To Honor Social Media Day: “Hug Your Community”

Social media is a misnomer. It’s not about “media” — which is the channel by which communication gets delivered.  It’s about “community”:  people getting — and giving — help, advice, and support from others.

The Silicon Valley Executive Social Media Council (SVESMC) is my favorite example of this type of community. Earlier this month, the SVESMC met for it’s second practioner’s meeting.  Measuring the impact of social media was among the topics discussed. So, in light of Mashable’s self-proclaimed “Social Media Day”, I’d like to share a few insights from my favorite community – and echo thoughts that Petra Neiger shared in her Cisco post on this topic also.

During the gathering, a few folks took some time out to shoot impromptu videos to share lessons learned and to remind us about the impact social media has had on our lives.  The first video is a series of tips from people I consider top practitioners at prominent high tech firms here in the valley.  I found it very “telling” that both Gurmeet Dhaliwal (CA) and Jeannette Gibson (Cisco) both chose “listening” as the key strategic tip they would give others.

Listening is the first of five key social media objectives Forrester identified in the Groundswell book. I later wrote research to help B2B marketers set social media plans and incorporated the POST strategy into this work. Successful social media means knowing who you want to engage and how you want to change the nature of your relationship with them as a result. To do this right requires listening to that audience, not just shouting at them with an online bullhorn.

The second video is a series of personal stories about how social media changed some of the member’s lives — in both big ways and small.  Watch and see if you can relate. 

These are just a few examples that remind me how important a community can be to helping us navigate and learn about this new socially-connected, online world.  Happy Social Media day!  And in honor of it, find your favorite community and show them your appreciation.

BtoB Online Names Its “Top 25″ Digital Marketers

I feel a bit sheepish writing this, but I’ve had so many friends and colleagues (including the Xerox CEO!) contact me about this award that I wanted to take the opportunity to offer my thanks and share the news. 

On June 13, in its inaugural Top Digital Marketers special report, BtoB magazine recognized 25 B2B marketers doing “exceptional” interactive work. If you look through the list at the bottom, you will see my name.  BtoB explains, “The winners were selected by BtoB staff, based on criteria including strong interactive vision and strategy as part of their overall marketing efforts; innovative use of digital technologies; and proven results.”  Wow, that’s quite an honor! And one I would like to share with my team and coworkers because I am never alone in these endeavors.

Here’s how I see it: Digital marketing is an essential part of any marketing program today – it should never stand alone. As buyers take more cues from online content, community, and experts, marketers can no longer depend on “interruption marketing” — tactics that try to get in front of prospective customers regardless of the prospect’s level of interest or qualification. B2B marketers must engage with potential buyers, determine their interests, and share useful, relevant information if they want to excel online. Here’s an example of how our industry marketing team approaches digital marketing to illustrate how we translate this perspective into practice.

Earlier this year, we decided to host a webinar featuring a well-recognized vertical industry expert. For those of you who know Ellen Carney, senior analyst at Forrester Research, she is one of the bright lights among the property, casualty, annuity, and life insurance industry luminaries. (And, yes, I adored working with her while at Forrester, so there’s my bias out in the open.) Our goal was to build Xerox Service’s reputation in the insurance industry, demonstrate a thought-leading point of view, and attract prospects to our story.

To do this, we wanted to produce fresh, interesting content that we could repurpose in different ways to drive traffic and interest. Now, to be honest, Forrester is not the cheapest resource with which to partner on this, so we wanted to make sure that the Webinar lived beyond its broadcast date. Here are a few highlights detailing where we focused our effort:

1) Relevance. We learned Ellen planned to publish a new report (not yet available on Forrester’s site) about the key trends shaping the future of the insurance industry. To associate ourselves subtly with what we expected to be ground-breaking research, we introduced Ellen to Gary Cole, who heads up our customer communications line of business for the insurance industry. Ellen liked Gary’s perspectives and decided to interview him to help provide background for her report.

2) Podcasts/audio files generate content — quickly.  We didn’t want to spend a lot of time writing, reviewing, and rewriting new content. Leading up to the webinar, we asked Ellen to talk to Gary about her findings. With Forrester’s consent (and — full disclosure — hired advice) we recorded and published three separate snippets of a Q&A conversation between the two of them, and featured each podcast in a separate blog post.  You can find them here:

Insurance 2020Insuring Against a Hole-In-One and Other Calamities, Going Green, Big Brother Evolves into a Risk Manager, and National Dog Bite Prevention Week: CA Tops National Liability List. We started promoting the Webinar in the fourth and fifth post in this series; we didn’t lead with it.  We tried to use catchy, off-beat topics to grab attention. We also tried to steer away from Xerox-centric language — this had to be about the industry, not us.

3) Highly targeted contact list.  This is probably the most important part. We market and sell managed print services contracts valued at multiple millions of dollars and spanning 5 years or more. There is a rather short list of companies that would be interested in this type of outsourced service. Knowing existing customer profiles, we crafted a list of specific accounts from which we generated a refined list of over 5000 contacts using internal databases and external sources.  To B2C folks, this may not sound like many, but for us, this was significant. While we welcome anyone interested in the future of the insurance industry to attend, we wanted to make sure that key folks at companies — like Allstate, the Hartford, New York Life, Prudential, State Farm, Travelers, USAA, and others — had the opportunity to hear from Xerox about Ellen’s new research.

4)  Industry-specific landing page. Nothing fancy, but we wanted one destination to focus our blog and outreach efforts toward that would also serve to tell interested parties a bit more about what we have to offer.  This way we could focus the Webinar content on what is interesting to clients and minimize the sales pitch from Xerox. It was also vital to record the event (again with Forrester’s paid permission) and make it available as a resource to those who couldn’t attend live.

5) A personal touch. We reached out to friends, fans and followers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We answered every email inquiry promptly. We sent personal emails to people we knew in the industry and promised to minimize the promotional content. We sent a reminder 30 minutes before the broadcast so that registrants didn’t have to dig through their email to find the links. We crafted separate thank-you notes for attendees and “sorry we missed you” messages for those who couldn’t make it. We made the replay available to everyone and encouraged them to share.

As a result, this Webinar enjoyed an 80% attendance rate against registrations. I don’t know about you, but — while at Forrester — I was thrilled to get 30% or more of the registrants to attend Webinars. 50% attendance is exceptional and 80% is out of this world! Also, this was the second highest attended industry-specific Webinar my team conducted so far. (So, for those cynics out there, 80% does not mean 4 out of only 5 individuals attended. We had many more than that participate.) We also generated three “leads” prior to the event — people interested in knowing more — as well as many requests wanting to see if the event would be recorded so they could access it on-demand.

What’s next? Measurement and tracking. We will enter attendee information into our database and track influence the influence of this Webinar and digital content against new opportunities and pipeline.  We will extract key questions, quotes, and other tidbits from the Webinar and use those content chunks to promote the replay. We will create customizable emails — featuring content elements and key talking points from Ellen’s research — for our sales people to use to follow up directly, and personally, with clients using our Business Builder tool. And we will do more – but I can’t give away all my secrets!

While the BtoB award is so appreciated, I hope in sharing this, you can get a glimpse into some of the activity that creates fundamental, straight-forward digital marketing. And I also hope to remain worthy of the recognition. Thank you again BtoB!

BMA Unleash 2011 – Wrap Up And Observations

Wow, the Business Marketing Association’s international conference for 2011 is over, and already I can’t wait until next year. At the risk of sounding like a compensated promoter (full disclosure: BMA did pay for my travel and accommodation to speak at this year’s event), I found this to be the premier conference for B2B executive marketers.  A strong link between BMA and BtoB Magazine is also evident:  BtoB Magazine “award” winners tend to have high-level relationships with BMA.  And magazine coverage appeared to be exclusive/preferred (see below). Which is a good thing, in my opinion, because catering to the senior B2B marketing audience can only enhance BMA”s stature as a networking association.

I’m sure you can find a lot of great feedback about the show online. Check out the Twitter hashtag #bmaunleash to see all the highlights. BtoB Magazine published two show-special editions that summarize the event effectively.  You can find them at:  June 2 and June 3.

(Notice yours truly on the panel on the front page of the June 2 summary. Yes, I am tooting my own horn.  But I have to say that many people at the show approached me later to thank me for sharing examples of Xerox’s content story.  Nice to have a positive impact.)

The main highlights for me, Days 2 and 3, include:

1) Seth Godin’s lunchtime keynote.  He is a highly entertaining nutcase.  And the master of the “all pictures, no words” presentation. His message was clear – establish your brand to be relevant in 2012 and beyond.  The days of the “company person” are over.  Very interesting: to emphasize his view of humanity’s progression from hunter/gatherer, to agriculture, to industrialism, to service-oriented society — he showed a picture of Xerox’s chairwoman, Ursula Burns, to make the last point.  Do you think our message about transforming to a service-oriented company is coming across?

2) Greg Stuart, Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) Global CEO, gave an eye-opening talk about mobile. He believes mobile could well be the marketing channel of the next decade – and has the stats to back it up.  While B2B marketers, in general, lag well behind B2C counterparts, Greg showed data from 100 mobile case studies and research against $1 billion in ad spending to argue this medium is here to stay. Time to set strategy, folks.

3) IBM talked about Watson (interesting) but it had little connection to the other topics Kevin Kennedy presented.  Siemen’s presentation was long, but a good study in how to build a US brand from a European heavyweight.  Lots of other track sessions worth a listen on the recordings.

4) The panel on work-life balance — featuring Motorola’s Eduardo Conrado, Rick Segal of gyro, Maggie Jackson from Boston Globe, Johanna Torsone of Pitney Bowes, and Dalton Conley from NYU — was depressing but very worthwhile.  There’s no escaping that work hours and life have become inextricably linked as the panel explored the dynamics of “weisure,” the convergence of working and home life, and its impact on B2B marketing. And it means we will all be on-the-clock more often.

Bottomline: experience BMA for yourself next year.  It’s worth it.

BMA “Unleash” 2011: Day 1

I am thrilled to attend my first Business Marketing Association (BMA) national conference, here in Chicago this week.  I’ve known about BMA for a long time. Josh Bernoff, who gave an outstanding keynote talk about how empowered buyers require you to empower your employees to address their needs and treat them like a channel, told me about this organization two years ago. His exact words were “this is a group you should get to know.  Go call Gary Slack.” 

I procrastinated.  I left Forrester and went to Xerox.  Gary emailed me.  I ignored him.  Bad me. 

Lucky for me, Gary reached out again and invited me to speak on a panel in the afternoon, moderated by Accenture’s Executive Director of Advertising and Brand Management, Teresa Poggenpohl, and joined by Andrew Bosman, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Navigant Consulting, Ben Edwards, VP of Digital Strategy and Development at IBM (who works for IBM VP of Corporate Marketing, John Kennedy), and Bob Pearson, Chief Technology and Media Officer at WCG and formerly with Dell.  We talked about “Unleash Your Content to Generate Meaningful Thought Leadership.”  I shared some examples of the content we produce at Xerox to demonstrate — and engage — though leaders, the best of which are our customers.

While our panel discussion was one of the highlights of the day, Roy Spence, Co-Founder and Chairman of GSD&M, and author, “It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by Purpose” delivered a particularly inspiring set of observations and humorous quips.  You can find his key points at the hashtag #bmaunleash — or by following @BMANational — to see how purpose-inspired companies don’t build relationships based on selling,  but on helping their customers to be successful. I most liked his quip “Forget about all those other P’s you’ve heard about in marketing — Pricing, Promotion, Product — Purpose is the most important P that you need to have.”

So are you wondering what a race car has to do with a business-to-business marketing conference? Nothing more than an unabashed plug for Avnet, BMA and the No. 16 Ford at the Chicagoland Speedway NASCAR Race June 4, on the weekend.  Daytona 500 Winner Trevor Bayne will take the wheel.  I have to say, Al Maag, new national BMA chairman, and Chief Communications Officer for Avnet, did rock the racing suit he wore in his opening remarks rather well.

DM or follow me at @lauraramos on Twitter to see more about the show.

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