Inbound Marketing is a transformational approach to attract prospects with valuable content at each stage of the buyer process.

Please Don't "Set it and Forget it!"

Trigger-based emails, rules-based emails, real-time emails, or auto-responder emails are great tools for today’s marketers. Regardless of what you call it, these are the emails we receive as customers after doing something or buying something. We get order confirmations, email reminders, survey invitations, e-newsletter subscriptions and product cross-sell promotions. As an online customers , my inbox is bombarded. Some of them are relevant and timely and catch my attention, others I ignore and then eventually unsubscribe.

A “promise” of trigger-based emails is that you can “set it and forget it.” However, there are several variables in email marketing that can always be tested and optimized. Some examples are the subject line, preheaders, design, layout, copy, calls to action, timing, message/offer, etc. Given this, how can a trigger-based campaign be truly set and forgotten about?

I think some companies have forgotten about me. At some point, ignoring emails leads to annoyance and opt-outs. We have advised clients to look at bounces, open rates, and click-through rates to develop rules to purge non-responders, or move them to a campaign with fewer communications. While trigger-based emails are automated, they require the human brain to set them up for success. The last thing businesses need, especially in B2B, is customer fatigue and  a shrinking opt-in email list they worked so hard to develop.

Leveling the Playing Field (Again)

The arrival of ecommerce and other web technologies created a lot of talk about the leveling of the playing field between small / mid-sized businesses and large business. For a while, there was some truth to this. Today, scale and size are back in town. Big and well resourced firms can again spend their way to success supporting multi-channel, content-driven campaigns.

Channels

What started with a web site with some site analytics then advertising is now video, Facebook, Twitter, email, etc, etc, etc. Each channel has its own subtleties and each are rapidly evolving as all the players try to own the future. For the average small or mid-sized business – life in the fast lane is tough. Dizzying is probably the right word.

Content

Participating is a start but you are only really going to engage your target audience if you have some interesting to say. Not sure how many thought leaders there are in your business but inspiration is sometimes tough to find. Making sure the invoice goes out right gets the priority. Even collecting and distributing other people’s creative genius is hard work. How much credit do you really get for retweeting?

Support technology

This is a lot to manage. Staying on top of marketing automation, web analytics and social media monitoring tools etc, etc, etc is tough. Startups with great tools keep turning up but they are often focused on making their money by working with big companies so good luck getting a reply to your email. Otherwise, they are so busy developing their product that they don’t have time to actually sell it. So again, good luck getting a reply to your email. You can try signing up for a trial. Unfortunately, most providers have not taken the lessons of companies like 37 Signals. The monthly fee might be small but you have to donate half of one person’s week to figure out how to make it work. Multiple that by X for every platform that you want / need to try.

So…. What to do?

Don’t give up

Stay involved. Things will improve. Applications will get simpler. New solutions will emerge. Stake your claim on every new thing so you don’t have to come up with some convoluted user name / handle in the future.

Campaign in a box

A campaign in a box is coming. The obvious market opportunity is to wrap services around some good low cost technology applications to give small and mid-sized businesses what they need to compete. No learning curve, help with content and social media management in partnership with your existing team. More to come from us on this. We think that it is time to level the playing field (again).

FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06: For Compliance Guidance Only

Every day there is an article like this one in a local newspaper sympathizing with someone who was fired because of something they posed online. Thankfully for registered representatives, FINRA is catching up with the digital age and addressed the issue of regulation and social media, fittingly, on its blog. In early January 2010 it released Regulatory Notice 10-06 which is intended to serve as guidance for Registered Representatives. Though short by FINRA standards at only ten pages, it is as monotonous as other FINRA publications. But true to form it does spell out some key things to keep in mind when using social tools:

Record Keeping

Because Twitter, Facebook and any of the other numerous social networking tools are written communication, the correspondences must be retained if they relate to “business as such.” The content of the particular post governs if it falls under the record keeping regulation or not. There are tools from Arkovi and Socialware that help address this.

Suitability

The same FINRA rules apply to social media as every other communication with customers. FINRA suggests going in two different directions with maintaining Suitability compliance. You may either a) make recommendations but only let suitable customers see them or b) don’t make recommendations. Make sure that either your settings or comments are restrained enough to not allow a recommendation to be seen by the wrong person.

Static

Blogs, being a static environment, are considered advertising and must be approved by a regulatory principal. This means that both Suitability and Record Keeping regulations apply.

