Marketing Doesn’t Work. Or so I’ve Been Told…

In my consulting practice, I focus on helping B2B companies begin or renew their revenue growth through marketing.  I find many small companies that have never marketed, some who have done it poorly and others that just aren’t happy with their results.  I also find the occasional CEO who tells me, point blank: “Marketing doesn’t work.”

Not that these small-company CEOs have ever actually tried marketing, often they have not.  But that doesn’t stop them from holding the belief that it doesn’t work. Entrepreneurial CEOs are seldom at a loss for confidence and I often chuckle at the confidence they display when they explain, sometimes at length, why marketing won’t work in their business.

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Sometimes I wonder why then would the CEO even meet with a marketing guy if they don’t believe the solution works.  I think they do it sometimes to appease others on the staff.  Perhaps, they do it to satisfy their own curiosity. Or maybe they enjoy telling me marketing doesn’t work.

In trying to understand and manage this,  I came up with four potential reasons for this somewhat widely held belief.

  • They have never actually seen marketing work.  The CEO has never seen it work, ergo, it doesn’t work.  Often a minor side point is that it’s never been tried, so it has never worked.
  • They base all of their observations on “sales”  CEO says “ I talk to customers all the time. They don’t want marketing.”  What happens in the last mile of a long sales cycle is not marketing, it is closing the sale.
  • They can’t bear to spend the money.  With no confidence that any marketing spend will provide value, they spend nothing.  Some CEOs spend almost nothing on anything, and marketing is way down the priority anyway.
  • Somehow, they don’t notice their competitor’s marketing.  A failure to look at your own web presence (or to have issues pointed out and not care) and compare it to a couple close competitors is an easy and often valid way to view things from a customer perspective.  Why then do so few companies do it?

I’ve recently had the chance to check in with some companies I spoke to last summer. Each of the CEOs told me they didn’t think marketing would work in their business.  When I asked around to see how they did now 5-6 months later, I found even more issues.  We have a “serious sales issue” said one company.  “Money is still really tight” was the feedback at a different company.  The sales manager was let go at another.  I felt like I had predicted all of it.

I should feel vindicated with the negative feedback from those that did not want my advice.  I don’t.  I feel sorry for these folks, as I or some other marketing professional could have helped them avoid the very dilemma they face today.

Hopefully, we can win over these doubters and have them see the light, one CEO at a time!

Have your experienced executives who did not believe in marketing?  How do we turn them around?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Developing Content for Today’s “Content Marketing” World

Today we have marketing channels not even imagined a decade ago.  It has brought us a whole new vernacular; we “Tweet” messages and count “Likes.”  We talk relentlessly about it being a content-driven world.  The styles and forms our content can take today really call for an organized way of creating the message and properly disseminating it to your audience, at the proper time.

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Where to begin on content?  From the beginning is usually the best choice.  Here is a step by step guide to creating content that works:

Start by defining your audience.  Describe who they are.  Find out what they are reacting to now.  What content seems to matter to them?  What’s the answer to the age-old question “what keeps them awake at night?”  This way you can come up with topics that you know will resonate with your audience.

Determine how you will reach your audience.  Where does your audience go for information?  Will Twitter be an effective way to reach them, or might LinkedIn be better?  Does your audience embrace Facebook or might a blog be a better vehicle.  What is your off-line promotional strategy? Don’t assume you’ll just blast your message all over the place, be targeted and use each communication vehicles’ strengths.

Match content length to the tasks.  Each of the marketing channels you have available to you have different norms as to the length of message that can be effectively delivers.  Twitter has their 140 character limit, but you can also send along a link to longer content.  Blogs have an established norm of around 500 words.  White papers run thousand of words.  These vehicles deliver different things sought at different times during the sales cycle.

Be aware of the sales cycle.  Different content is needed by potential buyers at different times in the buying cycle.  There is the early stage when the prospects are educating themselves, the middle stages where they are evaluating options and the later stage when they are looking to justify a potential decision.   Content therefore, should speak to one of these stages and be offered when the prospect is in that stage of the process.

