SEO: A Changed and Changing Discipline

SEO should play an important role in the marketing department; however, the death of SEO is frequently decried and its obituary written. This is because its role and fit in the overall marketing mix has changed and evolved. Once viewed as a technology play, organic search is often still considered the province of technicians, and is separated from the strategic marketing effort. Given that search often provides the tip of the spear for getting new business, this separation is a huge mistake. Today, SEO must be aligned with and guided by the overall marketing goals. This alignment can be best achieved when the SEO expert is part of the strategic marketing team.

SEO should play an important role in the marketing department; however, the death of SEO is frequently decried and its obituary written. This is because its role and fit in the overall marketing mix has changed and evolved. Once viewed as a technology play, organic search is often still considered the province of technicians, and is separated from the strategic marketing effort. Given that search often provides the tip of the spear for getting new business, this separation is a huge mistake. Today, SEO must be aligned with and guided by the overall marketing goals. This alignment can be best achieved when the SEO expert is part of the strategic marketing team.

SEO itself has changed. Once upon a time, SEO experts were characterized as techies focused on how to beat each new search engine algorithm change. As they say, that game is over. Google claims to have more than 200 ranking elements in play. No matter how good the SEO expert is, accurately determining all 200 elements and interpreting the valence given to each is in the realm of fantasy. Gone are the cat-and-mouse games. Today, SEO is real roll-up-the-sleeves marketing.

Technical SEO still exists, for a site must be found in the search indexes for it to drive traffic from search. Today, technical SEO experts are expected to identify what is preventing a site from being indexed. It may be as simple as a situation that I encountered where a site had been pushed live from the development environment with a robots.txt file still in place that directed search engines not to index the site. Once this block was removed, the site performed just fine. Most situations are far more complex. These are puzzles that require the SEO expert to review the site’s code and understand the total technical environment in which it runs. Given the complexity and technical depth required to do this, it is tempting to consider the SEO expert a technician, but this is just one area of SEO expertise. Today, some SEO experts do nothing but audit sites and troubleshoot what is creating problems.

Organic SEO experts are often characterized as keyword manipulation specialists. Once upon a time, this was a big part of the SEO toolkit. Today, as Google’s processing technology has shifted from keyword matching to a more sophisticated interpretation of the query and how it relates to the user’s intent, the SEO expert has had to look beyond keyword matching. Because Google no longer provides keyword data in the analytics, the SEO expert has to take a different approach. Searchers still use words in their queries, so keywords are far from gone as part of the discipline. Interpreting page and content relevancy are replacing the more simplistic keyword approaches. The SEO expert has evolved into an expert on online user intent: “What did the user really want to find with that query, and is the site relevant?”

With the explosive growth of social media and the realization that users value the opinions of peers more than marketers, the search engines have added elements to their algorithms that allow them to determine whether one site is more trusted and trustworthy than another. This is a potential game-changer, because bad reputation and negative customer ratings are not just an SEO problem. The SEO expert is expected to understand how to enhance the positive and deemphasize the negative. Poor reputation is a marketing problem.

Gone are the days of the SEO expert as just a technician and a traffic driver. Today’s SEO practitioner should be a valuable part of the total marketing team and a key player in the development of the marketing strategies and tactics that will lead the business to success. Is your SEO expert still waiting for an invitation?

How to Create a LinkedIn Social Selling Strategy

What is your LinkedIn social selling strategy? If you don’t have one—or your sales team isn’t generating leads on LinkedIn—you’re not alone. In fact, most dealers and reps are mimicking the mistakes of marketers. They’re relying on attraction and influence tactics. Instead, trust your selling instincts to an effective LinkedIn social selling strategy.

What is your LinkedIn social selling strategy? If you don’t have one—or your sales team isn’t generating leads on LinkedIn—you’re not alone. In fact, most dealers and reps are mimicking the mistakes of marketers.

They’re relying on attraction and influence tactics. Instead, trust your selling instincts to an effective LinkedIn social selling strategy.

Avoid what we already know doesn’t work: influencing. Help your reps start provoking prospects. The key to unlocking more appointments is compelling prospects to share pains and ambitions sellers can work with—not hoping to influence them into action.

