2011 Top Ten List for Revenue Growth

We had fun this year with our holiday greeting and we offered a top 10 list of resolutions. Why not share it with the blog reading audience.

We hope you can be:

  1. Visible… Get to the top of search results page with your content and SEO strategy.
  2. Present… Extend your brand beyond your website with social media outposts.
  3. Approachable… Build relationships by being authentic in your online dialog.
  4. Focused… Identify your strongest niche markets and tailor your value proposition.
  5. Nurturing… Help your prospects remember you and understand your value.
  6. Synchronized… Develop a revenue attack plan that aligns marketing and sales teams.
  7. Automated… Use marketing and sales technology to free up time for new ideas.
  8. Relevant… Provide the content that your customers value.
  9. Tenacious… Follow-up on your leads and manage your account relationships deeply.
  10. Engaging… Make your story more entertaining with video, mobile and multi-media.

Some might say- “OK, but I already have these items on my wish list… how do I get them all done?” To that I would ask whether they have a plan in place.

  • Have you clarified your strategy?
  • Is everyone on board – including both marketing and sales?
  • Have you prioritized and considered the dependencies (people, skills, process, technology)?
  • Can you place initiatives into a timeline and a release plan (must, could, should)?
  • Do you have the right team and skills to execute?
  • Do you know the budget required?
  • Is the ROI clear?

If you can’t answer these, it is worth a little time to get organized – it will save you in the long run. Most every client we work with is on a continuous path to maturity around each of these areas and the bar keeps moving. Just when you think you have your content marketing plan in place with relevant articles and blog posts, you realize digital video is more important to reach audience and communicate message.

Key Topics from the HBS Discussion on Digital Business

We had a packed room at Harvard Business School on November 17 to discuss experiences in developing digital businesses.

HBSEntrepreneur

Mike Roberts, a James M. Collins Senior Lecturer and Executive Director at the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship put the speaker team together and it included some highly experienced HBS students, recent students and entrepreneurs sharing their experiences in building digital businesses. The team included Maxwell Wessel, Brent Grinna and Lincoln Edwards. Our moderator, Christopher Michel both facilitated the session and delivered a lot of value as an accomplished entrepreneur. Brent is an MBA ’10 grad who is incubating his start-up, Evertrue at a Venrock-backed company in Boston called Where. Maxwell and Lincoln also represented some fresh and real experiences launching digital applications. I was put forward by our client colleagues at Bain Capital Ventures and MITX. My role was to bring a perspective as both a service provider to the industry and as an entrepreneur building digital businesses.

Most of the 100+ attendees were midstream with plans to launch digital businesses. There were Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship scholars and others, and they surfaced a range of issues. Christopher Michel, the facilitator was back from a month in Tibet but was able to jump right in and drive the conversation. The challenge was to share some perspectives on how to go about a web development project, how to engage effectively technology team and how and whether to outsource to an offshore provider. Qestions included:

  • How and whether to outsource technical development?
  • How does an HBS entrepreneur engage the right technical leaders in partnership to launch a digital business?
  • What are some of the better offshore partners?
  • What are other considerations in building a digital business?

Some headline conclusions were:

How and whether to outsource technical development?

The outsourcing model makes a great deal of sense for elements if not all of the development process. It is particularly strong for low cost prototyping efforts at the early stages of concept development. A critical success factor will be having a technical member of the core team to help oversee the outsourced team. Some of the considerations we discussed were location – whether offshore in India, Eastern Europe, Asia or South America makes sense and how language, time zones impact these choices. There are also highly varied levels of offshore resources ranging from one or two people in India to global sourcing firms. The choice of who to select should consider the technical complexity and technology frameworks used, the ability to work in a highly effective communication process. Keep in mind as well the location and documentation of the code base to ensure sustainability if things go wrong with the relationship. Using milestone payments for documented code releases can be an effective model. Most of the digital applications in this discussion were based on a custom build approach – for companies looking to outsource web development for standards based platforms like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, the options are many and the risks more manageable.

How does an HBS entrepreneur engage the right technical leaders in partnership to launch a digital business?

The days of heading down to Kendall Square and lining up a development team from MIT are perhaps gone. In fact, it may be the reverse. The MIT Technologist heading to Harvard Square to line up a business team for his/her digital venture. But the real truth is that a digital business cannot be successful – in my opinion – without a highly trusted core team member that is also a technologist. The role is critical to ensure an effective development process and effectively translate a business vision into a solution. This is particularly true if the team uses an offshore provider to build out the system.

What are some of the better offshore partners?

Many were brought up in the discussion, and there are many firms that specialize in different segments of the outsourced environments. The checklist should include competencies around the current technology platforms needed in the development, the approach to project management, the ability to communicate in English in a trusted way. Above all, the provider needs to be a trusted partner and you can’t rely solely on the ratings in the freelancer systems as these organizations change. Make sure you discus options and get personal referrals where possible and use win-win contract structures. What is the CMM level of the firm? Will the team be dedicated? How do you communicate, Skype? Are all the skills considered – user experience and branding? Functional design? Technical implementation? Testing? By developing a personal relationship with the provider team and meeting face-to-face, you can build long term trusted relationship and realize strong returns on investment.

What are other considerations in building a digital business?

A few other considerations were brought up. Technology is only a small part of the business model. How will the team operationalize the business? How is the the governance structure set up? How is equity and compensation structured? When executing a project, what is the right development model? Iterative? Waterfall? How do you ensure confidentiality? How will the application be supported over the longer term? What are program, regulatory, operational and sourcing risks and how should they be managed?

Final Remarks

Debi Kleiman who recently took over leadership of MITX from Kiki Mills offered a strong closing argument about the benefits of membership and the supporting focus of the MITX organization as a resource for students and others pursuing a digital business.

Digital Marketing and Collaboration at the Algarve Energy Park

This post is a reflection on the role of digital collaboration at the Algarve Energy Park. Revenue Architects is working with the Park to build a digital presence beginning with the recent launch of the website. The Algarve Energy Park initiative is designed to meet the needs of tomorrow’s world by addressing today’s global challenges. Its objective is to develop a model sustainable cluster community in collaboration with leading academic institutions and partners in industry, attracting leading initiatives and companies in renewable energy and preventive healthcare sectors.

Digital technology is playing a role today in the outreach and communication efforts for the park. It will also be used when the Park is fully operating and collaboration is taking place around the creation of new science. Globalization, inexpensive network connectivity, growth in social software and a new architecture of participation is driving an explosive growth in social networking and business collaboration. The Algarve Energy Park is embracing these trends and technologies to accelerate marketing outreach and drive collaborative working.

aep_www_site

Social software helps connect people across time zones and culture. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook are widely adopted in personal and professional networking. The assimilation of global teams within a collaborative working framework is far easier than ever before and no longer requires complex choices of often expensive and proprietary technologies and processes. Today, cloud-based applications are available on demand at little or no cost and it is easier than ever before for users from different organizations and with varied technical skills to quickly adopt these services.

At the same time, marketing leaders are transforming how they engage, educate and influence target audiences. Traditional media is declining as a model for audience outreach. Advertising is less effective as consumers gain more control of what they consume. People can now easily filter out the unwanted pushed messages and “tivo” through advertisements. Newspaper readers abandon print versions and consume content online – and by using RSS readers, they are bypassing advertisements. I am certain that the industry will arrive at a balance that helps to monetize delivering quality content, but within this environment, marketers recognize the need to engage audiences in new ways. Brands can no longer control their message through owned media and they are becoming more focused on earned media. They are moving beyond a focus on their website to a focus on their web presence.

With the advent of newer social media and web 2.0 services, exciting and informative content can be very easily shared across the social web. As my colleague Amy Hunt says, more than ever, content needs to be like “peanut butter”- sticky and spreadable! What does this mean for the Algarve Energy Park? When we consider the role of collaborative and new media technologies that support the Park, we focus on the two critical stages in the Park’s development and the corresponding roles of these new collaborative and digital technologies.

  • Digital Collaboration for Research. As the Park develops, we will need to adopt strategies to use digital networks, community tools and collaborative technology that support our global research business and academic teams.
  • Digital Collaboration for Marketing and Outreach. On an on-going basis – we need digital collaboration and outreach to foster the support, dialog and engagement required to shape the direction of the vision and engage our audience to collaborate, support and partner in the success of the vision.

Digital Collaboration for Research

At its core, AEP is about collaboration. The Park will combine leading thinking across a combination of interrelated elements – academics, economists, business strategists, energy researchers as well as architects and master planners to create a sustainable community to design and develop new technologies and set standards for clean energy, sustainable living, and personalized medicine. The community will benefit from both in-person and digitally-enabled collaboration. By extending the physical interactions digitally, we foster greater global collaboration among experts across disciplines and accelerate the velocity of knowledge and science globally. AEP can be at the forefront of the work in support of sustainable energy.

Deep web experiences offer a blend with physical experiences to create a unifying human experience. As collaborators in the park, we will be considering how these enabling technologies and web collaborative social experiences will impact successful research collaboration. We believe that many existing public platforms and social network technologies can effectively drive communications and support the research agenda. With a diverse range of collaborators working together on sustainable energy, we will need solutions that are open, readily available and easy to use and adopt. At the same time, we understand that some projects will need deeper structures and security levels to facilitate formal research and economic agendas. As technologies mature we are seeing a shift from a social focus to a blend of social and business focus. We see the greater levels of security, reliability and availability needed for mission critical program work. The challenge for AEP will be to find the right mix of openly available platforms and dedicated solutions. The right solutions will be the ones that fit with the specific needs of the collaborating teams.

