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!

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.”

An Online Dilemma, and an Opportunity, for the News

An article in today’s New York Times examines the “free-versus paid online content” debate that is currently on the minds of all members of the newspaper and magazine publishing industry. Amidst a decline in their subscriber-base, many publications embraced the internet as a channel to help build their audience and increase revenues. But the recession has forced advertisers to tighten their spending across the board, leaving newspaper executives to grapple with new ways to turn a dollar newspaper1from their online content.

The biggest issue here, is, as the article points out, “How do you get consumers to pay for something they have grown used to getting free?” The reporters draw a parallel between the industry’s current situation and that of the recording industry. Music fans spent years downloading songs illegally for free from sites like Napster and Kazaa, but today, many of these same individuals have reverted back to paying for their music through iTunes. The difference is, of course, these individuals switched their habits because of the nascent fear of the possibility of legal action against them.

None of those fears exist here. With a few exceptions, internet users have come to expect to read their papers for free on-line with no questions asked. It won’t be easy to change those habits. As the article states, “Getting customers to pay is easier if the product is somehow better — or perceived as being better — than what they had received free.”

So what can publications do to make their content worth an investment from their readers? To paraphrase what Mark Mulligan, vice president of Forrester Research, says in the piece, it may be all about “chasing niches.” Finding what certain readers need on a daily basis, targeting them separately, and charging them for it.

It sounds a bit like the industry could use some more help from an inbound marketing campaign and other new media tools. Newspapers and magazines need to better capture their reader’s information; what they are reading, what sections they check most frequently, what journalists they read religiously. As some publications already do, requiring the readers to input their contact information into a free online form before reading certain content is a good way to start (it may be necessary to make sure this content is downloadable for tracking purposes). The reader won’t be forced to pay a fee, but will give up his/her e-mail address, providing the publication with a better sense of the content that they find necessary to have access to. Over time the publication will have a network of data on all of their most frequent visitors and will be able to engage certain individuals with exclusive, relevant and targeted offerings (podcasts, reporter chats, blogs, invitations to roundtables)—for a fee.

There is more to it here that should be considered. RSS feeds, text alerts, and other features can be tailored, or utilize existing content, and offered exclusively to certainly readers. Think of a way to aggregate all content for someone’s favorite sports reporter (their articles, blogs, Twitter feeds, etc) and package that offering to your “premium” subscribers. The key is for the industry to leverage the web to capture a better understanding of their audience to discover what exactly it is that they won’t be able to live without.

Creative PR Pitches Are Both The Means & The End With New Media

Seth Godin, one of my personal marketing Sherpas, opined in one of his recent blog posts on “The difference between PR and publicity”. As with most of his insights, the post elicited plenty of views and comments as he decided to characterize the distinction between publicity as merely end-game media coverage and PR as the comprehensive story crafting and scene setting about a particular company, product, or trend. The oft-badmouthed PR, in effect, is actually more of a science than it’s given credit for being.

 

Godin, as usual, is spot-on. Gaining publicity, especially in today’s cluttered media environment, can be experiment in futility. On the other hand, everybody (and every client) has a story to craft, develop and share regardless of who ultimately publicizes it. Some of these stories are hundreds of times more interesting than others and some might be a lot more controversial than others, but everybody’s got something to add to a conversation. As Godin writes, almost everyone has a PR problem – a problem conveying that story effectively enough to get attention (or the right attention).  

 

The distinction that Godin draws creates an even greater justification for the merits of inbound marketing. With every effective inbound marketing campaign comes a hefty dose of creative, responsible and engaging storytelling and content creation – whether in the form of blogs, online videos, or social media profiles. Ultimately, marketers now have additional outlets for their stories besides the traditional media.

 

PR pro’s can focus on their storytelling by creating content that is engaging enough to stand on its own (without gatekeepers) and virally spread to the right audiences and potential prospects. Does a little outbound, traditional PR pitching help the cause? Absolutely, but any PR pro worth his or her salt knows that now, more than ever, companies can be well served by having a creative story (or customer, product, employee or event) that ultimately sells itself through new media channels, with little interruption or traditional media communication.