Archive for May, 2009

Our Interview with “Scalable Intimacy’s” Mike Troiano

May 28, 2009

For the latest edition of HEAT, we picked the brain of one of our favorite social media gurus, Mike Troiano (@MikeTrap), to find a little bit more about how he has made the transition from “varsity ad guy” to popular social media branding blogger at http://scalableintimacy.com/. Mike, currently based in the Boston suburbs, is constantly providing his readers and followers with insights into how brands should operate in a “social” online environment (my favorite tip from Mike: “Brands on Twitter that don’t follow you back might as well stick to print. Or draw on caves”).

Read on for Mike’s thoughts on how social media can help brands build scalable and intimate relationships, the “socialization” of B2B marketing, and the importance of maintaining a stable “buzz” at the social media cocktail party.mike

451: You have a extensive background of experience working in the ad business. When did you realize that you wanted to make the shift into digital marketing and found Ogilvy & Mather Interactive? Actually, was it your choice?

MT: No, that one actually wasn’t. I was working for Martin Sorrell at the time as a kind of troubleshooter, and he sent me in to fix “a problem at Ogilvy with American Express.” The solution to that problem became O&MI.

451: When you first started the interactive side of the agency I bet you never could have anticipated that the Internet would look like it does today, littered with social media technologies. Am I wrong? Did you anticipate that this would eventually be the web’s next big progression?

MT: Looking back, the signposts were there. It was obvious to us that e-mail and chat were the real engines of AOL, not the “professional” content. But did I envision that leading to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter et al? No way.

451: So tell me a little bit about where you are now, and how you are attempting to make sense of the shift in the way that we all interact with brands and media. Are you 100% invested/convinced in the viability of the social Web to be the central focus of marketing for the foreseeable future? 

MT: Yes. I would go so far as to say that while the move to digital media was incremental, the move to social is transformational. At the risk of sounding like a pretentious geek… we’ve reached the end of the broadcast-dominant paradigm. Brands need to make the leap and engage to stay relevant, or – eventually – they’re going to dry up and blow away.

451: You do a great job describing your blog and overall thesis of social media marketing on your blog’s “Manifesto,” but can you give us a high-level overview of what you mean by “Scalable Intimacy” as it relates to social media?  

MT: Scalable Intimacy is how I think about the true promise of social media… to enable brands to build the kind of “intimate” relationships that are only possible with authentic dialogue, on a “scale” sufficient to impact the operating results of the enterprise. That’s it.

451: That overview should segue nicely into a question about your blog post on engagement vs. activation. In essence, is the ROI of effective social media quantifiable in measurements like sales, response rates, signups, etc? Could we aggregate all of that and just say, “qualified leads?”

MT: It goes beyond sales and beyond leads. Activation might enable a brand to answer a critically important product question in a timely fashion, or reduce their unit customer service response cost, or grasp the external reality in a way that influences their business strategy. It depends on the business goal, really. Engagement is about creating the means; Activation is about delivering the end.

451: Do you have any examples of companies that have effectively developed marketing content online that is engaging enough to drive a good amount of activation?

MT: The usual suspects… JetBlue, Dell, Zappos, all do both to one extent or another. HubSpot offering a free SEO audit to people who visit it’s content-crammed blog… that’s activation. Tony Robbins interspersing product promo with inspirational messages on Twitter is another. Chris Brogan using his online influence to drive attendance at his shows… It’s everywhere, I think, at least among people who seem to know what they’re doing.

451: It is typically harder for the B2B marketer to be “social” with their brand. Have you found that the social web opens up opportunities for these marketers that may not have existed before?

MT: I guess. If you’ve ever been to a B2B trade show, you know there’s a strong social component in meatspace. When a critical mass of decision-makers in those industries are on the social nets – as is inevitable – it will happen there as well.

451: Where do you see this all going in the next 5-10 years, and what will the typical brand manager/marketer look like?

