The surprised entrepreneur. A diary of a new tech venture.

“But isn’t that everyone’s goal” exclaimed a business friend who learned I had started a company. My friend, a clever software developer, expressed the reality for most of his kind – smart, talented and ambitious to have their own company.

It was never a goal for me actually. I had the best marketing career working at an amazing mix of large and small technology companies. I was fortunate to have learned from the best about digital and social media at an intimate, practical and hands-on level beyond the experience of most of my peers. But starting my own company had not been a high priority for me – at least not until about 12 months ago.

You see, I was working at a profitable social networking company and I wanted to create a marketing program to gain more subscribers. I had a very healthy digital budget ($ millions) and so I did a few agency RFPs. I struggled to assign the projects because the agencies pitching were often very narrowly focused. Sure, many of them had a cool technology or creative concept – but in isolation it had very little value. I found I needed to put together a few of these new technologies to create programs that seemed worthwhile.

But becoming a “system integrator” was not really practical so in the end, I usually did not award the business to any agency. While I nursed my frustration publically in AdAge.com, one day in September 2009 I simply snapped. I had enough after a particularly tedious 2 hour presentation with a large digital agency who, towards the end, insisted that social media could not be branded. That was it. I was done. I kept thinking to myself; “I can do better than these agencies” and I left my employer at the end of 2009.

This was the seminal moment where I made the leap to business creator. I knew the agency business well since I spent 11 years at an agency before going client-side. I knew many of my friends at companies could not find agencies that “got it” either.  Consistently they told me their agencies seemed stuck in a model that was becoming less effective and they (brands) were the poorer for it. There seemed to be a place for the type of agency I could imagine and I was determined to create it.

But how to begin? I began by I listening carefully to what my marketing peers were telling me; “My agency does not get it”, “I know I should be doing more in social media but I have no idea what.”; “We don’t do Twitter because we don’t see the value”.  In hearing the litany of complaints, I quickly realized that agencies were “stuck” because they were furiously trying to adapt their “one to many” business model of the last 30 years to the emerging “many to many” marketing world of the next 30 years. I could see that was not going to work. I could see that the agency model I had known for 25+ years was giving way… I was on my own.

I took a deep breath as I became amazed that this was my chance to start creating an agency fresh – with no assumptions or sacred cows. This was my chance to do a “green field” build as one might see in the tech space. This was to be an agency built entirely from the perspective of a “many to many” marketing model.

With clarity of purpose, therefore, I set about to the task of creating this “many to many” marketing agency. And in doing so – it seemed I had rethink everything.

My first 60 days (March and April 2010):

I was interested in offering a new type of marketing platform using this new technology so brands could efficiently execute social media and direct response within a sustainable engine. But it became very clear very fast that I had to build this type of engine for myself since all the attention was on individual technologies that VCs were pouring their money into. No one, it seemed, worried about how any of this technology was supposed to operate together at a practical level within a marketing system.

This realization meant, like it or not, I had taken (hesitatingly) my first steps to becoming a technology company. Once I took that first tentative step, I sensed there was no going back and the “Failure is not an option” mantra of a previous boss, Comodo CEO, Melih Abdulhayoglu rang in my ears. My friend, the brilliant writer Gay Walley encouraged me onward. As daunting as it felt, I knew I had to create the right technological platform that could execute the type of marketing campaigns I had seen work in my real world experiences. The agency in the “many to many” world is as much, maybe even more, about robust technology as it is about the creative (again many thanks to Melih for teaching me this vital lesson). There’s just no getting around that point.

The next 60 days (May & June 2010):

Using my training in direct response, I created the engine to functionally curate users (not content) within a “community of interest” paradigm. I designed a three part marketing platform that uses promotional video, live internet programming and custom content within a highly architected “hub” to curate users. I had worked with video innovators like David Hoffman and Stephanie Piche, who were doing amazing things using video to drive audience engagement. I asked them to join me and they did.

Next, I had to create my own custom content network so I could get messaging out there efficiently thus driving traffic to the hub. I realized ads were not designed to engage in a “many to many” architecture but content had become the “new advertising platform”. While the logic of creating a custom content network was sound, the task seemed beyond daunting. Then, right on cue came two wonderful people, Donnetta Campbell and Joy DiBenedetto (CEO of HUMNews), who had deep roots in the content/ media world. Soon they had organized all their media assets and outlets into a content network we could use to push our messages through. I asked them to come play with us too.

Then there’s the “hub” (note to self – need new name for this part ASAP!!!). It’s a different type of web experience that is a mashup of live communications, content, community, video and commerce designed on the “community of interest” concept. My previous experience in monetizing communities gave me a blueprint for which techniques, overlooked by many, I needed to include to drive results. The secret sauce to the hub was to build it as a real time community with a lot of real time connectivity and video engagement baked in (emphasis on “real time”).

All the pieces were coming together … but there some real technological challenges to deal with. The platform was clear in my mind – but it was in no condition to be useful to brands – at least not yet.

And the 60 days of summer (July and August 2010):

To make this vision a reality, I needed to round out my dream team. I found out about a cool company doing real-world work in measuring social media which we needed to match this system. The CEO, Dag Holmboe, whose background in engineering was invited to join and came on board too.  I managed to snag an ex technology leader from NBC, Louis Libin; a CBS network pro, Lester Spellman and Jerry Cahn, an IR pro with PhD in psychology (always useful). As the dream team came together, I laughed to myself when I realized the days where a creative guy, a copywriter and a biz dev guy can just; “put up an agency shingle” are long gone.

I spent hours and hours seeing what the leading tech companies were doing. I was writing for Ad Age DigitalNext as a way to learn about how marketing technologies were evolving in this “many to many” world. I wrote about the all the amazing technologies at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in Ad Age (and yes I did lament the lack of women at the decidedly he-geek con-fest). And every time I got stuck on how to do something – I wrote about it and asked for advice. I got plenty.

Then, I began to outline my business plan. The task was made easier by the fact that I had other tech friends who were generous in guiding my progress. My thanks to Igor Seletskiy, CEO of a new company called Cloud Linux who was an invaluable technology sounding board. With his patient coaching, I had crystallized in my mind the outline of a product roadmap largely so I could understand exactly how any agency could financially thrive in this “low billing, social media, many to many” world. As I started creating the revenue model, all I knew for sure was that the old agency revenue models were falling apart.

After more thinking and talking, the product roadmap came into view. Importantly, it does not solely rely on “client” fees. In this roadmap, our agency offers real products (not just services) that can be used by a variety of companies – large and small. It also includes healthy, alternative revenue streams from a wide variety of sources. I lay my “product roadmap cards” on the table even though some of you may gasp at my seeming lack of concern about competitors because TBH — I am far more worried that too few agencies are even thinking along these lines. The agency business needs outliers – agencies who are willing to go where few agencies have gone before…

Here we go (and if this inspires others out there to do something similar – have at it :)

  • Near-term product/ service roadmap (through 2010):
  • Goal – Create integrated marketing platform for social media/ direct response campaigns.
  • Revenue model:   1) Service fees from brands to create content assets for marketing programs    2) Licensing/ Media fees from Brands to run program through the Interactive Engine. IE can be sold as a whole program or in 2 modular “mini campaigns”;3) Partner revenue from affiliate partner technologies that are being integrated into the platform
  • Development status: This is a three part “platform” – 1) Custom Content Network, 2) Specialized Promotional program and 3) Hub web experience. Items 1 and 2 are live. Prototype hub under construction.
  • Sales readiness: Key elements of the Interactive Engine platform are live today (yes – I know – I need to update the damn website :(
  • Funding needed: None – this is self funded through sales
  • Mid-term product/ service roadmap (through 2011):
  • Goal – Create self-serve platform of integrated social media technology campaigns so companies (small/ medium businesses) can launch integrated programs without the need for a serviced based agency. (This concept is following the “control panel” model used today by web hosts to provision lots of services to their customers.)
  • Revenue model = 1) Service fees from brands to content create assets for marketing programs 2) Product fees: a) Brand use of IE with existing client content assets; b)License fees paid by SMB for “self serve” campaigns executed 3) Partner revenue: Expand affiliate fees from partner technologies since many more options can be integrated into offering.
  • Development status: Lead developer identified and overall architecture being mapped.
  • Sales readiness: 9 months to working prototype/ 14 months to sale-able solutions
  • Funding round = $2MM
  • Long-term product/ service roadmap (starting Q3 2011 through 2012)
  • Goal – Create the first “trust agency” for “Judy Consumer” so she can pull trusted information, software/ services and advertising for herself.  At this stage, we reverse the revenue model. Instead of brands paying to get to “Judy and Joe Consumer”, consumers hire “trust agencies” to curate their digitally connected experiences (see my article in Ad Age about “The Six Screens” – Aug 23, 2010).
  • Revenue model = 1) Service fees: – a) from brands to create assets for marketing programs; b) direct subscriptions from consumers 2) Product fees: a)use of IE with existing client content assets; b)License fees paid by SMB for campaigns executed 3) Partner revenue: a) affiliate fees from partner technologies; b) As a perfect “opt-in” ad platform, charge brands premium ad CPM rates; c) content producers via affiliate revenue (they pay us for new subscribers)
  • Development status:  not initiated
  • Sales readiness: 18 months to prototype/ 24 months to launch
  • Funding needed: $1.8MM

Which brings us pretty much up-to-date.

When I step back, I can see our progress after six months:

  • We created the tech platform, called Interaction Engine (IE), that integrates direct response techniques within a social media ROI program.  Today, companies are using elements of the engine effectively.
  • We have coalesced into a solid team of 8 people who all had “hands on” experience in this “many to many” paradigm. Rare folks indeed because they had (often painfully) walked the walk.
  • We are in serious discussions with 2 media agencies, 2 F100 companies and had “tentatively” closed one new direct response account (I say tentatively because as if this date – no contract has been signed yet).

These days are spent getting everyone on the team coordinated, getting some basics housekeeping done (e.g. web site is totally out of date!), pushing forward in the sale process and writing the biz plan. It is very intimating but amazingly exciting.

I will end this and each future entry in this digital blog (expect a once a week post), with my “What keeps me up at night” list. I expect this list to change over time.

  • While we are doing well at getting meetings, the close process is slow because prospects want to see a fully working engine in action. The classic chicken/ egg problem. We have some great clients who have used parts of the engine – but none is currently using all of IE in a singular campaign. Pressing ahead.
  • I don’t wan to be the Edsel of my industry – too far ahead of my time. My team keeps coaching me to keep my presentations simple and they are correct. The trouble is that this platform is simple in concept but not in execution to understand.  So the presentations swing wildly between being too complicated or too simplistic. *Sigh*. My biz dev head and CTO are on the case though. I hope they can come up with a solution – I have hit a wall.
  • I now have 7 senior, wonderful people who have joined this venture – this is in addition to the 8 or so junior workers that are also part of the company. Keeping them all motivated and engaged as we build our sales pipe will be hard especially since many of us are virtual. I have no good model in my head for this yet.
  • Knowing the difference between networking and over networking. There are many people who want to connect with me now especially since I also write for HuffingtonPost in addition to Ad Age. I have to make choices about which contacts I can commit to. I find this very very frustrating and difficult since I never know which contact can lead to the break we need. URGGHH! Anyone with advice on this point?
  • Figuring out what’s the best use of my time as I try to lead both the sales process and the business plan development process. Most people in the company have a role here, but it still requires lots of “hands on” management from me since too much in still in my head and not on paper. I wish I were 3 people (would I get 3 salaries – hmm).

Now, finally my milestones for the next 60 days (not necessarily in this order):

  • 3 page executive summary of engageSimply with financial outlook
  • 1 signed client using the entire new Interaction Engine platform
  • Initiate discussions with at least 2 possible funding partners
  • Get website up to date
  • Expand sales funnel to having 20 active leads in pipe
  • to write in this diary a minimum of once a week or 8 entries (hey – I need some wiggle room J)

So much of this journey is a surprise. I am surprised that as a woman, I am starting a tech business. I am surprised that I am woman of a “certain age” starting a new company. I am surprised at the generosity of people who have agreed to throw their hat into the ring with me – they are a very faithful and brave group of people.  I am surprised at the graciousness of our partners who give of their time and contacts unreservedly.

But mostly I am surprised at how utterly confident I am that one way or another this is going to work. My confidence (perhaps even overconfidence) is the biggest surprise of all because with my long experience with tech venturing, I know my chances of success are not, rationally speaking, in my favor.

I remain undeterred. I remain unabashedly optimistic which is why I decided to document my journey in this blog. When I first started this blog (about 3 years ago), I did it because I sensed that fighting the marketing wars happening “in the trenches”. That remains truer today as I start this new venture. So as the Jewish New Year begins later this week (Year 5771), it seems particularly propitious to begin this digital diary. I may be “in the trenches” in starting this business but my view is firmly focused on how we reach the stars.

Judy Shapiro, CEO/ Founder, engageSimply

P.S. – Have advice, an idea or wanna do business with us. Just drop us a line. We’re ready.

In the data business – stuff can go really wrong.

Here’s an ironic but sad way many marketing efforts can go awry.

Take a look at this picture.  This email blast from a tech company (left unnamed to protect the stupid) was offering “A deduplication guide.”

See my inbox :)

The dangers, difficulties and disasters of database management.

Ten things that will thrive BECAUSE of the recession

                                             

I read a recent an article in ComputerWorld entitled “Ten things that won’t survive the recession” by well respected reporter Mike Elgan (http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9124260&intsrc=hm_list.)  The article was depressing largely because it was so well written and his casualty list was well considered. It was not a pretty picture.  

 

So in a defiant act of faith, let me offer my counter list … “Ten things that will thrive because of the recession”. (At least I’ll feel better trying to come up with such a list.)

 

1)     Direct marketing … but reinvented.

To me, the internet is one big direct marketing engine where prospects “self select” via their searches. When thought of this way, many of the principles that drive great DM will also drive great internet marketing.  Dust off those old “Direct Marketing 101” books – they’ll get the job done in this digital age.

 

2)     Good ol’ fashioned marketing common sense.

I hear many pitches from agencies and online properties that make no sense whatsoever on any normal metric. These are often made by companies trying to sell me on the “branding value” of an online buy.

 

Get real. Branding value in the online world is about effective as a one of those banners that flies behind planes. Limited.

 

Advertising in the online world is based on good old fashioned reach and frequency and has to roll up into a business metric. If the buy does not make financial sense – just walk away. Online marketing is not the place to make branding campaigns. If you don’t know why, see #1.

 

3)     Social marketing campaigns.

If you think great social or viral marketing campaigns just happen – think again.

 

Good viral marketing engages a well coordinated set of tools to create the effect you are looking for. It is not haphazard and it is not “luck”. It is a planned promotion that you can manage once you know the elements. Best of all, many of the elements are free if you know what to look for.

 

Here are some of the top components:

·        A viral video BUT …

Do not expect much to happen – no matter how interesting you think it is – unless you overtly build in the “kicker element”. Meaning, it must have an element that satisfies some specific emotional need to directly compel someone to send it along (think direct marketing call to action). It’s not about spending a lot of money either – it’s about getting to a concept that is built around its “virability”.

 

For example, a recent no cost success in viral videos was a web cam of six new born puppies hanging out in their basket. It was viral because it was so sweet to look at and people wanted to share it. It taps into our deeply ingrained satisfaction in looking at babies – or cute animal babies J. Here’s another example of a very successful video where the recipient looks like they were running for president.http://www.columbusalive.com/live/content/features/stories/2008/10/09/ca_l_net.html 

 

Do viral video – just do it right otherwise you will be disappointed. 

 

·        Customer feedback platform for a site. This is one of the most effective ways to leverage the power of social networking. You can even do this for free with a UserTrust, a feedback platform from Comodo, a leading Certification Authority.

 

·        Community chat.- you can get this for free too from Paltalk chat software. Just download the software and you can start a room for free where people can chat with each other.

 

·        Video streaming – You want to demonstrate your new product? Use a video streaming platform – also from Paltalk using their premium rooms.

 

·        Start a blog — You can share ideas and get honest feedback from your visitors. But beware, never say anything in a blog you wouldn’t want showing up on Page 1 of your local newspaper. ‘Nuf said.

 

4)     Comprehensible data run businesses.

I read a disturbing factoid that asserted most companies (80%) have lots of information and not a lot of comprehension. More simply, too much data of the wrong kind without the intelligence to allow someone to get what they need.

 

This issue has plagued CIO’s for at least a decade and the holy grail of delivering usable, configurable data is close. Why? Because the industry is moving away from rigid taxonomy driven databases where everyone “categorizes” everything the same way to a more fluid metadata structure which provides a new opportunity to get to the Promised Land.

  

5)     Explosion of Internet community groups and micro-businesses

The chat room of yesterday will reinvent itself as a vital part of the ecommerce sector. Rooms with video streaming capability can be secured so that they can handle transactions. This sector is the digital pushcart equivalent of the real world pushcart business of today, a low barrier to entry to eCommerce.

 

6)     Configurable, web based rich media communication services.

That pile of techno babble simply means that people will be to use video, audio and text in any combination interacting with as many people as they want when they communicate online. They will be able to choose whether they want a small media rich chat or a large multi person video streaming conference – just with a click of the button.

 

7)     Online authentication services.

We must become practical about how we bridge the trust gap that now exists between our ability to authenticate in the real world versus the online world. As we conduct more and more of our business online – this is not a nice to do – but must do. There are innovative companies like Comodo creating these type of centralized and distributed authentication services using new techniques in smarter surfing and authentication as an integrated business process.

 

8  ) Practical eCommerce driven ways for everybody to “go green”.

Today, if you want to contribute to help our planet’s environment, it’s difficult because there are so many disconcerted programs and projects and charities. On top of that, local community efforts seem well intended but often lacking in practical application.

 

In the next few years, consumers will get tired of waiting for government to act and will demand better ways to link environmental efficiency with an economical benefit. Companies that let people easily manage their eco-evolution will thrive. These companies will be a single resource that helps people contribute to reduce their own carbon footprint and will also offer guidance on ways to reduce costs using eco-friendly methods.

 

9)     Nanotechnology

This has been on my radar for about 4 years now and I still think it is one of those “step change” technologies. As resources become scarcer or more accurate sourcing for resources becomes more challenging, technologies that can scale up in terms of productivity while scale down in terms of resource consumption is a no brainer winner. Nanotechnology is one of those few technologies that meets both criteria.

 

10)  Digital and identity protection services.

We are living in the Wild West of digital landscapes in some ways because it’s often hard to know who to trust online and it’s even harder to deal with a problem once it emerges.

 

In response, a new set of coordinated services will emerge that covers a wide range of needs from secure backup services (there are great free ones today though like Comodo Backup), to identity protection and restoration services to PC management and protection against the relentless technological warfare being waged against ordinary PC civilians.

 

So there you have it – my predictions for winners that could only be possible in current conditions.

 

Now that I think about it – I’d love to have the longest “who will succeed in this recession list” on the planet. Send me who you think will succeed and have your friends send me their bets on future winners too, I’ll add them all.  

 

Maybe by sheer force of positive thinking we can help in ways that the economists could never guess. (This reminds me of the scene in Peter Pan when he asks the audience to clap for Tinker Bell to save her…)

 

Send me your digital clap. It’s worth a try.

 

Judy Shapiro

 

 

12/26 UPDATE:

Here are 3 additions to our 2009 Companies that will thrive because of the recession list. Keep ‘em coming…

  • Printers, books and printing … a resurgence of old fashioned direct mail – submitted by Ben
  • Trains transportation – submitted by Harvey and Lisa
  • Gardening and farming – submitted by Kay

 Spread the word and we’ll keep adding to the list. Judy Shapiro

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________

Update: December 30, 2008

 

These winners were just in  

  • Cloud computing for ASP type application (thanks Ira)
  • Multi-player real time gaming
  • Wireless marketing (OK – I have heard this before – maybe this year if smart phones reach a critical mass)
  • Which leads us to Smart Phones

Keep ‘em coming :)

HAPPY 2009!

Judy Shapiro

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Marketing Disappointments for 2007

 

How quickly 2007 seems to have blitz’d through my visual frame. One minute I am just throwing out the New Cards joyfully wishing me a great 2007 and hark – here’s the new crop of cards for 2008! Time to take stock and recount what started as promising marketing approaches that either fizzled or were badly executed.

So here new years revelers is my top ten list of marketing disappointments for 2007.   

1) Beware the Google machine – are you scared yet? They are into radio buying, TV ad space, wireless, software and what next? Companies that get too big too quick implode. Think Time Warner/ AOL.  Everywhere I turn I bump into them – feels like invasion of the Google machine. I am getting scared.  

2) A second life for Second life? Typical. People thought it was the next “big” thing and next thing you know – people start dissing it. Advertisers cry – “is no one there?” and start back peddling. Oh grow up. New ideas take time to jel – learn how it works and use it right and well. 

 

3) A rose by another name is still called affinity marketing. Ok – today it is called viral marketing a.k.a. social media a.k.a. community marketing and on and on. Let’s remind ourselves – that this is just a new name for what 15 years ago we called affinity marketing – described as “birds of a feather flock together”. Today, the basic “birds of feather flock together” concept has not changed but the ways we can deliver the message has increased substantially. The good news is that now we can reach an affinity group cheaper with a lot less lead time or fuss. The better news – you can start this type of program with just a little smarts and even less cash. The best news – it is interactive. The “many to many” model is an engagement model that is ongoing and can be sustained over time. A marketers dream, but don’t let the buzz of “viral marketing” scare you. You can do this type of marketing yourself – and don’t let any social media agency tell you otherwise. 

 

4) SEO can’t get no respect. SEO is one of those unsung heros of the marketing world. But it is often overlooked and underappreciated. Why? Because it is so misunderstood and worse lots of folks out there selling the digital version of snake oil. “Get to first page ranking – guaranteed in 30 days”. We’ve all seen that ad. But find a credible technology provider and you’ll see real results. Better yet. Read up on it yourself. You won’t have to do it – but you’ll know better what to expect. 

 

5) Mobile marketing – like trying to catch a cloud in your hand. I worked on 802.11 back when wireless penetration was barely at 40%. Now that there is near virtual wireless penetration – everyone and his brother (I think I mean that literally) is doing wireless marketing – pushing content, ads whatever to people on their phones. Enough already!!! The backlash will surely hit hard and heavy. Worse – many of these ventures doing wireless marketing are not well developed. If you want to play in wireless marketing – watch your step – 

 

6) Blogging is no silver bullet. Hey I love blogging (ya think J) but don’t think it is a silver bullet to replace good marketing strategy and execution. It is seductive to put all your eggs in the bloggin basket. Resist the temptation. Blogging is a tactic that should be part of a well developed plan.

 

7) Public Relations activities still stuck. PR agencies are stuck somewhere in the 1980’s. They still think that their main goal is to get NYTimes coverage. That’s nice but it does not actually build business anymore. It is far more productive to evolve how PR works. A few “big” announcements deserve to get news pick up but far more often you should focus on what’s news to your prospective customers who can generate revenue. If you plan these two levels of PR – you can get the front page of BusinessWeek and more revenue from customers. That’s the way to unstick your PR.  

 

8 ) Is the shine coming off the PPC model? It is true dear friends and if Google could hear me now they would no doubt disagree. The Google PPC machine has peaked and now is the time to understand how to minimize costs while optimizing revenue. Try this experiment. Reduce PPC by 10% – and track if you see a difference. I bet you won’t. You may even be able to reduce by 20% before you see some drop off.  I suggest you use some of the new tactics to augment what was your PPC budget. You may even see more revenue. 

 

9) eMail marketing – don’t open till you see the whites of their eyes. This is a tough one but email marketing effectiveness is harder and harder to achieve. Between fear of fraud emails, SPAM filters and all else – emails have even less of a chance of getting through. Stick to emails that are to your own customers with real offers. That works better than ever before and focus on other tactics to gain new customers.

 

10) Security in digital marketing. It is a battle many are losing and it is sad to report that even if a site has all the security in the world it does no good if a user’s PC has been compromised. The key is to help your customer stay safe online. If you can, offer them digital safety tips. Better yet – you can offer them great free security software – like Comodo Firewall. It’s free, it works and your customers will appreciate the tip. They stay safe and you can be assured that they will remain secure customers.

 

So here’s my wish to you all for 2008 – may your marketing be fruitful and frugal – and to all a good night.   

Judy Shapiro

The Evolved Marketing Model

 

I hear a lot of hand wringing about how marketers don’t know how to leverage the new media well.  Agencies seems clueless or if they do understand new media they tend to “black box” it making it hard for the mortal marketer to follow what they mean and more importantly what results they think a marketer can reasonably expect.  

 

So let’s demystify this “new media” thing (including viral marketing) with an evolved approach that is pertinent and practical.   

 

Evolved marketing includes a well balanced portfolio of new media and old media. Largely new media is about tapping into the viral marketing phenomenon – web 2.0, social networking, blogging and keyword seeding and so forth. 

 

The trouble is that viral marketing tactics tends to fall between the “agency cracks”. Traditional agencies haven’t a clue and PR agencies think of viral marketing as something they don’t really do because they are focused on getting pick-up in the New York Times.

 

Hence viral marketing is sort of like direct marketing was in the early 1990’s. Something advertisers played with but didn’t really take seriously. 

 

Think again.

 

Evolved marketers are recognizing that viral marketing and public relations are evolving into something called PVR = public + viral relations.  These functions are evolving into a singular function because the Internet is one big content serving engine (as our CEO is fond of saying) with a heavy dose of direct response thrown in. Marketers need to tap into the paradigm shift if they want to understand how to evolve their marketing models. This new PVR model is executed via strategic “content campaigns” where marketers concentrate content creation and content distribution into a theme and drive that content within a timeframe across tactics – SEO, blogs, public relations and article distribution etc. Today, most marketers take a slio’d approach — the SEO agency optimizes keywords and the PR agency drafts release about whatever and the marcom agency suggests promotions. None of it working together – all of it sub-optimized. 

 

So first evolve your thinking, then evolve your agencies’ thinking and you will evolve your results.  

Judy Shapiro

What’s the matter with agencies today?

I’ve looked at life from both sides now – the agency and client side. And here’s a simple truth — agencies don’t get it until clients get it.  Agencies have never led clients in marketing innovation. Why? Simply because there’s little money in it. Innovation takes people resource investment and risk – both of which agencies are reticent to do.

So clients must push their agencies and only then will agencies deal with it.  Look at PR. It is stuck in an old model of doing PR to get coverage in the New York Times. Nice? Sure. But does that drive sales? Hardly.

Today for example, the PR model is evolving right under the noses of the agencies into something called PVR = Public + Viral relations (ok – I use that term since I don’t know what else to call it). PR should be used to gain SEO visibility which gets sales. Don’t look to your PR agency to explain this to you – they don’t even know how to do a viral relations campaign, much less merging PR and viral relations to optimize web presence. I challenge you to ask your PR agency to do it . At best,  they will look at you like you have 2 heads - at worse they will try and talk you out of it.

Pity — because PVR works. At my company, we built a base of millions of users using just PVR. But agencies won’t embrace it because there are no huge media buys associated with it — no large budgets — no glamourous WSJ articles to point to.  

Take it from me (after having spent lots of $$$ in agency fees) – agencies don’t innovate – they follow.  Maybe that’s why clients are frustrated.

Judy Shapiro

 

It’s all about share of mind

There are lots of ways to reach people online - blogs, podcasts, social networks, YouTube. You name it and a new tactic seems to come out of the woodwork every other day. And sure – everyone wants to get noticed but in business, getting noticed is nice but getting lots of quality attention is even better and that’s the name of the game.  

Getting noticed by people who can advocate your product or service is the secret sauce to successful PR and viral marketing (a.k.a. PVR – public + viral relations ). From social networkers and customers to the press, Trenchwars is all about fighting the visibility battle & winning!  

Here are some practical steps you can take to start your own PVR trenchwar campaign.   

1) Start simple.

Set realistic goals that you can achieve.  A starting goal for instance might be to just identify the big bloggers in your segment and track them. Respond to their posts and if appropriate submit content to them. 

2) Track your progress.

Sign up for Google alerts about your company, your competitors and your industry. See who’s making noise and how. There are valuable lessons. This service is free and it is chock full of insight. 

3) Incrementally add tactics.

Once you are comfortable in the blog-o-sphere – add one tactic at a time. Maybe you do a fun YouTube schtick. Post and experiment. Learn how get traction. Then be more aggressive – add more tactics as you master their value to your business. 

4) Create a User Forum. 

This is a powerful way to engage your customers (and competitors). Get social networkers to be moderators. They will be happy to play as it gives them a platform too. 

5) Work the Press Release Angle.

Create a PR engine by sending out lots of releases (and I mean lots). If you can stand it – try and do one a week. There are tons of free distribution channels out there so the only cost is your time to create the release. Your goal should not really be to tempt the New York Times to print a story – but rather to gain visibility to your target. What is news for the media and what is news to your prospective customer is entirely different. Recognize that distinction and play it up. As an aside, remember releases are usually written in a “neutral” third party voice. Stick to that – it sounds more credible. Again – you will see how you are doing via the Google alerts. 

Finally – be patient. It can months of work before you start seeing results – just like farmer can not reap the wheat without first doing the prep. With patience, your crop will come in :)  

Judy Shapiro

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