steps. This often makes you over compensate with high upfront prices because you feel only a person can communicate value, like in the old non-internet methods of sales and marketing? Business selects products that are easy to learn about, easy to use, easy to evaluate… easy to sell. How does a heavy handed sales process make things easy?

The highest friction sale is very expensive upfront, and means you need to spend lots of money on marketing, trade shows, etc and large direct sales force of expensive reps pounding the pavement for months trying to close a large deal with an enterprise customer. Follow that with a 3 month implementation process to get the customer happy.

Here’s a better way to look down the frictionless funnel. Look at how others seemed to make sales frictionless.

No Barriers to Revenue
Remember… some of the largest telecommunications customers on earth, are prolific distributors of subsidized or free handsets, but they sell the services. And free or very inexpensive doesn’t mean no revenue, it means no barriers to revenue. Or how about Microsoft, selling Enterprise Licenses in the data center with an  “All You Can Eat” method of product availability. Need 500 new servers… no problem “we have an Enterprise Agreement ” , no barriers to revenue !

Limiting “Friction” can be applied throughout the selling process… just look at how your custmer buys, not how you learned to sell! This will reduce the pain for customers to adopt and use a product and consequently reduce the cost of sales and marketing to get a customer to generate revenue… then all is needed is to  leverage the product and your new found marketshare.

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Whats the Business Value of Social Media

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS by Tom Levers on January 19, 2010

To many organizations are setting up Twitter, Facebook, Company Blogs without a clear plan. Its not done with Advertising, Direct Response, or Public Relations, and Social Media should not be any different? So here is what you need to ask yourself to succeed.

If questions below are not asked before employees are encouraged to tap social networking sites they can fritter away hours, or worse. Their lack luster commentaries can spill company secrets or harm corporate and partners relationships. Skeptics can draw from plenty of examples of social media experiments run amok.

What’s Your Pitch?
Can you describe what your company does in 120 characters or less? Most companies can not. With all the communications ability we have, our attention span is shorter.

Because the number of people we connect with each day forces us to edit our communication. We cannot have fully formed conversations with dozens of people every day and still have time to write, eat, sleep, drive, play games on our iPhone, complain about the housing market, and look at multiple media formats.

Also, the interconnected nature of communication today makes long-form communication less necessary. When I talk to my friends on the phone, it’s usually a pretty quick conversation. Not because I don’t like my friends, but because they already know much of what’s going on in my life via text message, Twitter, Facebook, email and other short-form missives.

As individuals, we know this is true, and we see how it impacts our daily life. Yet as businesspeople, we can do a better job.

What’s the Type of Result You Want?
What type of program is this? Awareness, Lead Generation, or Loyalty?

What Type of Relationship Do You Have and Want with Your Audience?
What does your audience know about you today? Nothing… to an advocate. Pick segments to focus upon, but make sure they are adjacent on this scale. It’s too confusing to have a strategy that targets advocates AND people that have never heard of you. That would be two strategies, not one.

How Does Your Audience Use Social Media?
Using the Forrester Social Technographics Ladder see http://blogs.forrester.com/groundswell/2007/04/forresters_new_.html , understand how your target audience (as defined by gender, age, and geography) uses social media. If your audience skews older, you may not want to engage in a lot of “make a video” contests, since that segment indexes low on the “Creator” scale.

What’s Your One Thing?
What’s the soul of your brand. What’s the one thing – and it’s not features and benefits. Volvo = Safety. Apple = Innovation. Disney = Magic. What’s on the other side of your = sign? Brand anthropology, and have an agency help you find your one thing.

How Will You Be Human?
Social media is about people, not logos. How will you let down your guard? If you’re a small company, congratulations, this should be pretty easy. If you’re a big company, how can you act small again?

How Will You Measure Success?
Lots of ways to measure social media success, so make sure you determine your key metrics BEFORE you get started. I recommend picking three solid metrics to track. Appropriate metrics differ based on what your objective is for the program.

Focus on what you can actually measure. Unless you have a unlimited budget, enormous resources and extremely sophisticated data management capabilities, you aren’t going to be able to capture and measure every bit of data that comes your way. While some of you may be able to implement fairly impressive measurement practices over the next few weeks and months, most will find that much of the data you wish you could capture, plot and analyze will be beyond your reach. Don’t panic. Measure what you can, make the most of it, and don’t worry too much about what you aren’t able to measure yet. Your ROI analysis will require a little more art than science, but that’s okay. As you will soon see, certain key metrics should give you a pretty good idea of the effectiveness of what you are doing.

Financial outcomes are the most basic metrics. Opportunity sales funnel metrics. No interpretation or estimation required. The most obvious is of course sales performance and prospect generation. So get yourself some sales data.

Along a timeline, your sales data when it comes to analyzing the impact that your activities is having on your sales knowing whether revenue deltas are coming from Yield, Frequency or Reach is pretty important.

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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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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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Beyond Innovation

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 4, 2008

light-bulblight-bulb1light-bulb
 Beyond Innovation
by Tom Levers
Are you an Innovator or an Inventor?

