Your Website Will NEVER Generate Leads (And 9 Things That Will)

135048_no_audience_1 That’s right. Your website has never generated one single lead, and it never will.

It may capture leads, qualify leads and convert leads, but it will never, ever, generate leads.

Think about it. How does someone end up at your website? No one just types it in randomly. Somehow or another, they heard about your site and thought that it might be of interest to them.

This is an important distinction. A great website is an essential piece of your lead generation strategy, but it does absolutely nothing on its own. You have to provide it with a steady flow of interested people for it to do its job. Without actual lead generation tactics, you’ll share your message with absolutely no one.

Fortunately, there are many, many effective ways to generate leads for your website:

  1. Generic domain names – This could be considered an exception to what I said above, so I’ll address it first. Many people will try just typing in generic words as domain names to see what comes up. Some businesses have simply made that generic name their brand (Bags.com, Blinds.com), while others have purchased those generic names as a way to generate relevant traffic (Books.com – Barnes & Noble, Aspirin.com – Bayer). Those one-word domains may be hard to come by, but a 2 or 3 word descriptive domain appropriate to your business might not be, e.g., DallasDivorceAttorney.com or PhiladelphiaDJ.com. Even if people don’t type it in directly, descriptive domain names will generally rank well on searches for those keywords.
  2. Organic search (SEO) – For many small business sites on a budget, this is the #1 source of online lead generation. It’s free, and it’s very effective.if you can get ranked well for keywords relevant to your business. There have been volumes written on search engine optimization, and the nuances of it are constantly changing, but for most small businesses, a simple two-pronged strategy is extremely effective: 1) publish keyword-rich content on your site on a regular basis that’s compelling enough to make people want to link to it, and 2) interact with people to share the link and encourage them to as well. Which brings us to.
  3. Social media – The new social web offers several tactics for lead generation. First, your fans can easily tell others about you and share your content. That’s great if you have a bunch of raving fans who also happen to be active social media users. Most companies have to work for it a little more. As with your website, publishing alone won’t bring followers – you have to proactively seek out people and participate in the venues and public conversations that are relevant to your business. Interaction creates attraction. And when those people link to your content, that helps your search engine rankings.
  4. Advertising comes in many forms online. While the old horizontal banner ads have all but disappeared from most mainstream websites, display advertising is still alive and well on the web. While some sites sell ads directly, most work with advertising networks, which they’ll be able to refer you to. The other approach is text ads, which are usually on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. These are offered by most of the major search engines, as well as some independent ad networks. Again, the site you want to advertise on should be able to refer you to the appropriate ad network.
  5. Joint ventures and affiliates are a great way to reach new people. One form of joint venture is the “quid pro quo” approach – they promote your product to their list and you promote their product to your list. This is usually only done, though, if the lists are of the same order of magnitude. Otherwise, there will have to be some sort of revenue sharing, or affiliate program. This can be a highly effective strategy and usually involves little or no up-front cost to implement. Choose your associates carefully, though, as their behavior will reflect on you to some extent.
  6. Content marketing is kind of a hybrid of some of the tactics listed above, but it still merits its own entry. The key here is to publish your content on sites (other than your own website) that already have traffic, that already have an audience of people looking for information about the topics you’re creating content about. Videos on YouTube, slide presentations on SlideShare, white papers on Scribd, articles on EzineArticles – the opportunities are endless. If you can get a regular column in a major outlet, that’s even better. Don’t be overtly promotional, but do be sure to always have a link back to your site, if possible, or at least have your domain name prominently displayed. You want to drive direct traffic, not just create brand awareness.
  7. Publicity should be an essential part of any small business’ marketing strategy. At a bare minimum, you should be monitoring Help A Reporter Out (HARO) for media opportunities and pitching relevant local and industry media about your company. Seek out relevant internet radio shows and podcasters that might interview you. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and contains relevant keywords – it’s how many reporters, bloggers and other media producers find expert sources to interview.
  8. Email lists – Depending on your business, you can buy or rent a list of people matching certain demographic criteria. How effective is it? It depends on the quality of the list, the relevance of it to your business, and then having a compelling offer that will drive people to take action. Stick with an established provider and focus the list as narrowly as possible to get to your ideal clients, not just a broad demographic segment.
  9. Offline promotion – Put your web address (URL) on your business cards, invoices, brochures, menus – pretty much every piece of printed material that a customer will receive from you. Use it on billboards, TV and radio ads. Show it on the last slide of any presentations you do. Of course, if you’re not putting a piece of paper in their hands, it needs to be short and memorable – yet another reason to get a descriptive domain name!

Notice that webinars and teleseminars aren’t on the list. Why not? Because you have to promote them, too, to get people to attend and you can only promote them to people you’ve already reached via some other means. They’re a great conversion tactic, but not usually a good lead generation tactic, unless they’re being done as part of a joint venture and you’re accessing someone else’s list.

Note also how many of the items on the list above refer to another item on the list. Each tactic may be moderately effective on its own, but they work best when combined with the others. That’s why an integrated marketing plan is so important. Remember, people have to hear your message an average of seven or more times before taking action. The more channels you’re distributing your message through, the sooner you’ll reach that critical mass in the mind of your potential customers.

How a Private Equity Fund Uses Social Media for Building its Investment Pipeline and Raising Capital

 

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Most private equity funds (and the equipment finance industry) are well behind the VC industry with regard to their use of social media. Jeff Bussgang, General Partner, Flybridge Capital Partners, calculates that of the approximately 1,000 venture capitalists in the US actively seeking deals, 10-15% blog.  Sarah Tavel, Senior Associate, Bessemer Venture Partners, calls this blogging and posting of internal analyses "venture capital’s freemium model."

