Posted tagged ‘thought leadership’

Lessons for PrintStrategists from the Trenches of Social Media.

February 28, 2010

My design partner, Julia, had already plunged into social media with her successful SnarkyVegan blog. I, on the other hand, was a rookie and a skeptic at that. But as we strategized about ways to establish thought leadership for our businesses, we decided that enewsletters, which would roll into blogs, would be a good starting point. The results were PrintStrategist and MondoBeat: Ideas to Improve Your Marketing Rhythm.

To say the least, one thing led to another. Strong receptions to the enewsletters/blogs began to pique our interest. Soon we were announcing new posts at our Twitter sites, and I began to wonder if there was any potential in our mostly dormant LinkedIn accounts.

So Julia and I got busy completing our profiles, linking feeds from our blogs, posting slide presentations, connecting with colleagues and participating in groups. Along the way, I was invited to manage my college’s alumni group as well as Print 2.0. So I got to see “groups” from both the participant and manger perspectives.

Then recently Julia and I co-founded the PrintStrategist LinkedIn group. The objective was to form a diverse group of professionals from all sides of the table who shared a common goal of effectively using print. Within a few weeks, membership reached nearly 140, and it literally grows each day.

What We Learned.

Clearly social media is evolving and participants are evolving along with it. Here are three key findings from our experience:

1. Synergy Counts.

The more options we integrated into our social media goal of raising our thought leadership perceptions, the better we did. More people started to follow us on Twitter, and we connected with more and more professionals on LinkedIn. Both are significant drivers of readers to the blogs, and LinkedIn is now our number one source of hits and page views.

After a year of participation, here are PrintStrategist’s social media stats:

  • 2,390—blog page views
  • 478—targeted enewsletter subscribers
  • 329—Twitter followers
  • 191—LinkedIn connections
  • 10—Twitter Lists

Of course everyone always wants to know if you were able to monetize social media. That was not our goal—thought leadership was—but we did receive several inquiries about our services and made presentations as a result of our social media experiences.

Additionally:

  • Our customers are virtually all loyal readers of our enewsletters/blogs.
  • We found a capable subcontractor through a renewed contact made on LinkedIn and used the individual on a project.
  • The enewsletters/blogs grew to the point that we are now considering offering sole sponsorship opportunities for each issue (you’ll eventually be able to judge that success for yourself).
  • We are now more knowledgeable, empathetic social media advisors to our clients—you know the old adage about the best doctor being the one who just got out of the hospital.

2. Participation Counts.

If you want to benefit from social media, you have to be willing to participate on a consistent, frequent basis. You also need to be willing to learn the rules of social media so that your participation helps, not hurts your business. And you need to set your internal social media goals and appoint someone to coordinate your social media team.

In addition to getting some professional advice, we recommend taking one of the many good social media classes available. Some even offer social media certifications. The more skillfully you employ social media, the better the results.

3. Participation Takes Time.

Don’t get caught up in the notion that social media is free. It will definitely cost you time, a valuable commodity in today’s downsized companies. We easily spend an hour to an hour-and-a-half per day on social media, and that excludes writing our enewsletter/blog posts. You may be able to—and probably should—share some of the responsibilities, but don’t start if you’re not willing to commit the time. As a point of reference, many large companies now have one or more people on staff who do nothing but monitor social media.

Finally, remember that social media is for relationship and thought leadership building. It should be part of your marketing plan, but continue to leave the heavy lifting to postal mail, email, print advertising and other marketing media better suited to directly generating sales and ROI.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

Bauer Associates helps printers of all sizes develop effective social media programs from strategy development through program deployment. For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer.

You can connect with Larry Bauer on LinkedIn. Or follow him on Twitter. Or join Print Strategist on LinkedIn.

Hashtags as Leadership Tools in Twitter.

February 28, 2010

We all know that starting and maintaining relevant conversations with customers and prospects are key to using thought leadership to enable sales, support and brand building. Before electronic social media tools, corporate socializing occurred on the golf course, while sharing beers at the local watering hole after work—even rented suites at the Indy500 and other events enabled you to prove your mettle with VIP clients and prospects.

Many of the ways we used to participate in social business conversations also translate well to social media tools. Discovering existing conversations about your brand or product niche is as easy as eaves dropping by searching for keywords in Twitter or using Google Blog Search. Creating and leading such conversations requires a concerted effort by you and your company.

Leading the Conversation.

Tags are a type of metadata used to identify specific topics online by assigning keywords to a specific piece of information, making that information easy to find. Hashtags are a specific type of tagging used in social media that you employ to create topically oriented conversations and to follow others’ conversations on Twitter or identi.ca.

