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

Social Media for Financial Advisors

I am heading out west to San Diego today to speak at the Charles Schwab Impact 2009 Conference. It should be a great event and I am looking forward to meeting Advisors from around the country and discussing keys to Internet Marketing and social media. One of the top issues Advisors face is navigating the compliance considerations from FINRA.

I think that FINRA needs to update and improve its direction related to Internet communication and advertising so that the use of tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Podcast, YouTube, Blogs and other tools can be more clearly understood. For example – once content is approved by the compliance officer- why should there be restrictions in the syndication links to the content across these networks?

Here is a Slideshare of my talk. Let me know what you think.

I am working with Advisors to address these strategies and challenges and I am seeking input, so feel free to comment:

  • What are some best practices for using social media to promote a Financial Advisor firm?
  • How should an Advisor use Twitter, Facebook, a Blog or Linkedin?
  • Why does it matter?

 

Digital Marketing Strategy Checklist

When setting out to develop an Internet Marketing strategy, you need to connect the dots between a wide range of business,  marketing, technology and project elements.

A web strategy today involves a lot more than your web site. In the late 1990s it was very much about defining your branded online presence via the web site and related web services and online applications. Today, with the important roll of  Search and Social Media, your brand presence must now consider delivering impact and engagement across the broader social web and involves a far more sophisticated strategy for inbound marketing and lead capture.  With that in mind, if you are about to embark on a comprehensive Internet Marketing Strategy, you might want to get answers to a range of questions. So, here is a list, but let’s add to the list- what have you found as critical success factors and key issues that should be addressed in developing your internet strategy.

1) Market, Audience and Sales Model – You need to define the underlying business model for marketing and sales so that you can tie your Internet Marketing Strategy to business goals:

  • What is your revenue generation strategy?
  • How will you capture market share?
  • Who is your customer and what are their needs, intents and values?
  • What are the major market segments we wish to target?
  • What defines these segments and what are their major characteristics?
  • What is the typical customer life cycle for each segment?
  • What are the various dialogue needs across the life cycle chain and what implications does that have for the business operations model?
  • What are the demographic, psychographic, and channel preference factors of the targeted audience segments?
  • What capabilities will be needed to meet this targeted audience’s needs?
  • Who is the competition and what are their strengths, weaknesses?
  • What is the overall differentiating business strategy to capture market share?
  • What is the closed-loop marketing model and funnel process?
  • What opportunities are being created by the emergence of new media and technologies?

2) Functionality and Services – Now that you understand your core business model and your audience, what are the capabilities that your audience will be seeking to engage your brand online – both at your site(s) and across the social and mobile web?

  • What segment needs and intents will be addressed?
  • What is the unique functionality required? (transaction, database, content, syndication, lead capture, community, collaboration, forms, Configurator, eCommerce transactions, search, customer service, eNewsletters, events, eMail database, browser requirements? Privacy and Security? Accessibility?
  • In addition to basic site requirements, will the project seek to include interactive web platforms (such as logins, BLOGS, Forums, and Q&A chat rooms) in aims to enhance outreach tools?
  • Have you considered strategies regarding mobile devices/ web / social media?
  • Do you currently have any site utilization monitoring tools in place?
  • What role will your supplier play in determining the audience analysis?
  • Design concepts development and selection

3) Branding and Design – maybe you already have a brand identity – including logo marks and look and feel -but  you may also need to develop a “brand architecture” that ties together all your related product and services into a unifying identity – both on and offline.

  • Do you have an overall brand strategy? Offline and Online?
  • Have you a set of creative concepts under consideration?
  • Have these creative concepts been mapped to specific audience needs and/or business strategy drivers?
  • Which existing sites best approximate the desired look and feel? functionality?, info architecture?
  • Do you need a logi, brand architecture or single mark?
  • What are the various branding concepts that will suit our identified target segment?
  • Is the brand achieving Completeness, Transparency, Flow and Dialogue with the user?
  • How will we roll out the branding?
  • How will it be represented and communicated to the market?

4) Content and Information Architecture – How do you arrange your content into a clear information architecture that your audience can understand and access?

  • What content will the business will deliver (media types?)?
  • Do you have readily available content?
  • What effort is needed to design and develop the content? Initial? On-going?
  • Are there content partners and providers/ syndication that we have to consider?
  • Is there an archive of photos or other art that might be used for the site?
  • If appropriate, would the company commission original illustration or photography?
  • What is a representative site map?
  • Is their a wire frame model outlining envisioned experience?
  • How do the navigation scheme and content schema function?
  • are we considering tagging models? taxonomy? semantic models?
  • How should the content be organized for usability?  What IA works best given known constraints?

5) Marketing and Promotion – After you build out your sites, Internet presence, content and services, how are you going to attract the audience?

  • What are our traffic growth estimates and how do we intend to achieve them?
  • What is our awareness strategy, advertising strategy?
  • What are the SEO/ SEM marketing requirements?
  • Are their viral or velocity marketing opportunities?
  • How are you engaging the social web and online influencers?
  • Do you have a print and media marketing plan?

6) Technical Architecture Design – Once you have defined an overall business and functional blueprint, it will be a lot easier to select the right technology foundation to handle your needs.

  • Do we need to address an existing systems/ technology assessment, existing technology?
  • Are there preferred technology standards?
  • What content management and web services platform is required?
  • What are the hosting and managed services requirements?
  • What kind of user volumes will you expect at the site?
  • Do you need listening platforms to gauge sentiment on the broader web?
  • How effective is your audience intelligence platforms and data management skills?
  • Do you need specialized technology for mobile deployment, database marketing?

7) Operating Model – This is a key step to your strategy – defining a core business and process model that will ensure your digital assets and systems are well managed and that your content and services are up to date.

  • What are the operational procedures that will need to be in place to deliver the Internet Marketing Strategy?
  • What are the staffing skills and capability needs? Content? Service?
  • Do you understand what the potential impact on your existing organization will be?
  • Is there a team currently in place for site management? Do they require continuing training and support?

8) Implementation Plan – With all the core business, marketing and technical elements framed out, you can now better layer in an overall project time line driven by critical business commitments.

  • Is there a compelling event or critical implementation date? What is the required time line/ milestones?
  • Is there a project charter?
  • Is there a Business Case in place? Benefits?  Investments?
  • Is there budget to match ambition?
  • Have stakeholders & team members been identified?
  • What are the key assumptions, constraints and risks?
Feel free to add to the list and contribute to the discussion..

Fixing the B2B Revenue Engine

With the advent of new media and digital marketing, marketing and sales needs to be joined at the hip. There is a lot of focus now – even more than usual – on sales and the revenue model and how to make it work. With tougher economic times, business leaders are looking with even greater scrutiny at how the revenue model is working and what levers to pull to make it work better. The usual focus is on the sales team– putting in harder metrics and drivers in place to force the issue and make sales happen. The real opportunity, however, is by looking a little more broadly and connecting the pieces that make an overall “revenue architecture” work. There are 100s of drivers for revenue generation – including pricing and product quality – but what is often overlooked is how effective marketing and sales are coordinated to link the complete value change from awareness to closed deals. With the advent of digital marketing and social media models, the line between marketing and sales is increasingly blurred. Organizations need to be thinking less about one-off campaigns and more about continuous conversion strategies across the value chain funnel from brand awareness to closed deal. Successful organizations are using a new marketing model – increasingly centered on using digital marketing platforms to drive end-to-end awareness and demand, nurture opportunities and close business. Here are some elements we see within high-performing organizations- put these in place successfully and your marketing and sales machine should begin to work well: Setting and communicating clear strategy

  • Identifying the differentiated market positioning
  • Organizing the target market into durable segments
  • Tailoring messages and offers to each segment
  • Setting a go to market strategy that aligns resources to opportunity
  • Price your products and services competitively

Driving visibility and awareness

  • Create awareness and brand identity with the right mix of new and old media
  • Become visible digitally with SEO, your web presence and your digital outposts in social media
  • Provide value to your audience across each stage of the buy-sell process
  • Offer a consistent and quality brand experience at each interaction

Engaging across the funnel

  • Use information and tailored offers to nurture prospects across the funnel
  • Work all the channels with your content- web, events, blogs, social media outposts, digital video
  • Maintain achievable metrics for frequencies (e.g. sales calls)
  • Ensure sales force effectiveness – including product/ service knowledge and sales skills
  • Motivate your sales teams effectively based on your target markets and product mix
  • Use your customer evangelists to help you articulate your value
  • Recognize the value of your investments in sales people
  • Increase share of existing clients with crop rotations, continuations and colonization’s
  • Deliver to drive client satisfaction – keep clients from going out the back door while you’re new clients are coming in the front door

In Search of Closed Loop Marketing Models

We are working with a few clients to build and deploy solutions for Closed Loop Marketing. I was reviewing my materials and presentations in preparation for a meeting next week and thought I would scan the web to see what is out there..  I wanted to see a visual image – or diagram – that painted a good picture of closed-loop marketing.  I found a huge amount, bit very little that was on target with a good CLM vision and captured the key elements of both traditional and new media marketing. Marketing is one of the last business functions to embrace integrated technology solutions to automate the management of marketing logistics.  Unlike ERP and CRM, Marketing Automation is only now beginning to hit the growth curve.  With the advent of new media and the business complexity in managing data and blending traditional and new media channels with CRM/ sales force automation, leading companies are now adopting more sophisticated solutions. New technologies and new approaches are make Marketing Automation more attractive. My google search for images around CLM resulted in quite a number of images – few that made sense for my purposes.

So what is next? I am going to put together the story and make sure it includes a comprehensive view of CLM – in particular –  for this client -from a B2B perspective. Elements of the model must include:

  • Market Segmentation & Targeting
  • Data Management and Cleansing
  • Campaign Management
  • Lead Capture
  • Scoring & Routing
  • New Media, Web and Traditional Channels
  • Business and Audience Intelligence
  • Marketing Dashboard

Learning from A-Rod: Putting Marketing on Steroids

As A-Rod has taught us, steroids accelerate performance – MVP seasons!

No matter what your view of A-Rod (I live in Boston, so I don’t have to go far to get an opinion), we can see that steroids can drive performance. While we may not want to use this controversial approach,  there are some things we can do to drive the performance of  our marketing spend by better connecting marketing with sales and embracing digital strategy.

 

At a recent event, I was asked by the Boston Business Journal to comment about trends in technology that may impact the Boston metro area in this difficult economic cycle. I described two competing trends – a positive macro trend we see around the seismic shift in spending from traditional media  to digital media and a negative micro-trend of increasing day-to-day pressure on spending on current marketing programs. The overall macro trends support a move toward digital media and new marketing strategies which help drive down the costs of marketing, sales and lead generation and enhances relationship selling throughout the buy-sell cycle.  Traditional marketers offer strong brand identity and creative thinking, but we need more linkage between marketing and sales and better systems to synchronize with the sales process.  We need to embrace the principles of permission marketing and “opt-in” lead collection that are tightly aligned with the buy-sell process.

So what are the strategies?
Here are six steps you can take to build an integrated sales and marketing program “on steroids”:

First, understand audience. Starting with the existing customer base, segment your audience (customers and target customers)  into logical groups and align the marketing approach to each segment.  Understand what each of the audience segments really want so you can tailor your content and better connect.  We recognize a shift in power from the company to the customer and need to recognize that the customer now has controls at his/her fingertips. The customer expresses their intentions every time they go online and type in key words into a search engine. You can educate this audience in a very crowded space.  Begin by mapping audience segments to understand their needs.

Second, align marketing to the sales cycle. Each individual will be at a different stage in their personal buying life cycle. Align your marketing channels and strategies to each stage of the buy-sell cycle. Here is a typical buy cycle: explore… learn… interact… review… acquire… use.  Map communication channels and strategies to the buying cycle:  attract… engage… educate… transact… fulfill… support…  Spend most of your face-to-face time and money on the later stages of the buy-sell cycle and use digital channels to nurture opportunities in the early stages of the buy-sell cycle. I call this a Nurture Program.

Third, embrace new media.
New media helps engage an audience with quality interactions and compelling experiences. These strategies drive influence at a lower cost. The audience can “opt-in” to the conversations qualifying themselves as interested in solutions.  New media will also enhance awareness and “buzz” by accelerating conversations across the social web. Outreach to bloggers and engage in forum discussions where your products and services are being considered. Use Webinars, Twebinars, and YouTube videos to deliver content that reflects your expertise or value and build a brand identity. For selected audience segments, offer a velvet rope community – a tailored private channel of conversation and information delivery tailored to the unique interests of the targeted audience. Use these channels to build a special relationship with this invite-only audience and keep this segment tightly connected to your brands and offerings. Careful, we can only participate in a finite number of social and collaborative networks, so you may need to determine whether to build your own community or engage in one that already exists – or both. With your own community, you can build strong relationships – just set the right expectations about the level of engagement you should expect.

Fourth, use digital channels to nurture your audience
. Your web site(s) should engage users with usable content and be visible to the search engines based on your key words.  Sites and landing pages must be optimized and have conversion points so that your visitors can easily “opt in” to engage in a dialog about areas of interest.  Blogs offer more dynamic and current content and increase the visibility and relevance of your area of expertise. I wrote a blog post two weeks ago and my post was on the first page of Google search results for the key words “application rationalization:. You also need to embrace the mobile web by ensuring your site is WAP enabled – and if it makes sense for your business, build an iPhone or Blackberry application!

Fifth, don’t give up on face-to-face.
Digital does not and should not replace the value of face-to-face interactions with your community. Events and meetings are an effective way to build a network, provide education, nurture opportunities and develop sales leads. Just like a visit to your web site, a registration at an event is a declaration of intent.  Your goal is simply to deliver on that intent no matter what part of the buy-sell cycle the individual is on. Provide education, engage in a business discussion, and convert the opportunities. The key is to deliver a compelling event experience end-to-end.

Sixth, gain audience intelligence with data management.
You need to understand your audience yet traditional CRM methods are outdated. CRM is limited to your “known” audience of prospects and customers. CRM is being replaced by what we call Market Relationship Management. Today, you need to understand the broader market –  the complete audience of known and registered  community and those that are connecting to your brand through social media sites and RSS subscriptions. You may not have all the details for this wider audience, but an effective listening and intelligence platform will give you needed insights about the sentiments in the social web.  You can use this data and historical trends to target in more effective ways. By linking these systems to your sales process, you will be in a position to  focus your sales energies on the audience members that have chosen to engage in conversations with you – these are your most qualified opportunities. In summary, for full disclosure, I am Red Sox fan, so perhaps I am not the biggest A-Rod fan.  However, I do like “steroids” when it comes to accelerating a marketing strategy.  If you embrace a digital strategy that ties marketing more closely with the sales process and engage the wider social web to nurture your audience intelligently – your sales with increase and costs will go down. Good luck and good selling..!