MT: Wish I knew. What I do know, though, is that brand managers will start to look a lot more like sales guys, and a lot less like MBA-types. It’s time to get dirty and go sell some sh*t. Old school.

451: Lastly, riffing off the “social media is a cocktail party” analogy. What if you’re a brand that has a “drinking problem,” likes to take things to the next level, and is often too edgy or over-the-top? Do you play in the social media marketing sandbox too and risk doing something controversial, or do you stay out?

MT: Social media is about doing stuff that’s worthy of attention. If the attention you get is negative, adjust your behavior. Most attention is good, though – just don’t be more “drunk” than the people you hang out with.

Mike Troiano is the founding CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Interactive and an established tech venture entrepreneur. Currently, Mike serves on the board of Crimson Hexagon, a Cambridge-based technology company that distills meaning from the online conversation. Read his professional blog at http://scalableintimacy.com/ and check out his personal blog at http://troiano.me/

B2B Marketer? Every Brand Can be “Social”

May 22, 2009

Forrester Research Reports that B2B Technology Decision Makers Use Social Media to Make Purchasing Decisions

Forrester Research recently released a report stating that 77 percent of technology decision makers (who make purchasing decisions on behalf of companies) use social media for business purposes. 77 percent is HUGE! So, you can assume that your prospective customers are active online.

Forrester Graph

Don’t understand the chart? It’s ok. What it boils down to is that your prospective customers do participate in social media throughout the buying cycle. Some are more active than others, but the vast majority of decision makers are online. So, savvy B2B marketers should be online too. But, most B2B marketers are not effectively using social media to influence prospects’ purchasing decisions.

Below, I explore some possibilities as to why B2B marketers are not using social media to promote their companies.

Possible Reason #1 – Marketers think there is no way to develop B2B service business other than through referrals.

In the olden days of marketing (just two or three years ago!), B2B businesses increased sales primarily through referrals, but the playing field has changed. Or, more specifically, the way people communicate has changed. Today, people communicate through traditional channels like over the phone, and they talk via email, on blogs, in online forums, and through their social networks (how many groups do you belong to on LinkedIn?). B2B marketers can benefit from this change in communication behavior by working with an agency like ours that uses advanced technologies to monitor the millions of conversations taking place online and identify prospects that are in need of your services in real time. New media technologies also enable us to engage your prospective customers in conversation through their preferred social media channels, which they use to communicate with their peers and look for solutions to their business problems. Being able to monitor millions of online conversations simultaneously is extremely helpful in developing new business leads. It’s like going to a business networking event with millions of attendees and monitoring every conversation in the room at the same time for prospects in need!

Everyday, thousands of your ideal B2B prospects/targets are expressing their needs for solutions to their business pain points through social channels. You can generate and nurture new business leads if you have a protocol in place for identifying prospective clients, engaging them in conversation, and offering content that positions you as an expert and helps to solve prospects’ problems.

Possible Reason #2 – It’s too difficult to prove ROI with social media.

This is a FALSE statement. (I would say this is “Crap” but that would make me crass)

ROI can be measured! The way we measure ROI from social media for all of our B2B clients is by the number of quality leads generated – ‘Nuff said! We successfully generate new, quality leads by strategically executing campaigns that involve leveraging social media technologies and search marketing strategies. These campaigns also involve engagement protocol development, engagement through social channels, content development (white papers, webinars, podcasts), extensive monitoring of the social Web (using tools like radian6), landing page development, possible CRM integration, and drip marketing planning.

Possible Reason # 3 – B2B sales are too complicated to take place via social media or a social media agency.

First of all, social media is not a tool for closing business deals, so don’t think of it in that way. Instead, social media is a tool for listening, identifying prospects’ pain points, creating awareness of your brand and the benefits you offer, expert positioning, engagement, and lead-generation.

Second, just because there are very few social media agencies that have expertise in B2B marketing (our agency is one of the few that focuses on B2B), this doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If you are a B2B marketer looking to execute a social media campaign, you need to find a social media agency that understands the complexities of the B2B sales cycle, and the sometimes difficult B2B buyer.

To identify a good B2B new media communications agency, I suggest you start by looking at the staff of the agency. Ask yourself questions like: “Are these people seasoned communication professionals who I would trust to help create content for my lead-capture and/or demand generation initiatives, or are they just a bunch of techies who are knowledgeable about the latest, shiny applications?” “Would they know how to map out a cohesive strategy to tie in their efforts to my demand generation campaign?”

Now, I would like to hear from you. Why do you think so few B2B marketers incorporate social media into their business lead generation initiatives?

451 Marketing Featured in the Boston Business Journal

May 15, 2009

240988-120-0-1Today’s issue of the Boston Business Journal reports how 451 Marketing has repositioned itself for success. Read the full article below:

Taking the lead: Interactive marketing agency bolsters position with new media strategies

Boston Business Journal

by Sean McFadden

May 15, 2009

http://boston.bizjournals.com/boston/stories/2009/05/18/smallb1.html

A costly error in judgment can cripple a small organization. It can also be a blessing in disguise if that misstep pushes the business to focus on what it can do best.

That’s the lesson the principals of Boston-based 451 Marketing LLC say they learned from a short-lived division of their company last year.

The ensuing financial crisis, says co-founding partner AJ Gerritson, 32, “was catastrophic and almost broke the back of our company. It was also the single best thing that ever happened to our agency.”

As an “inbound marketing” agency, five-year-old 451 specializes in connecting its clients with their prospects when those prospects are looking online — whether it’s through search engines or social networks, says Gerritson, who serves as one of three partners running the agency, along with Nicholas Lowe and Thomas Lee.

The agency’s value proposition, says Gerritson, is that it can help its clients develop quality sales leads using online channels that are typically less expensive than traditional media: “The one thing people seem to be willing to spend money on right now is what we sell.”

While the 15-employee firm’s niche today lies in online lead generation, its focus wasn’t always so defined. Somewhere around the third quarter of 2007, the agency took a gamble on expanding its service offerings by introducing 451 Promotions, a subdivision of the company focusing on events production and promotion. It seemed like a natural extension of the agency’s in-house public relations capabilities, says Gerritson.

Emboldened by the success of two smaller events, the partners decided to tackle something on a much larger scale: a professional boxing event, dubbed the “Celtic Invasion,” which was held at the Orpheum Theatre on St. Patrick’s Day in 2008. Their intent was to fill the 2,500-seat Orpheum to capacity, but only about 500 patrons showed up.

The result is that 451 lost close to $90,000 on that event.

Admits Lowe, 34, “There are things we did well, and trying to extend it into 451 Promotions, I think, was putting too much pressure on our brand and stretching us too thin.”

So, the agency decided to refocus its services in a way that could better leverage the founders’ expertise as tech-savvy marketers; Gerritson and Lowe have 10 years and 11 years, respectively, of interactive marketing experience (Lee, who came aboard in 2007, had a traditional PR background).

The agency immediately suspended the 451 Promotions division and made three layoffs within that division. The partners also tapped into their personal accounts to help cash flow.

It was a familiar self-funding scenario: Gerritson recalls that when he and Lowe launched the firm in 2004, they used their own financing.

Early on, they were involved primarily with more traditional marketing and PR services, such as Web site design and development, and collateral development. Those services evolved with advances in media technologies.

Today, online lead generation, which would include search-engine marketing and social media marketing, now represents 40 percent of 451’s total billings, says Gerritson. Thirty percent comes from Web 2.0 design and implementation; 20 percent from public relations; and 10 percent from traditional creative work.

After hitting $778,000 in revenue in 2007, followed by around $1.17 million in 2008, the agency is targeting between $1.8 million and $2.2 million this year, Gerritson says.

The firm’s diverse client roster includes Hollister Inc., Healthworks Fitness Center for Women and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development.

Elizabeth Hailer, vice president of client development and marketing at client Caturano and Co. PC in Boston, says, “Their competencies range from traditional new media marketing communications to innovative, cutting-edge experience in this whole area of search-engine optimization. On the technical side and design side, they’re top notch.”

One of Gerritson’s mentors and advisers, Fredrick Marckini, chief global search officer at Isobar, with local offices in Boston, and founder of iProspect Inc. of Watertown, says, “AJ correctly identified the mega-trends in social media, digital media and search-engine marketing. Two years ago, he was already moving toward evolving his communications firm to leverage digital and combine his existing traditional PR practice with social media and search-engine marketing.”

Gerritson himself believes 451 is now better positioned for growth: “Yes, we took a huge hit last year, but that same hit might be the one that enables us to thrive, I believe, while many firms are struggling.”

B2B Company? You Need an Agency with B2B Experience

May 14, 2009

If you are a marketer for a B2B company and are considering contracting an agency to execute social media marketing initiatives on your behalf, you should look to agencies with expertise in B2B marketing. Most agencies that specialize in social media have a lot of business-to-consumer (B2C) experience. They identify clients’ target markets and use online social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace to boost brand awareness with the goal of turning people into customers, donors, users, members, etc.

But the B2B sales cycle is different from the B2C cycle. It is more complex, and is much longer. To be successful in B2B sales, companies need to connect with prospective clients and develop relationships with them prior to the beginning of the sales cycle to establish baseline awareness and engagement. A competent social media agency recognizes this, and initiates conversations through Twitter or other social sites to introduce individuals to their clients’ services and provides them with insightful and helpful content. Once this engagement is established, the agency will continue to monitor the activities of your prospective clients, and will be able to recognize when the opportunity arises to position your service as the solution to your prospects’ business needs. Only an agency that understands the complexities of a client’s industry and business model, as well as the typical pain points of the client’s prospects, can be effective at managing these communications and generating new business leads.

A superior agency also recognizes that the sales cycle does not end when you close a deal. Good social media agencies understand that social networks can amplify voices, and that a satisfied customer who raves about your product or service on Twitter can increase word-of-mouth brand awareness, and ultimately, generate more sales for you. But on the other hand, a dissatisfied customer can cripple your sales success, so an effective agency understands the importance of staying in touch with your customers after the close of a sale. If a customer tweets about a problem he or she is having with your service or relationship, your agency representative will reach out and ask how he or she can help. Or at the minimum, the agency will direct the customer to the individual capable of solving his or her problem to avoid any further negative discourse.

Based on our experience, successful B2B Social Media Lead Generation Programs are the result of carefully planned and executed strategies that incorporate the above. These programs typically involve tactics such as:

  • Content development (e.g. white papers, webinars, podcasts, etc.)
  • Monitoring online networks frequented by prospective clients
  • Starting and participating in conversations with prospective clients through these same social channels
  • Web site landing page development to capture business leads
  • Customer relationship management (the process of recording interactions with current and prospective clients and using the information to improve customer service)
  • Drip Marketing (distributing several promotional items over a long period of time to maintain contact with current and prospective clients)

A good B2B social media marketing agency will know how to leverage these tactics and social tools to build brand awareness, listen effectively, start and participate in conversations, maintain good relationships, and most importantly generate quality new business leads.

Mass High Tech: Tech heads tackle stress, build leadership on the rugby field

May 12, 2009

One of our very own founding partners, AJ Gerritson, was featured in the most recent issue of Mass High Tech. Journalist Lynette F. Cornell compiled a piece that focuses on how some of the important skill sets that are honed by playing the game of rugby–leadership, team work, mental toughness and dedication–are easily transferable to the corporate boardroom. Take a look at the piece below, and read about how AJ and others have overcome some of their business challenges by channeling their rugby-playing past (and present).

Tech heads tackle stress, build leadership on the rugby field

By Lynette F. Cornell

Special to Mass High Tech

When AJ Gerritson shows up to Monday’s board meeting with a shiner, don’t assume he got whacked in a weekend bar fight. He was just letting off steam with some fellow executives, all of them pounding each other in a fierce game of rugby.

Gerritson, a founding partner at 451 Marketing in Boston, is just one of many C-level people whose nights and weekends involve props, locks and hookers — the strange yet standard terms for various positions in rugby.

“It takes a certain person to play rugby,” said Gerritson.

That person, he said, is team oriented, a necessary quality for the game and one that carries over into being a successful company leader. Networking with other business leaders, he frequently met other current and former rugby players. The connection was always instantaneous and one he has never experienced with any other sport, he said.

Looking to unite other executives passionate about rugby, he recently created the Massachusetts Rugby Executives, a co-ed group of rugby players in various leadership positions.

The manager of the group, Steven Drew, has been playing rugby since he was a freshman at Babson College. He has also played hockey and soccer but says that there is something completely unique about rugby.

“I’ve never seen anything like the camaraderie and true team spirit as I’ve seen in rugby,” said Drew.

Now in his mid-forties, Drew doesn’t play rugby as much as he’d like. Yet, the 26 years he spent playing still influence his skills as a leader, he said. As the managing director of Hollister Inc., a Boston-based staffing agency, he is responsible for leading a team of employees. The importance of teamwork in rugby, he said, has helped him become a better team member.

For Linda Bourque, owner of B&B Realty Inc. in Watertown, rugby influences every aspect of her life, including her career. She said her 14 years of rugby playing have helped make her a better listener, a skill she greatly used while holding various leadership positions at Norwalk, Conn.-based Xerox Corp. The sport also shaped her thinking, she said.

“It gives you a different mental attitude, that ‘you can do,’” she said.

When she began playing rugby, few Americans even knew what it was. People who pursued the sport didn’t do it for the notoriety, said Bourque. Rugby demands a high level of commitment to training and personal fitness, a dedication that Bourque said requires self-motivated, self-starting people who are secure in what they do.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” she said.

Those unfamiliar to the sport can expect to see more of it soon. In March 2010 the US Rugby League will launch. Boston is one of six major cities where franchises have been set. Gerritson said he is not worried about the mainstreaming of rugby affecting the special bond he shares with other players.

“At the end of the day a rugby player will always have a special set of qualities that you don’t find in other sports,” said Gerritson. “Because of this fact the bond will always be there whether rugby is mainstream or not.”

How exactly should we be using Twitter?

May 6, 2009

mm_twitter1Quite often we receive this question from individuals that possess varied amounts of online savvy. Some have a solid grasp of how to utilize sites like Facebook and LinkedIn for personal and professional purposes, but they struggle to understand the benefits (and the “point”) of Twitter. Others are just confused about everything that is going on in the world of new media and find Twitter to be the most perplexing.

The fact of the matter is that there is no easy answer to the question. As an individual, you can do whatever you want to do with Twitter. You can follow your favorite celebrities, follow your favorite news site for real-time news updates, or you could just follow a few of your friends in order to communicate with them all within one channel.

But there are plenty of ways to get more out of the time and energy that you devote to Twitter. For the job seeker desperately looking for employment opportunities in a recession, there are hosts of individuals, recruiters and businesses available to follow and add to your network. If you are gainfully employed, you should follow those individuals and organizations that can provide insights that are relevant to you and your industry–journalists, competitors, trade groups, thought leaders, etc.

The key to running a Twitter account for your business differs a bit. As a brand on Twitter, it is important to be even more engaging with users, and also mindful of all of your brand mentions. Every Twitter user out there should be considered as either a customer or a prospect. The opportunities to respond to customer complaints (brand management) or prospect inquiries (lead generation) on Twitter are extraordinary. But bear in mind the importance of maintaining a human feel to the Twitter account. No one on the social web wants to interact with corporate robots so make sure that you develop a personlity for your brand. Focus on posting quality information rather than massive quantities of untargetted SPAM. PC World provides a more extensive examination of how businesses should be using Twitter here.

Are you doing anything differently for yourself or your company on Twitter? Let us hear it.