Having the ability to convert ideas into new offerings and capabilities is the key to sustained innovation. This is why only organizations with many innovations move beyond the inventor stage.

Sure at the heart of an innovative company is its product and service design, but an innovative product does not make it a success. There have been many products that were better than their competitors, but still did not succeed! This is because their competitors were better innovators in other aspects of the business.

Certainly, innovative and unique products can capture a premium position and price in the market, but typically just product and service advantages are fleeting. To extend innovation requires employees to find ways to innovate in their department.  Changing the terms and conditions on sales contracts, new packaging, new marketing methods and channels of distribution, and better visibility into your business may all add value to customers.    

How about selling products as a service? One aircraft engine company does just that—they sell time in the air, not engines.  Or the cable TV company selling the DVR as a service rather than a $300 consumer electronic device. A paint company now runs the paint booth for an automotive customer.  Joint ventures like this are everywhere. These examples are larger enterprises.  Still, any company can leverage core expertise to reduce risk or operating costs for customers.  This type of innovation really increases the value—and allows the US to compete against low coschange-directiont off shore manufacturing and services by providing a premium the market will pay.

As the first buying decission leads to repeat purchases, these type of offerings reshape the market, so that the company is playing an entirely new (and profitable) game to which others must adapt. A number of game-changing innovators are operating today, including such household-name enterprises as Procter & Gamble, Nokia, the Lego Group, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Honeywell, DuPont, and General Electric. Wherever you see a steady flow of noteworthy innovations from one company, you can probably assume that it is an innovator, with the distinctive kinds of social connections, culture, and supporting behaviors that enable it to play that role.

Innovation works with organizations that want every employee constantly sharing and implementing new ideas. The key is to get people to focus on “how to make things happen” rather than “why things can’t happen.” A critical factor is to support innovation beyond the product or service applying the kind of leadership accross the organization necessary for profitable top-line growth as well as cost reduction.

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Measuring the reponse of your Web Site

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on November 29, 2008
by Tom Levers

Are you testing your web site when you make changes?

Testing starts with a pllitehousean and a question that needs answering.  Just because you can test umpteen different variables at once doesn’t mean you should. Testing the elements that will produce the greatest effect first is still the best strategy, and where the Web is concerned, that means finding out what improves conversion to sale.

Homepage configuration, navigation, checkout pages – any element of the Web site that can be moved, repositioned, enhanced or versioned to influence site conversion – are candidates for testing. With the Web, the concept of testing the big things still applies, but the costs associated with those tests and the potential benefits of establishing better practices are tremendous.

Most hosting companies today have the ability to A/B split test content online in a manner that allows you to literally serve up a different version to every other customer or potential customer who comes to your site. Moreover, many of the testing capabilities allow you to establish heat map tests for visits that come from specific activities, such as PPC programs or affiliate links. And as more customers go to the Web to place their orders, testing online and establishing controls as well as efficient practices are critical.

E-mail testing, too, is easy to do and can reap extraordinary rewards.  personally love fiddling with heat maps… testing promotional offers, delivdinasourery time of day, delivery day of week, subject lines, total number of offers/click throughs, embedded navigation, rich media versus HTML versus text, content density, etc., all consist of relatively minor programming tweaks, which means, as tests, they’re very easy to execute.

The formula used to calculate the lower and upper bounds of a confidence interval is as follows:

  • Lower Bound = p – (Z)(  p(1-p)/n)
  • Upper Bound = p + (Z)(  p(1-p)/n)

p = test response rate
n = test sample size
Z = 1.65, 1.96 or 2.575 for a 90 percent, 95 percent and 99 percent confidence level, respectively

So Easy Its Hard

But are the tests so easy that the web site marketer gets overwhelmed and tests nothing or too much because its too easy? Regardless of the sophistication of your direct marketing objectives, you should be testing at every possible opportunity. If you’ve tested a concept in the past but the business has shifted, the brand has been repositioned, go back and retest those concepts. If you’ve run out of big things to test and established an ironclad control, work on testing the details, tightening the screws as it were to improve results all the more. In the science that is direct marketing, testing is the path to greater success. So remember to make a plan and only test until you see diminishing returns.

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Web 3.0 could answer questions that Web 2.0 asks.

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on November 28, 2008

davetabler-art2 by Tom Levers

Where machines can read Web pages much as we humans read them.
A common definition of Web 3.0 uses something called the Semantic Web in its description, a term coined by Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the (first) World Wide Web. He explains, “The Semantic Web will be a place where machines can read Web pages much as we humans read them”… it is not like moving earth, where parsed data is dumped into a web page like a dump truck moving dirt into a land fill.
The few robots or software agents that troll the web today are Goggle, Yahoo, etc to create and feed the the Contextual 2.0 sites and personalized Mash Ups. Or the invisible back door hacker agents knocking on your sites doors and basement windows for unknown security flaws.

Social Networks are Psychographic Aggregators

Those who want to focus on the 3.0 revelation… seem to take the integration with social network APIs as the next step, by creating incremental add-ons. One thing for sure, the VC backed social network add-on big idea people are at least trying to answer problems beyond data indexing and formatting. By socializing numbers, text, pictures, sounds, and video threw a “birds of a feather” concept, all we are doing is aggregating psychographics rather than demographics. 3.0 will need to problem solve beyond aggregating information otherwise it is just incremental change of viewing (2.0).

Cloud computing services will be the platform for targeting various point 3.0 business and consumer requirements, but the key will be to use services around methodologies to inform and solve problems rather than create new questions.

How many times has an Internet browser sucked the inquisitive mind down the rabbit hole, only to never find an answer and waist large amounts of time buried in the complexity of spurious data?

By integrating Internet data, applying unique methodology at real time speeds, and using tools that compare historical data, a platform will be available for true point solutions to individual consumer needs or organizations that use this info to manage both internal and external change.

3.0 Requires New Web Services

Just as 2.0 required aggregation tools, the 3.0 web will need to achieve a level of change that equals Edwin A. Abbott’s classic tale of inter-dimensional experience. The square cannot see the cube in a 2 dimensional world… data, without methodology cannot be Web 3.0. The intervention of cloud based tools like Java script tools to graphically plot real time data sets on-the-fly in your browser will need to grow so that there is a foundation to wrap problem solving methods around the Semantic Web agents before heralding a new dimension of the internet.

The McKinsey Company Study Finds Consumers are Shifting to the Internet

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on November 28, 2008
by Tom Levers

How do your customers make an evaluation?

Spending in 2008 on digital marketing is increasing, even in this economy. From an October management study by The McKinsey Company  of 200  “C”  level executives in the top 1000 business has found that a third of the companies that advertised online are already spending more than 10 percent of their advertising budgets there. Two years from now, twice as many respondents believe they will be spending at least that much online, and 11 percent say they will be spending the majority of their budgets online.

Just over a third of surveychanging-illustration-big2 respondents are frequent users of digital tools ranging from e-mail to blogs. The share of online spending currently allocated to each vehicle is roughly aligned with usage. Companies in the group that are frequent users of online marketing tools for the full range of marketing activities also use the full range of online advertising vehicles more actively: They are more likely to use each vehicle than companies that are less active online, and they are particularly likely to be making more use of video ads, branded sponsorships, blogs, and social networking.

Roughly half of all respondents whose companies use online advertisements say that they run integrated online and offline campaigns. Companies that use online tools frequently for all marketing purposes are more than twice as likely to run integrated campaigns as are other companies—59 percent do so. As the use of digital tools grows, it seems likely that integration between online and offline campaigns will alsoincrease.

The lack of sufficient capabilities at companies or their agencies is the most significant responses indicate that insufficient capabilities are a barrier. Even among respondents at companies that frequently use online tools for all marketing purposes, a full 50 percent of responses highlight capability barriers to advertising. Other McKinsey research shows that a lack of online capabilities extends far beyond the marketing department: 42 percent of the respondents to another global survey said that investing more in the capabilities of their companies would have made initial investments in Internet technologies more effective.

Collaborating with customers

Collaborative tools such as blogs, wikis, and social networks are being used in advertising, product development, and customer service. At the simplest level, for instance, 22 percent of the respondents say that their companies host user forums for customers to help one another.

Just over a third of all survey respondents—and just over half of those whose companies advertise online—say that their companies use some kind of collaborative or interactive tool to advertise. About 22 percent are using these tools for customer retention, which fits into the common understanding that they help build relationships between customers and companies. More interestingly, nearly as many respondents, 19 percent, use collaborative tools primarily for brand building. The enthusiasm for experimenting with these tools is clear: more than a third of the respondents don’t know what marketing objective their investments in collaboration and interactivity serve, yet some 1leaf5 percent of companies’ online-advertising budgets go to such tools.

Some two-thirds of all survey respondents use online tools to involve their customers in product development; about a quarter do so frequently. The reasons vary notably by industry—respondents in both financial services and manufacturing, for example, focus on testing concepts and screening ideas, while those in high tech focus on generating new ideas.

Further, 31 percent of all the survey respondents are using collaborative product-development tools, such as initiating discussions in blogs to test ideas, involving customers in the use of collaborative design tools, or testing how well products sell in virtual worlds. Frequent users of digital tools for all marketing purposes are much likelier than others to exploit these collaborative product-development tools.

What customers will be doing online

The evolution under way in digital marketing reflects fundamental changes in consumer behavior. Already, more and more people use the Web—instead of books, the yellow pages, libraries, car dealers, department stores, or real-estate agents—to search for information. In doing so, they often become aware of new products and compare prices.

How far will these shifts go? According to the marketing executives  surveyed, by 2010 the Web will play a role in the first two stages of the consumer decision-making process—product awareness and information gathering—for a sizable majority of all consumers. The expectation that most consumers will seek out new products online may be a factor in the plans of companies to increase spending significantly on several digital marketing tools they see as most useful in building brands.

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