I was fortunate enough to be asked by Gerhard Gschwandtner, of Selling Power to speak this week at his Sales Leadership Conference in Philadelphia. The highlight of my day was listening to Seth Godin, blogger and author on topics b2b sales and marketing folks devour.
One part of Seth's talk was on building a tribe. Not sure I've got the quote verbatim, but basically he was saying "marketers that build tribes of loyal prospects and customers will win." He cited the Apple tribe -- all of us who rush out and buy new apple products just because. I happen to be a member of that tribe.
It got me thinking, though. How can b2b marketers, especially those who DON'T have audiences of millions or hundreds of thousands, build a tribe? How can upstart, small- to mid-sized companies build a tribe? How can even large companies with very specific offerings build a tribe?
I was bouncing the topic around with my friend and colleague, Tim Dempsey (@tdempsey) of Elastic Brands, and he shared, "First and foremost, you have to define and articulate your tribe’s essence or mission. A tribe is not a random pack of individuals – a tribe shares a bond, whether that’s around design and usability, like Apple, or around a technology like an open source project. Tribe members are joining something. Before going out to build your tribe, identify what it is that will bind your tribe members together. And repeat that message throughout your communication with prospects and members."
- Bring value to tribal prospects who aren't customers yet. Give away lots of relevant info through blogs, twitter, industry events, etc. Just follow the HubSpot marketing machine for how they spread the Orange Kool Aid and built a large and loyal tribe of inbound marketers.
- Gather, grasp and retain every prospect or client, every user or remote individual who touches your company and bring them together virtually. LinkedIn Groups. Build an online community.
- Create buzz. Recruit those who create buzz for you and reward them through rebuzz or other methods. Most buzzers love to be pumped up socially. Retweet. Quote them in blog articles. Write success stories with them. Prop them up. Thank them for buzzing.
- Encourage buzzers and tribe members to share stories. As soon as you find out a tribe member has a blog, find a way to help them with a blog article. Get them to interview your CEO or Evangelist.
- Make it cool to be in the tribe. Be different. Create awesome reasons for people to like you. Be hip. Youtube videos. Viral fun. Send fun gifts to known tribe members.
- Network. Introduce tribe members to each other. Host tweet-ups, or networking events. Build that online community.
- Be genuine. If you find yourself trying too hard, your audience will sniff you out. Don't look like you hired an agency. I recently saw a Fortune 500 company do this and, whadda ya know, 55 unique twitter addresses tweeted the exact same text at the exact same moment (sounds like an ingenious agency idea to me).
- Lead with leaders. Find the leaders of your tribe and get them to lead by example. Encourage them to step out in front of you occasionally. Trust them.
- Create cool. Be it a t-shirt or cap or stickers or water bottles. People like cool. SxSW is filled with hip tribal attendees who would give their right arm for the coolest t-shirt of the week.
- Invite two friends. Every time you run anything, make your tribe members bring two friends. Grow exponentially.
- Share. Make it easy for your tribe to share ideas. Be it Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn Groups, or your blog. Sharing spreads the word.
What thoughts do you have for tribe building in a smaller universe than companies such as Apple?
The Catcher in the Rye. Moby Dick. Pride and Prejudice. The Grapes of Wrath. A Tale of Two Cities.
If there's one thing those books have in common for me, it's that they were part of my high school summer reading lists. Remember those? You'd receive a list of books before the end of your school year that you'd have to read in preparation for the next school year.
Maybe you were excited by all of that reading; maybe you weren't. Maybe you cleared your list well before summer's end, or maybe you were running to the local bookstore to find the Cliffs Notes versions of the books on your list (not that I know anything about that). Since we're so close to the beginning of summer, I thought I'd share with you what should be on every good B2B marketing and sales careerist's list this summer. It's a bit more geared to the marketer, but every good sales professional is their own marketer too.
