Ralf Haller January 2, 2009
Ok, here now is my very own list of what I think will work in product marketing, PR and business development in 2009 in IT and Communications markets (ICT), and what will not work (or at least not very well). While I do not like year-end lists, they do create the opportunity to summarize current thoughts. Actually, I could have written exactly the same list in September, October or any other month this year:
- Online PR and online/digital marketing: it’s time to realize the media world has changed for good. It happened some time ago in the USA (otherwise we would probably have Hillary Clinton as President-Elect), and it’s changing fast in Europe. In the UK, the Queen broadcast her Christmas speech on YouTube for the second year now, so it’s not about being trendy! Going online creates reach, efficiency, measurability, and cost savings.
- Top quality content: we have seen lots of me-too type PR and product marketing spending in the past. Things like, “I must have a high-level 4-color company brochure as a print out for trade shows”, “I need to hire a PR agency to deliver me monthly media clips to show our news releases have been published”, “I must include some of the latest phrases that industry analysts and competitors are using”. But “me-too” just doesn’t offer return on your spending. Instead of meaningless industry buzzwords you need content and design that reflect who you are and mark you out as different and better.
- Webinars and company-focused events: Apple and Cisco are showing the direction by announcing that they are to have no more CES and Macworld presence but instead will invest into more focused customer events. Also here the online world will play a much more important role. It always looked idiotic to me to have an army of bloggers sitting in a cramped venue listening to Steve Jobs’s keynote speech and writing down every single statement and posting it live onto their blog sites. Why not do this all on the web to start with, guys?
- Industry buzzwords: we came up with a tool that shows the buzzwords used in texts. Admittedly we found quite a few on our very own websites as well. It is simply too tempting to repeat what you have heard again and again, often produced by PR agencies who repeat the language from other press releases. They do this instead of trying to communicate market and technology details they don’t quite understand. The result is press releases that sound the same regardless of which company they are written for. Replace the company name and the product names and they could easily be exchanged between each industry player. Try that game yourself with your press releases and you will see it!
- Trade shows: in the last few years when I walked across some tradeshows I often felt sorry for the many sales and marketing people standing at a booth and talking to everybody, including me, trying to catch the business card and maybe even a big fish to do business with. Also, some of the tradeshows had fewer and fewer visitors, such as CeBIT or Systems, and lacked focus. Money spent on such “we-too-have-to-have-a-presence events” will be less and we will also all save money by not having to travel there any more.
- Press releases: much of the press is already not reading press releases any more, and even get annoyed if you send releases to them directly, so why not save that money altogether and be your own journalist, writing blogs and what we call news releases. They can subscribe to these then with RSS readers and pull in whatever you say that is truly of interest to them. Hint: that does NOT mean a press release saying that you will attend the next industry event and your booth can be found at booth number…
Ralf Haller December 15, 2008
The trend towards online PR and product marketing is much more far-reaching than having a website. All our clients are focusing their efforts more and more on online PR and online marketing & sales tools. Even the most conservative and slow-moving ones will increase their online part to reach at least 50% of their overall expenses. What are their reasons?
- Reach their target groups: blogs can be sent out automatically to your clients, media and analysts, portals and just about anyone who is relevant in your product markets.
- Monitor success of PR and marketing campaigns: either you measure a certain key word combination and how your own content and company is linked to it across the whole Internet or you take other metrics taken from your landing pages to measure success of a PR and marketing campaign. These tools are often even entirely free.
- Do competitive analysis: of course you can do monitoring of your competitors’ activities as well and in real time.
- Save costs: many monitoring tools are free, as mentioned; changes can be done instantly; and face-to-face meetings and seminars are very costly compared with a webinar.
- Do reputation management in realtime: in fast-moving ICT markets it is impossible to fix a reputation issue by traveling around or making phone calls with media and analysts. The way to do it is in a high-quality content blog and then distribute the link to thousands in your market so that it becomes widespread.
- Collect leads: if you have excellent information on your web such as webinars, ebooks, whitepapers, podcasts, ROI/TCO calculators etc., people are willing to leave their contact details. Key is the quality of the information. Excellent content is needed.
