Tom Levers

Independence Day was a new Invention

Posted in Declaration of Independence, Freedom by Tom Levers on July 3, 2012

Independence in the US was a Social Movement.

No single act in world history had the miraculous impact of the American Revolution. Although only directly pertaining to two political bodies, the empire of Great Britain and the British American Colonies, the chain of events that the American Revolution sparked changed the world forever.

Never before had a large communion of dependent people of a foreign power, come together to achieve the seemingly impossible dream of unified people through social and political independence. Through extensive deliberation and debate, 53 people came to the conclusion that American Independence from Great Britain was no longer a want; but was now a necessity. It is these 53 people, all having different feelings, opinions, and convictions, which forged the first successful separation of one group of people.

American history today more or less is told that most inhabitants of the American Colonies wanted their independence from Great Britain. However, this is most definitely not the case. “When the Second Continental Congress convened in May 1775 few delegates supported complete independence from Great Britain.”  Admittedly, men such as Adams, Franklin and Hamilton had already decided independence was the only solution to this conflict.

The independence movement did not exist before these people created it… it now has grown so that many do not know it’s origins or even understand what it looks like. It now has emerged as a modern social movement, adopted in part by people around the globe.

Independence is a theory of perceived “Truth” that was core to those 53 people’s consciousness.  The Philosophy of the day came earlier from Plato, John Locke, Cicero’s, Samuel Rutherford, all were influential on the American founders. But the genius of a Social Movement to drive the definition of  freedom, has been defined by this Invention of Thought for all humanity to remind us of these simple words on paper… a definition of Independence is global…  the genesis was the 1776 invention called the Declaration of Independence.

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Twitter and Sales

Posted in DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, Sales by Tom Levers on April 10, 2011

Twitter allows an easy way to sell and promote without a fancy marketing department.

We’ll…. look at how Dell does it! Dell sells computers via a dedicated Twitter feed. Dell employees don’t “tweet” what they had for breakfast or where they are going – they tweet the latest deals. Since Dell’s target audience is online – and they’re already using Twitter. So all they had to do was set up a Twitter account , and spread the word that if you wanted great bargains , follow them at Twitter. The result is Dell sales people are selling more computers using Twitter.

So I ask you, “Can you make Twitter work to help you sell more?” It can obviously do so. The real question is “HOW ?”, most of us do not work for this type of company. Of COURSE we CAN make Twitter “work” to sell , or communicate about anything – computers, cars, real-estate, and even my business of enterprise software . However, it’s more than just a question of “how do I use Twitter?” Instead, it needs to be a question of “How do I COMMUNICATE with existing and prospective clients?”

Let’s take the case of the local software person who wants to use social media tools – Twitter in this case – to educate their clients about the newest features of their product. The first step in crafting a social media sales strategy with Twitter would begin by building a foundation of Twitter followers – put twitter at the bottom of every email. So the first “key” is to be sure to build a Twitter following of the “right” people. Just as in direct email – the “magic is in the list”. In Twitter, the magic in using Twitter for attracting the “right” followers. Once again – it’s better to have 100 Twitter followers who respond than 10,000 who are not responsive.

Create a Twitter profile which explains what followers can expect and you will see your follows organically grow over time. The uses of Twitter are truly exciting.

You can tweet about:

special pricing

new products

training courses or documentation

services,

white papers,

success stories.

The list of possibilities goes on and on… so when it comes to using Twitter to communicate you value, the real “root” question is:

How are we already CONNECTING and COMMUNICATING with our prospective customers/clients?

Twitter gets frustrating as a sales tool when you don’t have a clear audience (or too many different audiences) and more than 1 clear message. Then again – that is when all sales gets frustrating for businesses of ALL sizes. The same message that “works” via other media will probably also “work” well with Twitter.

In Conclusion

This is why real professionals get jazzed about Twitter. Instead of going to the time and expense of creating a marketing mailing, Twitter allows a quick, easy and personal way to promote your products and services instantly.

Best regards,

Tom Levers

www.BridgeWays.ca

Click to follow on Twitter

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Building a new Sales Territory in a Start-Up Company?

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, Sales by Tom Levers on March 28, 2011

Ramping up a new territory can be both exciting and overwhelming. Exciting because everything is new and you get a fresh start; overwhelming because there is so much to accomplish, often with unknown goals and expectations.

 It is really the difference between Chess and Checkers… or in current video game terms “Angry Birds” vs “Age of Empires”.

Basically, any game of reaction… make a move, and you react in the best way that you know how. On the other hand, plan moves way ahead of time. The best chess players will already know what options are open to them eleven or even twelve moves ahead of time. They think ahead about as many possible contingencies, and plan accordingly. Consultative sales management professionals are like chess players, not checkers players. Specific situations have been planned for many possible outcomes. They never simply react. Before working with a client, they have tried to anticipate many of the potential scenarios that could play out and have a course of action planned for each . This is also the approach needed build a new  territory. 

As a sales professional striving to be the best that you can be, you always need to be mindful of two types of strategies: General, and Specific Strategy.

General Strategy – You need to have a broad strategic plan. The first step to forming this strategy will be to ask yourself what type of sales professional you would like to be. Once, you have formulated the answer to these questions, you will be better equipped to develop a coherent sales plan that addresses these concerns. You now know what you want, but you still need to figure out how to get there. What types of activities are you taking part in that are helping you to achieve your goals? What types are not? Examine every sales habit that you have developed, and open it up to scrutiny.  

Specific Strategy – Having a general strategy is essential, but it should not be so rigid as to become inflexible. Be able to adjust your strategy to meet the specific challenges of each client and each territory. No two sales engagements will happen in the exact same way, so you need to be able to think on your feet. Always try to imagine every possible path that a deal could take, and have an explicit plan mapped out ahead of time for each one. This way you will never be surprised. 

There are 3 key steps .

1. Build a time and territory management plan. Starting out with a new territory is going to seem huge and overwhelming. There will be new opportunities everywhere and naturally you will want to tackle them all at once. Without a plan though, you will waste countless hours.  Failing to set up a time and territory plan in advance is the single biggest mistake salespeople make when starting a new territory. There is no right or wrong way to do this and I advise you to get someone to help you so you get a different perspective. What works best for me is to divide my territory into 4 quadrants – 1 for each day of the week. (I save the 5th day for office work and unexpected opportunities.) Then set your prospecting and appointment schedule up to coincide with these days and develop the self-discipline to stick with the plan. Avoid the temptation to run from one side of your territory to the other chasing “hot” prospects, calmly approaching your quadrants.