Commit to the long term.  Content marketing is not a one-time promotion; it’s a long term way of doing business.  It takes time to develop an audience, hone your content and learn to distribute it.  It’s also good to ask the audience now and then, to make sure you are hitting the mark.  It does not happen overnight.

“Content marketing” has become the marketing buzzword of 2013; we’re all trying to figure it out and apply it to our worlds.  Recognize that we evolved to where we are today; there we no overnight revolutions on the way.  Content is still content, it’s just operating in a more complex world. There are also different expectations from the audience.  If you recognize all of this and can apply it in an organized way, you’ll soon be a content marketing expert.

What has been your biggest challenge moving to “content marketing?”  Where are you in that process?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Start Treating Your Content Like Gold Now!

Content has been a big topic the last few years.  It seems every time you see a survey of the things that CMOs are concerned about, producing enough quality content is usually their number one concern. We even have a style of marketing now called “content marketing,” which of course doesn’t actually market content, it uses content to market other products.  Are you following this?

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Content is the fuel that makes today’s marketing work.  Simple as that may sound, not everyone has swallowed the Kool-Aid yet.  Can you do quality marketing without quality content?  Perhaps.  There are some businesses that are not in the stage of the market that content earns it’s keep.  Some products don’t really lend themselves to the written word; others fail in diagrams.  All is not created equal.

So to help you understand the landscape, here are 5 important points to contemplate:

You can calculate and communicate the exact value of your content.  You can learn in pretty good detail exactly what kinds of content resonate with your audience.  Especially if you hold some other variables constant (audience, medium) while you vary the content.

You can pass content as value to your channel partners.  Everyone wants and can use quality content.  Especially your channel partners.  It used to be that channel partners would look to their vendors for MDF or “leads” and while money still talks, compelling content that supports the marketing effort benefits everyone.

Use different content for the top and bottom of the funnel.  It’s best to use broad subjects and provocative subjects to entice people to enter your funnel where you can educate and nurture them.  Bottom of funnel content will be more product based; reviews, case studies, technical white papers.

Content can be reused.  I know it’s crazy to overstate the obvious, but quality content can be used in much more than one was.  Snippets of a white paper make blog posts; a reworking of a brief can make a contributed article.  Some folks are absolute artists at doing this.  Find one for yourself and stretch your content!

You buy it once, it pays many times.  This is my favorite. Having quality content is a bit like having money in the bank.  You can use it to make money in a campaign, you can use it to make our channel partners smile, you can use it in your PR on your website and in your emails.  And you only have to buy it once!  The inventory that never depletes.

Today’s marketing not only  requires the ability to find, write or purchase content that gets the most out of your campaigns.  It also requires a knack in actually using that content..

How does your content stack up?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

How to Keep Your Content Short!

There is a study recently released from Pardot that covers a number of content related issues.  One of the most reported, retweeted and rehashed findings from the study was that 70% of the 400 B2B buyers in the survey thought that content should be less than 5 pages. Frankly, I am kind of surprised that anyone is surprised. If we could get the same information in 1 or 2 pages, why would we want 5?

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Some of the popular social media tools have us looking at ways to spread more gospel with less characters. There is a whole science of distilling your message down to the right number of words or characters for different media. These are all good trends taken from the tactics newspaper writers have used for years.

But it’s not just Tweets and Facebook postings that could use an eye toward brevity; nearly all our communications can benefit from the trend. I went to a business school that had an across-the-board maximum size for all written assignments. The theory was, if you can’t distill it down to a page or page and a half, then no one will ever read or understand it. The training served me well!

Here are then, some tips to keep your writing short, sweet and to the point!