If you're reading this and you've just graduated from college hoping to find yourself in sales and marketing, take heed! This list is the tip of the iceberg for you. If you're like me and you've read these books, take heed and read them again; they're just that good. Note that all of the links are to Amazon, should you choose to purchase them.
| ||The New Rules of Marketing and PR, 2nd Edition - David Meerman Scott's book on completely changing the way marketing and PR is handled effectively today. David's book is worth reading time and again to be reminded of how the Internet and social media can radically improve your business. This book is a Marketing 401 class in 320 pages.|
|Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs - Written by the founders of HubSpot, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Inbound Marketing delivers on its promise to get your organization found. Brian and Dharmesh talk about just what "inbound marketing" is, how you can get found by the prospects you want to do business with, and how to convert those prospects into customers.|
| ||SNAP Selling - Jill Konrath's latest book is a must-read. This new book teaches its readers how to better handle prospects who, today, have shrinking budgets and more "to-do's" on their plates than they've ever had before. Oh yeah, and she teaches you how to close them, too. Jill is a master saleswoman, and she artfully delivers a message to improve the sales processes of her readers.|
|Ogilvy on Advertising - David Ogilvy's book, now celebrating its 25th year in print, is a classic and one that I revisit time and again. Ogilvy teaches that advertisement is salesmanship, and he couldn't be more right. His lessons on buyer personas (though not necessarily called that) are just as relevant today as they've ever been. In fact, he calls out the lazy marketers who do not go about this process and warns about "skidding about on what my brother Francis called 'the slippery slope of irrelevant brilliance.'"|
| ||eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale - Ardath Albee's book on eMarketing is a great book that teaches its readers how to differentiate themselves from every other organization in their space. Ardath sets a great tone throughout the book, and the lessons in the book aren't just things marketers should be doing but rather things they must be doing. Ardath spends a considerable amount of time discussing what she calls "Contagious Content," and with good reason - she understands the importance of content that spurs the prospect to move from reading to engaging.|
| ||Digital Body Language - Steven Woods' book explores how today's marketers can market better to their target audiences, taking into consideration all of the intricacies of 21st century sales and sales processes. Woods' idea that marketers and sales folks can now "read" a prospect's digital body language (i.e. their web behavior) is on point and is sure to help shape readers' effectiveness in their chosen professions. Pick this one up.|
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Obviously there are more books that I could place on the B2B Sales and Marketing summer reading list, but these are my "must reads." What about you? What would you add to the list?
This week I presented at the AA-ISP Leadership Summit in Minneapolis. It kicked off two days of great sessions, discussion and networking. Thanks to everyone who attended and supported the effort. It was great to meet everyone and share our Big Ideas.
Special thanks to Bob Perkins, Larry Reeves and others at AA-ISP for having me.
The other piece I enjoyed was meeting folks from a competing company. Being one of just a few By Appointment Only competitors is always a challenge. Linda and I got our demand gen start at BAO, and they are a class act with good people -- competing with them on a daily basis keeps us honest. Henry Glickel, BAO's top recruiter, presented on best practices for Inside Sales Recruiting. Hiring and creating good talent was a common theme during the event, and Henry's take on it ensures steady and talented inside sales professionals.
There were also the guys from Vorsight. Having read their Sales Tips Blog for quite some time, it was very informative to listen to co-founder Steve Richard present his tips on how to become a power cold calling machine.
Nothing like Co-Opetition.
Below is my keynote address: Inside Sales Trends, Then and Now...What's Your Big Idea?
One of my favorite days of the year. Superbowl Ad Sunday. Enjoy!
Do you trust the statistics you use when you are making marketing decisions? Yahoo recently published a research study claiming that "77% of consumers identify themselves as green." They go on to state that "23% claim to be deeply committed to environmental issues," and that "71% have an interest in purchasing an environmentally sound car." And, that "72 percent saying they get (green) information in traditional media and 68 percent citing online," and tout portals as still being strong sources of information (of course).
Then there is one very important piece of data buried at the bottom, "respondents were recruited ONLINE." Could this possibly be tainted NOT to represent consumers as a whole? I think so. Online respondents could possibly be on the upper end of the economic scale, education, and already interested in green if they decided to respond to a green survey.
As a marketer, I dig through numbers all the time. Analyst reports, claims on blog articles, even conversational stats. Having taken a handful of probability and statistics courses, some market research courses, and having wanted to make a point or two with numbers myself in the past, I always look for the source. Knowing the source is like knowing the butterfly in the butterfly effect.