 2. Understand what you have. You have no guaranty that the territory you are given has the value assigned and expected since no one else has ever worked it in this specific situation. So come at everything with skepticism and take nothing for granted. If you ascertain the value of your territory independently from past predictions and experiences you will make it possible to establish realistic goals.There is nothing more valuable in your sales tool box than your prospect database. Take time every afternoon to update your CRM with new prospects, call notes, and next steps. Be religious about this and do not end the day until this task is done. Keeping your prospect database up to date is about seeing the big picture and setting yourself up for success in the future. It is about making sure the investment you make today pays off tomorrow.

3. Do a little bit every dayThere is a children’s riddle that asks, “What the best way to eat an elephant?” The answer of course is one bite at a time. You can’t do everything at once. It will take months to fully ramp up. But when you consistently and systematically do a little bit of the right things every day you will be amazed at how these activities build on themselves. Soon you will see the results in your territory grow.

Summary

Be a Chess Player! Today, tomorrow and throughout your career. Keep your funnel full and anticipate rather than react. When it comes down to it, the most important element of any sales strategy, is short or long term preparedness. The more thoroughly you are prepared for each sales day and each situation, the better you will perform. The best way to do this is by continually documenting your plan and then execute, while at the same time striving for improvement by continually thinking beyound the immediate reaction.

 

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Generating business with newsletters… easier than it looks!

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING by Tom Levers on January 30, 2011

                                                                                                                                                    Email newsletters are a great way to get people to think of you first. But only if you do it right!

  • How do you ensure your e-newsletter is the one people look forward too?

  • How do you ensure your e-newsletter carries impact and influence?  

Many marketers want to do a newsletter but often it is an overwhelming task. I recently tackled this project with a release of my first company newsletter to the Microsoft Global Field Organization and our System Center Partners and potential Alliance Partners.

 See Click Here To Read BridgeWays Newsletter

 When designing and writing this newsletter I continually referenced these guidelines:

 1.      Avoid overly ambitious newsletter programs – requiring many people, more time, and money than the marketing budget can comfortably invest. Disappointment is certain to result when you bite off more than you can chew.

2.      Keep your audience in mind, always know your topic and know your audience and make an effort to learn and write about what is relevant and important to them!

 3.      Choose a distinctive, benefit-oriented title – newsletter success begins with the nameplate, the stylized treatment of your newsletter’s title that appears on the front page of each issue. Your newsletter’s title should serve as an icon, or visual symbol, signaling the content of your newsletter. A title consisting of a few short words is better than one containing several long words. Short titles and words permit the use of a large type size. Instead of a long title, consider breaking the title of your newsletter into two parts; a short, key word set in a large type size supported by a longer subtitle set in a smaller type size which amplifies its meaning.

 4.      Choose the right margins and column layout – white space is the least-expensive ways you can make your newsletters more attractive and easier to read… or use stock photos to add a finish professional look. White space begins with generous margins. Always provide sufficient “breathing room” at the tops and bottoms of your pages. If you are using a three-column layout, omit text from the first column and devote it to photos, pull-quotes and short topics. If you plan to include a lot of photographs in your newsletter, include a scholar’s margin, a narrow column along the outside edge of each page. This builds white space into each page and provides space for a variety of different-sized photographs. Small photographs can fit entirely within the scholar’s margin; other photographs can extend into it from the adjacent text columns.

 5.      Be consistent – Choose a single typeface for all of your headlines and limit headlines to two sizes. Use one size for headlines of primary importance; another, smaller, size for headlines of lesser importance. This adds visual variety to your page and helps readers quickly identify the most important topics, yet avoids a disorganized image. Make your headlines stand out by choosing a typeface that forms a strong visual contrast with adjacent body copy. For example, use sans serif headlines (i.e. Helvetica) to introduce body copy set in a serif typeface (like Times Roman).

 6.      Insert frequent subheads – subheads add visual interest to your articles and make them easier to read by breaking long expanses of text into manageable, bite-sized chunks. Each subhead provides readers with a convenient entry point into your article. Readers are likely to skim your subheads and begin reading when they encounter something that attracts their interest. Often the best result is from setting subheads in the same typeface used in the headlines, only smaller. Using the same typeface for headlines and subheads simplifies and unifies your document. Place more space above subheads than below them. This emphasizes the break between the previous topic and the next topic.

 7.      Make body copy as easy to read as possible – body copy should be as transparent as possible. In most cases, this is achieved by using a typeface, one that doesn’t draw undue attention to itself. This allows the message to emerge. Whenever possible, choose a familiar serif typeface. Numerous studies have shown that serif typefaces (like Garamond, Palatino, and Times Roman) are easier to read than sans serif typefaces (like Helvetica). This is because the serifs guide the reader’s eyes along from letter to letter. Consider setting body copy text flush-left/ragged-right. Flush-left alignment is characterized by equal word spacing and lines of unequal line length. This creates interesting pools of white space at the end of each line which further opens-up each line. The equal word spacing of flush-left/ragged-right type allows readers to establish a rhythm, making their job easier. Always hyphenated flush-left/ragged-right text, however, to avoid extremely short lines followed by very long lines or lines that form diagonals or other shapes along the right margin.

 8.      Choose the right punctuation and spacing – prospective clients will gauge your professionalism and ability to satisfy their needs by the way you handle subtle details like punctuation and spacing. Avoid hitting the space bar twice after periods at the ends of sentences, as this creates distracting gaps—especially noticeable with justified text. Likewise, avoid hitting the Enter or Return key twice after paragraphs, as this creates distracting horizontal bands of white space between paragraphs. Instead, use your Paragraph formatting command to add Space After equal to one and one-half lines of text.

 9.      Align visuals with column boundaries – avoid photographs that columns into adjacent columns. This creates text wraps, narrow columns characterized by awkward word spacing and excessive hyphenation. Aligning photographs with column boundaries emphasizes the structure of your newsletter and makes it easier to read.

 10.   Use color with restraint – exercise restraint when adding a second color. Concentrate color in a few key locations, such as the background of your nameplate or your firm’s logo. Color often works best as a background element, rather than as a foreground element (i.e. text.) Avoid using a different color for each issue. This often confuses readers, (destroying issue-to-issue unity and familiarity), makes your job harder and increases printing costs. The different text and visuals on the front cover of each issue should be enough to differentiate each issue.

 11.   Detail your newsletter – detail your newsletter by going through it (use someone else to proof if you’re the creator), line by line, making 🙂 sure that simple errors haven’t crept in.