Why Your Sellers Are Failing
A sales rep or dealer’s LinkedIn profile can be a lead generation magnet. Likewise, groups, direct messages and InMail can be too. So why are sellers experiencing such poor results?

LinkedIn experts keep pushing techniques that FAIL. Not because they’re bad people. Because their ideas are simple to execute. Too simple.

“I think it is so unprofessional when people just keep regurgitating or recycling articles that they wrote in the past or sharing links over and over to try to gain interest,” says Mike Reed. Mike is a front line rep for a client of mine who’s asked to not be named.

This is why most sellers fail. They’re going to modern-day battle with pitchforks being sold by self-appointed experts. Many of which have never sold anything!

“Next thing I know is that seller or subject is now being seen as credible (by their superiors) just because they are constantly in regurgitating information,” laments Reed.

And the beat goes on. Monkey see, monkey do—we fail more.

What You REALLY Don’t Have Time For
I know many sellers say, “I don’t have time to invest in a LinkedIn social selling strategy.” My clients tell me this daily. Plus, most don’t know what to do with it—and how to go about it.

The result is reps doing as little as possible of what is as easy as possible.

What you REALLY don’t have time for is techniques that are easy to do—that fail!

  • Promoting content in updates and in Groups
  • Adding rich media to your profile
  • Being seen as an expert in Groups

Fail, fail, fail.

Dump Attraction and Influence as Goals
The first step to setting your LinkedIn social selling strategy is to disregard success metrics coming from today’s LinkedIn gurus. Your sellers must reach beyond grabbing attention of buyers or trying to influence them. They must reach beyond:

  • teaching connections something new—so reputation rises
  • counting number of views and comments on posts/updates
  • applying a personal view to company-supplied content when posting

After all, how can “improved reputation” a meaningful outcome for a rep?

Today’s top social sellers know—they cannot afford to live like marketers. They don’t get paid to broadcast on social media and hope for attention and engagement.

Sellers get paid when we engage in ways that move us down the sales funnel—closer to a closed deal.

That’s why your goal must be direct provocation of prospects that connects to a lead capture and nurturing process.

Start Asking These Questions
Need a LinkedIn social selling strategy that empowers reps with the right tools? We’ve got to start asking better questions of experts, consultants and sales trainers.

Questions like HOW, exactly, does:

  • promoting content shorten selling cycles?
  • adding rich media to a profile create leads?
  • being seen as an expert lead to more appointments being set?

Your team isn’t failing because they’re slow or stupid with LinkedIn prospecting. Nor are you a laggard for not having a LinkedIn social selling strategy. If you’re still reading you’re ready to take action on my call to action.

Make sure your dealers and reps don’t mimic B-to-B marketers. Trust your selling instincts. Let them guide your LinkedIn prospecting strategy.

Help your reps start provoking prospects to take action and arm them with content that scratches customers itches—in ways that generate more appointments for sellers. Let me know how it’s going or if you have questions in comments!

Sales: That’s How Social Media Beats ‘Big Data’

The truth is your target market probably has five big objections you must overcome to win them over—to earn a new customer relationship or grow an account. If you’re a smart marketer (and I know you are) you’ve got to ask yourself: How will this new “big data” trend help me overcome these objections and sell more, more often? Can big data help you get the job done? Should you invest in it with this expectation?

The truth is your target market probably has five big objections you must overcome to win them over—to earn a new customer relationship or grow an account. If you’re a smart marketer (and I know you are) you’ve got to ask yourself: How will this new “big data” trend help me overcome these objections and sell more, more often?

Can big data help you get the job done? Should you invest in it with this expectation?

I’ve been the biggest social media skeptic I know. Yet, I’m living proof: Social media has the power to help a B-to-B brand create leads and sales like few other sales or marketing tools can—even better than big data which, at its core, amounts to educated guessing. I dare say the rush toward big data sometimes feels like another solution looking for a problem!