Stephen Dubner, one of the Freakonomics co-authors, stated in Global PR Week Blog, that, "The three things marketers can mainly learn from our book include
- realizing conventional wisdom is often wrong;
- dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle, causes; and,
- knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so.
But, keep in mind our methods in “Freakonomics” actually counter intuitive marketing thinking."
My message to marketers and analysts (especially the analysts since they publish most of the data), is when you're trying to make educated decisions and conclusions based upon numbers that figures don't lie, but liars can figure. Check your sources, and if you don't like the source, simply explain why and let others make their own conclusions.
Several readers and fans have asked before, what is with the "Green" in Green Leads? What does b2b lead generation have to do with being green? Other than the obvious connection between green and money, the real inspiration for the name Green Leads was to build a marketing services company that was conscious about our community, the environment, our clients and people, and unlike other marketing services companies, operated in a sustainable model. Employee turnover and client retention is a huge issue in our industry and Linda and I wanted to combat those issues head on. Responsibility and quality was key to this decision, and it all stemmed from our practices of green living.
On the surface, an appointment setting company has little it can do to be green, but if you look under the hood, there are lots of things our company does that are positive decisions, practices, and beliefs that do not negatively impact the environment in ways that traditional companies do. There is a partial list on our website.
This post isn't about Green Leads though, it is about Green Marketing and how markets react to it. We've all seen it, the use of "environmentally conscious" messages to sell, brand, and market numerous products and services. It is obvious with products that have primary impact (cars, computers, energy, food), but there is also the not-so-obvious such as what we do (virtual office, recycled computers, carbon offsets, tap water). The question I raise, and I believe I've seen answered over the past few years, is "does the market react to green marketing in a social way, as a movement, in a way outside their traditional behaviors?"
A couple points from recent experience, which in the most part is b2b:
- One of our largest projects last year came to us because the client had a massive investment in their own green initiative and wanted to make choices along the same lines. The directive came directly from their CEO.
- A survey we conducted in IT departments asking about green computing initiatives in IT show that 70% of IT executives consider environmental issues important, and 48% have active programs or budget allocations promoting green initiatives.
- My green blog posts have higher traffic patterns than my marketing posts.
- Most people we talk to that find out about our philosophies want to engage in a conversation about green issues. Is the topic alone enough to cause positive impact on society?
- The Green Gap seems to exist between those that have completed higher education and those that have not. Those with higher educations seem to have the interest in green and the economic ability to make green spending decisions. Also, most b2b buyers do have higher education backgrounds.
- Green is a topic of conversation. It is trendy to be green. The topic comes up in business during normal conversation, it comes up in social settings. Green is in.
- Obama and McCain both brought green issues to the forefront of their campaigns, right behind the economy. And talk about a social movement - Obama followers were acting as a social organism, not just a population sampling.
- Beware of Greenwashing. Have a solid plan with proof of your strategies and practices. Create materials that document your green work. Copies of certificates, offset purchases, internal plans and procedures, vendor choices, etc.
- Recruiting and employee retention has been impacted by green practices. In our case, we have only lost 1 employee of their own choosing in three years. For the b2b lead gen industry, that is unheard of.
My verdict lies in the fact that we have gained clients due to our green practices and messaging. We have made some impact through the socialization of our messages. Our community of employees, contractors, clients, and vendors have recognized the practices as important to them. The market seems to react in a way not traditional with typical b2b marketing tactics. There is an upswell, a desire, and an interest in green. Clients want to work with companies that are doing the right thing. It is a deeper desire and behavior than a product evaluation or price decision. It breeds loyalty and market growth, and ultimately contributes to the branding, growth, demand creation, and generation of new and repeat business.
A few articles worth reading:
The Environmental Leader, a green briefing for executives, states that more than 70 percent of directors at U.S. publicly-traded companies said they believe sustainability is important to profitability.
The Ecoprenuerist's Megan Prusynski wrote an article that introduces Sustainability in Business Planning.
Business of Design Online's Jess Sand wrote about How to Find Green Vendors.