Digital Collaboration for Marketing and Outreach

At our early stage of development, we are marshaling support and capturing insights from many key stakeholders that help define the AEP vision and support the program development. We are engaging a collaborative global network of leaders, influencers, stakeholders and investors. We connect across government, community, business and science leaders and we listen to these communities to incorporate insights and perspectives that shape a better outcome.

At our current stage of development, it would it be rational to launch an expensive outreach program using the traditional media for communication. Could these strategies even succeed given the global range and diversity of our audience? With such a diverse set of stakeholders, we needed to rethink how to engage our audience? How can we reach out and be open and available to a global and local audience? How can we capture input and insights to shape the strategy? What are the best ways to foster interest and commitment?

We believe the answer is to embrace a new marketing strategy. We are using new media strategies to facilitate the outreach agenda. We use the social web and effective web presence to be where our stakeholders are. While branding and design are important to reinforce our core vision, we also place emphasis on content and functionality that support our stakeholder needs. Our strategy is to build a web presence beginning with an effective website and tools for interactive communications. We are extending our web presence with new media digital outposts. With these capabilities in place, we will have the foundation to grow incrementally with a focus on content and conversation.

Below are the elements of our new marketing presence and outreach strategies:

Website: Our website is at the center of the discussions, content and information resources for the community. The www.algarveenergypark.com web site is using up to date web 2.0 features that encourage content engagement and sharing. The back end administration of the site facilitates continuous updates to valuable content. We will deliver content in the two languages that our audience is most comfortable with – English and Portuguese. A blog will help inform readers of updated insights and content from the Park. The foundation for the site is using an open source content management system and facilities to continually update of the site elements, content and promotional messages.

Digital Video: The team has already created some exciting video assets that introduce, promote and explain the park vision. We know that video is a popular and important media for education and information sharing. We are populating the site with these creative communication assets. In addition, we host these on the open web. By using tools like YouTube and Vimeo, we can expose the AEP vision to an audience that may not have otherwise found us at the park website. Presence on these open video services enhances our search visibility and helps us expand our footprint.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the established social media platform leader for business networking and collaboration. We do not need to build out our own community on our own website. We can engage a platform like LinkedIn that so much of our audience is accustomed and comfortable using. We can use LinkedIn to share the profile of the Park, leaders within the team and engage in discussions. We can share news from the park and bring people back to the website to learn more.

Facebook: Clearly we think of Facebook as a “social” network. We mostly use Facebook as a place to share our personal views and life activities with our trusted network of friends. We may not think of Facebook as a platform for a business outpost, but there are about 350,000 businesses using Facebook today. Facebook provides an extension of our web presence and allows us to share news with the community that is connected to us there. Big brands and sports teams gain a great followings and fans. Our presence may not attract a massive following, but we can be there – available to our constituents on another popular outpost and delivering another opportunity for them to engage with us. Also as AEP includes an innovative residential and living model, the Facebook presence may grow to be a vibrant part of our social activities for and among park residents. In keeping with our strategy, why build or promote a proprietary private community application when we can carve out an appropriate presence on a very popular and engaging platform like Facebook.

Twitter: We are also preparing to roll out a Twitter presence. Twitter will be an important way for us to stay connected with the deeper web conversations. The depth of conversations and mentions on Twitter helps us find those potential collaborators on the park’s mission and research topics. Twitter will allow us to build a following as well – our community of stakeholders will be able to follow developments from the park through Twitter updates. We can use Twitter and related platforms like co-tweet or Tweetdeck to track and engage in the conversations that are relevant to the park’s mission. The tools we will use will allow us to manage our micro blogging and status updates from one place – we can update our status on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts all at once. Why? We want to share links to meaningful content and valued insights to our community – where they are. We want to reTweet – or resend – the interesting tweets we find to our community. As our capacity and ambition evolves, AEP can stand out as a content leader on critical sustainable energy topics, but in the nearer term, Twitter will be a great source of insight and information sharing about the topics that drive the AEP agenda.

Bringing it all together

The Algarve Energy Park is about innovation and collaboration. By being connected and available in the new social web, we are ready to begin the dialog. We are eager to hear from our audience and engage in discussions about the ideas and concepts that AEP is putting forward. We expect that collaborators will find their way to news and information across the different touchpoints and that they will visit the website. When they visit us, they will have the opportunity to learn about the park, comment on content items, subscribe to feeds, and register to receive updated news and information on a more regular basis. We will offer different mailing lists to help them stay informed on the specific topics that drive their particular interests. We will also encourage our guests to take action: Collaborate, Support, Partner!

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..

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..!

Six Steps for Digital Marketing

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..!