 12.   Simplify your design – strive for simplicity. Eliminate unnecessary boxes, borders and rules. Use a single headline typeface and type size throughout your headline and avoid the temptation to use too much bold or italics within your body copy. Clutter detracts from your message. Every change in typography, color or layout detracts from your reader’s ability to concentrate on your message.

 13.   Look for reader feedback, always – talk with a new sampling of readers after each issue. Do a formal readership survey on a regular basis. Track what’s happening. Why work on the newsletter if it is NOT achieving the objective.

 14.   Remember that your list is everything so cherish and respect it – make sure you know exactly whom you’re sending your email newsletter too. You can divide the target audience into categories (segmentation), and decide on what approach to take with regard to each of these categories.

 Conclusion – You can improve your newsletter’s ability to generate new business by establishing realistic goals and working as efficiently as possible. Newsletters demonstrate value that solves the day-to-day problems of readers, helps them stay on top of industry trends, and saves time by distilling practical information such as real-world best practices and industry advances from many sources. Newsletters can very easily become customers’ and partners trusted information source on specific business problems. Trust helps you to position your company as a credible source, which in turn retains your customers, and alliances.

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Rumors of Facebook?

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on September 25, 2010

Mobile Apps and the Contrariness of a Serial Software Company Guy

Some contrarian takeaways…

  • Only 28% of the most successful public software companies reached $50 million in annual sales in 6 years or less.
  • 50% of these companies took 9 or more years to reach $50m in revenue.
  • Microsoft took 8 years to reach $50 million in sales; Oracle took 10.
  • “Traditional consumer PC software is dead.” Apparently, the only question mark is how long it will take for customers and vendors to realize.
  • Mobile phone applications “will be as big if not bigger than Cloud Applications”

Consider the still burgeoning world of mobile apps.

One reason there is even more Mobile App growth potential is it can be a Marketing Tactic. You could compare Mobile App development more to Website development  with new Social Networks like Twitter or Facebook rather  than Application Development. There is the front-end (Gui with Marketing Objective) and the back-end ( functionality with Value Proposition).

How to build and distribute an app for marketing is very different than simply asserting that an app is a good idea. Brand building is first and very different than traditional App development. Developing a strategy for executing app distribution around the right demographic breakdown of smartphone users IE. iPhone (Consumer), Droid (???), Blackberry (B2B) does not happen by accident.

When to use a mobile Web microsite vs an app is important. Knowing when a more easily produced and developmentally sound hybrid app is the best approach to achieve marketing objectives requires an understanding of how the process works, not just that the process is important.

Here are the essential tactics that the right mobile strategy/tactics can help guide marketers through:
  •  
    • Basic marketing experience in Consumer (Advertising, Premiums, POS)  or B2B  (Thought Leadership, ROI positioning, Trial/Demo Best Practices)
    • Segmentation and message targeting – and knowing the software that is best as it moves across mobile tactics .
    • SMS – bi-directional, targeting and personalization principles must be applied here in full force.
    • Mobile Web trends, its accessibility, and its universality. Also, tricks like software that recognizes the device accessing the mobile Web page, then renders to the device.
    • Development of apps, hybrid apps, and when apps are – and when they are not – the right approach.
    • The role of video on a mobile device.

Tactically companies should be agnostic. Of course there are many other important tactical and strategic bits of understanding that will grow and change as technology and Smartphone users grow. Of course I would be remiss not to promote the manygreat Mobile Apps for Word Press see  http://en.support.wordpress.com/apps/

So the innovative marketer is already asking themselves “Is their an application that will enhance my products and my brand ?”

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

Build ROI to Create “Urgency”

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, Sales by Tom Levers on May 28, 2010

ROI Creates Urgency

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943

At some point IBM learned Computers delivered ROI. Even when you can show convincing functional data about the magnitude of a business problem, it is not enough. The good CEO, consultant, sales person,  product manager also lights a fire, figuratively,  to move on the issue…. of ROI urgency.

This is why a product is “Hot”.

If your sales efforts are in question, take a critical look at your value proposition, presentation proposal, the demonstration… where is the ROI? If it’s pro feature-centric, generic and functional only (with regard to value delivery), it rarely lights a fire.

Prospects today are sitting on their scarce cash reserves and won’t pry open their checkbooks unless they recognize the following:

  1. their customer has a real business problem;
  2. this problem is one of their  top 3 concerns;
  3. you absolutely understand this problem;
  4. you possess a solution that will solve the problem; and,
  5. you can deliver the promised ROI

According to Forrester Vice President Ray Wang, who specializes in software ROI, a new investment in software makes sense if it does one of the following:

  1. Provides efficiency gains that reduce overhead or allow you to do more without adding resources;
  2. Puts you in compliance with legal or contractual requirements, decreases security risk or makes your technology compatible with that of your clients or customers;
  3. Supports a new strategic initiative (such as a customer loyalty program);
  4. Provides increased capacity or functionality to allow your business to grow.

Ask yourself… does your business prospect indicate that they “like” or “need” your product or service?

Many of the projects that get green-lighted are those that solve break/fix matters. Discretionary (aka nice to have) projects are the opportunities that never move or don’t get back to you, they are the ones that get deferred or shot down altogether.

Sometimes all a good service or software firm has to do is better understand the prospect and review the materiality or “heat” of the project .

The more your proposed project is seen as a break/fix necessity, the more likely it will get approved.

To learn how to create more ROI around your service or software product, send me an email. tlevers@comcast.net

Rising to the Top in Sales

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on May 7, 2010


We have all experienced it. A good sales person, often the best, becomes sales manager.   Principals and CSOs are often disappointed in the lack of results, and the sales managers are confused and frustrated with the lack of achievement of managing a team.

A variation on this theme usually produces even more angst.  A good sales person, without any real management experience, is hired from outside the company to fill a sales manager position.  When these decisions go bad, the hurt feelings, negative attitudes and difficult situations which result can be ugly.

Not that this is always the case.  Many CSOs and executives rose through the ranks in just this fashion, contributing exceptionally at every stage.  But, these cases are generally the exception, not the rule.

The rule is that few good sales people make good sales managers. Why is that?

At the Top

Consider the unique blend of strengths and aptitudes that often mark the character of an exceptional sales person.  Exceptional sales people often have very high standards for themselves and everyone around them.  They are highly focused on the customer, often to the determent of their relationships with their colleagues.  It’s not unusual for your star sales person to irritate and frustrate the people in the operational side of the business, with a brusque and demanding attitude.  After all, they think, I’m extending myself to take care of my customers, why shouldn’t I expect everyone else to do so also?

