Weekly Round-Up: 23-Oct-2009

It’s a big world out there in the content-marketing/social media/B2B blogosphere, so we would like to save your time by rounding up the best posts and articles of the week. We highlight a take-home point of each post, giving you a snapshot of what thought leaders and influencers are saying.

Dare to Give a Case Study Customer a Deadline?

Author : Casey Hibbard

Casey Hibbard writes “Customers can turn a story around in a day or take months”.  Many times, publishing case studies is based on a deadline.  Casey has highlighted the subtleties of how to push the customer to act upon a deadline.

3 Ways for Businesses to Take Full Advantage of Facebook

Author : John Jantsch

John Jantsch outlines three approaches on how to use Facebook for your business.  Managing Business Accounts, Fan pages and personal accounts based on your requirements.

Custom Publishing Budgeting – Providing Some Answers

Author : Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pullizzi has posted an article that highlights the budgeting issues of content publishing.  He wraps up with a little story as to how your small and frequent investments can become unified. Joe Pullizzi summarizes: “Over time, as resources and budget allow, your content investment will make all the little in-between connections so that you end up with a content marketing strategy that is a unified whole.”

How to Lay a Solid Foundation for Marketing Success

Author : Stephanie Tilton

Gartner has published a report entitled “Marketing Essentials: Marketing Activity Cycle for High-Tech and Telecom Providers.”  Tthe report discusses five phases of Marketing activity cycle.  The five phases are: examine, plan, execute, communicate and evaluate.  Stephanie Tilton has drilled into “examine” phase which is the most crucial phase for the success of marketing activities.  Assessing Market, competition and understanding the customer are three areas to focus on the examine phase.

How to Craft an Effective Corporate White Paper Strategy

Author : Jonathan Kantor

Here is a common question – “How to Craft an effective corporate white paper strategy?”. Jonathan Kantor has explained in a more pictorical way, the three types of white papers that form a highly effective corporate strategy.

What other posts have you come across that you can share ?

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Aggregating the Best Content in B2B Marketing

The pace at which content is being added to the web has increased dramatically and so has the value of aggregating the best.  How will the content aggregation landscape change in the next few years? What will the impact on content aggregation be as the semantic web starts to really take off? We have invited Tony Karrer to share his insights on content aggregation.

Dr. Tony Karrer is CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm based in Los Angeles, and is considered one of the top technologists in e-Learning. He has twenty years’ experience as a CTO. Dr. Karrer taught Computer Science for eleven years. He has been the CTO for several start-ups, most notably eHarmony. His work in social media, e-Learning and Performance Support has won awards and has led him into engagements at many Fortune 500 companies. Dr. Karrer was valedictorian at Loyola Marymount University, attended the University of Southern California as a Tau Beta Pi fellow, one of the top 30 engineers in the nation, and received a M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science. He is a frequent speaker at industry and academic events.

Tony Karrer

Website TechEmpower Blog eLearningTech & SoCalCTO  Twitter TonyKarrer

Topic hubs are critical for 95% of the audience that doesn’t have time to track individual sources.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Tony, it is a great pleasure to have you discuss your ideas on content aggregation and visible networking with us. Thanks for finding time out of your very busy schedule to provide your valuable insights to our readers. Tell us about Browse My Stuff and B2B Marketing Zone?
Tony Karrer: Browse My Stuff is an aggregator and filter that allows you to create topic hubs that focus on particular topics. B2B Marketing Zone is a topic hub that I created with Tom Pick that covers B2B Marketing. Tom Pick and I really didn’t see anyone who was specifically focused on B2B  marketing. B2B marketers have specific needs and content interests that are very different from consumer brand managers or B2C internet marketers. The goal of the site is to be a way to find the best content from great sources like Tom Pick on the topic. And I partially created it to be able to learn from people like Tom Pick.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Your career/background is very interesting. You have worked in multiple industries(IT, Services, eLearning, Internet etc). How has this vast experience shaped your thinking about business and marketing?
Tony Karrer: It’s fun to work across a wide variety of industries and types of companies.  It’s surprising how common a lot of the issues are.  And I’m able to draw from my experiences to help companies.  I’m a pretty fast learner and love new challenges, so it fits my style really well.  I also have an incredible network of experts that help me when I need to get smart and figure out good solutions in new situations.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What prompted you to embark on putting together Browse My Stuff and the  B2B Marketing Zone? Describe the B2B Marketing Zone journey so far.
Tony Karrer: Browse My Stuff came out of my experience as a blogger. I would go to speak to a pretty large audience at an event and only a few people in the audience were subscribers to my blog. And I would be saying things in the presentation that I had written about six months earlier. I’ve found that 95% of the potential audience in any space can’t really spend the time to subscribe to individual blogs. Yet as a blogger, I knew the other good bloggers. We had a loose network. And we all wanted to reach that other 95%. So, that really was the genesis of the system.

The B2B Marketing Zone came because I personally wanted to learn more about the topic and wanted to have good relationships with bloggers in the space.  In the world of B2B Marketing, I’m actually one of the 95% who can’t spend the time subscribing to individual blogs. Instead, I rely on Tom Pick‘s curation and the social filtering to deliver me the best stuff.

The result of doing this has been really interesting.  We have new topic hubs cropping up all the time.  I’m learning a lot about aggregation, filtering, long tail SEO. And I believe we’ve built something with real value far beyond the initial genesis.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What is behind the Browse My Stuff technology?
Tony Karrer: My company, TechEmpower, has built and owns the Browse My Stuff technology.  We are using it with lots of clients and partners at this point.  I’m still deciding what it will be when it fully grows up.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What are goals for Browse My Stuff and the B2B Marketing Zone?
Tony Karrer: There are really two different answers here.  For the B2B Marketing Zone, Tom Pick and I want to create a great site that attracts top-notch B2B bloggers as contributors, and attracts B2B marketers and other executives on the strength of the content.
In terms of Browse My Stuff, I believe that there are going to be a lot of ways this will provide value.  There’s so much great content being created – often far better than you can get in a trade publication.  But the challenge is how does this get to the person who needs it?  How does it get filtered?  Topic Hubs are part of the answer to that.
Because of the SEO effect and the smart aggregation and filtering, I believe this has real value to:

  • Associations, Nonprofits and Causes in that it can bring together existing, but scattered content.  It can use member activity to help filter.  Provide a valuable resource to members.  And attract new visitors.
  • B2B and B2C Advertisers and Social Media Marketers can use it to bring together various content sources from their own sites or from related third party sites, to provide a rich set of content that will attract new eyeballs.  It also is a great vehicle for blogger outreach.  It allows you to become the hub in a space very quickly.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Who is your poster child (most popular topic hub) for Browse My Stuff?
Tony Karrer: It’s the eLearning Learning site.  This site gets about 60,000 visitors a month and is constantly growing subscribers.  It’s also the farthest along in terms of attracting Curators Editors and Researchers.  But I’m also very happy about the results for Develop Mentor and Fantasy World which both generate significant and valuable traffic for those B2B and B2C sites.  And with Southern California Tech Central which generates great traffic for that association and the associated bloggers.  Whoops and of course, the B2B Marketing Zone.  Wow, that was almost like forgetting your wife when you are getting an award and thanking people. 🙂
Ambal Balakrishnan: How do you recommend marketers engage in interesting conversations with prospects and customers? 
Tony Karrer: What’s been really interesting for me personally as I’ve used social media to build my reputation and reach/serve customers is that I’m able to first and foremost think of this as an extension of natural conversations that I would already have.  Recently, I’ve started making this even more explicit with my concept of visible networking.  If I just take and make my conversations visible, then it not only helps the people I’m talking to, but it helps to build my network, grow my subscriber base, etc. And if you don’t believe me, take a look at Tom Peters and Seth Godin (who know a little about marketing) talking about blogging in Nothing More Important in my Life Than Blogging.
What’s really required then are people who are interested in learning, engaging in the conversation.  That might not be a pure marketing person.  Instead it may be someone from product management or technology.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What upcoming challenges with Browse My Stuff keep you awake at night?
Tony Karrer: What keeps me up at night is that every time I turn around, I find new places where Browse My Stuff adds value.  However, I’ve not really decided where I’m going to take it.  I’m grappling with a few different business models.  And trying to decide what will make the most sense.  But I’m convinced there’s high value and there’s some real differentiation.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What are you 3 predictions for how content aggregation will happen in 2010 and beyond?
Tony Karrer: The challenge is simple.  There are way too many different content creators for any of us to really be able to find and keep track of it all.  Topic hubs with their aggregation and filtering are critical to making sense of it – especially for the 95% of the audience that doesn’t have time to track individual sources.  Thus, I think we are going to see all kinds of new forms of aggregation and filtering.  As the semantic web starts to really take off, this will get more interesting.  And I believe that the real-time web is also going to have an impact.  But all of this just continues to add to the complexity and the need for content aggregation.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What kind of projects (both professional and personal) are you involved in when you are not writing or blogging, speaking, consulting or building your business?
Tony Karrer: I spend most of my time working with either very large companies on their use of technology to improve human and business performance or as an Acting CTO in Startups.  Right now I’m more busy with startups.  I generally have 3-5 active at any one point in time.  As I’m writing this, I’m about to sit down with an early stage startup that’s looking at a B2C play that has eLearning aspects to it.  They are not a client, but I think they have high potential.  Fun stuff. Read my post: How I Spend My Time. 🙂

