Our Interview with Boston-based Media Maven, C.C. Chapman

If you are an active member of the social media community, particularly here in Boston, then you undoubtedly know the name C.C. Chapman (@cc_chapman). A Co-Founder and Managing Partner of new media consultancy The Advance Guard, and an avid blogger and podcaster, C.C. specializes in helping brands to better understand the social web and how to leverage the conversational and social nature of new media to build more dynamic and lasting relationships with customers, fans and prospects.

ccRead on to learn why a brand’s customers can also be their best salespeople, how service-selling companies can get started with social media, and why Boston is primed to remain the hub of “inbound marketing” activity.

Q: You’ve formulated a great presentation about passion, specifically how “passion is contagious.” Could you give us a high-level summary of why brands should be leveraging the passion that their fans/customers have for their brand, and how the social web is the perfect place to capitalize on the contagious nature of it?

Think about the last time you bought anything. More then likely you went out online looking to see what people had to say about the products. This might be a quick Google search, or reading reviews on a site like Amazon. Either way, what people have to say about a product or service has a direct effect on purchasing.

We also know that each of us loves certain gadgets, tools and other things that we use on a daily basis. Why wouldn’t a brand want to encourage and empower someone who is passionate about their products to talk, share and expound on their passion in whatever way they want? I think this is something that most brands are completely forgetting about. They get hung up in messaging and the layout of a print ad and completely forget that people are people. They are going to talk about it in the way they want to, and not what someone has written up for a press release.

Q: Could you provide an example of a brand that is doing an excellent job here?

Zappos is really doing great in this lately. They’ve asked people to take pictures of themselves with their products. They did a whole series of videos around people opening up their Zappos box when it arrived to capture their excitement.

Don’t forget Zappos doesn’t actually make anything and yet people love the company and are passionate about purchasing from them. There is a lot to be learned from how they are approaching their customers and why it is working.

Q: How engaged should brands be with their customers online? Should they just create the platform (blog, contest, etc.), and let the users run with it, or should there be a system in place to respond to comments/suggestions?

This really depends on the culture of the company. Some companies just won’t be able to deal with interacting with their customers in the way they should online. That being said, if they can’t, then maybe they shouldn’t be doing this sort of thing because it probably won’t be successful.

To be successful, the brand needs to engage with their customers. Yes, setting up the contest, portal or platform is a big step, but the most passionate people will be excited by having someone from the brand talking with them. They want that contact and personalized approach. They crave it.

Q: Should brands be identifying “brand ambassadors” online and leveraging them to keep it up? For instance, what if a very active account on Twitter (with a host of followers), constantly raves about how they love Starbucks? Could there be a paid relationship?

Sure, there could be a paid relationship there, but that depends on the person, the company, and the deal that is made. But, at the same time in that example if the person already loved Starbucks just think what sending them a $100 gift card and a hand written thank you card would do for them as well. They’d love it!

The idea of finding your biggest fans and then somehow making the relationship with them more formal and beneficial to your company is a great idea. Yes, you have to tread carefully and smartly because this isn’t some actor you are hiring to be a spokesperson. It is different and many companies will approach it in that fashion and blow it. Talk TO the person and figure out what works best for them. They may have some strong ideas on how you can work together, but if you come in with an iron fist it could completely turn them off.

Q: What about a company that offers a service, say a law firm or an investment bank. The passion for these brands may be harder to find and difficult to quantify and broadcast. Do you have suggestions for these types of brands that want to utilize social media for their benefit?

Certainly a lot harder indeed. But, start out small and smart. Begin establishing an online footprint using the various and appropriate platforms so that people can find you. Don’t forget that this is not a quick hit solution, and rather it is something you are going to have to grow over time so it may take a while, but people will start coming to you.

There is no silver bullet solution, but consider setting up a Facebook Page for your service and then doing a few weeks of targeted ads to the towns around you to drive traffic to the page. It is a great cost effective strategy to see if your audience is there while not breaking the bank. The key is to think long term and build a strategy that helps you reach your goals. What works for one company is not going to work for the other.

Q: We like to use the phrase “inbound marketing” to classify the shift we are all noticing in marketing (and advertising and public relations). What’s your go-to terminology?

Honestly, I go back and forth on this because it is changing every day and while a few years ago everyone was saying “new marketing” or “conversational marketing,” I feel neither of those truly capture how things are today. Even “social media” is getting a bit old because the nature of how we do everything online is beginning to play along the social graph and becoming more conversational and social in nature. The last thing I want to do is add any new buzzwords to the world. I’ll let someone else decide what to call it!

Q: Boston, as reported in Scott Kirsner’s piece and has been well evidenced, has become sort of the hub for this industry. Why do you think that is? More importantly, did Stuff at Night miss the boat by not including any of the thought leaders like yourself in their “Players” issue?

There was a Players issue? Guess they must not have promoted that well online since I didn’t see anything about it. *laugh*

I’m a life long New Englander so I think it is very easy. People who live here love to talk to other people, help people out, and come from a variety of backgrounds. With all the colleges we have here, people come from all over the world and never leave. That mix match of people makes for not one set of ideas and I’d argue that it mimics the web in that nature.

People seem to forget that this are has always had a strong tech footprint. Rt-128 may be littered with the shells of a lot of companies, but they are being replaced by the new generation and that is exciting. While I love San Francisco and New York City, you’ll never find me leaving New England. We’ve got something really special going on here.

You can read more from this Boston-based “Media Maven” by visiting his blog at http://www.cc-chapman.com/

Want to win a free, 6-month online B2B lead generation campaign?

Tlogohis afternoon, 451 Marketing officially announced the launch of the B2B Social Contest. The contest, open to companies that sell a business-to-business product or service,  will award a free, 6-month online lead generation campaign (a $42,000 value) to the company that best articulates how and why social media will help its business grow.

The contest will run from June 1, 2009 through September 1, 2009. B2B companies that wish to enter the contest must, in an e-mail, describe their company, its mission, product or service, what differentiates their company from competitors, and why and how they think social media marketing will positively impact their B2B business. Upon receipt,  e-mail submissions will be posted on The B2B Social Contest Blog.

Companies are encouraged to ask their clients, friends, and colleagues to comment on their company’s post. On September 1, 2009, 451 Marketing will tally the total number of comments each post received over the course of the 3 month contest. The five posts with the most comments will be considered finalists, and 451 Marketing will select the winner from this pool.

If you have any questions about the submission, nomination or selection process, feel free to reach us at B2Bsocial@451marketing.com, or on Twitter (@451Heat). Thanks and good luck!

Our Interview with "Scalable Intimacy's" Mike Troiano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B2B Marketer? Every Brand Can be “Social”

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

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

Forrester Graph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

451 Marketing Featured in the Boston Business Journal

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

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

Boston Business Journal

by Sean McFadden

May 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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