Interactive

Unlike other the social communications mentioned above, posting on Forums is considered a public appearance and is regulated by the same Rule (2210) that would govern any event you were at in person. The same standard applies to the comment areas of blogs, Facebook walls and other areas with interactive ability.

Facebook

Facebook content falls under both of the two categories listed above. The Profile, pictures, banner ads and any content that users can’t interact with is considered static and must be approved by an appropriate regulatory principal. The wall, comments and any other content that non-firm employees can comment on, poke or engage in some activity is considered interactive. This means that a regulatory principal does not need to approve communications before posting. Due to an employee posting, well, anything on their employer’s wall could be construed as advertising it is not advisable to post non-approved principal approved comments.

As illuminating as this publication was, it is still merely guidance which FINRA offered to shed some light on these key issues. With social media and all other communication tools – Hello, Reply All button – common sense will protect will protect you more often and fully than any compliance officer ever can.

Stay tuned for more articles addressing platform specific concerns.

Don't Let the Fruit (of Your Marketing Efforts) Die on the Vine

While companies ramp up their inbound marketing campaigns, something is happening to their house lists… they are getting tired. Naturally, hot leads find their way to sales. The rest of the new warm leads need nurturing, so they don’t die on the vine. Sending message after message may not get those warm leads any hotter. Unless those messages are targeted, relevant, and timely, companies are only exhausting their lists. The audience loses interest. Now, that’s rotten!

So, what are we left to do?

Continuing inbound marketing campaigns to keep feeding the database with new leads is an option. Augmenting the lists with third-party information to build a fuller profile, is another option. Analyzing customer lists, creating segmentation and a scoring system can help one gain a better understanding of customer’s needs. That is an option too.

No one, especially those in the B2B space, wants to see potentially good lead die on the vine. Sales people don’t want to waste their time calling cold or unqualified leads. Capturing leads, getting as much information as you can to build a profile, and segmenting them into groups is the first step to nurturing leads. Using the customer analysis, one can create targeted relevant messages to re-energize interest. This is the second part of the equation to keeping leads healthy. These tactics help marketers care and nurture healthy leads until they’re ripe sales opportunities.

Doing Good and Doing Well

Big national brands and their local affiliates can accelerate their charity impact AND drive brand value by using a network approach like good2gether.

Companies want to accelerate the impact of their charitable programs.  The terrible news from Haiti is re-focusing us on getting involved and “doing good”. While pursuing charitable programs for all the right reasons, leading brands and small businesses are also asking the question:  “How can we continue to accelerate our charitable impact while better communicating our positive activities with our target audience?” Bad press from the economic downturn and financial meltdown has had a negative impact on many corporate brands – particularly in the financial services industry. These brands would benefit from both accelerating their charitable impact and showing the world the good they do for important causes.

As we look at this challenge, we can see the obvious alignment with new marketing and social media – but obvious strategies may not be quite enough.  We can accelerate our activities and get people involved using Facebook and Twitter, however as more and more brands use social media, it is difficult to get heard through the noise. This is one reason that I am so excited about the potential of using a compelling new networked solution for charitable impact: good2gether.

The good2gether Do Good Channel is a powerful way for brands to extend reach and awareness while also connecting their network of partners, affiliates and customers with local nonprofits that mean a lot to them. The networked approach lifts all boats – the brand, the affiliate networks, and the local charities.  The good2gether ecosystem uses social media and web services sharing to extend the velocity and impact of the charitable mission while providing the big brand a powerful messaging opportunity. Partners and affiliates can also “do good” in their local community while being associated with a national brand’s program and benefiting from the halo effect of charitable giving. The local charity benefits from local sponsorships and focus – while being a part of a much bigger global network.

How does this all work? Here is a basic approach:

  • Quickly and easily set up a BIGBRAND Do Good Channel and connect this with your charity website
  • Create compelling content including digital video about the charity programs and the positive impact the BIGBRAND has on society
  • Use social media to syndicate this across the web and social media
  • Use the good2gether network to aggregate cause engagement for the BIGBRAND affiliates and partners and local charities
  • Cross-promote the BIGBRAND charitable activities through online media (e.g. USA Today) and social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter)
  • Newspapers and media companies need local content. Local nonprofits have it. Local charities everywhere can enter their information for FREE
  • The good2gether network helps the BIGBRAND and their local affiliate’s target new audiences to find and share ‘do good’ engagement opportunities, events and activities – through widgets web sites, media outlets,  affiliate web pages and the charity do-good pages
  • Take advantage of additional sponsorship opportunities that drive brand image as well as introduce potential revenue. It’s not just free. You can actually make money with good2gether
  • Excite your target audience – particularly tech-savvy folks online – to “do good” while they recognize your sponsorship behind the cause!

 

We are working with a few brands to explore the potential impact of the good2gether platform, along with Good2gether’s Greg McHale. You can find out more from Greg at www.good2gether.com and Contact Revenue Architects to learn more.

10 Steps to Get Started with New Media Marketing

This is the time of year for lists – holiday shopping, family dinners – why not add on one more: Getting started with your 2010 new media marketing agenda!

During 2009, you likely learned about the potential role of social media in your marketing plan. You recognize how the explosive growth of social networking – with tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Viddler, BlogTalkRadio, and YouTube – is fundamentally changing the way your clients learn, evaluate and ultimately make their decisions. You recognize that these web 2.0 tools are an increasingly important influence in the buy-sell process. Buyers seek evidence online to validate decisions and get instant feedback from others by listening and participating in the online conversations.

We work with leading wealth managers and financial advisors who recognize that their clients are using social media and the web to help them evaluate an advisor. The content and professional credentials visible online are an increasingly important part of their decision process.  Successful advisors use their online presence to drive new business. They use blogs, Facebook Groups / Fan Pages and Twitter to engage in the online conversation increasing referrals and attracting new clients.

However, new media marketing is not a panacea. Your online presence and activity won’t replace your existing relationship building activities and the quality work you perform with clients. Your approach to new media marketing should be authentic – engaging in meaningful activities around the quality of your work and personal relationships.  Tackled the right way, a new media marketing approach will further accelerate your growth.

But where do you begin? Which networks should you join? How do you build an online presence? How do you avoid introducing risk with your current brand? What is involved in using social media and inbound marketing techniques day-to-day?  To help you get started, we developed the following checklist. This ten-step plan will guide you in taking positive steps forward in your new media marketing plan. With a thoughtful approach and a committed strategy, you will be rewarded with professional online presence and accelerated growth.

10 Steps to Get Started with New Media Marketing

  1. Define your purpose.  Determine in advance why you are engaging in new media.  Is it for educational purposes or to market your business?  If you don’t have clear intentions, how can you expect to have clear results?
  2. Find your target market. Join the social networking sites which are comprised of your target niche market.  Remember that the most popular social networking sites might not be the sites where your ideal clients visit.  Go to where your potential clients are and don’t just spend time with your peers.
  3. Craft your message. Your audience will only hear bits of pieces of your message at a time, so it is critical that you consistently and frequently broadcast a clear message about who you serve and what you offer. Don’t make your audience guess what you do, make it clear to them.
  4. Gather and create content. Content is king in new media marketing.  Demonstrate your expertise by educating your audience through blogs, articles, videos, or podcasts.  Gather or create useful content to aid you in your new media marketing efforts.
  5. Build your web presence & social media profiles. As you build out your profiles, you will be building a web presence that will give you a footprint beyond your website. This presence will increase your exposure to potential new clients. As you decide to participate in LinkedIn, Facebook, or other networking sites, it is important that you complete your profiles.  A person is likely to only visit your profile once, so make a lasting first impression.
  6. Build your network. The more people you connect with on social networking sites, the more people will see your message.  Make a conscious effort to continually build your connections on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and other networks you are targeting.
  7. Promote your profiles and cross connect. Let people know you are on the various social networking sites by promoting links on your website and email signature.  This will help you organically grow your network. The more sites where you connect with someone, the stronger your relationship will become.  Where it makes sense, find and connect with contacts across multiple social media sites.
  8. Build an inbound strategy. Craft a strategy for your own website and your email/newsletter marketing programs. It is important that when potential new relationships click back to your website that they experience your brand in the right way. Ensure your website is professional and visually branded for your target audience and includes interactive web features like RSS and social bookmarking. Search engine optimization (SEO), landing page lead capture, and lead nurturing should be part of your website strategy.
  9. Communicate Persuasively. Ensure your messages are sharp and clear. Are you delivering a persuasive message? Is your logic clear and concise? Are you listening and empathetic to client needs?
  10. Actively engage. Use social networking sites and your website as a way to promote your content to your targeted market.  This helps educate your audience and keeps your name top-of-mind.  Social media is the same as any networking or marketing strategy – the more consistent you are, the better the results.  Actively participate in the various social networking sites on a weekly basis to achieve the greatest results.

About Kristen Luke

Kristen Luke is the Principal of Wealth Management Marketing, a firm dedicated to providing marketing strategies and support for financial advisors. Kristen works with independent advisors to develop effective marketing plans and provides the back office support required to implement the strategies. For more information, visit www.wealthmanagementmarketing.net. 

 

About John Stone III

John leads Revenue Architects and provides consulting, general management, education and solution services focused on profitable revenue models and integrating sales, marketing and technology systems. Clients include Putnam Investments, Natixis Global Asset Management, Charles Schwab, and HighMark Funds.  For more information visit revenuearchitects.com.

How To Use LinkedIn When Your Compliance Department Says No

This Post by Kristen Luke was published on her blog on November 22, 2009. 

Recently I have been conducting one-on-one LinkedIn training sessions for advisors on how they can better utilize the professional social networking site. Each advisor has different restrictions on how they can engage with the site depending on the rules set forth by their compliance department. I have found that most compliance departments will allow advisors to have LinkedIn profiles, but will not necessarily allow them to actively participate in groups, install applications, update their status or mass email their connections. For those advisors who are allowed to have a LinkedIn profile but have been restricted in their use of the site, there are still strategies that can be utilized to make LinkedIn a valuable sales and marketing tool. Below are four strategies to implement even if you can’t use LinkedIn to its fullest potential.

Strategy 1: Build Your Network

LinkedIn becomes more powerful as the size of your network increases. This is because you are only able to see profiles of people within your netwLinkedInork (i.e. 1st, 2nd or 3rd Connections and Group Members). To make effective use of LinkedIn, you will need to continuously build your network. This will allow you to discover more potential clients and centers of influence. Start expanding your network by importing contacts. You can do this by selecting “Add Connections” in the Contacts menu and uploading a spreadsheet of your contacts’ email addresses. The resulting list will show you who is on LinkedIn and will allow you to send a mass invitation to connect.

Once you have started with your initial network, you’ll want to continue adding all new contacts to your network. Make inviting all new contacts to join your LinkedIn network a part of your weekly routine. This includes people you meet professionally and socially. You never know where the next client or referral will come from, so don’t exclude people from your network.

Another way to build your network is to install an Outlook toolbar which will notify you when an email contact is on LinkedIn. You can download and install either the LinkedIn or Xobni toolbar which will show you LinkedIn profile information about each of your email contacts and provide you with a link to send an “invitation to connect” request. These tool bars eliminate the need to manually look up a contact to see if they are on the site and then send an invitation request. Plus, they constantly remind you to build your network.

Strategy 2: Join Groups

You may have been told by your compliance department that you can’t post a discussion question, answer a discussion question, post a news article, or comment on a news article. That doesn’t mean that joining groups is a waste of time. Even if you never actively participate in a group, joining allows you to expand your network. By joining a group, you are able to view the profiles of everyone in the group. This helps when you are researching prospects since their profiles might not be available to you otherwise. In addition, you are able to send an email directly to fellow group members without being linked in with them through the “send a message” function. Joining groups provides you with direct access to hundreds if not thousands of individuals who would otherwise be outside of your LinkedIn reach. Just be cautious when emailing through LinkedIn since some compliance departments require a screenshot of the message you are sending including the name of the person to whom who you are sending it.

Strategy 3: Research Prospects

LinkedIn provides a wealth of information about a prospective client. By reviewing a prospect’s profile prior to your first meeting, you can discover past employment history, educational background, professional associations and personal interests. This will give you a better understanding of the prospect and may assist in directing the conversation during a first appointment. The only limitation with this strategy is that you are only able to view profiles of people within your network. Having a larger network, as described in strategies one and two, will increase the likelihood of being able to see a prospect’s profile.

Strategy 4: Research your Network for Introductions & Referrals

Do you know which of your clients have relationships with the types of people you would like to meet? If they have a LinkedIn profile you can easily find out. When you connect with your clients, centers of influence or networking contacts on LinkedIn, you can look through their connections to see who they know. By researching your LinkedIn contacts’ network, you can make informed decisions about who has the ability to make quality referrals and introductions and create a marketing strategy around that information. For example, you can ask for referrals and introductions to specific people within your contact’s network when you have a referral conversation. Or, you can plan a private client event and make extra effort to ensure that clients with strong networks attend. Researching your network will allow you to focus your referral efforts.

Conclusion

In my personal experience, the strategies listed above are acceptable by most compliance departments who allow advisors to use LinkedIn. However, you will want to consult with your compliance department before implementing any of these ideas to make sure you are in observance of your firm’s policies.

Kristen Luke is the Principal of Wealth Management Marketing, an affiliate of Revenue Architects. Kristen works with independent advisors to develop effective marketing plans and provides the back office support required to implement the strategies.

Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Report

Digital Experience Captures Customer Value

 

Razorfish recently published this presentation with a range of statistics that reinforce the key propositions we promote with our clients. They surveyed connected users and the presentation outlines why brands need to effectively navigate digital to be relevant. Check it out…

“How do consumers engage with brands in an increasingly digital world? That’s the fundamental question we set out to answer with this year’s FEED report”

Thanks, Razorfish. Good work.

 

 

Who Reads Anymore?

Creative digital video should be in your media plan

Recently, Jim Schwantner and Amy Hunt joined the Revenue Architects team. Amy and Jim are highly experienced creative marketers – their specialty is creating creative digital video to drive communication and brand velocity. This blog post blends our collective thinking and suggests the mandate for building creative video into your digital marketing and PR strategies.

You can drive market velocity with creative video content. As humans, we are wired to consume moving visual images. Now that we are inundated with content, we value video communications as a preferred medium to learn and engage. On TV, 90% of us who can fast-forward through commercials will do it, but we voluntarily watch a staggering number of videos online. Computers and handsets win a bigger “share of screen time” every day. Online is the new primetime, with 19.5 billion videos viewed… per month and over the next two years, it is estimated that companies will grow online video spend 300%. Video needs to be core to your PR and marketing content plan.

Creative digital video makes relationships and real accountability possible. TV advertising delivers your message to the mass audience and is about impressions: millions are watching “Good Morning America” or “Ugly Betty,” and you can buy the right to interrupt them. Online video is about relationships… with your idea, your cause your brand.

However, static corporate talking points and blah-blah-blah words don’t cut it now. You need creative video content to capture audience interest and intent. With digital video, viewers initiate the interaction, and you can measure time spent with you, and you can guide them to take action. Two of the video models we create are Explainer Videos and Documentary Branding.

Explainer Videos

The Explainer Video is powerful tool in the translation of otherwise complex ideas into a clear and memorable engagement for the viewer.

Explainer videos are ideal treatments for new products and key moments in the evolution of an organization. The Explainer Video speaks to the reality of how we all have come to rely on visual presentation across all phases of professional and personal communications. The B2B customer requires both the specificity of traditional longer form business communications and the impact of content delivered across all the media they encounter in home, in office and in between.

Documentary Branding

Documentary Branding is defined as the space where credible ideas about corporations and their brands are likely to emerge in the future. Consumers are increasingly mistrustful of the images, motives and representatives of large corporate entities. The idea of Documentary Branding is to offer a perspective on the brand that emanates from a broader population of employees and spokespeople and customers that are presented in real situations speaking candidly about the companies they work for.

The subjects of Documentary Branding in the hands of a skillful director can deliver a deliver a disproportionately significant influence on the way people perceive brands and situations.

 

 

So, how do you take full advantage of creative digital video? You will need true creative leadership to get this right… blended with the business approach to connect outcomes with clear business metrics. See more at this link.

Marketing Automation – Sounds Too Easy

Is “Marketing Automation” an Oxymoron?

I like the term “Marketing Automation” – sounds great…. This is going to automate my world of Internet visibility, demand management, lead generation – fantastic. I will simply plug in a trusty CRM tool like Eloqua or Marketo, hook it into my salesforce.com application… and – like magic – next week, the leads will start to poor in. Right?

I don’t think so….

Marketing Automation is incredible technology. I love it!  However, I see it as only a small part of the overall solution. There are two broad elements of the category according to Wikipedia – demand generation and marketing workflow automation. I think the workflow automation part is pretty nice to have… taking care of repetitive tasks with software tools… But it takes a lot more than technology to get it right. Demand generation also requires a lot more than automation. What are the underlying values of the brand experience? The offer?  Actually, using the software is a very small part of what makes integrated marketing and sales successful. There are a lot of questions to consider.. here are just a few:


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