Ambal Balakrishnan: Tony, thanks for taking the time to sharing your insights with us.
Tony Karrer: Thanks Ambal. I welcome our continued conversation.

You can subscribe to B2B Marketing Zone here

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Five Ways to Have Fun with Boring Content

If you’re dreading writing about a particular subject and don’t know where to start, one coping strategy is to inject something fun into it. Do yourself and your readers a favour and find a fun way to present your topic.

Here are some ideas:

Capitalize on mistakes: Rather than sitting down to write ANOTHER blog post advising how people should do something, turn it around and tell people what NOT to do. You can even share some of your own stumbles – who doesn’t love an embarrassing story? This style can apply to so many subjects, like What Not to Do When Starting Out as a Freelancer. Variations: The 10 most common mistakes on X, or the seven deadly sins of X.

Dear sir: When you’re in the mood to take a stand or vent about something, write an open letter. This format allows you to personally address a particular person or party about something you’d like to change. Here’s An Open Letter to Steve Jobs: Fix Apple TV and an Open Letter to Recent College Graduates.

A bluffer’s guide to X. This format is intended to read like an FAQ on a particular subject, giving people enough information so that they can hold an intelligent conversation on the topic. Variation: A beginner’s guide to X, or X topic made easy.

Go Hollywood: Tie your content to a current movie or character that people can relate to, like a Wild Thing’s guide to parenting, or Mad Men’s top 10 strategies for advertising. Copyblogger’s Brian Clark has a very popular post called The Inigo Montoya Guide to Commonly Misused Words. Inigo Montoya is a character from The Princess Bride, one of Clark’s favourite movies.

Go Reality Show: Another twist on the same idea is to use the concept of a popular show like American Idol or, if you want to create buzz, get a group of people together for a contest called So You Think You Can Blog?

Make it delicious: Everyone likes to eat, right? So put a food spin on your content, even if it has nothing to do with food. Take the subject of writing a press release, for example. The title could be: How to bake the perfect press release or The secret ingredient to a mouthwatering press release, or How to bake a press release that will have everyone asking for seconds.

How do you make writing more fun?

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Connect Direct’s High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook

The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook is packed with 65 tips and techniques on demand generation strategy. We have invited Howard J. Sewell, the author of  The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook to  get an insider look into the making of this Handbook.

Howard J. Sewell is president and founder of Connect Direct Inc. (CDI), a full-service agency with offices in Seattle and Silicon Valley specializing in demand generation and lead management for high-technology companies.  Prior to founding CDI in 1990, Howard was a marketing manager for software giant Oracle Corporation.  When not running his company and working with clients, he is a frequent contributor to online publications on demand generation, lead nurturing, social media, and other topics, and also writes his agency’s blog, Direct Connections.

Howard J. Sewell

Blog Direct Connections Twitter HJSewell

Ambal Balakrishnan: Howard, it is a great pleasure to discuss your ‘High-Tech Direct Marketing HandBook’. Thanks for finding time out of your very busy schedule to provide your valuable insights to our readers. Tell us about what Connect Direct does?
Howard J. Sewell: Connect Direct Inc. (CDI) is a full-service marketing agency specializing in demand generation and lead management.  In layman’s terms, we help technology companies generate and manage sales leads.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Give us the background of how you gained an interest in B2B Marketing and more specifically in High-Tech Direct Marketing?
Howard J. Sewell: I worked in high-tech sales for a few years after college but always knew I wanted to move into marketing.  I was fortunate enough to land the perfect transitional role – marketing manager for a sales organization – at Oracle, and found my way into their in-house direct marketing agency.  I’ve been a direct marketer ever since, and eventually left Oracle to start my own firm.  That was 19 years ago and we’re still going strong.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What prompted you to embark on creating an ebook for High-Tech Direct Marketing?
Howard J. Sewell: The ebook’s origins lie in an monthly email newsletter I wrote for 10 years on high-tech direct marketing, a newsletter that eventually became our blog, Direct Connections.  10 years in I was sitting on more than 100 tips on high-tech direct marketing, and our creative director at the time had the idea of turning them into a handbook.  We shipped hundreds of copies in hard copy form before converting it to an ebook this year.

In all candor, the handbook has always been intended to be an offer.  It’s a way to introduce people to our company and our way of thinking in the hope that somewhere along the line the reader will have a need for our services.  In the process, hopefully we help educate people a little by sharing some of what we’ve learned in 19 years.  I think people appreciate the fact that the handbook isn’t a brochure – I often hear from people who have a dog-eared copy by their desk at all times!
Ambal Balakrishnan: Who is ‘The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook’ addressed towards?
Howard J. Sewell: For the most part, the tips contained in the book are practical techniques rather than high-level strategy.  Because of that, the person who will gain the most from the book is the person “in the trenches,” someone chartered with developing, designing, and executing lead generation programs for their company.

Ambal Balakrishnan: How is the High-Tech Marketing landscape different than what it was a decade back?
Howard J. Sewell: By far the biggest shift has been the shift from outbound to inbound marketing.  Ten years ago most of CDI’s business was comprised of email and direct mail campaigns based on list rentals.  We defined an audience, found a list that met that profile, and blasted our message to that list.  Now it’s all about leveraging vehicles like social media to drive inbound leads, and then nurturing those leads over time until they have a need for what you do.  Lead management will probably be half our business this year.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What is one change you recommend for businesses to do better in their High-Tech Direct Marketing initiatives?
Howard J. Sewell: It still amazes me how many high-tech marketing plans, even in Silicon Valley, revolve around campaigns and programs.  I call it “Program-Centric Planning.”  It’s as if pushing campaigns out the door is more important than the results those campaigns generate.  It makes far more sense to quantify the results you need and then plan programs accordingly, rather than plan campaigns and hope they get you where you need to be.
Ambal Balakrishnan: What are the 3 key lessons you want readers to take away from ‘The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook’?
Howard J. Sewell:

  1. Sell the offer, not the product.
  2. Don’t focus all your energy on generating hot leads.  Cast a wide net, build a lead nurturing strategy, and the hot leads will happen.
  3. Plan.  Don’t just execute.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Please recommend 3-5 resources (books, blogs).
Howard J. Sewell:

  • I read Mashable’s daily newsletter every morning. It’s a great way to keep abreast of the changing social media landscape.
  • Steve Farnsworth is a former client, a good friend, and an expert in high-tech marketing and social media.  One of the best Twitter feeds out there: @Steveology.  (26,000 followers can’t be wrong.)
  • Check out Michael Damphousse’s blog, B2B Demand Generation.  Mike is someone whose opinion I really respect. (It helps that I agree with him 90% of the time.)

Ambal Balakrishnan: Howard, thanks for taking the time to discuss your eBook and sharing your B2B Marketing insights with us.
Howard J. Sewell: Thanks Ambal.

You can download Connect Direct Inc. (CDI)‘s ‘High-Tech Direct Marketing HandBook’ here.

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