 

We think that increasing numbers of private equity investors will devote more energy to their social media efforts. Private equity investing is a relationship business, and the only relationships that really matter are with the relatively small number of LPs, entrepreneurs, executives, and intermediaries.   As more of our personal relationships move online, social media becomes a very cost-effective way to strengthen a firm’s corporate relationships.

 

Among the few PE funds with an outreach in social media I would include Duane Street Capital, 2xPartners, Healthpoint Capital , and Riverside Company. Another I recently learned about is MCM Capital.  Bobby Kingsbury, Business Development Officer, MCM Capital Partners, was kind enough to provide a case study of his efforts in this area. I interviewed him via email:

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Q. What is your social media strategy?

 

At MCM Capital Partners we have implemented Facebook, LinkedIn, an RSS feed, and a weekly blog into our website in order to promote our brand, increase search engine friendliness, expand our deal referral network, and enhance relationships with those already in our network. Additionally, we are tactically using social media tools to augment our communications to our current LP’s, prospective investors, entrepreneurs operating businesses within targeted industries, investment banks and intermediaries.  Each communication method employed and its content is viewed through the lens of "how does this help our firm" and "how does this improve the likelihood someone will find us?"

 

Although we are still learning the intricacies of social media, we have been making extensive use of social networking sites to announce LBO transactions, promote our blog and email newsletter, recruit and evaluate potential CEOs for portfolio companies, as well as develop and create new relationships within the M&A community.  Concurrently, we are using our blog to help with search engine optimization, place new contacts into our CRM (Goldmine), and to differentiate ourselves from other firms in our industry by providing value added content to our website.

 

For SEO purposes, we chose to focus on searches on the following terms: micro-cap private equity fund, leverage buyout, Cleveland based private equity, lower middle market, leverage buyout firm, management buyout, etc. We chose these terms based on relevance and by researching our SEO rank on each search engine, then targeted those keywords in which we ranked in the top 100.

 

We chose to use the top 100 because it was an achievable goal. Given our time budget of 1 blog post per week, and given that it’s most important to be on page 1 of Google (slots 1-10), we thought that moving from slots 100 and below to slots 1-10 was much more doable than moving from slots 101 and above. The largest behavioral jump, measured as a percentage-change, is from the top of page 2 to the bottom of page 1. According to Chitika, a search based online advertising network, going from the 11th spot to the 10th generates a 143% jump in traffic, proving a very small percentage of users click through to the second page while searching online. Ultimately, we want our website to be ranked in the top four for these terms, as the top four terms in a Google search account for 70% of all web traffic.

 

Here are a few of the steps we have taken:

 

Weekly Blog:

 

Embedded in our website through WordPress, we started a weekly blog about four months ago. We use our blog to help with our search engine optimization, automating the addition of new contact information into our CRM, as well as providing value-added content to our readers (LP’s, entrepreneurs, investment bankers, intermediaries, etc.). In regards to search engine optimization, we created 5 blog categories (Best Business Practices, Private Equity Related News, MCM Perspective on Macro Economic Conditions, Investment Perspectives, and MCM Specific News) relevant to our target audiences, as well as a list of at least 20 keyword phrases to be incorporated into our posts. After a blog is written, we use Friendfeed to automatically post the new blog to our company Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. The RSS feed helps track new readers and automatically places them into our CRM after readers fill out the required information. In addition, in order to comment on a particular blog we have implemented a form. Visitors fill out the form and their information is again directly placed in our CRM, helping us manage new contacts and track new visitors to our blog.

 

LinkedIn:

 

We are in a relationship based business, and we need to leverage those relationships. Each of us have our own LinkedIn profile and MCM also has a company profile page. I have encouraged each of my colleagues to spend 5 minutes a week building up their network with value added contacts. In five minutes they can add 10 to 15 new connections, which increase our reach and will enhance current relationships. We have added a WordPress blog widget to each of our profile pages and our company profile page in order for our contacts to easily view each new post creating more top of mind awareness for MCM. Any updates or deal closings within our firm are also sent out to each individual and each group in our network through LinkedIn’s own weekly update email. Additionally, LinkedIn has become a great resource to grow our list of C-level talent for our future and current portfolio companies.

 

Facebook:

 

We created a Facebo
ok page for our firm where we post our acquisition criteria, MCM updates, current ongoing searches, recent blog posts, a calendar for visitors to keep track of important dates such as our annual CEO summit and shareholder meeting, pictures of portfolio companies, and we have also added a tab which allows visitors to sign up for our email newsletter under ‘Join My List’. Posting regular updates relating to our business and activities reminds our friends or followers who MCM is, what we do and either to use our services or refer one of their friends or colleagues who might be looking for an equity partner.

 

Monthly Email Newsletter:

 

We send out a monthly email newsletter using Constant Contact to over six thousand investment bankers, lenders, intermediaries, and current and potential LPs every month, keeping them apprised as to types of businesses we are looking for as well as any deal announcements or updates within our firm. We have placed links to Facebook, LinkedIn, and an RSS feed in our newsletter along with a link to each of our personal LinkedIn pages next to our name and email address. We also added a section at the bottom of the newsletter for blog post of the month to help promote our blog. After a newsletter is sent, we click on the LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter widgets on the top banner of the email and tweet it, Facebook Like it, and add it to our LinkedIn page in order to reach our contacts that may not have received the newsletter via email. Using Google Analytics, we have seen a dramatic spike in traffic to our site each month the day of and a few days after our email is sent, demonstrating the efficacy of the newsletter.

Email Signature:

 

Everyone at the firm has links to our RSS feed, LinkedIn, and Facebook accounts embedded in their email signature to help create more awareness and again drive traffic to the blog and our social networking sites.

Google Analytics

 

We have placed Google analytics into our website in order to monitor traffic, referral sites, keyword searches, unique visits, etc. I go over the statistics every month to see where traffic is coming from, where we rank with certain key terms, how long visitors spend on certain pages, and who exactly is coming to the website, in order to adjust our SEO campaign, write relevant blog posts, and provide value added content to our website.

What results have you seen so far?

 

While neither traffic nor time spent on our site is the true measure of efficacy of our social media campaign, it indicates we are increasing brand recognition and awareness. The real measure of success while we continue to develop our campaign will be transforming our brand recognition and awareness into an increase in deal flow, attracting new investors and talent to our firm, developing relationships with entrepreneurs in our target markets, and helping separate our firm from our private equity brethren. It is too early to provide definitive metrics on increased deal flow or inbound inquires from LP’s attributed to our social media campaign, but we are confident that social media will continue to play a huge part in the marketing success of our firm.

 

That being said, I will provide a few metrics we have been tracking since the inception of our social media efforts in July of 2010. Our deal flow increased by 150% in total from July to October, but we cannot say it was solely attributed to social media. Clearly there was pent up demand over the prior two years making it difficult to measure the efficacy of our campaign thus far. Further, we have only had two inquires from LP’s, but coming from a base of zero any number is a huge jump. Overall traffic to our site has increased 14% on average each month. Referral traffic, (traffic coming from other websites including our blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, and email newsletter) has increased 119% over the last three months, and visitor’s average time on our site has increased from 1 minute and 32 seconds to 3 minutes and 5 seconds.

 

Some other quick stats over the last 30 days derived from Google Analytics: we have averaged over 51 absolute unique visitors to our site per day (80% of our total traffic came from new visitors who have previously never been to our site), visitors averaged 3.75 pages per visit, and 69% of our visitors came from search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing), 18% came directly and 13% came to our site through our blog or social networking sites.

 

 

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Most of our traffic is from new visitors:

 

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Search engines are critical for our traffic:

 

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Q. What are MCM’s professionals’ policies on inbound LinkedIn inquires from:

 

1. people you don’t know at all

 

A. If we do not know a person, but are familiar with their firm and they are currently an employee we will accept their invitation. If we do not know the person or their firm we will check their profile and company’s website to see if we would have a mutually beneficial relationship and accept or decline the invitation accordingly. Complete strangers, when we do not know them and have not heard of their firm will always be ignored.

2. people you don’t know but want to know (e.g. potential LPs)

 

A. LPs or people we want to know who contact us will almost certainly be accepted. We will follow up with a note and try to schedule an introductory call in order to provide more information on our firm.

3. people you barely know (met once for 2 minutes) –

 

A. Same principle as with people we don’t know; we will see how much utility the relationship will have for our firm and accept or ignore the request accordingly.

 

We generally will accept invitations from most firms, as the contact or their network will most likely be beneficial for MCM. What most people do not know is that anyone can look at your network (with the default LinkedIn privacy settings) and then inundate your contact list, with inbound inquires unless you change your privacy settings. At MCM we try and protect our network contacts, and have changed our privacy settings so our con
tacts cannot view the rest of our connections list. We continually manage the privacy settings on our LinkedIn pages to prevent any leakage of personal information and limit access to LinkedIn users not in our network.

Q. Similarly, what are MCM’s professionals’ policies on inbound Facebook inquiries from people in the categories above?

 

A. I would say it is pretty similar to LinkedIn, but at the same time anyone can Facebook-Like our page so it is a little more difficult to manage the contact list on Facebook. I monitor the page a few times a week and receive a weekly email from Facebook updating me on our page activity. Here is an example of the weekly update from Facebook:

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Facebook

 

 

Hi Bobby,

Here is this week’s summary for your Facebook Page:

clip_image007

MCM Capital Partners

49 monthly active users clip_image00814 since last week

72 people like this no change since last week

1 wall post or comment this week clip_image008[1]1 since last week

63 visits this week clip_image008[2]20 since last week

Learn more about how to update via mobile

Thanks,
The Facebook Team

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Q. What tool(s) are you using to pull data in from your social media system into your CRM?

 

A. Each CRM has its own code for forms in order for contact information to be transferred into the database. Sometimes you can manip
ulate the form and other times you are stuck using what your CRM provides which possibly will not encapsulate all the data you are looking to obtain. We use Goldmine, and it was a challenging process to say the least.

 

Q. What is your policy on adding emails to your email database; do you add the emails of everyone you meet/who emails you, or wait for people to proactively register on your site?

 

A. We do not add everyone we meet or everyone who emails us, but we certainly do not wait for people to proactively register on our site. At the end of the day it’s a numbers game, and if we feel the person has an opportunity to add value to our fund they will be added to our database and sent our monthly correspondence, unless they unsubscribe.

 

Q. Who built your website?

 

A. Point to Point Inc., a Cleveland based interactive marketing firm has implemented our blog into our website and is in the process of transferring our entire site into WordPress. This will allow us to make changes ourselves in real time and also will allow me to control and adjust our SEO campaign as needed without having to understand or learn how to write HTML. The changes made are instantaneous and can also be undone if a mistake is made.

 

Q. What other tools/technologies are you using?

 

A. I have created an email archive page using Constant Contact in order for people to view previous communications we have sent. It’s also another way for someone to ‘Join our List’ if they receive the communication thru a social networking site.

 

Q. What steps are you taking for proactive marketing, as opposed to reactive marketing? Are you proactively reaching out to your viewers on a targeted basis?

 

A. Everything we are doing right now with our e-marketing campaign is proactive and we are reaching out to our viewers on a very targeted basis. We know our prospective audience uses search engines and social media sites to find relevant information, so we develop content (onsite and off) that is relevant to both the engines and the users. For example, we have a blog category entitled ‘Investment Perspectives’ in which we share our investment theses around certain industries of interest. The investment thesis gives MCM credibility and resonates with entrepreneurs and the intermediary community, as it illustrates forethought as to the types of businesses we are searching for in a particular industry. We realize with our e-marketing initiatives we are currently thinking a little outside the box given the dynamics of our industry, but I believe we will see a paradigm shift in the not too distant future in the ways in which PE firms market to the deal community.

 

Q. Are you soliciting directly to potential investors and targets who didn’t approach you? If so, how if at all do you use social media to make the cold call easier?

 

A. That is a very good question and one we have talked about internally as we prepare to raise our third fund in the coming months. We are planning to reach out to a number of potential investors and targets using LinkedIn. Sending InMail to potential LP’s with a brief introduction of our firm will break a lot of the ice and also help alleviate some of the awkwardness and unfamiliarity of a cold call. During the exchange of InMail we will be able to determine if our interests align with the prospective LP and proceed accordingly. Going forward social media will hopefully turn what used to be a cold call into a warm lead.

 

Q. How much time (launch and ongoing) and money has the social media initiative cost you?

 

A. We do not track time like a law firm, but the efforts spent to continue our e-marketing initiatives have been significant and are shared throughout our firm. It takes a total team effort to create, edit, post and continually update and monitor our blog, SEO campaign, and social media sites. I have been very fortunate to work with colleagues who understand the importance of our e-marketing campaign and have given it their full support. It has taken a lot of time and we had to learn how to walk before we ran, but I believe it will continue to be beneficial and pay huge dividends on a go forward basis. In the future I could see hiring someone full time solely to work on our e-marketing campaign, as four of our professionals collectively spend on average 15 to 20 hours a week on our social media outreach, depending on the time of the month.

 

Q. Some funds are concerned that increasing visibility will attract inappropriate deal flow, a deluge of job-seekers, and other people who want to suck up your bandwidth. How do you mitigate that cost of being more visible?

 

If we felt that the attention we were receiving was irrelevant or hampering our day to day initiatives, we would take steps to improve our process to make it more relevant to our desired audience. We have not had to deal with an influx of spam-like inquiries thus far, and truly do not anticipate it as we control our connections. Our goal through our entire e-marketing campaign is to gain relevant visibility, but I would be more than happy to spend a few extra minutes a day reviewing the inappropriate deal flow and deluge of job seekers as it means MCM is becoming more visible. It doesn’t hurt to spend a little time answering a few questions or sending an email with our acquisition criteria in order to prevent inappropriate deal flow in the future. You never know where that person may end up that is seeking a job or what deal that intermediary may show you next.

Twitter Automation #FAIL

Some people have this crazy idea that automating content to their Twitter profile will be effective. Besides the fact that, for any real business trying to reach real people, it doesn’t work, you also run the risk of ending up with something like this:

TwitterAutomationFAIL

There are a couple of key lessons here for business owners exploring social media:

First, use automation with care. I generally recommend reserving it for mundane, low-risk tasks like following people back on Twitter, scheduling a Tweet for later, perhaps even automatically following people who meet certain criteria. All of these are low-risk, i.e., if they fail, they won’t affect your image or reputation.

Secondly, if you use any automated content publishing, e.g., syndicating your blog to Facebook or your LinkedIn updates to Twitter, check them fairly regularly (at least a couple of times weekly). If your social presence is worth investing time and effort into at all, it’s worth checking regularly to make sure you’re not embarrassing yourself.

Social Networking for the Equipment Leasing & Finance Industry

Pool Equipment

I just learned that the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation has finished their study on “Social Networking for the Equipment Finance Industry 2010“.  The executive summary is available at http://www.leasefoundation.org/IndRsrcs/MO/SocMed10/ ; the full study is $300.  The author is Suzanne E. Henry.

The study shows that B2B social media marketing in the equipment finance industry is still in the nascent stage, with participants waiting for clearer directions and guidance for return on investment and development strategies.  For context, in its report, "B2B Goes Social," marketing agency White Horse reveals that 86 percent of B2B firms are using social media, compared to 82 percent of business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations. However, B2B firms aren’t as active in their social media activity with only 32 percent engaging on a daily basis compared with 52 percent of B2C firms.

The study is a good overview of social media for a B2B executive with little background. The best part of the study are the case studies of:

GE Capital, undoubtedly the largest equipment leasing and finance industry player, which has been exploring and using social media for more than a year. The organization encompasses corporate lending, vendor/dealer financing, core equipment financing, and specialty finance, including GE Commercial Distribution Finance Corporation, which offers inventory financing;

Duncan Aviation, the largest family-owned aircraft support facility in North America, which offers comprehensive service for nearly every make and model of business jets and turbo-props; and

American Express OPEN Forum. American Express OPEN is the leading payment card issuer for small businesses in the United States

For more on the use of social media in the investing industry (at no cost!), see our research.

(Image by billjacobus1 via Flickr)

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What Makes an Idea Go Viral?

Viral marketing is a hot buzzword these days. It’s a simple enough concept – get others to spread your idea and before too long, thanks to the beauty of exponential math (“I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on.”), you’ve reached a lot of people.

The challenge is, how do you get people to want to tell two friends? Or two hundred? Or two thousand?

Seth Godin shared 20 ideas on this on his blog yesterday. Here are a few of my favorites:

I spread your idea because.

.because I feel smart alerting others to what I discovered.

.because there’s a financial benefit directly to me (Amazon affiliates, mlm).

.because both my friend and I will benefit if I share the idea (Groupon).

.because if everyone knew this idea, I’d be happier.

.because I care about someone and this idea will make them happier or healthier.

.because I’m in awe of your art and the only way I can repay you is to share that art with others.

14 more at Seth’s Blog

Why do people spread your idea? What compels them to tell two friends, and so on? If you can’t answer that, don’t expect them to.

sethgodin

Long Tail Keyword Research 101

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I’m on a panel tonight at Social Media Club Austin talking about the connection between SEO (search engine optimization) and social media. I’ll be focusing on long tail keyword research, an essential core strategy for businesses looking to use social media to bring targeted traffic to their website (which, let’s face it, really should be one of the major goals of any social media initiative).

I’ve put together a presentation, a keyword research spreadsheet template and detailed instructions for using it. I know I should probably repurpose it all as a blog post, but I have to walk out the door in an hour, so this’ll have to do for now. ūüôā

Image credit: Carol Foil

Free Market Research for Entrepreneurs, at Founder Institute last night

I enjoyed participating in a panel tonight on "Market Research for Entrepreneurs", as part of the Founder Institute’s first series of New York programming.  The other speakers were Nicholas Butterworth, President & CEO, Diversion Media; and Steven Haines, President, Sequent Learning Networks.  

 

My slide deck is below; I’d love to get your feedback.

Nonprofit Fundraising in a Bad Economy

 

I had lunch yesterday with the founder and CEO of a successful, technology-savvy nonprofit.  Unsurprisingly, he was very concerned about reaching his fundraising goals for 2009 (and thereafter).  We brainstormed about ways that some of the concepts in The Virtual Handshake could be used to help in his situation.

One of his challenges is that donors need a trigger event to give money.  Historically, a trigger event might be an entrepreneur who sold his company and received a large payout, or a Wall Street executive who received a large annual bonus.  However, in this economic environment, what are trigger events?

One trigger event: the donor’s public image needs upgrading.  I encouraged him to solicit executives of AIG and other companies that have severely damaged public images.  I also encouraged him to reach out to public relations executives, who can give him ideas on which wealthy individuals are seeking to improve their public image.

I also encouraged him to work outwards from his past donors, by analyzing their public networks.  It’s very powerful to contact a wealthy individual and tell him: your friend _______________ had a building named after him last year; would you like to get involved also in our charity?  Better yet, ask your past donor to make the introduction to the targeted individual.

There are a range of free and low-cost tools that enable this public social network analysis.  For many people, LinkedIn, Xing, Spoke, and Facebook will give you partial visibility into their networks.  For senior corporate executives, useful tools include: Boardex, Capital IQ’s social network analysis, LinkSV (for the Silicon Valley ecosystem), and Westlaw Peoplemap.  Lastly, you can get public organization charts from TheOfficialBoard, Forbes Org Chart, and CogMap.

Now is a great time to add staff for low or no cost.  College interns are readily available at no cost.  Career re-entry programs for people (mostly women) re-entering the workforce can provide experienced consultants at a below-market price; a full list is at IRelaunch.com.  Lastly, the Levin Institute just received a grant from New York City for JumpStart NYC, a program to help transition financial services employees to jobs in other fields.  At no cost, both for-profits and nonprofits can apply on the Levin Institute website to employ a mid-level financial services employee as an unpaid consultant for 3 months, in New York City only. 

I also encouraged him to increase his public profile in front of potential donors.  This is easier to do, because the amount of noise has decreased, and the media is desperate for some good news/positive stories.  From my own experience getting into the speaking business, I recommended he read in depth the material at Speakernetnews.com, the single best resource site I’ve found for public speakers.  There are a striking number of consultants out there who claim to teach you how to increase your public speaking skills.  Some of the better resource websites: Speeking.com, Sullivanspeaker.com, and summitconsulting.com . 

Lastly, I also suggested he increase his media profile.  Useful tools: helpareporter.com (free) and PRNewsWire Profnet (not free).

What else do you think nonprofits should be doing to help their fundraising in this climate?

 

Notes on Liminal Group’s 2009 Sales & Marketing Symposium

Following are my notes on Liminal Group‘s 2009 Sales & Marketing Symposium, which took place Wednesday.

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First speaker: Paul Greenberg,

author, CRM at the Speed of Light: Essential Customer Strategies for the 21st Century, President, The 56 Group, LLC; founding partner of CRM training company, BPT Partners, LLC. At the end of 2007, he was the #1 non-vendor influencer ranked by InsideCRM in their annual “25 Most Influential CRM People” announcement. He was also named one of the most influential CRM leaders in 2008 by CRM Magazine.

Gen Y are first generation to spend more time on Net than watching TV

31% of people age 20s-early 40s are elite tech users (source: Pew)

The number of people who say “people like me” is their most trusted source of information has grown dramatically in the last 5 years, and is now rated the most trusted source of information. (Source: Edelman)

Member communities reach more internet users (66.8%) than email (65.1%) (source: Nielsen Online research: “Global faces on networked places”. )

You have to accommodate even ‘low value’ customers because of what they can do to you. And no customer thinks he’s ‘low value’.

A few years ago Disney Destinations changed the CRM acronym to CMR (Customer Managed Relationships). This meant customers could plan/adjust their own vacations.

This means they didn’t need as many live agents. And many customers prefer this.

I have a CRM podcast, CRMPlayaz, and all we do is rip on things

Old research said Advocates will speak to 5-9 people about what they love; detractors will speak to 9-16 people. But new research: detractors can now reach millions. Now just the threat of public detraction is sufficient.

Recommends looking at Doubleclick Simultaneous Media Usage Study.

The New Marketing Model

The reputation of the company, not the message, becomes the brand

Example: Sanvick, a mining company in Sweden, is rated most trusted company in Europe. Has a fair play code that governs everything they do. One of their core values is transparency. In their annual report, they release information about criteria for executive’s bonuses; whether they got bonus or not.

Counterexample of what not to do: Walmart’s ‘flog’: fake blog with some actors pretending to be Walmart customers

Authenticity and trust is what matters, more than consistency of the message

From “How consumer conversation will transform business”-PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2007. Free report.

We need to ‘hear whispers’. Measure:

– Volume: amount mentioned vs. Historic pattern

– Tone

– Coverage: # sources generating conversation

– Authoritativeness/Reputation

New business model

Lines between producer and consumer are blurred. They are co-creators of value.

Open lines of communication.

Producer is an aggregator for the user’s creative activity

User is an advocate of the experience and the company

When you listen to the customer, you often learn that what you thought about the customer is completely wrong.

BMW now has identified and developed with customers 15 telematics features.

Samsung overtook Sony as leading consumer electronics company, because they worked with customers to identify 25 customer touchpoints.

When Skype was first launched, there was a Skype user group called “public mind” which was particularly active . Skype mined that user group for ideas to prioritize.

Skype was acquired for $1.6b . At the time had 54m customers, $11m revenue.

KarmaLoop sells Gen Y clothing. Sells traditional brands, plus independent brands. They now have 100,000+members in their community.

Have junglelife social network, by invitation only to trend-setters.

Also have Street Team. They are 1% of KarmaLoop community. Their job is to sell KarmaLoop products. You sign up and get a unijque code. Get friends to buy on the site using your code. They get discounts plus points. Additional points for uploading content of their street activities.

Another similar company: Threadless. $26m revenue.

BY 2010, 60% of Fortune 1000 will have some sort of community (Gartner Social CRM 2009 Forecast) but 50% will fail to be managed properly. They won’t participate enough; they won’t keep content fresh.

KLM Club China: looks like traditional online community. What’s unusual: it includes an ‘experiences’ section, where members can upload their experiences doing business in China. Not just travel. Also includes suggestions on doing business in China.

Contrast this with United Red Carpet Club, which is missing all this functionality.

V. Kumar came up with 3 lifetime metrics: Customer Lifetime Value, Customer Referral Value, Customer Brand Value.

Tools of CRM 2.0

The Social Stack

Identify and Object interface in these domains: Reputation, relationships, conversation, groups, sharing, collaborative, actions, presence.

Only 30% of companies have holy grail of one person, one record.

The new holy grail: "a company like me", who is trusted in the same way that a "person like me" is trusted.

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The next speaker was Penelope Trunk, author, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success .  She’s a very entertaining and personable speaker.  I generally agreed with her points, with two major exceptions.  

1) Her speech sounded as if it could have been delivered a year ago, and hasn’t been adjusted for US debt bomb exploding.  I don’t believe her claim that Generation Yers don’t care about money and can go move in with their parents when Gen Y’s father just lost his job, and Gen Y’s mom just had her house foreclosed upon. 

2)   I thought that some of her comments about "managing Generation Y" were really comments about "manag
ing Generation Y children of upper-middle-class parents"

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Gen Y doesn’t believe money = happiness. They’ve all taken classes in positive psychology, which have taught them that. Janitors are usually happier than lawyer. Lawyers are the most suicidal of all professions.

You need to make $150K more to offset cost of moving away from family/loved ones.

65% of Gen Y lived with parents, BEFORE recession

Gallup: If you have 2 friends at work, it’s virtually impossible to have a bad time.

If one person quits a restaurant, the others will likely quit also.

They think that experience of work should be like experience of doing stuff in teams. They did prom in teams, they did sports like soccer which is very team oriented. They love their parents.

I’ve had dinner with the parents of everyone who works for me.

Gen Y doesn’t like to pay their dues.

They don’t believe in the ladder you climb, so therefore why do the grunt work at the bottom?

So every day is a trade: they’ll do your Xerox, but they want you to do something for them in exchange.

They really value learning

They’re not argumentative, not protesting in streets.

Mentoring is the new currency.

They’re used to their parents being very invested in their success.

They expect authenticity.

A good blog post/tweet should make you nervous, that you’re providing too much information.

Everyone believes that they’re authentic, but they’re not.

Gen Y is so productive. They always have an empty inbox.

Career Goal for Gen Y is be an information synthesizer. Information is commoditized, so the real value is being on top of it.

Gen Y is genuinely nice. This is shocking because the workplace is not set up for that.

This is a generation of team players, not leaders.

They have very good social skills, are good at office politics.

We all have the same values. Gen X complains the most because no one pays attention to us.

There’s still a shortage of Gen Y jobs in this economy. When they say, ‘there are no jobs’, they mean, ‘there are no good jobs’.

Question : 50% of 2009 graduates will be unemployed. Do you think this perspective has changed?

Media is run by boomers, and they’re panicked because 50% of boomers are unemployed. (David: I doubt these statistics).

Gen Y in India and Gen Y in US have access to exact same info.

Gen Y finds entrepreneurship very easy. It’s cheap to start. Easy to market initially to their friends. Whole VC market has shifted. Job market is getting worse , so the drive is greater. They have incredible need for multiple revenue streams.

Gen Y doesn’t complain about being grouped as a generation. Only older people do.

Gen Y thinks it’s a joke if you don’t have CRM

Gen Y picks up the phone because Gen X expects them to.

Emptying your inbox is an "inbox enema."

Guy Kawasaki uses Twitter exclusively to promote himself; I use Twitter just to discuss my life.

Power and Impact of New Media: Coping with the Economic Crisis

¬†I enjoyed last night’s panel on Power and Impact of New Media: Coping with the Economic Crisis at the Harvard Business School Club of New York. My notes follow.¬†

 

Biographies of the panel participants:

Harris Diamond¬†is CEO of¬†Constituency Management Group (Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG.).¬†The group includes IPG companies in the areas of public relations, public affairs, sports and entertainment marketing, corporate/brand identity and experiential marketing, including Jack Morton Worldwide, GolinHarris, FutureBrand, Octagon, DeVries Public Relations, MWW Group and Rogers & Cowan. He also serves as the CEO of IPG¬ís Weber Shandwick Worldwide, a public relations industry leader. Regarded as one of the industry’s great experts in corporate and industry positioning,¬†Mr. Diamond¬†has counseled Fortune 500 companies that were undergoing profound changes or facing intense public scrutiny. While specializing in crisis and change management, he also provides ongoing strategic communications counsel to an array of clients, including several industry and trade associations.

Mr. Diamond is a member of the Board of Directors of the not-for-profits, Business for Diplomatic Action and the Ronald McDonald House of New York. He is also on the Board of Councilors of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication, and is the¬†former Chairman of the Council of Public Relations Firms, the U.S. trade association for public relations agencies.

Previously, Mr. Diamond served as a political campaign consultant working on U.S. gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns, and advising foreign governments and political parties. He has held senior positions in the public sector. Mr. Diamond holds both MBA and JD degrees, and is a member of the New York State Bar.



Amy Binder
 is CEO of the New York City-based RF|Binder Partners, Inc., one of the companies of the Ruder Finn Group. RF|Binder Partners has a reputation for research-based strategic counsel and creating a symbiotic approach across communications channels. Among the firm’s major clients are Bank of America, L.L. Bean, Citibank, Dunkin’ Brands, Eli Lilly and Company, Reebok, and Staples.

Ms. Binder brings 25+ years of experience developing corporate reputation and branding programs. For the five years leading to the formation of RF|Binder Partners, Ms. Binder, as President of Ruder Finn Americas, was responsible for growing the firm’s work with Fortune 100 corporations as well as entrepreneurial start-ups which were developing new business models as a result of the Internet, new technologies and the dynamic business environment. Before joining the Ruder Finn Group, Ms. Binder was Director of Communications for the City of New Rochelle where she focused primarily on community based programming and economic development initiatives. She left there to form the Ruder Finn Group’s Urban Marketing division and worked for corporations involved with community relations including American Can, and for cities around the country.

Amy Binder started her career as a freelance photographer primarily handling corporate assignments. She studied at Rhode Island School of Design and the Center of the Eye in Aspen, Colorado. She has two published books of her work.

Ms. Binder is a board member of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business E-Business Initiative, The Institute for Public Relations and the Media Advisory Council for Brown University, as well as a member of The Arthur W. Paige Society. She received her A.B. with Honors from Brown University and her M.B.A. from the Graduate School Of Business, Columbia University.

 

Lex Suvanto is the Managing Director, Strategy and Operations, at The Abernathy MacGregor Group. At Abernathy, Mr. Suvanto provides strategic counsel on corporate communications, financial public relations and investor relations. He has particular expertise in strategic planning for communications, supporting complex media and investor outreach programs, and speechwriting. Mr. Suvanto also serves as an operational leader of the firm’s marketing and strategic planning activities.

Lex Suvanto has extensive experience working for media, entertainment and Internet companies. Selected client experience includes Comcast, Viacom, Sony, THQ, Take Two Interactive, IAC, Gemstar/TV Guide, AOL, CBS, Blockbuster, Quadrangle, DivX and RealNetworks. Mr. Suvanto has helped a number of media companies transition to the public markets, having worked on Viacom’s split from CBS, Discovery Communications’ split from DHC, IAC’s spin-off of HSN, Ticketmaster, Lending Tree and Interval, and Blockbuster’s spin-off from Viacom. He also has significant M&A experience having worked on recent deals such as CBS’s acquisition of CNET, Viacom’s acquisition of DreamWorks, the merger of RealNetwork’s and MTV’s online music properties, Sony’s (and private equity) acquisition of MGM, Quadrangle’s acquisition of several media companies, Comcast’s acquisition of various cable and internet properties, and Gemstar’s sale to Macrovision. He also has significant experience working with Web 2.0 companies both public and private to devise strategic positioning and raise visibility.

Before graduate school, Mr. Suvanto spent five years working in business development at Hearst Magazines, where he worked as part of an executive team launching new consumer publications which included titles such as ESPN Magazineand SmartMoney.

Mr. Suvanto has an honors degree in Economics from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He serves on the board of the Urban Video Game Academy and provides pro bono communications support to various non-profit organizations. 

    Moderator
    Justin Fox
    ¬†is the Business and Economics Columnist for¬†Time¬†magazine and writes the¬†Curious Capitalist¬†blog at Time.com. Before joining¬†Time¬†in January 2007, Fox spent more than a decade at sister publication¬†Fortune, where he covered a wide variety of topics related to economics, finance, and international business. In 2000 and 2001, he was the magazine’s Europe Editor, based in London. Before joining¬†Fortune, Fox worked at several newspapers, among them¬†American Banker¬†and¬†The Birmingham News. He has a B.A. in International Affairs from Princeton University.

    Fox is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. His book, The Myth of the Rational Market, will be published by HarperCollins in June.

      

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    Justin: This panel started with a very different focus, just on new media.  We asked last week, in light of recent events: do we need a new focus?

    Lex: This crisis initially caused old media to re-emerge as the most credible source.  Everyone turned to Wall St. Journal, etc.  At the same time, there’s tremendous hype around Twitter.  Ebay recently tweeted its analyst meetings and last three quarters of earnings.  (How do you squeeze safe-harbor statements into 140 characters?)  An issue that I struggle with: is this just a new vehicle replacing the old?

    Three sources of info about a company: what the company says, the research analysts say, and the media say.  Arguably the first source is the least credible.  Now we have a 4th source: social media (your peers).  And many people paying attention only to that 4th source. 

    Does this change something fundamentally about how a company talks about itself?

    Amy: Historically you could talk to a group on a party line phone, or in the town square.  Then the media became the only way to group-communicate.  Now, we’re going back to the old model. 

    JP Morgan now has a button on their site where they correct miscommunication about themselves. 

    Obama was a model: he said, I’m not going to allow media to publish misinformation about me. 

    Harris: I have 5000 employees but my kids say that on Facebook it says I have no friends.  The web allows misinformed people to roll up into a force that has a voice. 

    Example with AIG: the bonus story came out several months ago, and then again in Dec., and then again in Jan.¬† But only now has it become a big story.¬† The Web created a furor via the amount of people who got in touch with politicians, old media, etc.¬† Politicians saw this,¬† seized on it.¬† ¬ďWe¬íre not going to see an eruption like this that often.¬Ē¬†¬†(Teten: I’m forced to disagree with that statement.)¬†The web empowers people to create movements that can shape public policy/perception of companies.¬† That can be dangerous.¬†

    The web also allows companies to better engage with people. 

    Social media have destroyed ability of old media to become news vehicles, because they can’t keep up with the new information flow; they become commentary vehicles. 

    Justin: How is the AIG furor different than past media frenzies?

    Harris: it’s different both in nature and scale.  Reasons:

              Democratic administration

              Business that can’t communicate the way it used to

    Amy: Youtube et al. make TV more engaging, because people can see again a video any time.  It used to be if there was a bad TV story, it would fade quickly, because TV is an evanescent medium.  Now, anyone can see a video at any time. 

    Lex: We had a situation with a large services company, which was a few months from bankruptcy.¬† All 800 Managing Directors were leaking information onto chat rooms.¬† In the past, you could keep this information more quiet, maybe just in the Wall St. Journal.¬† Past conventional wisdom if a journalist asked ¬Ďcomment on rumors about bankruptcy¬í: say, ¬ďWe don¬ít comment on rumors.¬Ē

    However, in this case, the CEO said, ¬ďWell, let¬ís talk about what bankruptcy would look like.¬Ē¬†¬† He had to address what everyone knew.

    Harris: US Attorney General says, If you give comforting facts to the media, and then file for bankruptcy not long after, you may have violated securities laws.  Regulation has not caught up with the consequences of this transparency.  Problem: if you talk about bankruptcy, customers/suppliers will immediately stop doing business with you, and the problem becomes self-fulfilling.  

    Transparency has costs, can be dangerous.  It can trigger events. 

    Amy: We cant ignore this anymore. 

    Harris: AIG is over as an entity.  Insurance is about trust, and they don’t have it. 

    Lex: we had a case: some class action lawyers were on facebook.¬† They were trying to get $ from a university.¬† They had made a facebook page to discuss an issue that the particular university had, in order to collect participants in the class action.¬† Lawyers went to university and committed ¬ďFacebook blackmail¬Ē: give us what you want, or we¬íll keep doing this.¬† We decided to use a completely different channel to respond.¬†

    Harris: we own a very small % of Facebook. (which is equivalent of 4th biggest country in world, with 175m people.)

    Wikipedia has a rule: no PR firm can put input into Wikipedia.  UK had major controversy over this, because many PR firms were doing this.  However, part of the job of  a PR firm is to correct misinformation about us.

    Q: What should company do with employees who want to participate online?

    Amy: Much easier for consumer products co. to address this.  Dunkin Donuts has rules on this.  Much more complicated for an investment bank. 

    Lex: you have to monitor the online sources that are monitoring you.

    Harris: As of end of February, 31% of companies in finance industry have something on their websites about the finance crisis.  69% don’t.  Shouldn’t more of them engage?

    Lex: I heard someone say, ¬ďWebsites are so 90s¬Ē.¬†

    Teten: We¬íre moving from ¬Ďmark to market¬í to ¬Ďmark to media¬í accounting.¬† How do you advise a distressed company on how to respond all the buzz about their problems?

    Harris: we used to get periodic emails from SEC saying, ¬ďDo you know any of these people?¬Ē¬† We would hope that no one we knew was on that list, and definitely no employees.¬† We get fewer of these messages now, because the SEC can¬ít keep up with the deluge of information.¬†

    With a blogger, you have a little more time to react to his opinion, because at least initially, only one lone blogger might raise an issue.  With the Wall St Journal you have to respond that day.  Everything is on trigger mode now. 

    Someone asked me, how come CEOs aren’t coming forward with solutions?  The reason is that senior business figures are scared that if they do that, someone will pull out skeletons in their closet.  Have you noticed how the number of CEOs on the TV news shows have plummeted?

    Q: When is the media going to report positive stories?

    Fox: All the optimists have been discredited. 

    Harris: You can’t minimize the amount of skepticism about there.  People don’t believe what they might have used to believe. 

    Lex: You can leak news that moves stock (like Citi releasing news that it had made $ in first two months of 2009), and then have 4 days to submit an 8-K.

    Harris: Online will have biggest amount of influence on stock prices.¬† In old world, Obama¬ís comment about ¬Ďbitter¬í voters would not have been picked up.¬† Nothing is private anymore.¬†

    Amy: You move public opinion by reach & frequency.  Nothing has reach & frequency like online. 

    Harris: More & more companies are emulating Clinton/Carville ¬Ďwar room¬í concept in order to respond to media.

    Lex: The amount of non-consensus information in the market has exploded, which means volatility has gone up.  Millions of people think they know about a company, but really don’t. 

    Harris: People think they’re entitled to influence on companies….are they?

    Can you imagine GE today fighting the battle of the Hudson River?  It’s unimaginable.  They’d have to deal with hundreds of good government groups. 

    Q: How big a problem are imposters?  E.g., a rival posts negative information about you.

    Harris: I’ve always held: A statement that is unanswered is accepted and believed as true.¬†