- Host/organize your own online community: if there is not yet a leading portal out there for your specific product market then you have the chance to set up a leading portal. Once your competitors have done it and succeeded you will be too late even if you invest lots and lots of money. People will not look for more than maybe 2 or max. 3 information sources for a particular field. If one provides all they need, they only have to look at that.
- Influence media and analysts: where do media and analysts gather their information from? From the Web online, of course, as everything else would be way to slow. You are still trying to reach them with phone calls? Sorry, they are busy with their RS readers and information filters reading what is going on from the web, no matter how charming (or attractive ) your PR people may be.
- Measure market buzz and fine-tune marketing/sales campaigns: for large corporations with a multitude of products, it is difficult to communicate as they have simply too much information at hand and coming out. So why not monitor what is being discussed out there in each product market currently and adapt your own marketing campaigns.
- Get customer feedback for product improvements: information collected online is often more reliable than focus group feedback. Online, people say what they think, as they feel it is anonymous. In a focus group or face-to-face interview there are group dynamics that are difficult to filter out and lead to wrong results. At trade shows, people also like to talk a lot of (nonsense), and information gathered there often bears little relation to the real world.
Ralf Haller November 10, 2008
The Obama campaign has shown how the future will look like not only in politics. Do you have a plan like this for 2009?
Traditional way: use journalists, voter lists, phone banks, direct mail
Obama’s way: social networking on the Web, can use now an opt-in e-mailing list to bring the message directly to the people, also helps during the transition period see http://change.gov/
This quote in the New York Times sums it up nicely:
“Thomas Jefferson used newspapers to win the presidency, F.D.R. used radio to change the way he governed, J.F.K. was the first president to understand television, and Howard Dean saw the value of the Web for raising money,” said Ranjit Mathoda, a lawyer and money manager who blogs at Mathode.com.
“But Senator Barack Obama understood that you could use the Web to lower the cost of building a political brand, create a sense of connection and engagement, and dispense with the command and control method of governing to allow people to self-organize to do the work.”
Ralf Haller October 6, 2008
I am back in Beijing for a business trip and will try to take some pictures that are hopefully unique. Today it was overcast and raining intermittently, so I left my camera in the hotel, expecting that I will have better weather soon. I saw some great things, though, and regretted not having my camera with me after all. One was a new shoe shop in the Sanlitun area that was filled with people still at 9pm on a Sunday. The shop’s neon name sign read: “C.P.U.” In China you never know if such names are used on purpose or by accident.
Not far away was the white Apple logo, standing above China’s first Apple store and completely dominating the shopping center skyline. The store was also still well frequented at this time, and the Apple people were actively selling with presentations on large LCD monitors to young and old, presumably explaining how much better the kids will be able to study with a MacBook and relax with an iPod.
The bars were empty, though. as you would expect on a Sunday evening, although of course I bet this was different during the Olympics. Maybe they were also busier earlier in the year: my not very representative survey talking to people shows that people are fully aware of the stock market crash and expecting that China, too, will be hit economically. Many people seem to have stayed in the market and have now lost big (one woman told me she bought China Oil for 15k RMB and it is now only worth 5k). Pessimistic people commenting on the Internet expect that it will take tens of years to recover; I bet it will be much much shorter.
One other interesting thing I noticed in a cab was a touch LCD monitor built into the rear of the front seat showing all kinds of ads. It was possible to turn off the audio, so it seemed fair enough. The text was in Mandarin only. Googling around a bit I found whose project this was: General Electric did it in 1000 Beijing cabs for the Olympics. Also interesting to read how social networking, blogging, all sorts of viral marketing ideas and much more was taken into consideration in the biggest ever online media blitz during these past Olympics.
Lastly, I was already able to make great use of an iPhone app called Beijing Taxi Guide. It is from the www.thebeijinger.com and let’s you find most of the hotels, sights, restaurants etc. The guide provides you with the place’s address, phone number and something even better: a full-screen Chinese character description of where to find it. Since the Beijing taxi drivers don’t speak English and often have problems understanding foreigners, this works great (mostly, at least: one taxi driver could still not find the place, which was more his problem than the iPhone guide I think. At least I managed to call the number quickly and they could direct us nicely. And it looks like even better Beijing guides with maps are on the way, but of course the one who came out first has an advantage: time to market(ing) is key for online marketing. I was impressed: this was a really good example of how to digitally promote your business through location-based services.