Saturday, 6 September 2008

Get to the bleedin' obvious

Just arrived in my inbox and thought the insight was so amazing that I had to post it (having made just one or two small edits...).

Email from: Get to the bleedin’ obvious: Marketing-to-Marketing (MarketingDuffers) []

Subject line: More thoughts about blogs that sound good on the surface but are actually completely useless in practice

Is this the end of the beginning of the end of blogs that aren't as good as they should be? We've swallowed some tips from a company even more famous than us for stating the bleedin’ obvious. What do they think makes for a good B2B blog?

Don’t write a crap blog. “I try to write a blog that isn’t totally blatently wrong, boring, repetitive or boring.”

A blog isn’t a press release. “I also learnt last week that a camel isn’t the same as a bathtub. Groovy.”

Don't think about the audience. “Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it? But why think about the audience when you're really only writing for people like you.”

The bleed!n obv!ous: it’s good to write something good.

Next week: What to do when hoardes of people unsubscribe, or die, from your pointless email blasts

What is it about marketing (and online B2B marketing in particular) that leads people to dress inane drivel up as thought leadership?

Easy steps to making money from web 2.0

Have to love this post by Ted Dziuba at the register. Of all the hype around web 2.0, cloud computing, SaaS etc, he shows where the real money is to be made: not by the next application, but by supporting its development (Amazon's EC2 or Google's App Engine).

"I do have to give both Google and Amazon some credit, though. Both noticed that the only ones to make any real money off of the California gold rush were the outfitters who sold mining equipment."

...and then there are the steam ship companies, whose posters really sell the dream - maybe they are more like the journalists and commentators who promote the Cloud Computing vision, because (as a concept at least) it is easy to understand.

Don't know who the 200 Jack Asses would be in the analogy though...

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Marketing doesn't need to differentiate you...

(... caveat: at least, not at every point in the buying cycle)

Smurfs may be great gardeners, but they'll never make it in marketing: they've bought into the message that you need to differentiate yourself, when all that's doing is qualifying them out of potential deals. Poor old smurfs...

I'm worried that too many people (me included, too often) put too much faith in the 'differentiate or die' message. A quick google search shows that over 50,000 pages are making that point (and, having obviously just visited all of those, I can faithfully report that they all support my argument...)

Let's say there are lots of companies acknowledging a need for your kind of solution (some in the sweet spot where you really do have better features than the competition) - but there are three big names always getting on the shortlist for the RFP.

Now, do you really need marketing to differentiate yourself from the big three? Or is the issue actually that people see you as too different already (or don't see you at all)?

There's a strong argument that marketing up to the point of the RFP should be all about 'me too' - we have a great client list (like them), we have delivered great results (like them), we have features x,y,z (like them)...

The chances are that one of them is already helping the prospect to shape their RFP (or at least, knowledge of what one of them can do is) - so the only thing you're going to acheive with differentiation is to discount yourself from the deal.

Of course, if the competition is bigger than you, then you will need one kind of differentiation - nothing to do with what you say, but all to do with how/where you say it. They'll own various saturated marketing channels (think AdWords for one! Tradeshows/exhibitions for two...) - but it's your opportunity to get smart and targeted with your direct communications to really deliver that 'me too' message in a way that gets 'me too' onto the shortlist...

Of course, once you're on that shortlist and having your sales meetings - that's the time to really stick it to the competition (and your sales team need all the support they can get to highlight the places where your product/service differentiators meet the pain points of the prospect).

But start the differentiation too soon and you'll end up needing to create a whole new market before anyone will buy from you (which is a great challenge to have, if you're up for the fight!).

So, anyway, have you spotted the 5 differences in the smurf picture? Go here to see if you got it right!

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Is there an opposite to thought leadership? And would it be a bad thing?

Last week, a colleague proposed the possibility that - with every man and his dog creating a 'thought leadership' position - the real thought leaders might be doing just the opposite.

So what would this vacuum be called? 'I forgot' is the best answer so far.

And are you a 'thought leader' or an 'I forgot'?

Everything starts right with thought leadership programmes - 'we want to have something interesting to say to clients and prospects, ideally something that stands us apart from the competition'.

If only it stopped there as well. But too often, after this great start, people put the 'stand apart from the competition' before the 'interesting to clients and prospects' - which typically means taking an even more tangential/futuristic view on a subject. And so the thought leading position gets farther and farther away from where the majority of clients/prospects are fighting their day to day battles (and spending the majority of their budgets).

We did some research recently with people making buying decisions worth millions of pounds - and found that the people taking the decisions weren't necessarily in the c-suite, but departmental heads/programme directors - people with day jobs too big to worry about what might be possible in the future and all too concerned with what's happening today.

So maybe the really innovative thinking would be to stick to what worries these decision-makers - stories about what's going right and wrong, implementation pot-holes, war stories...

It suddenly makes the 'I forgot' position a whole lot more attractive.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Government: there must be a better way...

Or that's clearly what the UK government thinks, launching a new website this week:

The government is after suggestions of better ways to use and communicate public information. Basically, ideas for mash-ups using a whole range of new data that's being made public.

So you can see on a map which streets have most car crime, and decide not to park there.

Or you could see what time the next train is leaving with highly sensitive MI5 dossiers left on the seats.

Or look up to see which pensioners are getting the most money each week so you know to concentrate your favours on them.

[potentially these last two wouldn't be possible with the current data on offer. But I'm sure it's only a matter of time...]

I guess it's a nice touch, having us do their work for them, but wonder if it's going about things the wrong way round? They're asking people for suggestions of answers, rather than finding a clever way to uncover needs that people have. Which comes back to the whole Henry Ford "If I asked what people wanted, they'd have asked for a faster horse" point - perhaps it'd be more interesting to see some really innovative way of understanding the kinds of needs that citizens have and then publishing these before asking for random ideas.

As you would expect, the site is coming up with a range of ideas (some apparently too humorous to publish) - take a look at the 'latest ideas' section. Ideas currently range from the pointlessly bandwagony (Showing which constituencies in the UK are greenest) to the unintelligible (Ranking of Correlations between Geographically distributed Temporal datasets) to the encouragement of mob violence (Show on a map where people under anti-social behavioural orders live) [sorry - that's another one that doesn't exist in reality...]

Anyway, it's a neat idea but I'm not sure they've quite got their heads around the idea of customer collaboration and probably not gathering the best feedback possible - anyone seen any better schemes they should be learning from in the private sector?

And, since they won't let you post ridiculous ideas on their site, anyone have any they'd like to share?

Here's a starter: hoodie resource page - somewhere that shows empty buildings and wasteland areas with a rating for proximity to off licence and distance from police stations...

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Any such thing as 'the real world'?

Is it time we gave in and conceded that there is no 'real world'/'online world' divide?

Interesting article in the Telegraph talks about how the "Facebook and MySpace generation 'cannot form relationships'". According to a psychiatrist:

"People used to the quick pace of online social networking may soon find the real world boring and unstimulating, potentially leading to more extreme behaviour to get that sense."

But isn't the bigger issue that we need to take social networking more seriously than claiming it's not part of 'the real world'? These are real people, sitting at their computers, really doing things (like typing).

It's the attitude that this isn't 'real' that stops people from properly investing in social media - suggesting that it doesn't have a comparable value to 'real world' networking.

Wonder if they'll be thinking the same way in 8 years time when all software is delivered online - and researched, trialled and purchased online without the need for any 'real world' engagement at all...

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

This is what it looks like

Who needs a sideways look at marketing through the glasses of the street when you have Westwood interviewing Jay-Z? Bugger...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

The new marketing metric of choice: Return per Centimetre Down

So, is blogging 'hot'? (see below)

Possibly, but what seems even 'hotter' are rap-based cultural references, cos marketing is baddasss. Innit.

But gosh, that would suggest that rap based cultural references are just a fad – which they definitely are NOT. It’s time for companies of all kinds to look at their rap-based cultural references, to sharpen their usage and demand measurable results… there’s no point being down with the kids if you can’t measure the return on every centimeter you are down.

MarketingProfs gets down with da kids...

If you were lucky enough to be at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum earlier this month, you may have been exposed to some language of the street that needs explaining.

Lena West ran a Social Media Lab at the forum, with some of her views on getting results in social media being covered in this Q&A. But some of it may need translating...

It seems that in the last couple of years, companies have been looking to learn all they could about blogs and social networks. Are these still the hot spots for companies wanting to start using social media, or are other areas emerging?

Blogs and social networking are still very "hot." Gosh, I don't like saying that because it makes anything new media related sound like a fad - which it decidedly is NOT.
Online communities and engagement are emerging areas for brand investment. Companies that are active in social media are finally getting the blogosphere memo that it's not just about being part of the community and listening, but facilitating dialogue as well. It's not enough to attend the party, you need to be P. Diddy and HOST the party.

So, are you ready to be P.Diddy and HOST the party? (for those who need the explanation, P.Diddy is lead member of a popular beat combo, renowned for hosting fabulous Edwardian-themed parties [the tea cakes are to die for].) Or maybe we're reaching saturation point with the different communities springing up everywhere, and people need to start being the interesting, witty guest - not just a silent part of the community, but not necessarily hosting it either.

Every party has a stand-out guest who has all the interesting stories and great contacts - with a bit of effort, B2B organisations probably already have the content and it's time to start sharing... Paul Dunay has an excellent post that starts to point at this direction - being the star that brings other parties to life with distributed content...

Having said that, Lena's views on what (and when) to consider starting/expanding a social media initiative are well worth a read...

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

What's that? Sounds like the distant scraping of a barrel... Facebook and Visa try to monetise Facebook

BBC news reports on Visa's new B2B push on Facebook. It's creating business-specific applications for small busines owners who register on The Visa Business Network. Take a look at the Facebook site they've built here.

They see small businesses benefiting in two ways - firstly by joining a network to connect and learn from other people in similar situations, and secondly with $100 advertising credits to promote their services to Facebook users.

Only time will tell whether this is enough to persuade Visa's target businesses to take the plunge and start a more structured facebook approach.