New York Life, Insurance Magazine, 1942

[Cross-posted in RexBlog.com]

For some reason, every few months or so, a reporter will discover that a consumer or business product company has launched a magazine or web property designed to communicate directly with its customers — and will write about it as if this were some newly discovered form of marketing. As launching and managing such media properties is what I have done for much of the past 25 years, I am pleased that such an approach to marketing is continuously treated as something new and fresh and cutting-edged, despite having been around since the 1800s.

New ABM CEO Clark Pettit

[Cross-posted on RexBlog.com]
For the past several months, I’ve served on the search committee to find a new president and CEO of the business-to-business media association, American Business Media. Today that committee disbanded as the Board of Directors of ABM made official the hiring of Clark Pettit as President and CEO, succeeding Gordon T. Hughes II. (I’ve included the press release at the bottom of this post.)

You may have heard about the four P’s of B2C marketing: product, price, placement and promotion. But what are the rules when it comes to B2B marketing? In his blog, marketing guru Paul Dunay outlines the four C’s of B2B marketing, which he argues are the most applicable principles to the challenges marketers face today. They are:

  1. Content. Creating a steady stream of content to engage your audience.
  2. Connection. Creating content that connects with your target audience.
  3. Communication. Creating content that engages your audience in an ongoing conversation.
  4. Conversion. Creating content that converts your audience into customers.

At Hammock, we are big believers that a well-executed content marketing strategy develops content and media that engage a potential customer. That is why marketers should review this six-step content marketing check-up before they finalize their content marketing plans for 2010.
The six steps include: mapping site content to the buying cycle, reducing friction on gated content, reviewing content analytics, capturing the value of content, including sharing options with your content and optimizing content for search. This exercise will help marketers assess what is and isn’t working for them when it comes to their B2B content development and content marketing efforts.

In 2009, I predict a lot of marketers will finally figure out that Twitter is much, much more than the confusing chaos of an online chat, forum, time-wasting thing they now believe it to be. I’m going to attempt to help them in that journey by using this blog to make simple suggestions on ways marketers at associations, companies or any organization can use Twitter and other conversational media (also called “social media”) tools to sell, promote and better serve customers, members, alumni, donors, backers, etc.

Lots of companies have already registered a Twitter username for their company. For example, I recently mentioned how Dell uses Twitter to promote special deals at its “outlet” . Dell has also registered many other Twitter accounts that are used in various ways.

Many savvy marketers have a designated individual or group of individuals who use Twitter Search to track any mention of their brand or product names appearing on Twitter. Unlike a typical search engine, Twitter Search is designed to provide “real time” results of a search query. Once a search results page appears, it continues to collect results as long as you keep the page open in a browser tab. It won’t automatically refresh, however, a message at the top of the page displays a tally of how may times users have included the search-term in a “tweet” since you last manually “refreshed” the page. Click on the refresh link, and the new tweets appear.

But don’t think of Twitter as merely a “tracking” tool or a “broadcasting” tool. It is a conversational tool. Here are a couple of examples (there are many) that I’ve personally encountered on Twitter during the past couple of days — days when many marketers who use Twitter had set up a “see you next week” message on their accounts.

The first example is an easy one for me to select, as it’s from a Nashville-based (my hometown) company, Griffin Techology , and the employee who maintains it is, separate from his job at Griffin, a highly visible member of the local blogosphere . I was trying to locate a place locally to purchase a Griffin product called the Clarifi that serves as a case or “skin” for an iPhone, but also includes a small lens filter you can slide over the phone’s camera lens for taking closeup photos of documents or business cards. (I want it to use it with what is quickly becoming the software I’m currently obsessing over, Evernotes — and thought it would make a good stocking-stuffer for, uh, Santa to give me).

When a phone call to the Apple Store led to a dead-end (you can purchase it online, they said), I decided to tweet a request for help. Within moments, (again, this was Christmas Eve) Dave @ Twitter, the person who is the “@” at @griffintech posted a “tweet” suggesting I check Best Buy. He then tweeted to me a coupon-code for a “stocking stuffer” discount if I couldn’t find it there and needed to order it online. Sure enough, it had sold out at the Best Buy closest to my house, so I used the coupon code.

The other example is a product called EyeFi . It’s a rather amazing product as it looks like a regular memory card for a digital camera, but it has built-in wifi that automagically (without any wires or docking) uploads photos to your computer or via your home or office’s wi-fi, to a web-based photo hosting/sharing service like Flickr. Yesterday, on Christmas morning, I mentioned on a tweet that I’d received and EyeFi for Christmas and within moments, @eyeficard was following me. The service was a little clunky on Christmas morning, but whoever was responsible for maintaining the @eyeficard Twitter account was responding to any tweets for assistance. It was impressive.

For customer service, these companies also probably use forums, wikis, knowledge-bases and a lot of people answering phone-calls. But yesterday, a 30-second tweet reassured lots of customers that help was within 140 characters and a few seconds away.

[Note: The post also appears on RexBlog.com]

Last week, I attended the annual American Business Media Top Management Meeting in Chicago. Rather than its typical multi-topic conference approach, the meeting focused primarily on presenting the results from a major industry study and recommendations from the consulting firm Booz & Co.

I found the approach refreshing, more like a deep-dive seminar than the typical panel-led sessions of most conferences (did I just telegraph my opinion of most conferences?). The Booz & Co. study (as reported by Hamsa Ramesha for Northwestern University’s Medill News Service) focused on “pathways to profitability” for B2B media companies in a period when traditional media is shrinking and digital media is expanding.

As ABM member companies are fully involved in events, digital and print media, it was not a Print vs. Web thing — most companies are way past that. This study was more focused on the question: “Based on the reality we’re living in, what must your company become to be successful in five years?”

Perhaps one of the reasons I really enjoyed the study results may be the way in which the findings and recommendations so closely correspond to much of what we at Hammock have been focused on during the past couple of years.

While I plan to write much more about this in the coming weeks, let me preview it by saying that the Booz & Co. study finds that for business-to-business media companies to succeed, they must focus on one of two pathways: Being a company that serves end-users (subscribers, attendees, etc.) or being a company that serves marketers (custom media, marketing services, etc.). While companies can offer services that target both end-users and marketers, Booz & Co. have not yet found an example of how a company has become a leader in both strategies.

It makes sense to me why they have not, but the reasons why that is so are going to be a part of my follow-up posts on the topic. (How’s that for a tease?)

In the meantime, let me say, we at Hammock know exactly what our pathway is: We are going to continue to serve savvy marketers in their efforts to generate more profitable relationships with their customers or members.

Our services will grow to include even more ways to help marketers accomplish that goal via print and all forms of digital and online media. Our services will also grow in ways that will offer marketers the means to measure and manage such programs in ways that clearly provide tangible business benefits to our clients.

We look forward to the continuation of this journey. And I look forward to posting more about it over the coming weeks.

[Cross-posted on rexblog.com]

Wired editor and author of the book, The Long Tail, Chris Anderson, posted an item on his blog today that contains an observation I believe is so obvious, it is completely missed by many self-appointed experts. (Okay, I’ll admit I live in that glass house.):

“Not only do small (Long Tail) publishers montetize their content at 3-5 times the rate of the larger publishers in PubMatic’s survey, but they’re improving in the current environment while the big publisher decline.

This is a fact of life in business-to-business-media, where the business model has long been focused on “free” distribution of content to decision-makers in specialized fields. The “cost per thousand” (CPM) model of advertising sales does not exist as a metric in this long-tail of the media world. Of course, if an advertiser selling a $100,000 piece of equipment can reach 90% of the decision makers in a market of 5,000 specifying engineers, then, hell-yeah, the publisher of that content should be able to monetize it at hundreds of times the rate of, say, a newsweekly.

The lesson here: Online, if you want to monetize content, the number of eyeballs seeing your content is less important than who those eyeballs belong to. And the more helpful that content is in assisting real people make important and valuable decisions, the more “monetizable” it will be.

My friend Josh Hinds interviewed me on the topic of business networking. Here’s the link to the interview. Thanks, Josh.

We were proud to learn that MyBusiness Magazine, the small business magazine we publish with our friends at NFIB for their 600,000 members, has been named a finalist in the 51st Annual Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Awards. Out?of the 1,168 entries, ours was one of 81 to make it to the final round. MyBusiness is one of three finalists in the category of “best department” for its recurring feature, “MyBusiness Manual.” This is the second consecutive year for “My Business Manual” to be a finalist in this category. (Who knows, maybe this year, the judges will see the light!)
Seriously, the Neals are business-to-business magazines’ most prestigious and most sought-after editorial honors. We are proud of the work we and NFIB do in publishing each issue and honored that such work has received this recognition by others. The Neals are presented at a luncheon ceremony in New York on March 16.