Friday, July 27, 2012

INQUIRING MINDS: What's Up with Google's Free Website Program?

All over the information super highway in Massachusetts, ads for Google's "free website" program are targeting small business owners:  Massachusetts Get Your Business Online .

We've been hearing about this program in dribs and drabs for several months as it rolls out state by state.

Is this a service to small business? Or gateway to purchase of more goods and services from Google and partner, Intuit?  (Okay, it's probably both, but is it really worth the time and effort?)

So, here's our Question of the Week:
Have you -- or anyone you know well -- taken advantage of this offer?
   - What were your results?
   - Pluses?
   - Minuses?
   - Would you do it again?

This is your chance to sing their praises or vent your frustration.  Or you could simply help a fellow business owner out by sharing your experience, knowledge, encouragement and warnings here.

Thanks for weighing in!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

B2B Book List: 5 Things We Love About "Build"

Okay, technically "Build" is not a book.  It's a quarterly magazine targeting mid-sized business leaders (print and digital versions available), from the good folks at "Inc." And, okay, technically it's not even a magazine.  It's a self-described catalog.  "The Catalog of Ideas" to be specific.

To-ma-tos/To-mah-tos.  You should read it.

At B2B, we love it for many reasons -- from Design to Strategy -- but our top 5 reasons are these:

1. It covers all The Good Stuff.  Content (one of our favorite things) is top-notch.  Organized by audience and interest, the inaugural issue includes sections "Your Team," "The CEO," and "What's Next."  And these include timely, well-written articles on org structure, communication, alignment, customer strategy, leadership, decisions, managing culture ... a lot of the stuff you need to talk about with mentors and colleagues to get your arms around it.  Don't get me wrong -- it's not the Harvard Business Review (also on our Book List), but sometimes HBR is just not what you're looking for.

2.  The design and  layout are innovative and engaging.  (Two of our favorite qualities).  Organized and presented in a very visual, eye-catching and richly enhanced style, Build has color-coded its sections and indices, and liberally uses infographics to convey information in a readily understandable manner.

3.  The Build Network is the core of the experience.  And its raison d'etre is Collaboration.  Collaboration takes center stage with this outfit and the Build Network is the actual entity responsible for the publication (as well as its small biz sister pub, Inc.)  The Build Network website is a source for events, the publication, picking the brains of experts, and connecting with colleagues.  We're watching this "mission" closely for added functionality, because right now it's a little one-dimensional.  But, as a first effort, it's worth noting.

4.  It's easy to navigate and use.  We're not fans of the dumbed down economy, but we like to be able to access what we need quickly.  No flaming hoops, no speed bumps.  Build is composed of three main sections, visual cues, color-coding, prominent headings -- how easy do you need it?  It could only be easier to read and enjoy the publication and website if it was available as a direct brain upload, ala Johnny Mnemonic.

5.  Last but not least:  It's a gutsy move, based on a well-differentiated strategy.  How many publishers do you know who are putting out new magazines in the B2B space?  In print?  The answer is pretty much zero.  Publishing has been sinking into the same tar pit in which conferences and events have been mired.  The status-quo mentality figured that "Live events are dead, long live the webinar and virtual conferences!"  Not true.

Nobody (outside of folks like SAP's Sapphire team and the UnConference) has bothered to think it through.  Why would someone go to a live event? Same reason they'd go to a live concert -- they're looking for a unique experience!  They're looking for something they can't get on the web.

The same is true of publishing.  Give your readers a unique experience -- something they can't get exclusively on the web -- and you will attract subscribers, advertisers, and partners. Build and the Build Network are striving to become a unique experience.  And we think they're off to an excellent start.

Put Build on your B2B Book List

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Just when we were getting comfortable with Pinterest ...

... along comes Instagram.  Perhaps this is a non sequitur, but in the quest to identify and apply every available tool to better brand out clients we were immediately captivated by this infographic (courtesy of our friends at Marketo) and the compelling uses of Instagram it presents. (And, yes, we know it's enormous).

Got visual content? 
At the rate Instagram is drawing business users from both sides of the table, we all need to be thinking in terms of what we have and how we can share it to our advantage.

Feel free to share this -- we'd love to crank up the volume on this discussion.

What are your thoughts?


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What if We Combine Inbound & Outbound Marketing Tactics?

It's a legitimate question.  But when it was posed recently at a gathering of Social Media purists I felt immediately transported into a scene from Ghostbusters II.  You know, the one in the mayor's office ...

Venkman:  ... a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor:  What do you mean, “biblical”?
Ray:  What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff. 
Venkman:  Exactly.
Ray:  Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.
Egon:  Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes… 
Winston:  The dead rising from the grave.
Venkman:  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

"Dogs and cats living together -- mass hysteria."  There you have it.

Gimme a break. The reality is that over 75% of businesses have found that a cross-channel strategy is the way to go.  Why?  Because different outreach methods are appropriate for different audiences at different stages of The Funnel.

Inbound tactics (content, social, PR, SEO/SEM, AdWords, et al.) are ideal for use at the top of the funnel where Awareness and Interest are generated.
- It's far less expensive than cold calling and list rental.
- The interactive nature of the tools helps develop a relationship with the suspect/prospect.
- Inbound tactics allows more opportunity for sharing info between and among suspects/prospects, increasing probability of referral.
- But, before you drink all the Social Kool-Aid, remember that Advertising can be a highly effective weapon in ultra-competitive markets where the sheer number of impressions can put your brand over the top.
-And just one more anomaly:  Once upon a time e-mails were opened 10X more reliably than USPS mail.  But, recent studies of B2B direct mail vs. e-mail performance show the two approaches neck n' neck in their open rates.

This most excellent funnel diagram was created by Kickstart Alliance (  Kickstart helps companies "Align Marketing and Sales for Results."  We think it's a great reference piece -- hope you do too!
In the Nurturing Phase of the funnel, where Interest hopefully evolves into Preference, many inbound tactics remain effective. Strong, well-built Content Strategy is key here -- whitepapers, case studies, e-books, blog posts, and e-newsletters communicating personalized, high-relevance info and ideas are ideal. And direct contact also becomes necessary -- i.e., Outbound.

As the Nurture Phase progresses tools like mailed/e-mailed content, demos, events, and phone conversations enter the cross-channel mix, and they do so for a reason.  The relationship has to shift from one with a company or product, to one with a person in order to make the hand-off smoothly to Sales.

Inbound tactics are terrific at the top of the funnel, but once you establish a relationship with your future customer (i.e., when they evolve from visitor to lead), a cross-channel mix of outbound and inbound marketing tactics yields the greatest return, leading to higher quality Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).

So here we are -- dogs and cats living together -- without mass hysteria.

Of course you'll have a tough time convincing anyone of this unless you've deployed the right analytics, but that's a posting for another time ...

Monday, July 16, 2012

3 Invitations from B2B Brands

"Do you think if we cut back a little on the dancing, we 
might finish unpacking sooner ... ?"    "Naaaahh!"
Welcome to B2B Brands website and blog.

We're new in town -- still moving in, unpacking, setting up, and building out, but we're glad you stopped by and are pleased to have you.

And we hope that every time you visit, you come away with some data point you can use, something to talk about -- or at least a little food for thought.

As part of our welcome, we would like to extend 3 Invitations to you:

1.  You are cordially invited to visit and return to this site as often as you can/want to/need a diversion.
2.  We invite you to comment or respond to our posts with your own insights and perspective any time.
3.  You have an open invitation to share any of our posts with the rest of the world.  Please Re-Tweet us; post us to Facebook; share us on Google+, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Digg, Delicious -- even Blurpalicious, if you feel so moved.  (And, yup, Blurpalicious is for real).

And there will be more Invitations as we gear up and continue to evolve:
  • Free Subscriptions,
  • Webinars, 
  • Videos, 
  • Events, 
  • LinkedIn Groups, 
  • and even Meetups.
Don't miss a thing.  Come back often and stay as long as you like.  You're welcome here anytime.

See you soon!