  • Start with an outline.  It seems obvious but if you start by distilling your message down to three points, communicating the three points in a concise fashion now becomes an easier task. This works for blogs like this one all the way to voice mails. Detail the things that must be communicated and start from there.
  • Decide on the tone of the communications.  Determine the level of background to be presented along with the main points. Make it the same for all points. Don’t go in to great depth on the first point and less and less for each one.  How deep you can go will be determined by the overall length of your piece and the number of points you must make.
  • Use visual tools.  You can make a shorter communication more clear with bullets, numbering and the like. These tools make it easier for the brain to absorb the content.  Pictures, chart and graphs also make the data easier to embrace. New content choices like “infographics” have taken the task even further by providing tools that are not limited to just words on a white background.
  • Remove unnecessary words.  The old litmus test was that if the sentence/paragraph meant the same if you removed a given word, then the word should be removed. Many communications can benefit from this type of review and end up shorter with no loss of clarity.

One of the good things is that there is much good content in the world that you can look at and emulate to make your content even better. Note the way others get to the point quickly and completely without a lot of extra words. This style of writing gets read and gets the message across.  Adapt the style as your own!

Have you ever tried to reduce the size of your content? What techniques have you used?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

The 5 Biggest Social Media Mistakes Companies Make

Social media.  Much had been written, everyone is talking about it.  Everyone wants to know what you are doing in it.  Still many folks do not understand the process.  But that doesn’t stop some companies from jumping in anyway.  However, that might not be the best strategy.

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Executing a social media strategy that makes a difference takes thought, planning and consistent execution.  In social media many companies feel the pressure to be involved and jump in before they have really thought it through.  They end up making one or more of these easy-to-avoid mistakes:

  1. Starting without a plan.  A fairly common way for some companies to get started in social media is to sign up for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts and then “let’s see what happens.”  It’s also likely that almost nothing will happen and certainly the world won’t beat a path to your door to see what your next pearl of wisdom will be.  Social media is a crowded place and you need to carefully stake out your audience, your voice and your expertise.  It will not “just take off” on its own.
  2. Not knowing the audience.   Social media platforms are excellent places to find and grow an audience for what you have to say.  However, your content must be relevant to the audience to get noticed.  You’ll attract different audiences based on how your position your social media accounts and by the content that you post.
  3. Broadcasting the same exact thing over all networks.One seemingly popular strategy is to join all the relevant social media platforms and then, send out the same exact news releases, at the same time, on all of the networks.  Since many in your audience will sign up for multiple social media networks, based on their favorites, you’ll be sending out redundant messages.  A more forward thinking strategy would be to give each network a different voice.  Concentrate on different things in different streams.  Grow different types of audiences.
  4. Mixing business with pleasure.  This tends to happen with small entrepreneurial companies where the owner uses the company’s Twitter account to tweet out personal opinions, comments on service at restaurants and the like.  Telling us you have a hangover is not a way to enhance your brand.  Keep this type of chatter on a personal account and not on anything associated with your brand.
  5. Losing interest over time.  Many companies start sending out all sorts of content through social media and after a few months have run out of ideas or the person who was doing all the activity left the company, etc.   Social media is no longer something you “try and see if it works.”  It works and your competitors are making it work.  If you begin a social media outreach the goal is to make it an asset to your business and a major boost in your branding.  “There is no try; there is only do.”

Social media is with us to stay.  It’s become a complex and interesting world where marketers have a chance to differentiate our brands and showcase innovative content.  Embrace it, understand it and make it happen.  You hopefully won’t make these mistakes!

Has your social media implementation had issues?  Did you make any of these mistakes?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

5 Shocking Facts About My Blog

So I think I’ve been doing this long enough to consider myself a blogger.  Officially, yes, I am a blogger.  I write a blog!  Now that I have reached this lofty designation, I am able to look back and make meaningful observations about how different it looks now that I am, well you know.