When they become sales managers, they expect all of their sales people to be just as hard driving and achievement oriented as they were.  Unfortunately the reality is that most of their sales people don’t share the same degree of drive and perfectionism that they had.  If they did, they would have been promoted to sales manager.

That means that the sales manager often is frustrated with the performance and attitudes of his charges, and confused as to how to change them.

The exceptional sales person is often an independent character, who thrives in a climate where he can make his own decisions, determine his own call patterns, and spend time by himself.

Alas, he loses almost all of that when he is promoted to sales manager.  He’s expected to work a consistent, well defined work week, to spend a certain number of hours in the office, and to fulfill certain administrative functions.  The freedom to make his own decisions, to determine his own days, is gone.  So, he often struggles with how to adjust to this new work environment and still be productive.

Whereas before he was clearly and independently responsible for his results, now he must achieve his results through other people.  Too often, he defaults to a view of his job wherein he becomes the “super sales person,” taking over accounts, projects and sales calls from his less talented charges.  This creates frustration on all parts.

The exceptional sales person has the ability and propensity to see every situation optimistically, overlooking all the obstacles and concentrating on the potential in every account.  That is a necessary element to the sales personality.  Without it, he couldn’t weather all the rejection and frustration inherit in the sales job.

That personality strength which serves him well as a sales person, is however, a major obstacle to his success as a sales manager.  When it comes to hiring a new salesperson, he finds himself viewing every candidate through those same optimistic eyes.

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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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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The ROI Calculator and Your Web Site

Posted in DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS by Tom Levers on September 23, 2009

Sales / Marketing Tools
Sales / Marketing Tools

 

Often the goal in a business to business sales process is to sell using a method of defining return on investment or using a configurator to cost justify so that you can educate and take a leadership role.

Often the key question is… can we determine a  metrics path that will yield an ROI? 

One approach is to use  a  form or spread sheet process that must be completed in order to self guide the understanding of value.

The one key caveat is to capture leads prior to completion of the  ROI process. Note that the call to action must be at the top of any web page.

Typically the length to protect against abandoment must be limited. So actions that make assumptions like Seven reasons to choose XYZ  will help reduce the complexity by building in more common assumption. 

Treatment

The best approach is for the form to have  more steps, but the steps are greatly simplified.

The treatment can make the ROI the main focus of the landing page and include an email capture at the beginning to facilitate the recovery process.

Conclusions

The main goal is to acquired more ROI completed unique visitors. So almost everyone that started the ROI process finished.

This  implys that reducing friction was the main reason for completion. This is accomplished by:

  • Limiting the number of questions and making all questions easily answered with drop-down boxes reduced friction dramatically.
  • Submitting your metrics and getting a comparison based on other replys.

What Next?

Also, consider that not every valid prospect is sales-ready at the same time.  Some people who are in the initial stages of researching before they buy and may not be aware of an ROI education process.  Consider ROI calls-to-action that provide information to early stage buyers without requiring them to go through different complex ROI processes.

Transferable Principles:

Whether your market is B2B, B2C, or both, the following principles can guide the testing phase of your ROI optimization cycle:

  • Use a specific goal or hypothesis – the improvement you want and how you hope to achieve it. Identifying whatyou need begins with knowing what you want to achieve.
  • Predict as many secondary metrics as you can imagine.  For example, consider how adding images may affect page load time, a prospect’s perception of value and eye-path.
  • Check and recheck to make sure you are using the correct metric for your goals.  After performing a test, consider if there is another way to measure results.  For instance, decide whether measuring user engagement is best done by looking at time-on-page, clickthrough, or by tracking return visitors, or using heat maps.
  • Take the time to  follow-up metrics. They will help you evaluate if your optimization translates into long-term gains.
  • Be discriminating with your metrics and analytics. Focus on relevance and insights rather than data overload.  Prioritize the data relevant to your immediate optimization goal.

Summary:

Focus on the before-and-after of your ROI process.  The following points will help you identifythe pitfalls to avoid and protect the integrity of the ROI development process.

  • Recognize whether the barriers to your ROI lead optimization process are internal or external.
  • Cast yourself as a customer advocate and walk through your own ROI lead conversion.
  • Avoid interruptions in the conversion path—elements that stop the momentum. 
  • Beware of factors like bias, impatience, and extrapolation in your interpretations of ROI data.
  • Strive for environmental stability.

Partner channels are conduits of communications

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, Partner alliances by Tom Levers on September 15, 2009

BRAND PARTNERS
BRAND PARTNERS

By Tom Levers

Remember Hierarcial Marketing – where product design, price and promotion determine demand? This traditional model places communications alongside the other variables of the marketing mix.

With the Internet as a primary communication tactic and the Partner Alliance as a multiplyer of the direct sales organization, you may want to use a more Counter-Intuitive Marketing Model !

 

Business to business organizations have gotten creatively lazy to the idea of  tactical integration of communications messages. To rapidly deploy new products in the future they will have to embrace the idea of the strategy of vertical integration to take advantage of the new marketing methods for communications – ie. speaking with one voice from the CEO’s office right down to the sales and tech people is key to rapid product demand.

Because of the increased importance of company-wide brand values in providing competitive advantage, marketing is becoming a way of delivering a communications strategy, rather than the other way round. 

In the “Traditional” model, communications starts with the company, and marketing becomes part of the ‘delivery mechanism’ for the communications strategy. It does not consider various conditional factors that determine primary and secondary forms of communications.

What are the implications of this vision of vertically-integrated marketing communications? Lets first understand the definition of Vertical Integration in general business… it is when a company expands its business into areas that are at different points of the same production path, ie the  Operating System Software company decides to make Software Utilities that it would normally need or the Auto company decides to go into the tire business.

An obvious marketing translation is the importance of integrating internal and external marketing communications. ie  All the employees are highly credible ambassadors to its external public – both in what they say to their communities and the service they provide to their customers. Both word of mouth and performance can be enhanced to the benefit of the organisation by sustained  internal marketing.

 A second implication of the strategic vertical marketing integration is the importance of developing partner channels as conduits of information, as well as , products and services.

Marketing frequently differentiates between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ strategies. ‘Push’ strategies ( direct selling) offer incentives to channels , pushing them towards the end user. ‘Pull’ strategies, on the other hand, use directed techniques ( advertising ) to stimulate demand in order to pull the product, or service, through the channels.pepsi_besser_lf29jun59

‘’Pull-“to find a need and satisfying it”, but Push -“create the awareness that a need exists”… metaphor rankles the old school traditionalist . 

Although Start-Up ventures have no product category established… no awareness of need, so if they have a need,  Vertically Integrated Marketing-“what is the fastest methods to get attention”  is the key driving communications tactics !

Push and pull strategies are not mutually exclusive. For example, a Trade Event directed solely at the end user will be seen by alliance partners, analysts, even competitors who validate and bolster their confidence in the category of product or service concerned.

While it is necessary to operationalise marketing communications strategy by combining a number of different disciplines and tactics, customers experience brands in their own terms. In order to communicate in a customer-centred way, organisations need to consider how their brand messages are received. 

The customer-centered communications methods can be broken down into ten (10) sources, but clearly there are infinate ways of a prospect hearing, seeing, or experiencing your brand. Public relations, word of mouth/tech, events, forms of media advertising,  sales promotion activity, internet searches, text messages, direct marketing, your direct sales, and finally alliance partners that can be extensive,  and only partially controllable.

The uncertainty of partners alliances makes it all the more important to think through brand contact points thoroughly, in order to gauge their potential implications. The key is to maintain that an organisation can improve its management of this process by a careful consideration of the different ways in which customers come into contact with the brand – offering a standardised  framework for action planning.

The traditional distinctions between push, pull and profile strategies  are giving way to ways of analysing and planning marketing communications which recognise the complexity of how customers receive messages.

Finding out how customers access marketing communications reveals their preferences in receiving information. As active recipients of brand messages, they can screen out the irrelevant and the inconvenient. Observing their preferences in this regard can be a source of genuine competitive advantage.

A way of improving your marketing is by improveing the singularity of your brand communications strategy…  from the point of view of the customer it will look as if your Brand is everywhere.
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The New Age of the Consumer

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on June 4, 2009

Have you seen Google’s “Wave” for email?

Google noticed that the novice consumer does not like email! Why would they, with every company offering it free so that half the inbox fills up with junk, and people can’t sort the good from the bad… it is just not doing the job!

This is why consumers use IM, Facebook, and Twitter.  It takes the current status quo and completely shatters it. Wave is part of  what may be an integral piwaveece in a new, richer world of online functionality (a new communication ecosystem”).

Google is slowly assembling a critical mass of SaaS applications that threatens to change the legacy applications from Microsoft. Sure there will always be a need for local applications, but is consumer communicating and social connecting one of these… if I were Microsoft, this would be keeping me up at night.

Xerox/IBM-Microsoft /Apple broke down the old technologies of the computer world by merging the mini computer operating system services with a graphical user experience . This is our  20+ year foundation since the 80 ‘s.

The concept of desktop applications, has started to move into the new world of SaaS. Google is one large organization that is not bound by the challenge of legacy influences and profit margins, and is building a new world order because of its “Green Field Products”.

Twitter, Facebook, etc… these type of innovators can try over and over with technology until it becomes accepted by consumers that are willing to adopt new revolutionary concepts that improve their lifestyle.  Business can not afford to take these risks, because of their legacy investment and processes. So consumers will drive the next technology change in collaborative communication devices and computing. Once consumers adopt the new order, business will follow in these new service areas. Collaboration is presently controled by the legacy of business, it will be consumers that will adopt new inovation and new technologies that demand we have something better.

Pro Bono Your Expertise

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on May 3, 2009

will-code-for-htmlThere is a Shortage of Marketing and Software Professionals in the Non-Profit Arena

Nonprofit organizations could use more pro bono support during this deep recession, but neither charities nor corporations are taking the right steps to encourage more volunteer consulting,  cites the 2009 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey.

Nearly 40 percent of nonprofit leaders who responded to the survey said they will spend $50,000 or more on outside Marketing / eCom / Web Site development this year, but nearly a quarter of the respondents have no plans to use skilled volunteers or pro bono support in any capacity in 2009.

The survey was commissioned by Deloitte LLP, a consulting firm, and is based on online interviews with 300 corporate executives and 360 nonprofit executives. The charity leaders had previously applied for pro bono support from the Taproot Foundation, which promotes pro bono service by business professionals.

Aaron Hurst, the Taproot Foundation’s president and founder, said charity leaders typically think of pro bono services in the legal arena, but he noted that charities could save thousands of dollars by seeking skilled volunteers to help in other areas.

The organization’s Pro Bono Action Tank lists 76 types of pro bono projects, including developing a Web site, redesigning facilities, and creating a training program for employees.

If you are interested in learning more about Pro Bono Projects make a comment and I would be happy to direct you to many different organizations.

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.

Improving Your Website… a “Call To Action”

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS by Tom Levers on January 21, 2009

directionHow are you measuring your prospect activities when directed to your site?

From hits to clicks and page views to time-on-site, all of these issues are sorrounded by a myriad of ways to measure a website. But remember abandonment rates, they can measure both your efficiency and your effectiveness of the sites “Call To Action” (CTA) objectives.

There are many best practices used for improving the metrics of a site, but your real objective is to fill the sales funnel by getting a registration, requesting a white paper, running a  “cost justification wizard”,  downloading a trial… or any of the many other call to action tactics that increase the probability of the sale. It is imperative to measure each step or action, because its a prime indicator of where or what the Visitor has touched, and it might possibly be the reason they left your site.

Where an action is requested and not taken, we need to build baselines for improvement. No one in the B-to-B organization would accept not tracking and improving the sales processes (by measuring where and why the sales process stalled), you may want to consider the same importance to tracking and improving the abandonment of a “Call To Action”. Here site analytics software is key to improving your Demand Funnel, just as relationship management software is key to improving the Sales Funnel.

By monitoring Web Analytics Dashboards to measure the Demand Funnel you can identify and improve the  “Call to Action Metrics” by developing indicatwebsite-metricsors or KPIs of how to minimize the drop offs. The solution can typically be to modify the registration information required or remodel the page flow or navigation, but first you need to identify the areas to improve.

There are 2 ways to calculate Drop off rate:

The first calculation to take Drop off/Abandonment rate = (Visits of the current CTA Step-Visits of the previous CTA Step)/Visits of the First Conversion Step. This calculation takes into account the Homepage every time we calculate the drop off rate at every step. So in the Funnel, we notice 7000 visits are measured on the Products View (Step 2) and only 2000 Continue to registration which means that the calculation based on the formula would be (2000-7000)/10000 which would be -50% as it is loss.

The second calculation to calculate Drop off/Abandonment rate = (Visits of the current CTA Step-Visits of the previous CTA Step)/Visits of the Previous conversion Step. This calculation takes into account the previous “Call To Action” Step and the current “Call To Action”Step. As an Example In the Funnel, we notice 7000 visits are measured on the Products View  and only 2000 Continue to “Call to Action” which means that the calculation based on the formula would be (2000-7000)/7000 which would be -71%.

Using AB tests on the “Call To Action”  pages can immediately increase the amount of prospects you generate.

AB Testing is a way to test 2 variations of a page in order to determine which page is more successful in terms of pulling people towards a website goal. We split traffic on each page based on a defined proportion (50/50, 90/10). Usually the first step where there are most chances of convincing a user to buy something is the homepage as this is the page that defines a website in terms of visual appeal, product listing, ease of navigation, color scheme and even text. These things go a long way in generating a sense of trust in the users. For e.g. we have a website whose business model is selling books and there are 2 AB Test pages with the first page being the Control (original) having a discount offer banner on the top and the second page doesn’t have any discount offer banner but a slideshow listing the top selling books. We will then put tracking codes on both these pages and identify each page with a unique identifier in order to measure each page’s success. This success is usually measured in terms of the Conversion ratio which can be measured as: Visitors on the Conversion page/Visitors on the Test/Home Page. Some tools that can help you achieve AB Testing are Google Website Optimizer, Verster, SiteSpect and SplitAnalyzer.


Multivariate Testing is the second and the most efficient method to optimize your page. In this method, you don’t use multiple pages to determine a higher conversion rate but you do test the same page by changing the elements around. For example you can test headlines, colors, buttons and images on the same page by correlating each element with each other to find the best possible combination/element. The method used to achieve this is known as the Taguchi Method.This method takes into consideration the sample size and how long a test should run in order to have a clear winner. Google Website Optimizer uses this method to measure a multivariate test. This tool lets you view the various combinations and elements separately and then based on the Taguchi method decides the winner. All you need to do is add a tracking code on to your page and Google Website Optimizer will then split the traffic equally on each element separately.  Some other tools that can help you achieve multivariate Testing are Google Website Optimizer, Optimost, Memetrics, Verster,clouds Maxymiser and Omniture Test & Target.

After using the Taguchi method of page testing and based on the above formulas the result is counter intuitive. It may look like the first method generated a  better rate of abandonment. However, the second funnel is only considered in the respective CTA steps  and not Step 1 (Homepage) because Step 1 is entirely a separate user experience. As a result, the drop off rate should be calculated based on the 2nd CTA Step, as they are independent of the user experience on the other pages of a Funnel. These 2 pages alone can determine how to  improve the conversion rate at each step, as these are not based on the Homepage experience. As example. The Registration form design and involvement is totally different than what it is on the Homepage.

How Do You Measure Success?

Whether your site received 2 visitors or 2 million, that figure is pretty meaningless unless it’s improvement correlates with an increase in enquiries or sales. It’s simple, the yardstick for how the website is measured has changed as analytics scramble to reflect how actionable activities are generated.  Total minutes on a site has its own caveats and is more an awareness thought leadership metric, not a call to action measure. The reliance of marketers on their website becomes increasingly obvious. But with increased spending comes increased expectations; tracking results through basic measures such as click-through and PPC related areas won’t be sufficient. This is why focusing on measuring the various stages of the Demand Funnel and “Call to Action” is the true approach to improving the efficiency and quality of your website performance.

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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Using Search to Predict a 2009 Message

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 22, 2008

20094 Search can measure emotions

At the turn of the new millennium, experts started using the technique of viewing Search trend data to predict demand.  As the use of the internet grew, so did the confidence of Search forecasts. Just as you can use Search results for econometrics, you can also measure trend data of basic needs, behaviors and emotions.  With the release of Google “universal search” in late 2007, videos, images, news, maps, books, and websites can be retrieved to give real time results.

As the economy of 2008 comes to a close, we are looking at a more profoundly uncertain economic environment than most individuals and companies have ever faced. Now, even Keynesian alternatives such as the Austrian Economic model show significant trend data. Uncertainty surrounds not only the downturn’s depth and duration but also the very fear of a changing global economic order.  The unknown economic condition becomes a fertile ground where the emotion “fear” grows.  

Many of the relevant economic key word trends point to “Fear” as a rapidly growing behavior.  Because of fear, the transmission of our evolutionary hierarchy has downshifted consumers adollar2nd business into survival mode. 

Think Twice Before You Cut

If there is a budgetary choice, now is the time to grab market share. Time and again we have seen companies that market their way through a poor economy and end up coming out the other side with share gains and stronger brands compared to competition. While P& L is key, “When times are tough, it is time to invest, not cut. This comes from years of research dating back to Ogilvy’s Alex Biel and Millward Brown interaction surveys. Showing that if we cut marketing during these times, the impact is damaging and it can take you longer to get back to where you were.”

Is your marketing message communicating one of these benefits?  New, More, Bigger, Faster, Better. They do not work when fear exists.

We have switched our attitudes from acquiring to defending (the aggressor to the protector), and the search engine can be used as a quantitative research indicator that can guide your marketing message.  We’ve gone from dreaming about acquiring to worrying about defending when you run key word searches.  There are many examples, like the key word “New”, dropping significantly to just over 6 billion hits on Google. We are constantly looking for more … life, money, love. We are hardwired to look for more.  As Abraham Maslow pointed out, there is a hierarchy of human needs and drives, but “Fear” will always override the need to “Acquire.” Search used correctly shows the marketer our collective needs, behaviors, hopes, and wish fulfillment.

What questions are you asking?

There is a resistance from the manifestations of fear. As a result, marketers need to adapt the message to move beyond the promotion of  “Do Not Fear”. By looking at “Confidence”, “Safety”,” Protection”,” Stability”, and “Assurance”…. these key words are trending up,  but a successful message must have more.  Consider adding a “Dream” to your “Do Not Fear” message.

Just because we have gone into “Defend” mode, doesn’t mean we stop planning, and dreaming. Fear is the effect, but hope and aspirations are the mechanism. Our imagination has been an activity that is a historical favorite. Look at the boom of the movie industry through the depths of the Great Depression as an example.  When it comes to big investments even though a consumer can’t afford to buy a new car or a vacation, they can imagine.  So identifying that “we can still pretend”, is an activity that will also show up on analytics reports, (causing conversion ratios to decrease and interactive requests to never be taken) to the point where business thinkers scratch their heads with confusion.

