Thursday, January 25, 2007

Viral Marketing in B2B - It Works!

When comparing B2B marketing to B2C, many see B2B as having very generic campaigns that lack the excitement and creativity of B2C. For example, you rarely have celebrity endorsements or crazy contests that reach millions that you typically see with brands such as Nike or Coke.

B2B Marketing is Boring

B2B marketers tend to use the same marketing tactics over and over again such as direct mail, email, paid search, telemarketing, and live events to name just a few. It usually involves a landing page that contains a blurb about the offer and a form that you need to fill out. B2B marketers rely on their targeted audience and customers to spread the word by forwarding on an email invite to a webinar or telling a fellow colleague about a great new software package that they just starting using. This is all great and has proven to be effective but is there another way to bring the same excitement that B2C marketers use to B2B? Just because you are targeting a business, does it need to be all about newsletters and white papers?

It's Time to get Interactive. It's Time to get Viral

If you think long and hard enough about what motivates your target market you have to think that there is more then providing them with a perfect case study (unless that's what they've asked for). If you're trying to grow your lists and get your name out there, how can your audience get enthused about your company or your product? A few B2B companies are now trying to use more interactive viral campaigns designed for their target audience. The goal is to entertain while demonstrating their understanding of what their target audience goes through in their day to day business functions. Viral marketing campaigns are typically "games" that provide a brief distraction from a stressful day or may bring some humour into the office. Think about a funny email one of your friends have forwarded to you. It may have made you have a brief laugh and was something that you could share with those around you.

Get Your Viral Game on: Intel & Quantum

Intel has just launched a new game that they are calling the PEBCAK I.T. Translator. PEBACK is an inside "geek" term that stands for ("problem exists between keyboard and chair"). It's like FUBAR or other acronyms that are used to quickly summarize a situation. In this case, IT people refer to stupid questions that they may be asked as PEBCAK. The PEBCAK I.T. translator acts like a typical client or fellow employee approaching their I.T. person for help. It chooses random questions like "How do you move that little arrow around the screen?" and allows you to provide a response that you wish you could say. It then translates your response into something more appropriate. For example, to the above question I responded "Try using your finger to move the arrow" was translated to "Your genius lies elsewhere". It's these small concepts that typically do really well.

MarketingSherpa did a case study on a data storage company called Quantum. They created a trivia contest designed for IT managers and directors. The target audience was sent a direct mailer and were directed to an online IT trivia game to receive an IT related book, and be entered to win a full size video game. Once completed the trivia questions, you could challenge your buddy as well. The campaign worked as it not only tested the IT knowledge it sprinkled in other questions based on the interests of their target market including questions about Star Wars etc... The response rate was so so (2.45% response from the direct mailer) and a 10% viral effect which may have been inflated. However, the genius part of this campaign was that Quantum used the response to the questions as a way of qualifying their leads. That is brilliant! B2B marketers create surveys all of the time. Why not position your survey as a fun trivia game?

These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. MarketingSherpa has kindly kept their top 12 viral campaigns from 2006 article open to public. I would definitely have a look and think about ways that you can make your site more interactive and think about ways in which you can engage and interact with your target market.

As a B2B marketer, you can keep this simple and more inline with the B2B world. For example. you can create video case studies of your customers, users, or trade show booth attendees that they can send to their friends. Hey - everyone wants to be on TV and the internet is way to make this happen. Even creating a piece of content that no one else has such as a study or a how to paper is something that typically works. I've created a "Feed Icon Library" that bloggers can go to and access cool blog feed icons for their own blogs. This is has been highly popular and drives a ton of web traffic from around the world. If you're in B2B, you need to think about how you can differentiate yourself from what your competition is doing and make the web experience one that people will not forget. Leverage the investment that you have already made in your other online marketing investments by creatively thinking of ways to drive people to your website and turning them into leads.

Chad H.

PS - as a blogger, you can also think of ways to bring people back to your blog. Yaro Starak over at Entrepreneur's Journey is brilliant at this. He has created tutorials, podcasts and other interactive elements that engage and motivate fellow bloggers.
PPS - Here are some additional resources on B2B viral marketing:
PPPS: If you've tried a viral campaign. it would be great to hear from you.
PPPPS: Why not do a comic strip like Dilbert based on your target audience?


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Even Your Father is on YouTube

Are you thinking about different ways to build demand for your products or services or just to attract more people to your website or blog?

I've been reading a few articles lately about how some user-generated content ad campaigns such as the one that Dove ran called Dove Cream Oil Body Wash Ad Contest "failed" as it wasn't well received by the YouTube community. YouTube vlogger oneparkave (AKA Shmuel Tennenhaus) mentioned that the ad only received a 1 star rating out of 3 million views and received some extremely negative comments on YouTube. Shmuel argued that Dove angered the entire YouTube community as YouTubers perceived the video as self-serving for Dove and not adding to the YouTube community.

I was pondering this over a late afternoon coffee when I received a link to a video recorded in 1991 that featured my dad. It turns out that someone had recorded a speaking engagement in which my father had introduced the main speaker. Besides the fact that I saw a video of my dad when he still had some colour in his hair, the interesting thing is that the link was from YouTube! I could not believe that my father had a video on YouTube before I did and I'm the one that watched YouTube all of the time. What does this all mean? It means that YouTube is much more then just a community in itself as Shmuel perceived it. As a blogger and a marketer, you need to look at YouTube in a broader context.

YouTube is another way of Building Demand

Where Shmuel is incorrect about Dove's "failure" is that many people may not be aware that YouTube is the platform that is hosting the video. My father sure wasn't. A friend of his who did a Google search came back with this video in the search results. My dad has since emailed the link to anyone he has ever known with an email address. If I ask my dad what YouTube is, I'm 99% sure he won't know what it is. In this case, it didn't matter that the platform was YouTube.

In Dove's case, YouTube acted as a platform for people to post commercials that they created (like this interesting one). YouTube also assisted Dove spread the word about this campaign as those who made commercials could send them to friends and family. Studies including this recent one have demonstrated time and again it's those closest to you that influence your buying habits.

Yes, there will always be those who react negatively when marketing is encroaching on something like YouTube as parts of the YouTube community perceive YouTube as a platform for user-generated content only that is not sponsored by a corporation. Guess what Shmuel and the rest of you 'Tubers - get over yourselves. Marketers must think beyond the YouTube community and see YouTube for what it really is - another channel to help spread the word about your product or service to your target market. You may receive some negative feedback if you open up comments (which you generally should) but if you're up front about what your campaign is all about you're not doing anything wrong. It's the YouTube community that must accept that YouTube is now being used as a marketing tool. Bloggers have accepted this and even embraced companies that have started blogging. It's only when businesses deceive the public that things go terribly wrong.

There will always be those that leave negative feedback on either on YouTube, blogs, forums or websites just because they want to "stick it to the man". These are typically comments that don't really have much substance but they react negatively to businesses in general. As marketers, you need to way the odds of losing some control over your brand as you will typically succeed if you execute your YouTube (or any user-generated content) campaign successfully. Typically, these detractors are not your target market anyways so don't worry too much about them. I would recommend responding to these comments though in a generic sort of way - don't just turn off comments on a blog.

How Can I get Started Using YouTube?

One of the main advantages as we saw with my father's example above is that YouTube can assist your company as a means to increase your prevalence in search results for your company. You can use YouTube as another channel like a blog or email to get your name out there and increase your staying power. Do you have a demo or you did your company recently speak at a conference? Post it on YouTube! Here's another great idea - if your company does speaking engagements or puts on events, record the testimonials from the event and post them on YouTube. Here is an example from a recent Marketing Effectiveness Summit. It's really that simple. If you're a blogger, why not do a 1 minute intro video about yourself and your blog and post it on YouTube? It's that simple.

Remember - always think of your target market and don't get too distracted by those who don't really care about your product or service (or blog) as your not trying to market to them in the first place. In addition, if you do get some negative exposure, it may help build even greater demand as you get some additional viral effects that money couldn't pay for. Look at Cisco who is suing Apple over the use of the name IPhone. Even if Apple loses the suite they win as the publicity that is archived and the sympathy that Apple will attain from the law suite is even more valuable.

Here's a video on how to use YouTube (notice the subtle way that this person uses markets himself with this helpful video)

Chad H.

PS - Look beyond YouTube to other video hosting platforms such as Google Video
PPS - It was really great to know that I have a video of my dad that I can now watch. Video really has an amazing impact
PPS - here are some other posts on YouTube:


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Drive Web Traffic or Drive Loyalty?

Yes, it's been a while but it's taken some time for my wife and I to settle into our new place. I'm still getting used to the commute (a bus, a subway and a frickin' streetcar - you have to love Toronto transit). I'm looking out my window at the Best Buy across the street which is also a distraction. I digress...

A blog is like a company in many ways. When you first start out, you get readers that notice you when you are a young and naive blogger. They see that you have something to say and stop by your blog for a read. For a company, these are the early adopters or your first few customers. You then have the mainstream readers who come along later on and see what other people are talking about. It's these types of customers that helps a business grow. It's at this point where you either ascend into a power house or drop off like yesterday's news.

One of the main differentiators between a successful blog and one that withers away is how you treat your loyal readers. You can compare this to how a company treats its customers. Does the company take the customers for granted and just focus on new business (or more web traffic in a blog's case)? This is just plain stupid. One company that really gets this is the car manufacturer Mini. Mini USA has just come up with a brilliant campaign in which custom messages on billboards are displayed to Mini owners as they drive by. How cool is that?

According to Motoring File, a select number of Mini owners around the Chicago, New York, Miami and San Francisco areas were asked to submit some basic information and are then sent a keyfob (key chain item that can contain data). As you're about to drive by, the billboards detect that you are coming and deliver a personalized message based on the information you provided.

Make Them Feel Special

Why does this campaign work for Mini? It makes their customers feel unique - like the company really does care about them and that owning a mini is like being part of a select group. You almost feel like a celebrity because your the only one of your friends or family that are getting personalized message on a humongous billboard. Mini USA doesn't just forget about you once you buy a car - they make you remember why you bought the car in the first place. It made you stick out. It made you feel special.

Do your remember the time that you were singled out by your boss, your best friend, or a close family member in front of others? What Mini has done is try and replicate that feeling and they've done a damn good job. Other companies (and bloggers) should learn from Mini and try and replicate this approach. In the B2B world this could mean taking your customers out for drinks but this may not be possible. What can you do that will make your company stick out? What can you do that will make your customers "cool" and will make your prospects want to feel the same way? Yes, your product may do all the talking but what else can you do that will reinforce your cool product? This is something to think about.

Personalizing the Experience but Doing it Publicly

I was going to stop the post right there but had some ideas for you to think about. What if you served up different messaging to your customers on your website based on their profile? What if your ads on sites that your customers visit had different messaging that was personalized to them? What if you're blog greeted your loyal readers when they returned with an automated yet personalized message like "Welcome back! Thanks for your last comment - I've responded with the following...".

While the personalization is great, it's better when others see that you are receiving special treatment. Why not let prospects know who which of your customers are currently visiting your web site. You can even display quotes and facts and figures about the company. For example "XYZ company is currently on our website. Did you know that XYZ has increased sales 300% since using our product?". Privacy may be an issue but this type of thinking benefits everyone. It's time to think outside of the box like Mini does. Get publicly personal (does that make sense?)

If you're a company, you can always try and drive additional revenue by focusing on some new companies or a specific market segment. If you're a blogger you can focus on driving web traffic by doing number of different tactics (for example, joining a blog directory). But as we all know, it costs less to keep your current customers then to acquire new ones. If you keep your current customers happy and continue to remind them why your company is different from your competitors (besides the obvious stuff), you will not only build customer loyalty but generate increased demand as word travels fast, real fast in this crazy technical web 2.0. world that we live in.

Chad H.

PS: I would like to point out one blogger, Easton Ellsworth, who was very encouraging to me when I first started blogging. He also demonstrates tremendous drive and leadership in the blogosphere - specifically to business blogging - that you have to love. Whenever I need a good kick in the pants to get back to my own blogging, I go visit Business Blogwire and see which companies are out there blogging.

PPS: For my own blog, loyalty is not too much of a concern as I write more as a personal educational experience then for those who read my blog. I'm really pleased when people get something out of what I write about.

PPPS: Here are some related posts that you may find interesting:

IBM Allows you to Chat With a Sales Representative
Have you Thanked Your Customers Today?
Screw ROI - Think LOI (Loyal Opt-Ins)




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