Social Rocks at Overcoming Objections of Customers
At risk of bursting your big data bubble … your customers likely have the below objections and your butt is on the line to get more prospects past them. Your prospective customer does not:

  • Understand your thing (product or service)
  • Want to value your thing
  • Believe YOU—that your thing will do what you claim
  • Think they can actually DO what you want them to take action on (use your thing to create the needed result)
  • Feel like they can afford it

What’s the common element that could solve the above problem? What’s the killer ingredient that changes everything for your prospect?

Confidence.

Confidence + Trust = Leads
The key to effective B-to-B selling has always been helping customers believe, not in the product, but in themselves—so much that they pull the trigger and buy. Social marketing offers powerful tools to:

  1. create irresistible curiosity in your product or service;
  2. help customers get confident—help them feel like they CAN get what they want, on time, without any heads rolling and even with a sense of joy and accomplishment.

Even more exciting, once customers believe in themselves, they trust the source of that confidence. That source can and should be you.

This is where a social selling expert not only shines but brings home the bacon!

Hire Social Selling Experts
Bottom line: What’s being called big data is a lot of hype, in my opinion. We’ve seen it before in the rise of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), for instance. The mad rush into ERP investment has been a huge bust for many businesses. The rush toward big data is dangerously similar. B-to-B marketers have many big data challenges to overcome—from privacy to the idea itself being proven out more substantially.

So you’ve got to ask yourself, “Where should we be investing precious budget dollars?”

If you’re a social media or content marketing believer like me, it’s probably time to do battle with big data. How?

Focus on leads and sales. Hire and/or become a social selling expert. Prove that combining LinkedIn with blogging, Facebook with blogging or YouTube with email can create that needed confidence, break down those barriers to selling stuff and identify precisely when and where customers need help in their lives—better than the unproven idea of big data can!

Realize and take action on how social media enables that critical transference of confidence that helps your target:

  • understand your product or service with total clarity;
  • develop meaningful appreciation for your thing through what you prove to them BEFORE they buy it;
  • trust you—that your product will do what you claim if they buy.

That’s what being a social selling expert is all about. What do you think? Are you a social selling expert?

2013: Year of the Social Selling Expert

If social media and content marketing managers are to survive the meteoric rise of “big data” they’ll need to become social selling experts—pronto. Like any new marketing trend, few can actually agree on what big data is. Yet the drumbeat of its promise is quickening and becoming louder. The role of the CMO is increasingly coming under pressure to techno-fy, automate and focus on bridging the gap between marketing and sales teams.

If social media and content marketing managers are to survive the meteoric rise of “big data” they’ll need to become social selling experts—pronto.

Like any new marketing trend, few can actually agree on what big data is. Yet the drumbeat of its promise is quickening and becoming louder. The role of the CMO is increasingly coming under pressure to techno-fy, automate and focus on bridging the gap between marketing and sales teams.

Facebook, blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn? Inbound marketing, content marketing?

“Yup, we’re on it.”

B-to-B marketers are “just doing it.” Growth is slowing. The love affair with social media and content marketing is nearly over. Everyone’s all gaa-gaa over big data.

Social Media Marketing: A Necessary Evil?
We’ve seen this kind of stagnation before in the days of online affiliate marketing. It didn’t take CEOs and vice presidents very long to go from boasting about how many thousands of affiliates they have to completely ceasing to talk about affiliate marketing.

Suddenly, behind closed doors, executive leaders started calling their affiliate marketing programs “a necessary evil.” Today, it’s a check on a checklist of mundane strategies that aren’t customer acquisition channels at all. At best they’re over-priced customer retention devices.

Social media and content marketing are at risk of suffering a similar fate: not being strategic. Will social media marketing end up being seen as a necessary evil, just another check mark on a list of ho-hum marketing strategies, more ways to spend money?

Said more bluntly: Will you be seen as a money spender or a money-maker in 2013? Will you get caught up in Doug Kessler’s “crap storm” or will your content produce leads and sales?

Because ultimately the difference between content that’s crap and content that isn’t is simple: Its ability to create a business lead.

The Rise of Social Selling Experts
For a select few large brands and small businesses social marketing is surviving and, in fact, thriving—powering businesses forward. These places are where we see today’s social selling experts emerging. These savvy pros see the rise of flash-in-the-pan trends as good news—a time to dig in and create bottom-line impact. Leads and sales.

One such pro is Ed Worthington of Action Business Systems, a provider of document management products and services.

You might be thinking, “Sure, Molander but Ed is a traditional sales professional, I’m a marketer.”

Yes, but that’s precisely the point.

Especially in the world of B-to-B marketing, the last few years has seen the meteoric rise of marketing automation, sales enablement—whatever buzzword term you want to use it amounts to one thing: The bridging of sales and marketing through technology-driven processes.

Today’s most successful online marketers are online SELLERS. These people aren’t afraid to be held accountable for leads and sales. Heck, they thrive on the chance to sing for their supper. They know success is all about applying specific skills like coming up with blog content that creates leads.

Maybe you’re asking, “Why is now the time … why should I be considering rising to the ranks of a social selling expert?”

Because the trend toward investing more on “big data” must be met by big change. If you’re going to keep your job or client relationship (or GROW it) you’ll be wise to become a social selling expert. Reach beyond engagement and become a money-maker, not just a money-spender.

What do you think?

Don’t Get Trashed — Is Recycling Discarded Mail Profitable? — Part II

In our previous post of “Marketing Sustainably,” we introduced an expert discussion on whether or not recycling collection of discarded mail, catalogs, printed communications and paper packaging is profitable, and why this matters is an important business consideration for the direct marketing field. In this post, we continue and conclude the discussion with our two experts, Monica Garvey, director of sustainability, Verso Paper, and Meta Brophy, director of procurement operations, Consumer Reports.

In our previous post of “Marketing Sustainably,we introduced an expert discussion on whether or not recycling collection of discarded mail, catalogs, printed communications and paper packaging is profitable, and why this matters is an important business consideration for the direct marketing field.

In this post, we continue and conclude the discussion with our two experts, Monica Garvey, director of sustainability, Verso Paper, and Meta Brophy, director of procurement operations, Consumer Reports. The conversation is based on a Town Square presentation that took place at the Direct Marketing Association’s recent DMA2012 annual conference.

Chet Dalzell: If much of the recovered fiber goes overseas, what’s the benefit to my company or organization in supporting recycling in North America?

Monica Garvey: The benefit—companies can promote that they support the use of recycled paper because they believe that recovered fiber is a valuable resource that can supplement virgin fiber. Recycling extends the life of a valuable natural resource, and contributes to a company’s socially responsible positioning. While it’s true that the less fiber supply there is locally, the higher the cost for the products made from that recovered fiber domestically, it’s still important to encourage recycling collection. Because recovered fiber is a global commodity, it is subject to demand-and-supply price fluctuations. If demand should drop overseas, and prices moderate, there may be greater supply at more moderate prices here at home, helping North American manufacturers; however, this is very unlikely. RISI, the leading information provider for the global forest products industry, projects that over the next five years, world recovered paper demand will continue to grow aggressively from fiber-poor regions such as China and India. Demand will run up against limited supply of recovered paper in the U.S. and other parts of the developed world and create a growing shortage of recovered paper worldwide.

CD: Is there a way to guarantee that recovered fiber stays at home (in the United States, for example)?

Meta Brophy: Yes! Special partnerships and programs exist that collect paper at local facilities and use the fiber domestically, allocating the recovered paper for specific use. ReMag, for example, is a private firm that places kiosks at local collection points—retailers, supermarket chains—where consumers can drop their catalogs, magazines and other papers and receive discounts, coupons and retailer promotions in exchange. These collections ensure a quality supply of recovered fiber for specific manufacturing uses. It’s a win-win for all stakeholders involved.

I recommend mailers use the DMA “Recycle Please” logo and participate in programs such as ReMag to encourage more consumers to recycle, and to increase the convenience and ease of recycling.

CD: What’s the harm of landfilling discarded paper—there’s plenty of landfill space out there, right?

MG: Landfill costs vary significantly around the country—depending on hauling distances, and the costs involved in operating landfills. In addition, there are also environmental costs. By diverting usable fiber from landfills, we not only extend the useful life of a valuable raw material, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions (methane) that result when landfilled paper products degrade over time. There are also greenhouse gases that are released from hauling post-consumer waste. While carbon emissions may not yet be assessed, taxed or regulated in the United States, many national and global brands already participate in strategies to calculate and reduce their carbon emissions, and their corporate owners may participate in carbon trading regimes.

CD: You’ve brought up regulation, Monica. I’ve heard of “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR) legislation. Does EPR extend to direct marketers in any way?

MG: EPR refers to policy intended to shift responsibility for the end-of-life of products and/or packaging from the municipality to the manufacturer/brand owner. It can be expressed at a state level via specific product legislation, framework legislation, governor’s directive, or a solid waste management plan. EPR has begun to appear in proposals at the state level in the United States. EPR, for better or worse, recognizes that there are costs associated with waste management on all levels—not just landfilling, but waste-to-energy, recycling collection and even reuse.

These waste management costs currently are paid for in our taxes, but governments are looking to divert such costs so that they are paid for by those who actually make and use scrutinized products. Thus EPR can result in increased costs, were states to enact such regulation on particular products such as paper, packaging and electronic and computer equipment. Greatest pressure to enact EPR most likely focuses on products where end-of-life disposition involves hazardous materials where recycling and return programs may make only a negligible difference. Many will state that the natural fibers in paper along with the extremely high recovery rate of 67 percent makes paper a poor choice for inclusion in any state EPR legislation. That is also why the more we support the efficiency and effectiveness of existing recycling collection programs, the less pressure there may be to enact EPR regulations directly. It will likely vary state to state where specific concerns and challenges may exist.

CD: Does the public really care if this material gets recycled? Do they participate in recycling programs?

MB: Yes, they do. Even a public that’s skeptical of “greenwashing”—environmental claims that are suspect, unsubstantiated or less than credible—participates in recycling collection in greater numbers. Both EPA and American Forest & Paper Association data tell us the amount of paper collected is now well more than half of total paper produced, and still growing—despite the recent recession and continued economic uncertainty. Recycling collection programs at the hometown level are politically popular, too—people like to take actions that they believe can make a difference. And as long as the costs of landfilling exceed the costs or possible revenue gain of recycling, it’s good for the taxpayer, too.

CD: At the end of the day, what’s in recycling for my brand, and the direct marketing business overall?

MB: I see at least three direct benefits—and nearly no downside. First, a brand’s image benefits when it embraces social responsibility as an objective. Second, being a responsible steward of natural resources, and promoting environmental performance in a way that avoids running afoul of the Federal Trade Commission’s new Green Guides environmental claims—positions a brand well in practice and public perception. And, third, and I see this firsthand in my own organization, both the employee base and the supply chain are more deeply engaged and motivated as a result, too. Certainly, in the direct marketing business overall, there are similar gains—and I’m excited that the DMA has embraced this goal for our marketing discipline.

Disengage: Create Response (and Sales) With Content Marketing

Does your content marketing create reaction beyond sharing? When using LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs, creating response is critical to netting B-to-B leads and sales. The key to success is getting your target market to take action—moving them off of social media. At some point you’ve got to disengage and get the inbound in the term inbound marketing going!

Does your content marketing create reaction beyond sharing? When using LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs, creating response is critical to netting B-to-B leads and sales. The key to success is getting your target market to take action—moving them off of social media.

At some point you’ve got to disengage and get the inbound in the term inbound marketing going!

Many inbound marketing experts claim being engaging within LinkedIn groups or telling compelling stories on your blog will help you net generate more leads and sales. It’s simply not very effective. In fact, most content marketing plans fail because popular wisdom the practice is fatally flawed.

Before you can net a lead, you’ve got to create confidence in potential buyers with social media. This is an exciting, effective, new way to generate business leads with social media. But where to start?

How can you start creating response-right now-without investing more time in what you’re already doing?

How to Create Response-Now!
If telling compelling, transparent, authentic stories about your brand won’t help you make sales what are you to do? Trash the idea totally? Never. All that’s needed is this to make those remarkable stories you’re telling actionable.

You’ve got to give prospects a compelling reason to ask for more content in exchange for qualitative information about them. Because when they do that they become part of your sales funnel.

I know it’s fashionable to say marketers are publishers but the truth is you’re not in the publishing business at all. You’re in the response business. Not the reaction business (ie. getting shared) but the response business (getting leads).

The success formula is quite simple.

Step 1: Create content that solves a problem.
Step 2: Locate and/or attract qualified discussions.
Step 3: Lure prospects into taking an action that connects to your sales funnel.

Create the Honey: Useful Content
Pick an itch your customer has and scratch it with blog, video or some other form of content. Solve a common problem that relates to the end goal your customer is pursuing, for instance. Whether you’re a service or product marketer, this is the best content for blogs or any B-to-B content marketing vehicle you publish.

In my case, I published a handful of stories and audio interviews on my site featuring a niche subject matter expert. My guest told readers/listeners how to take action on a burning problem-one that related to a specific solution I sell.

The idea is to use content to give confidence to buyers. The trick is to do it in ways that increase their ability to feel emotionally grounded and intellectually stronger-fully equipped to do what they want to do. Buy.

Attract the Bees
Next, simply locate and/or attract qualified “conversations” with prospects. You can hunt them down inside LinkedIn groups or blog in ways that attract search engine traffic based on questions (keywords) your prospects are asking.

In my case, I decided to begin using LinkedIn for sales prospecting. I spotted a discussion on a niche LinkedIn Group where I answered a question in a way that “brought to life” the specific valuable answers my guest expert was offering… but not in the usual way.

Provoke an Action
I did not link back to my content; rather, I quoted my expert’s best sound byte. He was honestly provocative because he shared a new perspective and unique remedy. It then became easy for me to invite my prospects to join me on a journey… one where they would receive more useful content if they opted-in.

Of course, this moved them toward (or away from) my solution.

Remember, in B-to-B marketing you’ve got to go beyond telling a good story. Start netting leads by creating content that is provocative-compelling enough to cause prospects to sign up for more content they’re craving. It can be a webinar, ebook, downloadable tip sheet, self-assessment or educational video series (like free sales training videos) that solves a common problem or addresses a popular fear or myth.

Good luck!

Virtual Retailer Roundtable TOMORROW!

I wanted to let you know about a great event our sister publication Retail Online Integration is launching tomorrow. It’s the first of four monthly Retailer Roundtable Virtual Conversations we’re hosting this year. The series is comprised of monthly, 45-minute virtual audio chats revolving around a different retail marketing topic each month. Panels of retail experts will make up the roundtables each month.

I wanted to let you know about a great event our sister publication Retail Online Integration is launching tomorrow. It’s the first of four monthly Retailer Roundtable Virtual Conversations we’re hosting this year. The series is comprised of monthly, 45-minute virtual audio chats revolving around a different retail marketing topic each month. Panels of retail experts will make up the roundtables each month.

This month’s conversation, scheduled to take place Sept. 17 at 12 p.m. EST, is called “Using Social Media To Rev Up Holiday Sales.”

During the event, hosted by Bronto Software, you’ll hear from our expert retail panel, which includes Jeffrey Grau, senior analyst, eMarketer; Valerie Hoecke, vice president of experience and commerce at Benefit Cosmetics; and Jay Steinfeld, CEO/founder of Blinds.com. The panel will discuss how to incorporate social media and social networking strategies into your retail holiday promotion plans, ultimately helping you reap more profits.

You’ll learn the following:

  • best practices around offering special holiday deals to your fans and followers;
  • how to entice your fans and followers to see what’s new on your website, sign up to become a member and stick around to buy;
  • how to create a holiday social media strategy; and
  • so much more.

There will be a live Q&A session during the hour, so come armed with questions. You’ll be able to submit your questions directly to our panelists. We also encourage you to tweet about the event via the hastag #ROIWebinar.

Can’t wait to “see” you there!

Melissa Campanelli
@RetailOnlineMag