Browsing articles in "Thought Leadership"

What is Thought Leadership?

May 1, 2011   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Thought Leadership  //  No Comments

Wikipedia defines it as:

Thought leader is a buzzword or article of jargon used to describe a futurist or person who is recognized among peers and mentors for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable distilled insights (thinklets).

Thought leadership is an increasingly vital driver of business success. The term was first coined in 1994, by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the magazine, Strategy & Business. The term was used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had contributed new thoughts to business. Among the first “thought leaders,” were British management thinker, Charles Handy, who advanced the idea of a “portfolio worker” and the “Shamrock Organization”, Stanford economist Paul Romer, Mitsubishi president, Minoru Makihara, and University of Michigan strategist, C.K. Prahalad, author of a number of well known works in corporate strategy including “The Core Competence of the Corporation” (Harvard Business Review, May-June, 1990); and his co-author, Gary Hamel, a professor at the London Business School. Since that time, the term has spread from business to other disciplines and has come to mean someone who enlivens old processes with new ideas.

5 Tips for Better B2B Branding

Mar 26, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media, Thought Leadership  //  No Comments

Think branding only falls in the B2C court? Think again.

In fact, three of the top 10 brands in 2009, as ranked by Interbrand, generate a sizable amount of revenue from their B2B customers: IBM, Microsoft and GE.

As a B2B marketer your brand is your most valuable asset.

B2B branding is less about cool, hip monikers (the Apples and Starbucks of the world) – and more about thought leadership.

Particularly in down economies, B2B prospects and customers conduct significant research leading up to purchases. That means you as a marketer have to educate them early on, and establish your brand as a trusted resource that gets their problems and has the solution.

To help your organization be seen as the thought leader it is, we’ve identified five B2B branding tips:

1. Consistently produce useful, innovative content

These days, every company is essentially a media company. So it’s easier than ever to provide relevant, informative content for customers and prospects.

From a company blog to Twitter to YouTube, there is no end to the content channels available. Provide the latest industry news and insight on trends through:

  • Offering a white paper through an email marketing campaign
  • Creating videos and promoting through YouTube and on your web site
  • Conducting interviews with industry influentials and turning into blog posts

Whatever channels you choose to promote, and whatever types of content you create, these consistent signals prove to customers and prospects that you are a thought leader.

2. Network digitally and in person

Nothing communicates a brand more than direct involvement with customers and prospect. In that regard, online social networking has opened a new door. According to a recent eMarketer study, six in 10 B2B marketers planned to up spending on social in 2010.

Whether your organization integrates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or another social network into its B2B branding efforts, the same rules apply:

  • Social media is about engaging in conversations, not just pushing products
  • It’s not about the masses; it’s about your target audience
  • It’s listening and hearing before selling and talking

That’s not to say that in-person networking is irrelevant. On the contrary, perfect B2B branding combination. Take advantage of opportunities to give keynote speeches, participate in panel discussions or lead breakout sessions at industry events.

3. Get personal and be real

B2C marketers seem to have this concept nailed. But humanizing your company for customers and prospects is just as important in B2B branding.

For one TopRank® Online Marketing client, an industrial part distributor for the bulk powder processing industry, humanizing its image was a top concern.

The TopRank team created the Powder Doctor, a unique character, to relate to customers and prospects through email marketing campaigns. This humorous cartoon character offers advice – Dear Abby style – for common industry problems. Powder Doctor campaigns have increased sales for Powder-Solutions by 83%.

4. Position yourself differently than others in the space

No doubt about it, it’s tough to build personal B2B brand if you’re just like everyone else. You simply can’t be known for what everyone else is.

Standing out from the crowd is easy when your products or services are truly one-of-a-kind. When products or services are similar to those offered by the competition, it’s more of a challenge to uniquely position yourself.

For one TopRank client – a staffing software company – that challenge was known all too well. To help the client stand from a large pool of competitors, TopRank developed a copywriting strategy where website copy was written in first person, from the viewpoint of the staffing software (i.e., “why you should hire me to fill your staffing software needs”).

This strategy has not only helped the company develop a truly distinct B2B brand; the strategy has also achieved increased search traffic, high rankings for terms such as “staffing software” and a trend up in inquiries.

5. Leverage proof points

It’s perfectly appropriate – and necessary – to toot your own horn from time to time as part of your B2B branding efforts. Whether it’s an impressive media placement or a web traffic milestone, implement proof points illustrating why your organization is a thought leader into marketing communications.

Keep in mind that proof points are both analytical and subjective. For example:

Analytical: website traffic increases, number of retweets of blog posts, number of blog subscribers

Subjective: media placements, media interviews, mentions on blogs

Are Your Ready to Take B2B Branding to the Next Level?

B2B branding through thought leadership is not as easily quantifiable as other marketing efforts. And investments in reputation building might not pay off as immediately as pay-per-click or email marketing.

But building a recognizable B2B brand pays off in the form of long-term increased referrals, positive brand conversations on both digital and in-person channels, web traffic and sales.

What methods have you used to build a B2B brand?

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5 Tips for Better B2B Branding |
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Why Marketing Is Like Making Martinis

Sep 9, 2009   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Thought Leadership  //  No Comments

CMO Calculus
Why Marketing Is Like Making Martinis
Mike Linton, 04.28.09, 11:31 AM ET

Let’s say you own a bar with a good clientele that has remained loyal over the years because your barkeeps make excellent cocktails. Your bar’s reputation and its margins are based on your delicious mixed drinks. Up until now, that is, when sales are falling and the pressure is on for you to maintain profits.

For discussion purposes, let’s assume you’ve done everything you can with the lease and labor. What you have left is the drinks, and a martini could, metaphorically, be viewed as your marketing plan. How do you keep the brand moving forward in tough times and still make money?

Let’s take the cosmopolitan: four parts vodka, two parts cranberry juice, two parts Triple Sec, one part lime juice, a lime rind and a swizzle stick. These symbolize your marketing mix–with vodka as the basic, proven sales ingredient (say direct mail, Internet marketing), cranberry juice as your long-term branding and advertising efforts, triple sec as promotions, lime juice as PR and the lime rind and swizzle stick as experimental efforts (like mobile marketing). What should you do to keep serving martinis in a way that lets you make money today while keeping your clientele coming back for more?

This is a difficult situation and I don’t know the right answer, though I do know the wrong one. The wrong answer is to slash costs by cutting back on the ingredients that make your drinks great, meaning you start thinking about your value proposition instead of the consumers’. In other words, choosing to risk your brand (Cosmo) integrity by forgetting what made customers choose your brand over competition in the first place.

The first step is to cut out all of the martini components that aren’t mandatory, like the lime rind and the swizzle stick. I mean, who needs a swizzle stick, really? It is completely impractical. And a lime rind is labor intensive and gets thrown away! We can just dispense with the whole fresh lime thing and save a ton.

Let’s replace fresh limes with packaged lime juice and use the savings to make the quarter. In marketing, this is the equivalent of stopping all sponsorships and social media experiments. The martini is still essentially the same, it just looks–and tastes–less interesting.

Oh my, business isn’t responding. Hmmm. Triple Sec is expensive. We only use a little in each drink, and it sits on the shelf collecting dust and taking up inventory dollars. The ROI on Triple Sec is low and far less efficient than the return on vodka. In fact, vodka returns three times as much since we buy it in bulk and use it for so many other drinks.

While we’re at it, let’s lose Cointreau since it’s just another orange liqueur and the consumer is really in it for the vodka. We can replace Triple Sec with vodka! Think of the efficiency! This is the equivalent of replacing all of your television with search and couponing efforts resulting in a high alcoholic content, but a lot less flavor.

Traffic is still declining in spite of everything. What to do? Cranberry juice is so overrated! In fact, with drink sales tailing off we have excess juice and it returns less than vodka. My God, that’s the answer! We’ll replace cranberry juice, which can spoil and needs refrigeration, with vodka, which has an infinite shelf life. Twice as much vodka at the same price and our margins are intact! The customers will love it!

You can see where I’m going. In the end, what you end up serving is pure vodka and customers move on to a place that serves the cosmopolitans or the martinis–or whatever–they want to buy. If they wanted vodka shots, they’d probably stay at home in the first place. This is the marketing equivalent of putting all of your efforts into one glass and hoping you can relaunch the “genuine martini” once the recession is over.

We’ll just dust off the old marketing competencies and tell consumers that our martinis “Now taste as good as before and look even better!” Problem is, consumer value is based on their terms–not yours. You can’t be inconsistent–cutting-edge and interesting in boom times, become an “efficient” brand when the going gets tough–and expect customers will put up with shabby drinks until you can afford to mix the cocktails they like.

In my opinion, there’s probably a better martini answer that might include special pricing on weekdays, happy hour extensions, a recession special, mini-martinis with mini pricing, lower margins in the short run to maintain sales, a martini loyalty program … but always things that keep your “martini integrity” intact.

So do what you have to do to survive, but don’t assume you can just “turn on” marketing when you are ready and can afford it. Marketing is like a martini in that people remember the drink quality and the place a lot longer than they remember the vodka buzz.

No martinis were harmed in the writing of this article.

Mike Linton was, until recently, CMO at eBay. Previously, he was the first CMO at Best Buy. He joined the electronics retailer in 1999 from James River Corp., where he worked as a vice president and general manager. Linton started his career in brand management at Procter & Gamble.

Origional Article Located: http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/28/roi-martinis-marketing-leadership-cmo-network-linton.html

Links for 8-18-2009

Aug 18, 2009   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Thought Leadership  //  No Comments