Viral Marketing


Devon McDonald of OpenView Partners recently wrote a blog post on Scrum Agile Marketing in which she discussed Minimum Viable Marketing. It got me thinking about my clients’ prospects and customers, and it lead me to the following theory, which I am now testing, using a more agile approach:

  1. Prospects don’t want to be sold or marketed to, but most want to be educated.
  2. They’re not looking to get a degree. They just want an answer to a question.
  3. They don’t want to plow through long documents, so the answer has to be easily found.
  4. If they have another question, they want that answered, too.
  5. They are constantly dealing with others’ objections, so new-found knowledge has to be easily shared.

That lead me to create a series of one-minute videos, each designed to answer one question or cover one topic very succinctly. I’ve chosen as a topic, information technology in remote and branch offices. The series is called Branch Office Tech Tips. I’ve posted eight so far, but expect new content frequently, and don’t be surprised if some content is replaced. This is Agile.

As part of this experiment, I’ve hosted the videos on Wistia, because Wistia gives great insight into how many people watch, for how long, and when they stop watching. But seriously, if I can’t keep someone engaged for 60 seconds, then I need to go back to the content for a do-over.

I’ve added another page on this blog, specifically dedicated to Branch Office Tech Tips (BOTT). I’m also going to start making better use of IFTTT. Blog updates will automatically be posted to LinkedIn, Twitter, and other platforms. At least that’s my plan. We’ll see what works.

In last week’s post I talked about the importance of a start up knowing the percentage of customers that would recommend their product or their company. There’s actually a name for this metric. It’s called the Net Promoter Score or NPS. Here’s an article that provides a way to calculate your NPS.  In order to have a high NPS, you need more than the right product. You need the right customer experience.

I’m always a little shocked by companies that see unhappy customers and fail to take immediate action. My wife recently took her car into the local dealership for routine service.  Between a post-doctoral fellowship, an active private practice, and several non-profit board seats, she’s very busy. So she wanted to know how long the service would take. The answer was, “No more than an hour.” After a two and a half hour wait for her service to  be completed, she was obviously steaming. She complained to the service manager, who apologized and then sent her on her way.

When the post-service customer satisfaction survey call came, she gave candid answers. She was not satisfied. Less than 24 hours later, she received a call from the service manager apologizing profusely, telling her to call him directly, the next time she had her car serviced. He then offered her a complimentary car detailing service along with a polite recommendation that she wait until the winter season was done, in order to get the maximum benefit from the detailing. The coupon for the free detailing arrived the next day in the mail. My wife was somewhat calmed by the gesture, but still doesn’t mind repeating the story of the dealership’s poor service.

Now, imagine how different her reaction might have been, had the service manager, to whom she expressed her dissatisfaction before she left the dealership, had then offered her a discount, or a free detailing service. Her anger would probably have been assuaged immediately. What if it didn’t require the service manager’s involvement at all, but the clerk at the service desk had been empowered and taken the initiative to make things right? What if the dealership’s response had been as it was for me at a local restaurant, when the waitress offered my meal for free, because I had to wait too long to be served. Rather than a detractor, I became a promoter, for her willingness to proactively do the right thing.

I just finished reading an unedited, advance review copy of Paul Gillin’s latest book, Secrets of Social Media Marketing.” If Paul is reading this post, he may remember that I told him I would read the book last month, but then, I also planned for the stock market to be up slightly. Things change, and you adapt.

In the book, Paul relates that he dictated much of the book into his computer and used speech recognition software to scribe his thoughts.  Since this was an unedited advance review copy, I gained some insight into the state of speech recognition software, which has advanced enormously over the past 20 years, but still makes amusing mistakes.

Paul acknowledges that at the current pace of change, some of the social media marketing tools he describes and the strategies he espouses will become relics and interesting historical perspective in 10 years’ time.   But, as we find ourselves in an economic downturn that appears deeper than anyone younger than 80 remembers, Paul offers some sage commentary on social media marketing that applies equally well to general business strategy.  Paul writes:

There are only two unpardonable sins in the current environment. One is fear…That leads to the other unpardonable sin, which is inaction.

Read Paul’s book and by the time you’re done, you will be gathering at Gather, twittering at Twitter, joining Facebook groups, and spreading link-love from your blog.  One thing’s for sure, budgets are tightening, and you and your companies will have to find innovative and less expensive ways to validate product concepts, find prospects, demonstrate to them what you can do, prove to them that you are alive, well, and can deliver something they want. 

I was describing to my rather-precocious, thirteen-year-old son the problem that companies have of getting the word out.  As part of “Career Week” at his school (five different jobs for five days at the end of the school year), my son decided he would make a stop-motion Lego video for Tek-Tools, one of my clients, to promote the company.   I told him that, if it was good enough, I would show it to the CEO, and maybe he would use it.  Little did I know that my son was going to, upon completion, post the video on YouTube.  But he did.  Without permission.  And my wife asked me, once again, “Why don’t we have more controls on his computer?” 

Ken Barth, the CEO of Tek-Tools,  was our first client at Walden Technology Partners.  A lot of people in the computer storage industry know him, and beyond the fact that he has been successful in everything that he has done, everyone who meets him says the same thing: “He’s a great guy.”  Ken’s company provides a superb solution for reporting, monitoring, forecasting, and profiling IT infrastructure.  It’s easy to install, easy to use, and provides immediate value.  What could be better?   (more…)

I had a conversation with Megan at BzzAgent this week.  My interest was peaked, when a former IDC colleague, who now works at Iron Mountain Digital, mentioned BzzAgent. 

BzzAgent claims to have 400,000 “buzz agents,” who have agreed to review products and services and to share with their friends and colleagues their honest opinion.  BzzAgents get the products for free.  They test them.  And they create buzz.  The buzz could be good, or it could be bad, but it’s buzz.  I don’t know if Iron Mountain Digital uses BzzAgent, but I can see the fit, since, Iron Mountain offers desktop and server backup services to homes and businesses. 

At the $80,000 entry price that Megan mentioned, you’ll want to get a lot of buzz for the investment, and you’ll want to have enough confidence in your product to expect that most of the buzz will be good.   In the consumer products and services area, I see a great opportunity to leverage BzzAgent.  It’s hard to see the fit for the kinds of enterprise IT infrastructure providers with whom we are working. But, Megan suggested I check out their Frogpond offering, which I will do when I get a chance. 

In the meantime, after listening to the pitch from Megan, I decided to sign up myself.  I am now officially a BzzAgent.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  For now, I’ve just filled out a bunch of surveys about my drinking habits (softdrink and otherwise).  Fortunately, the fortunes of Coke and Pepsi don’t depend much on my soft-drink habits. If they did, the companies would be broke.

Shortly after I started working with StorMagic, I suggested they create a Facebook group.  One of the initial target markets for StorMagic is the education market, and given the number of college students on Facebook, it seemed like a logical fit. We’re only a few weeks into this, but I’m pleased to see that the number of members is up to 46 and includes some pretty well-known, well-connected analysts, venture capitalists, and potential partners and customers.  Facebook groups are a great way to notify interested people about changes, enhancements, new materials and upcoming events. 

That brings me to the Web 2.0 double-dip comment.  Facebook is one tool that can be leveraged for marketing and community-building.  Another is YouTube.  StorMagic just completed their first video and uploaded it to YouTube.  You can see it here.  But they also notified the 46 members of the StorMagic Facebook group about the video, by posting a notice on the group’s posted-items board.  We’ll see what kind of traffic it generates, but having created the video, YouTube is a low-cost way of beginning to circulate it.  I just watched it, and it does a pretty good job of demonstrating the simplicity of implementing a StorMagic iSCSI storage area network.

I’d really like to hear your opinion on two things:

  1. Using Facebook as a community building and marketing tool
  2. Using YouTube to cost-effectively demonstrate key features of a solution

I’d also like your suggestions for other Web 2.0 tools that are effective in raising awareness and building communities for a supplier’s customers, partners, and prospects.

One last thing.  Can you give us some feedback on the video?

When I was growing up, my family would occasionally take what we called “Penny Walks.”  We lived in western Colorado, where the towns were mostly laid out on a North-South, East-West grid.  A penny walk involved taking a walk, penny in hand, and every time you got to a corner, you flipped the coin. Heads you go right. Tails you go left.  You never knew where you were going to go, but you knew you weren’t going to get caught in a familiar routine.  With penny walks, you ran into different people or different things. You had variety. Penny walks don’t work as well in Massachusetts, where I live now, because the streets are laid out in the rough equivalent of a meandering cow.

My random walks these days are as likely to occur on the World Wide Web, as they are to occur in my town.  Did I mention we have almost no sidewalks? So here on the internet, thanks to a link from Jason Rakowski, I was lead on a random walk through his blog, to another blog by someone named Dejra to a service called Pingomatic.  The service helps writers/bloggers raise the visibility of their sites by updating search engines.  I’m trying it out today.  I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Given Dejra’s focus on affiliate marketing, I’m wondering if she knows my brother, Ken?

Dejra? Ken?

A recent blog entry by Denise Shiffman on Viral Voice referenced an article in InsideCRM entitled The Facebook Marketing Toolbox.   I’ve only been using Facebook for a few months, so this article was a great find, with links to tons of resources and recommendations.  Thanks Denise.  This article is required reading for my new client, StorMagic, and my nephews who continue to grow their restaurant, Black and Brew, down in Lakeland, Florida.  Keeping getting the word out!  For all others, reading is optional, but highly recommended.

I posted the following question on LinkedIn about five days ago:

What’s the best strategy for creating end-user awareness of an innovative product through social networking?

Here’s the dig.  At least I think it was a dig:

Try and be a bit more simple and straightforward in your communications than you are in your questions. (more…)

As a fellow baby boomer, Denise Shiffman’s recent blog post really hit home.  She said, “Facebook is the new email.”  She wasn’t the first to make the connection.  In fact, the Scobleizer has a whole running debate here from October, 2007.  But because I know Denise, and implicitly trust her, she gets credit for getting my attention. 

As a boomer, I live on email, but as my blog readers know, I’m on Facebook now, too.  In fact, it’s about the only way that I communicate with Steve Zivanic, who created this viral campaign for very-traditional Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).  I just checked one YouTube posting of his video that reports 320,000+ downloads.  Good job Steve.  Steve’s left HDS and found a fitting home at myndnet.  He tells me they understand the value of viral marketing. (more…)