Archive for July, 2010

There's 1.1 billion people using Microsoft products
A couple of eyebrow-raising and easily overlooked factoids in this piece: the number of Microsoft users there are and the number of billion-dollar business units this company has spawned.  If ever there was a consumer brand, it is Microsoft.  As the media drool and fawn over Apple, Google and Facebook, the force-field surrounding the Microsoft brand should never be dismissed in technology circles.  As the SAI article emphasizes there are a lot of very smart, ambitious and driven Microsofties.  They, and their outfit, will not be going away anytime soon.


The announcement today of Facebook Questions inspires an inevitable observation.  If building trust is the name of the game, then there is something very fundamental, primal and simple to remember here.  But like all things simple, some reminding now and again never hurts.  It is this: If you want people to trust you, go out and build a kick-ass product that gets people talking. This goes for B2B, too.  When you do, you’ve gone a long way towards achieving the holy grail of marketing: Word of Mouth (WOM).   Selling great products.  The kind that people like to talk about and recommend. From companies they trust.  Simple.

Reality check: Not all comments from users are usable.

UserVoice in San Francisco enables their users to make customer comments more actionable. The problem is that a lot well-intentioned comments have to be ignored. Period.  You can’t do everything for everybody all the time.  Same is true for the comments that CIOs and I.T. people get from their users.  At a given time, there is an overwhelming number of really great, really cool things to be doing.  But maybe two or three of these things are the really, really high-return initiatives that merit precious resources. The trick is to pinpoint those things.  CIOs could use a”UserVoice model”.  What do you think?

Give them news they can use.

It’s not only for Coca Cola, Apple and Toyota.  Facebook groups, Twitter communities and all the other social media present viable channels by which to tell your story and build your brand.  Facebook lets you connect with and educate your target market in a way that your website and blog can’t match. The trick is to come up with content that people will want to share. But make no mistake: clumsy moves here will get you frog-marched out of the building faster than you can type your password.  The key is to impart news that your market can use. If you want customers to think of you as an authority and not just another product-hawking vendor, you have to behave accordingly.  The good news is that you can do it.

This Mashable post details tips for B2B marketing on Facebook specifically.  Here’s a digest:

1. Become a resource and a thought-leader. You already keep up with industry news and write about it on your blog. You do webinars, speak at conferences, engage with customers and produce case studies. So, push this into Facebook and make your page an industry destination. Example: post a weekly summary of  important industry news, and provide readers with commentary that puts it into context. Position yourself as an expert and become a valuable Facebook resource for your target audience.

2. Engage your community. Ask customers to share their successes on your wall and get feedback on new product features. Encourage them to recognize great service people and reward them for their input with a discount or other promotion. Solicit customer references for case studies and media opportunities and find out who’s doing something innovative with your product.

3. Think outside your wall(s). If you sell online, set up a shopping tab on your page to drive traffic to your e-commerce site and encourage viral sharing of your products. Get Satisfaction (Get Satisfaction), a popular social CRM and customer support platform, has an application that lets your customers can ask questions and get support right on your Facebook Page. Set up a promotions tab using Fan Appz to offer special deals to your fans. and even use these deals to support lead generation programs.  If you sell software licenses, you could offer discounts for people who enter the promotion code at an upcoming webinar or bring the coupon to your booth at a conference.

4.  When on Facebook, do as the users do. Most people by far use Facebook as an escape, to have fun, to socialize.  In business, think of it as beer on Friday afternoon.  You’re still at the office, but you’re engaging and transacting in a more relaxed atmosphere. So no matter how serious your product is, inject some humor and levity into your page. Give your company and product a face and personality.  Do an “employee of the month” feature on the page where you profile someone. Include photos or short video.  Same for the team that’s working on the new product release.

Companies still prepare case studies according to content model above.

The best practices of social media reflect what we’ve yammered about for years.  Case studies work. They sell.  Case- studies drive people to your site.  They enable you to be found.  They create interest, qualify leads, build brand, drive down the cost of sales.  One catch: There are case studies and then there are self-serving, self-congratulatory loads of dreck posing as “case studies”.  What distinguishes the former from the latter?  Clear descriptions of three things:

1.  The most valuable benefit of the product or service being featured. This assumes that you understand what it is about the product that would arouse the attention (read: make somebody reach for their checkbook) of a user/customer/consumer. In other words, you know what your target customer holds dear.  What they value most.

2.  What it took the user in the case to adopt your product. What did he have to unplug?  Undo?  Buy extra?  Learn? Re-learn?  What was your product’s (or service’s) adoption cost?

3.   The price. At very least, some order of magnitude of what your stuff costs relative to alternatives. 

Those three elements constitute your value proposition.  And any case study that doesn’t communicate it is not worth the pixels on the screen.  Your value prop is compelling only to the extent that the size of #1 exceeds the sum of #2 plus #3.