The challenge is to “Motivate” in your message. How can we move the prospect to act on the need to “Acquire“, under the influence of “Fear“? If you have a web site you can apply multivariate testing or the more common split run testing methods to qualify your landing visitors. By using this method you can validate your quantitative search engine message to increase the bottom line.

We’ll adapt to the new reality and we’ll survive. That’s why fear exists. It allows us to marshal our resources, heighten our vigilance, and focus. Testing the many “Fear Not” key words in your message, can be a demand path to delivering the intellectual approval your prospect needs to “Acquire“. 

 

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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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Social Interaction and the Velocity of Change

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 11, 2008
megaphone22
by Tom Levers

Modern marketing methods need to adapt rather than just control

 

Adapting to constantly changing attitudes and behaviors can be overwhelming to the traditional organization, but there are realtime customer message correcting methods that can be used to improve effectiveness.

 

To keep up with the velocity of change marketers must have customer insight to define message development. These capabilities use marketing tactics that are interactive rather than static. Traditional marketing is all about control over advertising content, placement, and timing of your product, price, promotion and packaging. This is great except when the world is moving faster than you can anticipate.  You can reach your buyers using traditional methods, but you cannot participate when an outside variable hits… and you definitely cannot control external factors like the economy, you only adapt.

 

By using multi-audience skills  you can examine a situation from multiple perspectives adapting to meet the audiences’ various needs rapidly rather than at a snails pace. Rethinking marketing communications to build a new kind of function is key, a new kind of capability that will combine customer facing that builds a feedback loop to validate the adaptive customer message. Take a typical product and service organization. Many businesses are in a transformation process that tests assumptions of the modern multinational corporate model. Globalization, combined with the web impacts the ability to communicate in a linear method to customers and investors, using traditional methods, and is overturning the company’s ability to segment audiences and messages.

 together3

Change is rarely a gift from above. It comes out of struggles from below. Just as the barriers between business stakeholders have dissolved, the marketing effort must remove the barriers between communications functions. These functions include direct response, media, public relations, corporate communications, partner marketing, and eventually the company’s citizenship function (if there is one), which is responsible for promoting values and injecting the power of the marketing message in and outside the organization. The typical corporate structure, with sales and marketing to engage customers and a separate public relations team to communicate, plus handling communications to investors, and employees, the process cannot keep up with the correct direction when the organization with many products and many messages can not integrate a topical relevance. It is a marketing department tread mill that is always behind.

 

Traditional advertising and marketing approaches have not been rendered obsolete. TV advertising during live scheduled events, such as National Football League games, provide on-line searches that spike to 10-20 times their normal traffic during the broadcast creates a traditional strength to an interactive activity.

 

However, just one example of adapting to current trends indicated from the  August Simmons Multimedia Engagement Study finds that consumers are less likely to purchase products and services they see promoted on news media, and are less apt to say  products and services shown on news media are high quality.

 

There are five key dimensions of engagement that breaks down how media connects with its audience. The key is to integrate marketing so that Social Interaction is the foundation of theses other marketing dimensions.  

  1. Inspirational: Consumers are inspired by message and have an emotional connection to it
  2. Trustworthy: Consumers trust a particular program, radio talk, magazine or website and believe it is telling the truth without sensationalizing
  3. Life Enhancing: Consumers feel they are learning about new things and places from a particular program, magazine or website, helping to make better life decisions
  4. Personal Timeout: Provide an escape for consumers, who like to relax and unwind while reading, listening or watching media
  5. Social Interaction: Fodder for conversations with other friends and family.

 

It all argues for taking a much more non-linear and contemporary approach to the work of marketing and communications. It starts as a message that every employee owns, and is accountable for its relevant content… so that it drives through the employees social interaction with friends, family and business colegues that are part of the growing blogs, forums, wiki’s, social networks,  customer CRM communications, events, trade shows, Radio Talk Show call in’s, and TV guests appearances to deliver a message that blends with the topical social fabric. The message becomes part of the social  multiplyer of touch points, no matter what event may occur or new information is learned,.

 metrics

This all sounds great… but how is it done?  

 

1. There has to be a willingness to change the marketing process to look for ways to integrate experiential forms of  communicating. This will eventually change the corporate culture into a real time (direct response) culture that permeates the thinking of every employee and program. Doing something always works better than saying something. Use as much integrated social interaction in your marketing as you can.  Use these tactics together rather than in silos. Combine interactive promotions, user generated blogs, forums, social networks, contests, meet ups, road shows, breakfasts, user meetings, conferences,  public sporting events, encourage company pro bono efforts, special needs sponsorships…  in any marketing tactic. Add an element that generates participation with your prospects, customers, employees, and the brand experience.

 

2. Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and  dashboards that indicate a roll up from employee and partner scorecards, that reflects how they are participating with customers not just force feeding them a message .

 

One thing is certain, advertising experts have refined the methods of building a message machine that moves a pitch from point A to point B very effectively. In the next few years the digital divide will hit the marketing organization by distinguishing between those brands that use technology to integrate social interaction (participate) verses broadcast their message. To manage change organizations need to build a mechanism to participate in conversations.  As a marketing organization, if you do nothing but broadcast your message you are not incorporating real-time customer listening into your message development. The key is to build a marketing method that incorporates these new interactive tactics so that the marketing organization can be part of the “experience” of changing product attitudes as the customer expresses their thoughts, hopes, and dreams… so we hear and can articulate the personalized attitudes and needs derived from the changing world and how it impacts our products and services… so that we as marketers can internalize change rather than watch it fly by.

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Search Engine Trademark Best Practices… what every marketer should know.

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 5, 2008
on-the-back1by Tom Levers

Can you build awareness from other brands ? 

No matter if you are using a “professional  SEM agency” or you’re a “PPC Do It Yourself-er “, a brand has a lot of value, so remember that its critical to be aware of the do’s and don’ts of  SEM Trademark best practices.

 

Despite the recession in 2008, U.S. paid search advertisement revenue is expected to reach $15.52 billion. Even with the holiday melt down internet marketing represents a 31.9% increase over 2007.  Search advertising is not immune to the economy and will motivate many to squeeze more out of their ad spending. So now more than ever the PPC marketer should be vigilant about the utilization and protection of a brand. There have been many search engine court cases involving keyword usage and trademark protection, by knowing best practices, you don’t need to fear or wonder about trademark infringement. 

 

This article reviews the state of the law, search engine company policies, as well as, legal methods to protect your trademark or use another trademark to enhance your visibility on the web. Trademark infringement is a popular topic for any business that develops a brand. There are the 4 basic elements of a claim: 1. Ownership of valid trademark, 2. Priority – earliest use, 3. Use in commerce in connection with the sale of goods services. (If the advertiser buys the trademark as a keyword but doesn’t use the keyword in the ad copy, there’s a huge split in opinion on whether or not this infringes on a trademark.) There is also a geographic split – in New York it appears to be no, in the rest of the country it appears to be yes and finally, 4. Likelihood of consumer confusion.

 

A couple of courts say that if there is a purchase of a keyword without the keyword in the ad copy, it does not confuse the consumer. Another court says that consumers will always be confused and the plaintiff should always win. So presently the courts don’t really have consistent opinions. If a consumer is confused about brand representation, there are a variety of defenses; referencing the trademarked owner. For example in the Tiffany vs. Ebay case, Ebay was buying advertising on the Tiffany trademarked products, and was excused because the use was nominative – “Ebay is a great place to buy Tiffany products”.

 

There are some basic search engine trademark policies.  A summary of the top three search vendors reveals Yahoo and MSN have banned certain types of keyword and ad buys based on the trademark.  Google allows bidding on trademarked keywords, but does not allow reference of the trademark in the ad copy. This approach may be more helpful. Google trademark complaint procedures for US, UK, Ireland and Canada, won’t investigate keywords, only ad text. Outside the US, UK, Ireland and Canada, they will investigatex-os1usage in both keywords and ad text. Yahoo trademark approach has the opposite procedure; they don’t allow users to bid on trademarked keywords. Ebay has a complaint procedure, it’s called the VeRO program (Verified rights owner) and they can and will kick people out. You just fill out a form, it’s easy, and you don’t need an attorney.

 

How to use your mark so you don’t abandon or misuse: First always use proprietary notices: “this TM is registered”. Distinguish your mark in print perhaps. Use it in all caps, or use it with the first letter as the capital (though don’t use it is a proper noun because then it becomes generic. For example, Escalator lost trademark rights because they used it as a noun, and now an escalator is the generic word for “moving stairs”). Also don’t use it as a verb, like “TiVo your favorite TV show”, you should use it as an adjective, like I’ll use my TiVo DVR. Never change your mark. So if you update or modernize your mark, be cautious of the trademark implications.

 

How to legally use another company’s trademark: There are limits on how company A can use company B’s trademark. Trademark use is prohibited if it causes confusion. But there are ways you can use it. The issue of what is and isn’t likely can cause confusion – just ask yourself the question, why am I using someone else’s’ trademark? To identify a genuine product or service… To let users know you are offering a product or service… To make a comparison between your product and another, for example, you are marketing a generic version of a product…  There is no other readily identifiable way of identifying the trademarked products or services.

 

Infringement is created when a company is trying: 1.To get a search engine listing when your website has nothing to do with the trademarked product, 2.To get a more prominent organic listing when your website has nothing to do with the trademarked product, 3.To get more traffic to your site, 4.To divert a competitor’s traffic to your site

 

So if you have the right answer to “why I am using this trademark?” here are some permitted uses: 1.When your website sells the genuine trademarked product, 2.In a meta tag when the website sells the genuine product, 3. In a meta tag when the website sells the generic version of the trademarked product.=

 

Limits on use: You can say, “We have the best prices on TiVo DVRs”, or “Our Video Editor is better than NEROs”, or “We sell the generic version of Lipitor”. You can’t use the trademark more than necessary (Orbitz,Orbitz,Orbitz), or in a more prominent form than necessary. You can not overly exclaim a trademark (We are not Orbitz, We are not Orbitz, We are not Orbitz). You can’t use a trademarked logo instead of the word and you can’t falsely claim sponsorship. A new use is when a marketer writes about a product or service, and this comes up in the search listings results, when it has nothing to do with the site. The articles are usually written to drive traffic to the site. Presently there has not yet been any US case law, but if abused this will be addressed.

 

Your brand has a lot of value, so remember that its critical to be vigilant to the do’s and do not’s of SEM Trademarks. Now that more and more marketing is not on paper you need to protect your brand using contemporary methods. You may find that you could increase your results just by following these SEM trademark best practices.

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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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A Thanksgiving Thought

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on November 28, 2008

Much of this articles was writen by Brooke Hansan associate professor of anthropology at Ithaca University

The Indian recognized that you truly own no land… we just share it for a very short time.

 

This land of course was not new at the first Thanksgiving.  There were millions of indigenous people who had lived for tens of thousands of years on Turtle Island… later known to the immigrants as North America. But every November, in schools all across the United States, teachers have their children cut up construction paper and fabric and fashion little Pilgrim and Indian outfits to “re-enact” the first Thanksgiving. Children learn that the first “Thanksgiving” of 1621 was a celebratory event when the Indians graciously shared their food with the needy newcomers, or worse, that the Pilgrims invited some wayward Indians to share dinner with them.  

 

The real history of these early interactions must be de- romanticized and portrayed in a more accurate light. The relations between the Anglo immigrants and the Wampanoag Indians were more likely tense interactions between groups grappling with cultural confusion. There were probably no turkeys eaten, as fish and passenger pigeon wthe_first_thanksgivingere more comm on fare. The Natives outnumbered the newcomers, which is often not portrayed in stereotypical depictions. The Wampanoags did not wear Plains’ feather headdresses, despite many paintings and caricatures. 

 

To be fair to the Pilgrims, they are also misrepresented. They did not wear the black suits and big buckles that children often don. Teachers also rarely preface their Thanksgiving modules by stating that the Pilgrims put ashore in Massachusetts because they ran out of beer, a major provision of the time. 

The celebration of a mythical Thanksgiving did not happen in this country for several hundred years after the event, by which time American Indians had been colonized, assimilated and removed from many of their ancestral lands, usually through dubious treaties and other means that are still being questioned today.  Former President Franklin Roosevelt even moved Thanksgiving to the third week in November so there would be a longer holiday shopping season.

 

American Indians all across Turtle Island traditionally gave thanks during ceremonies, and some members of groups like the Haudenosaunee still give thanks daily. They give thanks for everything in creation, including the winds and waters, grasses and plant medicines, and two-legged and four-legged. They also give thanks that the earth and sky have provided everything for us. They remember the delicate web and our responsibilities as humans in this grand ecosystem.

Much like American-Indian mascots, people say that American Indians are being honored by the remembrance of that “first” Thanksgiving. To truly honor our Indian brethren we could for one day appreciate how we live on this beautiful land for only a very short time, the Indian understood this. They loved the land and appreciated how old the earth is… for just today appreciate that you truly own no land, we just share it for a very short time!

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on November 13, 2006

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