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Pretty sure I went into it with my eyes open.  Since I have been writing and producing marketing materials forever; tackling a blog is a related activity, right?  Well, yes and no I guess.  Here are some things I learned along the way:

  • The headline/subject is the most important part of the blog  I guess I knew this before I started, but it more true than I ever imagined.  There are lots of blogs, lots of Tweets and lots of Facebook postings.  Everything goes by quite quickly.  If the subject is compelling and catches the eye, you have a chance of a few folks clicking on and reading more.  Hopefully, the shocking headline works for this blog.  Without the catchy headline, the reader is on to the next post…
  • 500 words is an excellent length for a blog.  I see longer and shorter postings, but I find I don’t like them.   I shoot for 500 words and find you can set the stage, make a good point and summarize it, all in that length.  It’s a quick enough read that people actually will finish it.  I find that when blogs start to be 700 words (and often broken up by more headings) it goes a bit too long.
  • Pictures are required.  I wasn’t aware of this at all.  Published my first few blogs without any pictures or graphics.  Started looking at other blogs and found that the visuals helped make the topic interesting.  I started using photos and wow, it made the posts more attractive.  Like the blue “Blog” bubble here.  I purchase most of the pictures from a royalty-free photo site, although I have also added charts I have made, or pictures I have taken.  The tchotchke photo was a picture I took of stuff in and around my desk.  So now, I will always use a photo or graphic with my blogs; I like the way it looks both on the blog and in the LinkedIn postings, etc.
  • The feedback has been amazing.  I guess I have had some beginner’s luck in starting my blog and that has allowed me to get a pretty good reach with my ideas on “marketing, business and management” and have had great discussions and comments from marketing professionals all over the world.  When you see the map of who read your blog today and it includes several continents, you get a feel for the power of the communications we have.

So, am I glad I started the blog?  You bet!  I’ve had great fun, have met many, many new people as a result.  It helps me work through issues I am having as a consultant and gives others a quick look at my marketing and business philosophies.

Is it more work than I thought?  No, I think I had a good handle on how hard it would be to keep it going.  But I do keep it going.  Now let’s publish this one and move on!

What have been your blogging experiences? Are you still looking for the 5th fact in this blog?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

An Autopsy of the Press Release

It probably goes without saying that the world has changed for the traditional press release.  Social media has changed the way companies communicate with customers, and then in turn, the press release must have changed as well, right?

If you Google “Is the press release dead?” you’ll find that many have already written the obituary.  Social media swirls around, the world wants multimedia and the stodgy old press release looks a bit long in the tooth.  Certainly it has outlived its usefulness.

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So let’s do an autopsy.  How did the release die?

Was it the carefully crafted messages, neatly fit into 4 or 5 paragraphs?  Or perhaps it was the “About” boilerplate at the end, sharing compact facts about who released the release.  I know, the heading of “For Immediate Release” was so old, so disgusting, the press release committed suicide.

But maybe, just maybe, the press release can’t die.  After all, what is a press release?  It’s an announcement and one that has some gravity.  It’s been thought through, carefully edited, fully proofread, and in larger companies, signed off by dozens of folks before you get to read it.  Companies will always have announcements to make and the official announcement document is known as a press release.

A press release is a one-page summation of a company announcement.  Just the facts and a quote.  The important things you need to know.  You can add pictures, videos, and links to your press release.  You can choose where a release goes and make that local or worldwide.  Twitter and Facebook haven’t replaced the press release as an announcement vehicle, but they can help you spread the news to interested parties.  What would an important official announcement look like if not in a press release?

Press releases find their way to a dedicated section on a company’s website, where they function as chapters in the company’s history; the product announcements, the executive additions and the earnings wins, all set out neatly in press releases.  You can scan the titles and quickly get a feel for “what the company has been doing.”

No folks, the press release is not dead.  It’s a still a major part of what we do.  It’s a unique style of writing; a pithy rundown of the key elements of a story.  There is always a need for pithy writing.

It’s not dead; it just has a lot more competition.  The social media revolution created a bunch of new communication channels.  Those channels all have their place. They all have their audiences.  The new channels get a lot of attention.  But the press release lives, still doing what it does best.  Companies still issue them and the press keeps relying on them.

So if you come across someone who thinks the press release is dead, ask them how they know?  Inquire as to what replaced it.  Then tell them to look around.  The press release not only lives, it thrives!

Does your company still issue press releases?   Are you sending out any fewer releases?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm