What B2B Communicators Can Learn from Bruce Lee

 

This weekend my son and daughter stayed up late with me and we stumbled upon the TV movie, “I Am Bruce Lee.” The three of us were mesmerized by the flow of the show and biography of Lee. It was a great documentary about his life and philosophy and as I watched it there were some great analogies to use for B2B communicators.

Here are a few quotes from Bruce Lee that hopefully make you think a little differently about how you approach your B2B efforts.

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
Bruce Lee

What type of goals have you set for yourself and your organization and how often are you reviewing them? Are they about sales and lead generation? Or do you focus mostly on getting content right? Do you view your goals as an end point or as a way to build on your progress? In my opinion, both are correct, but you need to have a goal and work toward what you want to achieve. It’s just as important to define goals for a team as much as it is for a major project. My advice is to make the time to write down what it is you want as a result of your work and share that with the people who need to know.

“To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”
Bruce Lee

In today’s digital world taking risks can be rewarding or punishing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them, but you need to assess them properly. As things move more quickly and B2B content is driven by more people on the move via mobile devices, you should try to focus on making your message more shareable and assess the risks properly. But at the end of the day are you simply creating things to create them or are you focused on building opportunities? For example, does your brand’s Twitter feed create a community or just push out links?bruce lee

“I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.”

Bruce Lee

 

“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

Bruce Lee

It’s great (and easy) to benchmark against so many other brands today. Keep in mind that your efforts — whether digital or not — need to fit within the brand and culture of your own organization. If you decide to copy or emulate another company and what they are doing try to make it fit with what you are trying to do, otherwise you won’t be fooling anyone but yourself. Here’s a look at the most recent B2B benchmark study from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute.

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
Bruce Lee

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

Bruce Lee

 

We saw a lot of changes in 2013 in content marketing, metrics and lead generation, so knowing what you want to achieve in 2014 can be difficult to define sometimes and we already know the landscape will change — from the tools you use to the new competitors. As a leader of your team are your efforts flexible too? If you’re not the leader of the team are you building ideas and selling them internally? One major change coming is the CMO CIO Alignment Imperative that Accenture researched. How are you handling that? Exploring big and small ideas will continue to be important. There are lots of tales of brands that remained inflexible and resisted change, so learn from their lessons and try to build change into your regular routine. If you don’t, your competition will.

“Be happy, but never satisfied.~

Bruce Lee

You should take pride in your work and what you accomplish and be motivated to find new ways to inspire. The B2B landscape can be extremely competitive and the sales cycle very long. With the resources we now have available from blogs, on Twitter, via YouTube and more we can continue to learn and improve on our past performance.

This is my last post for the year and here’s a look back at the most popular posts. Once again, thank you for reading and sharing all of the things you felt were helpful. Have a great Christmas and see you in 2014.

 

A Look Back at 2013

With the continued rise of digital in 2013 some of the themes and posts here reflected what many people were asking: How do I create and manage content? With so much data coming in what matters most? Where should we focus our efforts? What’s next?

With so many changes in resources, data and issues B2B communicators in 2013 needed to constantly be looking for ways to leverage digital.

With so many changes in resources, data and issues B2B communicators in 2013 needed to constantly be looking for ways to leverage digital.

Here’s a look back at the top posts from 2013:

Do B2B Companies Need Social Media?

Craft Work: What’s Your B2B Expertise? 

Can B2B Brands Inspire?

How B2B Brands Can Leverage Events

What’s Ahead? The Changing Role of Communications

A Manifesto for B2B Communicators

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

What Does Twitter’s IPO Mean for B2B Communicators?

Other Voices: An Interview with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs

Thank you again for your continued readership and interest in B2B Voices.

 

 

 

 

Stop Ignoring This Valuable Piece of Content

There has been much ado about content — from curation to evaluation – and the rapid rise of content management is no mistake. Content has become central to so many B2B brands.

When you build your content you need to focus on your boilerplate as well.

When you build your content you need to focus on your boilerplate as well.

But content isn’t just about the heavy lifting pieces of text around thought leadership or trends/issues. It can also come in small but significant pieces of text. Like your company boilerplate. Yes, your boilerplate should be a key part of your content strategy. Why? For two reason.

  1. It tells the story of who you are and what your company does that should be embedded throughout all that you write and communicate about your company.
  2. It’s everywhere (or should be). It’s that one paragraph you produce that gets shared everywhere: your website, brochures, social media, email and over the newswire over and over and over and over.

I’m not going to give you ideas on how to write your boilerplate. If you want that advice you should read these three posts:

How to Write an Effective Boilerplate — Diane Rose

How to Make Your Boilerplate Sizzle — Jeremy Porter

Build Better Press Releases — Stacey Miller

So, when was the last time your read your company’s boilerplate? Maybe now is a good time to read it again.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read these:

Keeping Your Messages Connected

LinkedIn Showcase Pages Put More Focus on Customers

I’m a long-time believer in using LinkedIn Groups to create communities for B2B brands. In fact, I’ve been using the group pages for more than six years to post content, connect our people with customers and focus on building conversations. During that time, I’ve noticed that not all groups are created equal; some have very good, active dialogues, while others just linger in a one-way discussion.

LinkedIn adds Showcase pages.

LinkedIn adds Showcase pages.

I’ve always believed that LinkedIn is a great platform for targeted, private discussion groups. Making groups private helps to target topics around specific issues, keep out competition and vendors, and allows you to treat these forums like your own focus group.

But LinkedIn’s new Showcase pages now complement the groups, helps to clear up the clutter on company pages, but could ultimately end up competing with – and possibly ending – most company group pages. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as we try to navigate our way through and manage the growing amount of content on LinkedIn.

I’m excited about this latest offering from LinkedIn since it can help narrow the conversations and topics, which ultimately is what a good B2B sales or marketing person needs to do. Here are my four reasons why I like the new Showcase pages:

  1. The administration feature allows multiple stakeholders to own and manage these groups. B2B companies can now provide multiple owners to pages, which makes sense as social media grows in importance. In addition, well-organized B2B companies will leverage product, marketing and communications teams to oversee showcase pages. This continues to showcase the need for B2B companies to better organize and manage content across functional disciplines.
  2. The sponsored post option is a major bonus at targeting customers by region, title, company and industry. LinkedIn continues to win the B2B marketing game as it focuses on connecting buyers to sellers and sellers to buyers better than any other social platform.
  3. As Mashable points out, Showcase pages allow companies to narrow content onto a specific product or offering and target end users. More targeted content should lead to more insights into what people want from your brand and marketing content, and should allow you to better track what you are trying to measure. And the simple “Follow” or “Unfollow” button makes it easy to start/stop seeing the feed. It’s a small feature, but is definitely more easy than joining or un-joining a LinkedIn group, and face it, any way to make the user experience easier is a plus.
  4. While several posts have pointed out here and here that this is a great way for brands to build content, I actually take the view that this is betters news for customers. Which is the point, isn’t it? This move from LinkedIn actually makes it easier for customers to follow the content they actually want from B2B brands. So, yes, it does help companies, but over time the real focus moves toward connecting with customers. And that’s exactly the point LinkedIn was trying to make.

So far I really like what I see in terms of the ease of use, the consistent look with Company Pages, and the focus on having an easy end-user and brand experience. Like any new social iteration, it will take time to figure out how to leverage the pages and make them of use to your customers. Should you do them across every product line? Or just your services? Do you even need them? And how will you build awareness and community around them? These are all questions you should be thinking about in the coming weeks as B2B companies roll out Showcase page.

Now I’m just hoping LinkedIn would bring back its event/calendar feature — I guess I can’t have everything — but there are alternatives.

We continue to get inundated with new technologies and platforms  As a reminder, my golden rule is do a few things and do them well. You will be better served as an organization and a professional by doing so.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

Keeping Your Messages Connected

Can B2B Brands Inspire?

CME Group Builds Impact on LinkedIn Using Exclusive Groups

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

How to Think Like a Content Manager

There was a great post I read last week from Gary Vaynerchuk. You can read it in its entirety here, but if you don’t have the time the headline says it all: You’re All Media Companies. Content and your brand are one. And guess what? More brands are investing more in content.

If you didn’t read what Armano had to say about content archetypes. He points out that there are three drivers changing how we spend our time and attention, and because of these drivers he outlines five ways we need to think about content. It’s a fantastic post.

And as this joint study by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute point out:

B2B marketers are becoming confident in creating content, both owned and supported by the brand, enlisting everything from videos, books, articles, how-to guides and infographics.

So what are you doing? As the year comes to an end this may be a good time to rethink how you will take on 2014. I’ve written my thoughts about content management before but wanted to reemphasize some thoughts on how to think more like a content manager.

Content is everywhere. How are you managing it?

Content is everywhere. How are you managing it?

Internal collaboration is critical; build a team. Your organization is too vast and too complex to do it on your own. Use content management to open doors internally to each department and build relationships. People internally want their story told and will work with you so this is your opportunity. In addition, build out a team of experts with different talents. Our team includes individuals with unique talents for analytics,  graphics, web, mobile and business continuity. Find your content superheroes. You will benefit tremendously as an organization by ensuring you have different people represented from different departments.
Leverage partners and vendors. Third parties tell your story better than anyone else. Are they not a part of your strategy? Connect with them and leverage them. Remember, you are helping them as well.
Repetition is not just okay, but required. In fact, read what Forbes has discovered — more than half of its monthly traffic is to content that is older than 30 days. The same is likely happening with your content. How will you reuse your content? Think about ways that you can do this; from news and trends stories to building ongoing campaigns around key business issues.
Know your content influencers (inside and out). You need to know who matters most to building your content (internal) and who can help spread it (external). This will take time, so invest the time.
Benchmark against other industries for ideas. Knowing what your competition is doing is important, but don’t be afraid to look elsewhere at other industries for ideas as to what works and what doesn’t. There are an abundance of case studies online so take the time to learn from others.
Measure your success (and failure). There’s not enough that can be said about data and measuring influence. Make it a part of your daily habit. And make sure you are asking the right questions.
Content is becoming more strategic to advertising, brand management, communications and marketing and often cross the borders of all four disciplines. It is a topic you will continue to hear about as more companies think like media companies to distribute messaging and influence key stakeholders. Having a plan of action for your content, by department, function and organization, is becoming more important and vital not just to the success of communications but to the success of the business.

A Manifesto for B2B Communicators

I carry my personal manifesto with me at all times.

I carry my personal manifesto with me at all times.

manifesto should be something that motivates and inspires you as well as others. It should be a guide for your beliefs and values that you want people to know. If you search for “B2B Manifesto” you’ll come up with very little. The exception is some great work done by Velocity Partners and their B2B Manifesto ebook. I keep my own personal and professional manifesto with me at all times in my Moleskine. So, I thought I’d put together my own manifesto for B2B communicators. Let me know in the comments what you think and what you would add (and be sure to read the Velocity Partners ebook).

 A Manifesto for B2B Communicators

Understand your customers’ needs.B2B customers have longer sales cycles and typically make large investments when they buy from companies. You need to make sure you understand their needs. What are their pain points? What do they want from your company  Why do they like your competitors? Research is key and a must investment, but make sure you do something with it. And at every conference and trade show take time to talk with them about their business and what would make their job easier. Think of three or four questions you would ask every customer you meet, and then ask them whenever you have the opportunity.

Stop comparing B2B with B2C communications. B2B and B2C companies are not alike so stop trying to figure out how to build a viral video or be the next Oreo campaign. Yes, there is plenty to learn from B2C companies and their communication efforts, but the work B2B marketers do is very different. There’s a wealth of B2B information to read to keep you focused and thinking: From B2B magazine to a long list of B2B marketing blogs and B2B sales blogs. Subscribe to them.

Do awesome things. Just because you won’t have an award-winning Super Bowl ad or invest in giving every product a personal name (e.g, Coke), you can still do something amazing. And it doesn’t have to cost you your entire budget. A lot can be said for being passionate about your job. Be proud of your work. Think big. Try to push the envelope. When you do awesome things people take notice, and they can tell you put a lot of work into it. But just because you are a B2B company doesn’t mean you can’t do awesome work.

Understand digital. You don’t have to use it. In fact, you never have to log onto Twitter or Slideshare or Stocktwits. But you need to understand how they can be leveraged to your brand’s benefit. You also need to realize that your competitors are using them to take advantage of you. If you don’t want to do it, find someone on your team who will. We are at the point where digital is just a part of a campaign (no longer just a separate digital campaign).

Take the long view. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of your current projects, but take time regularly to track your progress and assess where your communication efforts are going. Where will you need to invest? What resources will you need? How is your business shifting? If you want inspiration go and take time to talk with your heads of products and research and ask them these questions. The investment in those relationships will pay off.

Build relationships. Not contacts. Speaking of relationships. As much as you need to understand digital, the world is analog as well. Invest in personal relationships, which means you have to make time to meet people, both internally and externally. This includes your vendors. Make sure you find and build the relationships that matter to your brand. This is an investment in time that will payoff in many ways.

Change is going to happen. So how are you going to deal with it? Do you embrace change? Here’s a question to help you answer that: How have you done during the past few years handling digital? As a B2B communicator you can learn a lot from what your competition is doing. Benchmark how they have reacted to change and see how you compare. There are more changes on the way — the influence of big data,  mobile platforms, economic changes and more. You can’t be ready for them all, but you will need to be able to react.

Do you need help writing your own manifesto? Here are six steps to get you started. Here are some other great manifestos to motivate you.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

Can B2B Brands Inspire? 

You are What You Read

Is Motivation the Key to Success?

Craft work — what’s your B2B expertise?

What are your Future B2B Digital Media Plans?

Blogging isn’t Supposed to be Easy

Three Ways to Explore Big Ideas

Keeping Your Messages Connected

One of the more difficult things to do in communications is to connect everything – integrated marketing communications (IMC). It looks good on a PowerPoint slide, but implementing it can be filled with obstacles. Add to our workload all things real time and digital and the task becomes even greater. Here are some thoughts on how to keep your teams and your channels of communication working well together.

How are you keeping your messages connected?

Keep it Simple. Not your messages (more on that later), but your processes. How do you manage news distribution to all of your channels? What about white papers and research? Do you actively share information internally — an how — or are your teams finding it difficult to know what to distribute? If you have not created a cross-functional team I would suggest you look at how to develop one as a goal (and don’t forget about working with IT).

The Images You Choose Reflect Your Brand. The images you choose for your website, printed materials, blog posts and social channels are important. Please don’t leave the decisions for choosing them to an intern or junior staff member. Remember, you are not the only one posting links from your website and materials online around the Internet — your partners, customers and other stakeholders are as well. Take a serious look at the images you use and where you source them from in order to make them align with your brand.

Leverage What Exists. If you are not posting news stories and information from your website daily you need to change your habits. Consistency today matters and daily reminders of your news, events, research and more sent out via social media can make an impact.

Speak with a Voice. Your messaging matters and you invest a lot of time to keep your spokespeople up to date. Because of this, you’ve had a good group of spokespeople for years and they all stay on message. But what about your digital team? What about your employees? In order to ensure your digital team is in line with your overall enterprise you should consider training them. IN addition, having a clear set of guidelines on how to speak as the company and for the company are important. Write them down. Finally, make sure you are working with compliance and employees are very clear what they can and cannot do in social media.

Don’t Forget Employees. Simply communicating to employees is not enough. Remember, employees will also see your advertisements, social posts, website and news stories about you. This group of stakeholders can be your most passionate group of ambassadors and getting them to help tell your story – by submitting photos, ideas, feedback or content — is an important task for you.

What about your thoughts? What are some ideas, thoughts and tips that help you keep your messages and content connected?

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read the following:

Are Your Spokespeople Social Media Trained? 

What Does Twitter’s IPO Mean for B2B Communicators? 

What are Your Future B2B Digital Plans?

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

Who are Your Content Superheroes?

Social Media Management

Blogging isn’t Supposed to be Easy

What Does Twitter’s IPO Mean for B2B Communicators?

Recent news of Twitter’s IPO have many stakeholders in social media wondering what’s next. In fact, we should see the IPO filing today or tomorrow according to Quartz. If you plan to read the entire filing, here are five things BuzzFeed says you should look for when going through it. There’s already been lots of speculation on what future Twitter will be, from an emphasis on users to search. There was even a plea for Twitter to just stay weird.

Twitter recently upgraded its mobile app, but what's next post IPO?

Twitter recently upgraded its mobile app, but what’s next post IPO?

So where does this pending IPO leave B2B companies? Some things could change, some may not. Here are three important things B2B communicators need to keep an eye on in the next year.

Advertising. Everyone will be looking very closely at advertising revenue from Twitter’s filing. One thing I hope the company does is put more of a focus on B2B companies and helping them find leads and develop targeted campaigns. While B2C companies (even unhappy airline customers) buy ads to sell new products, coupons and discounts, B2B companies that find value in a platform will invest for the long term and remain committed. LinkedIn is discovering this with its promoted posts. I hope that Twitter does as well.

Influencers. Twitter has already done several things to promote influencers; from verified accounts to a recommended list of people to follow. This FT story summarizes that fact pretty well. The good thing is that Twitter recognizes that its influencers give the platform credibility and an important trust factor. B2B companies need to keep finding ways to leverage what Twitter does here. In the coming year, B2B companies need to learn how to expand on Twitter’s success to be influential by both targeting key accounts and defining/redefining their own.

Expansion of services. No doubt, as a public company they will be pressed to expand services and offerings. This means M&A and there are plenty of attractive targets for Twitter to consider. Keep a careful eye on what they are buying now and will be buying. Personally  I would like to see more investment in analytics and search. While there are a number of free tools for Twitter analytics, I don’t find any of them very useful for B2B (hence, why they are free). As Twitter expands its efforts into advertising and mobile it would serve B2B marketers well to see deeper metrics and statistics to help us use Twitter better.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read the following:

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Matter More

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

What are Your Future B2B Digital Plans?

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

Can B2B Brands Inspire? 

 

 

 

 

A Discussion on Trends in B2B Social Media

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by review on the topic of social media for B2B brands. Some of the things I was asked to discuss include many timely topics around managing big data, integrated social media into both the business and communications strategy, and why having a voice online is vital. You can read the full interview here: The Social Side of B2B.

You want watch my discussions here:

Bringing social media into B2B

Social media in B2B marketing: know your goals

The review is an interesting publication and some other recent stories I enjoyed reading include mobile media in India, Christina Allen of LinkedIn talks about how university students are using social media, and smart cities.

In the coming week I’ll also be discussing more about B2B social media and financial services at the following events:

Investor Relations and Social Media: How to Utilize Social Media to Build a Community – September 19 (Social Media Leadership Awards)

Social Media as Market-maker: Does it Improve Corporate Communications or Confuse the Markets – September 20 (CIPR)

Social Media and the Markets: Information Worth Sharing? – September 23 (Social Media Week)

If you have questions or topics for any of these panels you can write them in the comments or reach out to me on LinkedIn and let me know.

 

 

 

Three Ways to Explore Big Ideas (Little Ones Too)

One of the more challenging aspects of any career in B2B communication is creativity. There are many angles to this challenge (opportunity) and I’m often asked what fuels my ideas and what inspires me. I look at creativity as essentially a way to explore. Explore new ideas. Explore old ideas. Explore ways to be different. Explore ways to build.

Charles Day from The Lookinglass says that effective creative leaders use four methods to be successful: context, clearly defined values, trust and momentum. And to further fuel your creativity Zen Habits suggests you should find your voice.

Here are three ways I think about, well, thinking:

Read. I consume a lot of information and read a variety of publications daily. Because of this, I need to aggregate a lot of content, which draws me to use tools like Feedly, Flipboard and Delicious. I am constantly adding, deleting content as I go through it but keeping it organized is critical. For me, having it organized by themes helps to keep it manageable. As for how I do it, Feedly helps me track many of the blogs I read while I’m in the office; Flipboard has become my daily commute/business travel resource; and, Delicious helps me save articles and information that I want to reference later. I find it vitally important to have a variety of information, from information that is relevant to our industry as well as the global economy, marketing, management, technology and more. In my mind, you have to be reading every day to open your mind to new ideas and new ways of thinking.

How and how often do you explore?

How and how often do you explore?

Think like the customer. We often get caught up in our own world of brand and marketing, but it’s vital to think like your customers. In particular, B2B customers have a much longer sales cycle, which means they do a lot of research and have more time to deliberate about their decisions. What makes them even consider the products/services they want to purchase? What do you need to let them know? Would your planned campaign — as great as it seems to you — be something that brings action to your targets over time? If you are not actually talking with your customers much of what you are doing becomes a guessing game. Do whatever you can and take every opportunity at trade shows, industry events and client events to ask questions and talk with them about what they need. You won’t regret having a long list of resources who can help you understand the industry, but who can also function as a third-party advocates for your website, blog and with journalists.

Take a break. Having a daily routine that includes some downtime to recharge is important. My afternoon usually includes a walk to get a coffee and to take time to decompress from email and social media. It’s become a daily ritual and the time helps me to clear my mind and renew my energy. I never go without my Moleskine in order to sit down and brainstorm new ideas, work through existing programs and find arguments for why an idea just won’t work (you need to think of these too). If you’re looking for inspiration — and not necessarily coffee — here are eight other ideas to develop ideas.

If you enjoyed reading this you may also want to read the following:

Can B2B Brands Inspire? 

You are What You Read

Is Motivation the Key to Success?

What are your Future B2B Digital Media Plans?

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy