Book Review: Social Media Explained-Untangling the World’s Most Misunderstood Business Trend

Yes the full title of this latest book from Mark Schaefer is a mouthful but it’s pure brilliance in clarity, insight and utility cannot be overemphasized. Written in Mark’s typical down to earth style that makes you feel like he’s in the room with you,  it instills a confidence that makes you excited to put social TO WORK.  Truly a must read for your entire staff from Admin to CEO.  Really! Read it and find out why for yourself.

But lCover-for-Social-Media-Explainedet me dispel any notion from the book’s title that this is some remedial or sophomoric read. It’s not. It is though the best book I’ve read for those looking to understand how to make social media an effective part of their B2B or B2C marketing, especially skeptical C-suite execs. Not paddy-cake play time but sound foundation building, actionable steps to determine if social has a role in your company (99% likely a YES!), and then how to make it happen plus realistic expectations.

Already read it? Please let us know what you think.

Sales and Marketing Alignment Evolves; Is the “Saleozoic” Era Ending?

A New Business Era When Sales and Marketing Must Align 

Full disclosure. I am a sales person AND a marketer. To some those may be mutually exclusive and even put me on the lowest rungs of the social trust-ranking right around “ambulance chaser” and “secretly tears labels off pillows”. Still, in over twenty-plus years in the agency world including a partner position, few things are as gratifying for me as making the sale. Before this I sold in the industrial and construction industries. Before that retail. And as a kid and teenager, I went door-to-door selling my lawn services or canvassing for an HVAC company. So on the topic of sales and marketing getting on the same page, I’m glad John Jantsch is putting a white-hot spotlight on it in his new book,  “Duct Tape Selling, Think Like a Marketer-Sell Like A Superstar”.

Maybe it will lend more evidence that we’re actually entering a new era in business where a lot of talk and half measures about sales and marketing alignment will be replaced with real, broad progress.



The Time is Ripe but Will the C-suite Belly-up To The Bar?

bar sceneRead Mark Schaefer’s interview with Mr. Jantsch and it sounds like John is all over this. Solutions are badly needed for what I have come to term the “prescriptive” and “orchestration” challenges; namely adapting a new sales and marketing alignment methodology and customizing it according to the many verticals and cultures out there. A lot of work goes into carefully prescribing the correct solutions and timing, then diligently managing the conversion and integration process. Naturally for it to have a chance of lasting success, it needs to get a serious, long-term commitment from company leadership because the change resistance is significant.

The Age of Sales Dinosaurs Is Ending; Why They Won’t Go Quietly

raul-martin-t-rex-edmontosaWhere is change resistance coming from? There is a vast, entrenched culture of hard-boiled salesman and managers with their call lists and briefcases whose mindset is by and large, like that of the therapod dinosaurs. They are governed by nature’s law of conservancy that dictates putting forth energy sparingly to conserve it while exploiting those opportunities that produce results of the highest value with the least energy investment (you survival-theme, reality TV watchers already know this). This basic tenet of survival underpins every action so when someone outside the sales team “pack” promotes a new hunting method, there better be hard proof that it not only conforms to this law but puts more ‘food on the ground’. Adding to the challenge is the U.S. business environment today is the pinnacle of “short attention-span theater” so anyone making the case for change must have carefully engineered it to quickly garner interest (just like any good content) with clear CTAs (just like any conversion process) if it has a prayer of getting consideration or buy-in. The preeminent, age-old problem here is getting stakeholders to try something new that runs the risk of starving and that’s not altogether figurative if you’ve ever tried to exist on commission sales, meet quarterly targets or run your own business.

The Emergence of a New Sales Species

The timing of John’s book couldn’t be better given the evolutionary pressure on the sales team that in my opinion is like the natural selection process that follows a cataclysmic event but instead of a giant asteroid hitting Earth, in this case it was the Great Recession. It came along just as a lot of the furry, little and very intelligent content and inbound marketing animals were emerging.
People like warm, trustworthy and furry and embrace them.
People downright fear being stalked by large reptiles.
I like to think John may be documenting the “dinosaur” die off that marks the end of the “Saleozoic Era”, and the emergence of a hybrid or possibly an entirely new species in the evolution of sales and marketing alignment.
Are you seeing this in your company? Are you one of the new breed? We’d love to read about what you’re seeing in our comments section so please share won’t you.

UPDATE:  Since I first wrote this post, John’s book has gotten alot of good review including this very thorough one I recommend, “Out With the Sales Rep and In With The Sales Guide: A Review of Duct Tape Selling”,  from demand gen authority, Dan McDade over at PointClear. Mosey over for a solid CliffsNotes-esque run down by Dan.

What’s Happening To Inbound Marketing “MPG”?

ethanol-addedInbound marketing has a couple of big problems.  By that I mean many well-intentioned companies especially those that are just starting their own inbound marketing program are facing two considerable issues.

The first is a common one and that is unrealistic expectations like namely the amount of time and resource necessary to sustain and power an inbound program into a true conversion machine. Getting started is hard. Staying with it just like any good habit is even harder and for inbound that means generating good content and lots of it, day in and day out.

Secondly, the “per unit energy” of online content is going down in a manner of speaking. Content is the primary fuel that powers an inbound program and like what happened when our gov’t mandated the addition of ethanol to our gasoline, suddenly it took more fuel to go the same distance; ethanol just doesn’t have the same energy content and punch. So what in the world does this have to do with inbound you ask?

We are experiencing an astronomical, exponential growth in online content which is the digital equivalent to adding ethanol to your gasoline except what your typical car will run on has a limit so ethanol content is capped; online content dilution has no cap, no governor and so it is getting worse as the volume of online content grows. As the amount of online content goes up, the greater the dilution of its power and so it takes more and more content to “go the same distance”  ie., powering a robust, organically driven inbound marketing program.  And the discomforting part about this equation is it will only get worse, not better. That is the trap and the spiral which I started thinking more about after I read Mark Schaefer’s post on “Content Shock”

Let’s put this in the context of the marketplace. Of course it’s competitive and not everyone is at the same stage in their marketing efforts. If you were one of the businesses that jumped on inbound early like back in 2009, consider yourself not just visionary but also lucky. That was like buying Apple stock when it was cheap. Just five years ago online content volume was a fraction of what it is today and there were fewer competitors vying for inbound dominance.  If you got started early it’s likely you’re in the lead and may well have locked it in; late starters will have to mount an extraordinary effort to just get in the race much less take away the lead.

So what’s a marketer to do? Bail? Hit the silk? Take the off ramp? No. Inbound is a vital tool and practice for all but the rarest of businesses. Instead, do like a good financial planner and have a balanced portfolio. A healthy mix of elements in a marketing program that integrate the best of both outbound and inbound by weaving them into an effective conversion process is just smart. Yes by all means have a polished brand, perfected positioning and well crafted content that caters to the needs of your audience and then use them wisely.

As an example, instead of just posting up a best practices on say, farm tractor maintenance and hoping a few people will find it on your optimized, dynamic website, promote it with outbound like an email or direct mail with a link that takes them to a landing page with a portion of your post shown. Then for the entire article in PDF, have a conversion form to collect basic info on new prospects or to update/track activity from current customers, which then goes into a CRM or MAS.

Or, perhaps look over the marketing calendar and strategically time the release of new content around any number of traditional marketing elements like a new product intro, trade show, newsletter or branding initiative and coordinate them so they support one another for greater effect (synergy).

The options are nearly endless but you get the idea. Inbound has a role but it’s not a panacea.  In light of the explosion of online content, there’s an ever greater need for it’s role to be carefully balanced with its ability to deliver reasonable “mileage” (MROI) within an integrated marketing approach.  Now more than ever content generation is something that warrants careful monitoring against the cost of other marketing practices and channels including traditional outbound.  I’m starting to think all inbound programs should carry a disclaimer like those on products and ads;

“Inbound is part of a healthy marketing program, it is not intended to replace it.”

B2B Content Marketing Wisdom; Four Cues from a Sushi Master

sushi imageThe other night my seventeen year-old son suggested our family watch a movie he found. Of course we all wanted to know the name expecting it to be some block buster, action-flick where likely a lot of stuff “blows up real good”. To our surprise he said, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”. I had to ask him to repeat it. Really? Even my wife and older son had to know what was so special about this movie. We already knew my young son loves sushi so it made sense but who is this Jiro and why does he dream of sushi?

As their website explains, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the story of 85-year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious three-star Michelin Guide rating, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimage, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar.”

So we watched it. It was remarkable. It was surprising. This man’s story had life lessons drawn from an incredible, decades old pursuit of one thing; preparing the best sushi. It got me thinking about my life and work as a B2B marketer and what perhaps many of us in this business may need to be reminded who are trying to develop a successful content-driven inbound B2B marketing program where a premium is placed on being remarkable and channeling a passion into authentic, valuable content. That’s a tall order. So to help with that here are four pieces of sage advice from our sushi master and his key partners about their pursuit of serving up the very best “content” every day:

1) Jiro Ono: “Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success… and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

Jiro is revered by his sons, staff and others who have trained under him. He leads by example with a fierce determination to be the best. I seriously doubt that Jiro read Stephen Covey’s book “Principle Centered Leadership” about the Power Process but he sure is a great example of it; “the more a leader is honored, respected, and genuinely regarded by others, the more legitimate power he will have with others.” Bingo! Jiro sure proved that judging from the dedication of his staff who he acknowledges make it possible for him to do what he does every day. In turn Jiro has a following from around the world beating a path to his little restaurant in a subway station to experience his craft. Even though we might be much younger, we can all benefit by applying some of Jiro’s simple wisdom and learn to consistently generate compelling content, either tangible or digital, that turns prospects into customers, even evangelists.

2) Yoshikazu Ono: “Always look ahead and above yourself. Always try to improve on yourself. Always strive to elevate your craft. That’s what he taught me.”

One of Jiro’s sons offers how he took inspiration from his father amidst the challenge of living in his shadow. Eventually we even learn it is Yoshikazu who actually prepares and serves the sushi for the Michelin Guide reviewers the night they came in. Years of practice and experience driven by a desire to be the best, to keep learning and to keep improving, do pay off. We know the pace of change in our business demands we stay up on the latest in B2B marketing technology and best practices. It’s the “never stop learning” mantra. So where are the “Jiros” of content and inbound marketing to show us the way? Among my favorites are Mark SchaeferMichael GassJay BaerPaul Roetzer, as well as the teams at CopyBlogger, and the Content Marketing Institute to name a few.  Building a first-class online presence means that everyone who has a stake from entry level to the C-suite, should have a list of thought leaders and blogs they follow regularly to continuously draw inspiration and insight.

3) The Shrimp Dealer: “These days the first thing people want is an easy job. Then, they want lots of free time. And then, they want lots of money. But they aren’t thinking of building their skills. When you work at a place like Jiro’s, you are committing to a trade for life.”

Here was one of Jiro’s suppliers telling it like it is. There are no short cuts to legitimate success. Commit, get the skills, and develop a passion. Inbound marketing is no different for it to be successful. Recently Mark Schaefer blogged “If I give away my content, don’t I give away my business?” This is a lot like “build it and they will come.” For many who are managing and running for-profit businesses it’s difficult to believe success lies in placing such a high value on the interests of others to the extent you are willing to give away your best thinking. This takes guts, vision and commitment. It’s also a huge reason why company leaders must be true believers willing to invest seriously in an inbound program if they expect top ROI from it. When they don’t, I call this condition “the irreconcilable paradox”, meaning they don’t really believe in it, they aren’t digital citizens, and they think because it’s online then it must be nearly free and yet they expect great ROI. Nothing could be further from the truth. There must be real commitment to the operating philosophy of inbound marketing for it to achieve its full potential.

4) Jiro Ono: “I’ve never once hated this job. I fell in love with my work and gave my life to it. Even though I’m eighty five years old, I don’t feel like retiring. That’s how I feel.”

Wow. Imagine if every employee in every company felt that way. The results would be beyond amazing. But the reality is people struggle to get anywhere near this level of satisfaction from their work. In his book Good To Great, Jim Collins talks about “getting the right people on the bus” when he’s referring to the process of building a team to take your company to greatness. Done well it would mean your company has a busload of people like Jiro and his staff who are not only technically skilled at their job, but who also enjoy it!

If you’ve achieved this, then congratulations for that is no small feat. If your entire B2B marketing team has, then you are at or approaching the level of a Jiro Ono and I think we’d all love to hear your story. Who knows, maybe you’ll even have a movie made about you!

So do you have a secret to a successful B2B inbound marketing program? Please share it here.

Developing A Successful B2B Marketing Content Strategy When The Targets Keep Moving

Arcade image

Social media expert Mark Schaefer posed an interesting question on his blog; How Do You Develop A Strategy When the Target Keeps Moving? So as I dug back into my ancient recollections from sitting in high school algebra class I recalled if you have a problem with all variables and no fixed values it is impossible to arrive at a solution. That’s why I think every enterprise must start by selecting some fixed value set (success criteria) for their marketing content that supports the business plan and only change one based upon very careful consideration. The other variables may be driven by more routine data collection about the client profile/persona, market size, competitive action and technology/innovation. I think this is why we’re seeing the growing role of Big Data in marketing and distilling the oceans of data fed by social and digital to help in determining new values and variables in our equation with the goal of more accurate, reliable solutions that become part of our content strategy.

The cautionary here is that changing course constantly in response to input, is bewildering and exhausting which drives up the toll on all resources, human and financial especially the larger the organization.  So to Mark’s question I think for many B2B marketers a good practice is to review your B2B marketing content strategy at least quarterly including routinely polling key staff/stakeholders for input and data for those factors that substantially challenge and would support making changes to the current set of values and variables.  Yes that takes some time but staying on course ensures you get where you need to be.

What do you think is the best method?