It’s a way of grouping relevant messages into conversations, similar to but much broader than corralling VIPs in an event room or networking on the golf course. Imagine no conventional boundaries, and the fact that you’re potentially conversing with 500 or even 5,000 people in a given day, week, month.

By using hashtags (and tags in general), you can establish yourself as the thought leader for a given topic by starting the conversation, interacting intelligently with others and continuing to provide information/advice/support.

If you’re going to use hashtags for leading and managing conversations about your brand, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Write a great hashtag. Hashtags like #news are not helpful. Be more effective by using tags like #BrandNameNews, #BrandLaunch or #BrandHelp and be considerate of length. Remember that it does get counted in Twitter users’ 140-character limit. AND beware of acronyms as there could be multiple unrelated conversations potentially using the same acronym.
  • Use = promotion. Use the hashtag religiously and appropriately whenever speaking online about the specific topic. AND use it interactively when conversing with others in social media tools.
  • Don’t spam. Don’t pick up unrelated hashtags and appropriate them as your own. Inserting hashtags about a recent earthquake is NOT ok if your tweet has nothing to do with the earthquake. This is a proven method of upsetting Twitter users and they will make their displeasure known.
  • Promote it in other analog and digital marketing tools. Land Rover developed a very successful hashtag campaign in April 2009 by using a myriad of print and online promotions to promote the hashtag on Twitter. There is a lot to learn from Land Rover’s experience, and I would encourage you to not simply copy their strategy but to view it only as a starting point.
  • Develop communication guidelines for social media in general and apply them here. Include such things as a communications tone and consider any concerns that legal may have. Make sure anyone you’ve tasked with participating in social media on behalf of your brand is trained and knowledgeable.

Dealing with Loss of Control.

When putting your own hashtag out for use in the twitterverse, you must be prepared for negative use of the tag. Remember, just because the tag originated with you doesn’t mean you own it. It’s part of the larger conversation that you can participate in but never control. The effect is akin to having conversations with people at a party where some know and love you, some know and hate you and many don’t know you at all.

This is why it’s critical to understand and ensure your brand’s integrity and value. Likewise, it’s important to have the ability to lead the conversation as a valued participant. If your brand is suffering from poor quality products/service/support, no amount of twittering or tagging will save you. But you can use social media tools as part of your plan to turn your brand around so long as you are taking steps to improve the problems.

If you have quality, support or deliverability issues that you’re taking steps to resolve, plan on mitigating negative use of the hashtag by:

  • Fixing your problems. Start resolving the problems that affect your brand’s quality before taking on social media. You don’t have to finish resolving your issues, but you should be well on the path to recovery before initiating that first social media conversation. You may even want to use your resolve to repair the damage as your first hashtag topic.
  • Increasing your response time and quality. Comcast is THE benchmark for response times and problem resolution via Twitter. Forget their phone support, you’ll never get through. But use Twitter and they’ve got a tech on top of the problem within five or 10 minutes.
  • Creating a human voice. Again, Comcast wins hands down. They’ve got real live technical humans monitoring Twitter conversations about their product and service. These folks are also trained to interact with customers AND solve the problem.
  • Maintaining transparency. If there’s a problem, own up to it publicly. Take a lesson from Toyota’s recent PR fiasco and own up early, take steps to resolve the problem and communicate those steps without corporate speak. You must sound authentically human. Don’t skimp on this part or you’ll get nailed to the Twitter wall quickly.

And by all means, pay attention when online. Use the opportunity to converse with large numbers of customers to both help and guide them as well as learn if there are problems or areas for improvement. If your brand is loved and respected universally, you won’t have much of a problem. However, there are always instigators in any venue. You should be prepared to encounter them with knowledge, grace and honesty.

By Julia Moran Martz

Webinars as Lead-generating Tools for Print Strategists.

January 26, 2010

For those less electronically initiated, a webinar is an online virtual event that typically includes a small number of presenters delivering a slide presentation to a dispersed audience over the Internet. Participants view the webinar from their computer desktops and hear the audio through their speakers or over a telephone line.

Using an outside webinar delivery platform makes sense for most companies. Many of these systems offer interactive capabilities such as:

  • Live chat.
  • Question and answer boxes.
  • Audience polls and surveys.
  • Virtual white boards.
  • Desktop application sharing.
  • And a number of other options.

They also generally offer customizable registration materials as well as tracking, automated reminders and post-production reports. Providers typically support popular programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Some can provide event management services for an additional fee.

So How Much Do Webinar Services Cost?

Actual delivery costs vary, but most license agreements are fairly modest. For example, GoToWebinar, one of the more popular delivery systems, offers flat-fee pricing that allows you to conduct unlimited webinars for one rate. You can purchase a standard, single-user license online for $99 per month or $948 per year. There are no additional licensing costs for attendees to join.

Pick a Strong Webinar Delivery Platform Provider.

The last thing you want is unreliable technology and support when you’re doing a webinar. You look bad and people abandon the event. We really don’t have favorites, and you may uncover a great provider on your own, but we suggest at least looking into these proven companies:

Are Webinars Better Than In-person Events?

They are two different animals, each with its own set of pluses and minuses. The big advantage of webinars, especially with strained budgets, is the low cost to reach an audience anywhere in the world. In many ways, the cost structure helps to level playing fields among small and large printing companies, just as digital communications alternatives do in many other marketing activities.

Webinars are also:

  • Convenient and cost-effective for participants who don’t have to travel—distance becomes a non-factor.
  • Convenient for presenters who can be at multiple locations and likewise avoid travel.
  • Capable of bringing valuable information quickly to market.
  • Efficient at speeding the sales cycle with proper follow up.

Some of the drawbacks include:

  • More competition than for in-person seminar events.
  • Less interaction with participants.
  • Limited flexibility to change presentation order and flow.
  • Restrictions on managing questions.
  • Technology dependence to the ultimate degree.

In both types of events, you need to have a relatively large universe of qualified prospects. But the general guideline for webinars is that approximately 5 percent of those invited will register and half of those will not attend. Some, however, will view the on-demand, archived version later.

Do Decision Makers Like Webinars?

Studies and my personal experience say they do. According to a white paper by Ridge Business Development LLC, The Benefits and Pitfalls of Webinars, people like the idea of learning about products and services without having to deal with a salesperson.

The white paper also points to a recent survey by Gartner indicating that 86 percent of respondents will view as many or more webinars this year as last. And a survey by PR Canada similarly indicates that only 7 percent found webinars a waste of time, while 86 percent found them convenient and 66 percent found them time effective.

In my consulting practice, I’ve helped printers in a wide range of size and market categories stage successful webinars of their own as well as sponsor events through trade publications. Attendance of 100 or more is not unusual, and smaller companies with close client relationships often do as well as very large national printers.

What If We’re Not Ready to Stage a Webinar Ourselves?

Many trade publications and associations offer webinar sponsorship opportunities that enable you to test the medium with varying degrees of participation. For example, you might strictly serve as the sponsor. But you also might be able to suggest topics, give input on selection of the featured presenter, provide qualifying and polling questions and perhaps even deliver part of the presentation if you choose.

You’ll typically get a banner ad at the registration site, inclusion in all of the promotional efforts and, of course, mentioned as the sponsor during the webinar. Additionally, you’ll virtually always get access to the registrant list for follow up.

This all comes at a price, of course, and $10,000 to $30,000 isn’t unusual. For example, if you wanted to reach the catalog marketplace, the published open rate for a Multichannel Merchant webinar sponsorship is $18,800. But a strong publication or association might also draw participants that you wouldn’t attract on your own, and it greatly reduces your time investment. Plus, it’s a good way to get started.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

Bauer Associates helps printers of all sizes develop effective webinar programs from topic selection to content development and event promotion. Or, we can effectively negotiate and manage webinar sponsorship opportunities with trade publications or associations. For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer .

You can connect with Larry Bauer on LinkedIn. Or follow him on Twitter.

Do’s and Don’ts of Webinars.

January 26, 2010

Webinars are inexpensive compared to face-to-face meetings. But like email and other low cost electronic options, easy entry often lures ill-prepared companies into the arena. Use these tips to create and present webinars that will meet your audience’s highest expectations.

Do

  • Select your topics and presenters carefully.
  • Evaluate your internal capabilities objectively—outsource when needed.
  • Keep your presentation to one hour or less—including Q&A.
  • Start and end the webinar on time.
  • Seed questions to ensure covering important points and to encourage participation.
  • Learn to take advantage of the technology options—drawing tools, polling surveys, etc.
  • Promote your webinar beyond a homepage blurb—use email, direct mail, banner ads, social media, etc.
  • Be wary of using a wireless connection by a presenter.
  • Consider having a few friendly faces in the presentation room—presenters benefit from seeing reactions and playing off the “audience.”
  • Use professionally created slides—be sure to review outside presenter’s slides and be prepared to offer assistance.
  • Develop a lead follow-up plan— demand accountability from the sales team.
  • Record and archive your webinar—many executives appreciate and use the on-demand option.
  • Explore opportunities to generate passive income—selling a recorded series as a set, for example.
  • Rehearse and then rehearse again.

Don’t

  • Use inexperienced presenters as featured speakers—give them a smaller role until they get a few webinars under their belts.
  • Underestimate the investment of time to pull off a professional presentation.
  • Use webinars for target audiences that may not be tech savvy.
  • Dismiss the value of a good moderator to the webinar’s success.
  • Think that webinars will completely replace the need for face-to-face contact.
  • Assume that webinar leads are conversion ready—they are more likely in the exploratory stage and will require further nurturing.
  • Fail to add qualified attendees to your marketing database.
  • Forget to invite your customers to webinars.
  • Use an unproven webinar delivery platform provider—they are not all created equal.
  • Overburden the moderator with the technology requirements—consider a person for each role.
  • Fail to follow up with registrants who don’t attend the webinar.
  • Overlook the value of a webinar as a training tool for your own people.
  • Forget to continue promoting your recorded webinar.
  • Neglect to collect some qualifying information at registration—use checklists and limit the number of questions to three or four.

Join the Print Strategist Group on LinkedIn. Print Strategist on LinkedIn is a group of professionals who value the power of print communications and share a common interest in advancing print’s effective use. Professionals involved in all aspects of print—marketing, design, production, manufacturing, distribution and related areas—are welcome. The only requirement is a desire to learn and share in a truly collaborative environment.

By Larry Bauer

Extending Your Brand To and Beyond the Webinar.

January 26, 2010

Assuming your presentation is buttoned-up tight and focused cleanly on your topic, what else can you do to ensure wise use of your webinar budget? Well, it’s all about two key points we seem to repeat a lot:

  1. Ensuring brand integrity builds and maintains brand recognition.
  2. Linking this particular tool (webinars) with other marketing and sales tools builds a network around your prospects, creating additional sales touch points.

Essentially, it’s all about maintaining professionalism while being available where and when your prospects need you.

Ensuring Brand Integrity In Webinars.

This seems pretty limited on the surface, right? It would appear that all you can do is send the webinar company your logo as a low-res jpeg and hope for the best. While that may be true with some third-party webinar companies, consider these options below and push, push, push on behalf of your brand.

  • Make sure your presentation is easy to read for the age group of the attendees and includes key brand elements such as logo, colors, fonts (where possible), image assets, etc. This is especially important because the webinar company will be using their own brand elements in the general interface.
  • Don’t choose an outsourced webinar delivery platform based solely on price. Also DO consider how well its interface supports branding your webinar as well as its user-friendliness.
  • Realize that folks will be attending from a variety of platforms and monitor sizes. Adjust the content of your graphics and text appropriately. If your Corporate Brand Guidebook doesn’t contain information specific to webinars, pull from the chapters for PowerPoint and Website styling.
  • Choose a speaker whose voice is appropriate for your brand. If your subject matter expert has a whiney voice, choose someone else or outsource. Stay away from extremely high or low-pitched voices, as they may be hard to hear and understand via many computer audio systems.
  • Be certain that your support materials are brand cohesive. This includes anything you’re linking to from the webinar such as white papers, case studies, speaker bios or an annotated outline of the webinar content.
  • If you’re sponsoring a trade pub’s webinar, ensure that you’re using every brand tool at your disposal: logo files, ad page, banner ad and link to landing page for more info. Negotiate for additional touch points where possible and connect them back to tools you can control such as landing pages or your website.

Opportunities for Extending Your Brand Beyond the Webinar.

Working your communications before and after the webinar takes research, planning and time. But the key benefit is keeping your audience engaged beyond the webcast to the point of closing a sale.

Imagine being a big-ticket sales person in a brick and mortar store and discovering a way to get the name, phone number and email address of every interested shopper with whom you spoke? You’d do it, right? Even if they didn’t buy from you right away, you could provide additional information and follow up with them during and after their buying process.

This is why it’s critical to look for opportunities to increase the viral aspect of your brand beyond the basic webinar.

  • Make sure you create avenues for attendees to interact with you following the event. Creating an ongoing forum or listserv or even linking to a blog post about your topic provides additional discussion options. If you already have an online discussion forum, open a new topic coinciding with the webinar and publicize it in follow-up communications.
  • Also ensure that your speakers have valid corporate Twitter and/or LinkedIn accounts for attendees to connect with afterwards, and provide that information freely at the webinar. Both tools have methods of supporting discussion topics.
  • Consider setting up a landing page or mini-site to support your webinar. Use this as an info link during registration and reminders, and then modify it afterwards to collect more information during post webinar follow up.
  • Consider timing your webinar close to a key industry trade show and include special invitations to webinar attendees for a VIP session or special gift at the show. This takes advantage of your sales team’s limited travel budgets.
  • If you’re offering in-depth workshops at an upcoming trade show, pre-empt the show with a preparatory session via a webinar. This can generate excitement for the show and increase valid attendees at the live event.
  • And remember, if you’re creating your own webinar content, you can still advertise it via banner ads in industry publications, usually for relatively modest expenditures.

Ultimately, It’s About Building Branded Networks.

Don’t think of a webinar as a one-off event. Use it as a building block within your entire communications network to get the biggest impact.


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