BB Bye Bye

PMBB-Post-1UPDATE : Blackberry has now been taken private and is reportedly having issues with its suppliers [We would like to state for the record, to our knowledge, it had nothing to do with Paul’s decision]

After what many, perhaps prematurely, called a disastrous weekend for Blackberry, with massive job losses, a ‘falling knife’ run on its share price and announcements of delays spoiling the launch of an otherwise critically acclaimed BBM integration with Android, there’s even more bad news – my first ever iPhone, in gold, arrives today.

Not that this will be devastating for the management at Blackberry – they have lots of other issues to deal with. Its just that as I retire from a decade-long love affair with Canadian hardware, there are (at least) five lessons an independent Blackberry needs to learn and fast.

  1. B2B marketing is not the same as B2C. Hiring prominent iPhone users as some sort of pathetic brand ambassador is lame – to say the least.

  2. It is now clear Social Media apps are not all equal. Our B2B tech clients care much more about LinkedIn and Twitter than Facebook or Pinterest for instance. So perhaps some extra features on the business-related apps would be a smart move.

  3. The keyboard advantage may be sustainable. The addition of Swiftkey to the BB10 operating system may be enough for heavy texters. I for one, will be back if the iPhone lets me down when sending rapid but detailed messages.

  4. The incessant bad news about cloud outages and Cyber-Security issues could provide real strategic advantage. While the youngsters slowly waking up to Facebook and others milling their data, enterprises are now showing signs of wanting to remove Cyber Risk. Play this card.

  5. BBM has some real challenges in Asia and increasingly elsewhere. Either you play this game and enable it properly on cheaper smartphones, or you sell what you can and get out. Hyper focus is what you need.

I know my treacherous handset switch will have repercussions, I am already worried about frittering time away on pointless ‘pastime apps’ – ‘Draw Something’ or ‘Word with Friends’ anyone? Another concern is that my ability to send correctly punctuated emails of over three paragraphs will wither due to the virtual keyboard and man-sized digits.

Finally though the upside of staying loyal to Blackberry is now not worth the iPhone upside of a diary which syncs properly with Gmail, a decent camera and the same access to apps as clients. The real issue though for Positive Marketing’s trendy young team is image. How can they be so hip and happening, now the boss has got the same phone as them while the rest of the world ‘drives a Samsung’. Maybe there is a chance for Nokia and Microsoft after all….

Atomic Watch is the Bomb

With the launch of futuristic Google Glass sweeping the nation, 2013 is the year of technological ingenuity.  Watches have jumped face first on the high-tech bandwagon; what once was a simple timepiece now evolves into a wearable computer. The launch of Pebble, which has internet connected apps, epitomises a new generation of watches, and the technology rumoured for iWatch has sent the world into a frenzy.

So when we were told Hoptroff’s No.10 has started ticking, a watch that uses the same technology as cruise missiles to ensure precision, we realised this watch is in a league of its own.

Atomic bomb

London’s luxury watch designer and manufacturer Hoptroff wanted to spread the word that a new breed of watches had been born – or rather, had started ticking. But maybe the world wasn’t ready to believe this watch has an accuracy of one and a half seconds per 1000 years? Armed with an image of the watch’s components, and a less than engineering-level understanding of what a microwave resonator status reader meant, we were let loose. We never expected to receive the sheer amount of interest that followed…

The coverage went nuclear.  US publications, such as Global Post, covered the story and news channels from as far away as Thailand wrote and tweeted about this remarkable device. #Hoptroff quickly became a tending topic of Twitter. Tony Smith from The Register summed up the innovation and technology that the No.10 has when he asked, ‘Could this be the chronometrist’s ultimate timepiece, the peak of horological haute couture?’

BBC Click were also blown away with the No.10. Armed with cameras and questions, they personally visited Richard Hoproff, the mastermind behind this watch, at his quirky London offices above the Clink Prison. Look out for the upcoming footage of the No.10 and its inventor on BBC News and iPlayer!

Two weeks on from when we first introduced the story to the press we still have plenty of daily requests from journalists who want to cover the story.  The success of coverage we achieved just goes to show that, when you have a passion for something (and a PHD in Physics), you can grab the word’s attention with your creation.

Trying not to suck at Marketing

Having previously teased with the reasons why Marketing can suck and before we embark on the five part response, here are five ways we are trying hard not to suck.

1. Freshen your look
Not externally visible yet, but working with the extraordinary talent at Stone Creative to revamp our document suite and brand. Clients judge marketing teams internal and external on how they present themselves – it helps them gauge how you represent them.

2. Get offsite
Taking the team away from the work environment, despite hilariously cruel parodies  is almost ever a poor investment. We use High Road House just down the road from our Glamoursmith bat cave which we share with Celebrity Juice. This time our external perspective will be provided by analytics guru Andrew Smith.

3.Re-ping the ‘ones who got away’
Those customers who said ‘thanks, but the time is not right’. We have waited for years (the record is eight) for clients we liked and thought we could work well with, to give us a green light. As Churchill, himself an overlooked leader, who only achieved greatness late in life and in death,  said ‘Keep on, keepin’ on’ (the actual quote is a little more, er, British)

4. Question your processes
Boring you say? Crucial is what we learnt. Our new bag of tricks for 2013 including working with clients on Google Analytics to learn which of our tactics works best for them and a move to a suite of sweet new Gmail-friendly apps like Smartsheet.

5. Keep thinking bigger
It is a depressing fact that while the European market continues to wallow in self-pity. Elsewhere, there are plenty of bright spots, for those who look. Silicon Valley continues to boom which is why we visit regularly (January’s roadtrip will now be followed up by a June tour). In addition, our current client roster includes companies HQ’ed in Finland, Romania and Israel. Pleasingly, we are chosen to lead Thought Leadership globally for many clients. We, like our clients, dream big.

The results? New business this year is tracking nicely. New clients from the emerging tech sector in Eastern Europe, inroads to London’s world-class insurance technology market as well as the world’s largest IT security firm.

Why Earned Media sucks (#5 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

This company opened its doors three years ago inspired by two decades of B2B ‘Earned Media’ experience. The goal was to build the best boutique media relations firm Europe has ever seen. Things changed fast. As intended, we built a team of PR and Social ninjas who ‘earn’ indecent amounts of exposure for our clients in national and business media, vertical press and the technology blogosphere.

But what we do now is very different from Old Skool PR. Earned Media sucks because it can suck you dry of content and fresh approaches. The reason? Consider these five radical changes to the media landscape -

1. Freelance blogger/analysts now vastly outnumber in-house journalists and work differently.
2. The editorial ‘action’ moved online and mobile – with radical consequences for content.
3. ‘Stories with legs’ have a shelf life of minutes, not days or weeks.
4. Done right. Social Media is finally proving as effective for B2B brands as B2C.
5. Publishers prefer to curate, rather than create, content – it saves cost

Another print title ends up as fish and chip wrapping

Newsweek’s last issue

On both sides of the flack/hack divide, these changes to Earned Media, what purists still call PR, have proven hard. Pleasingly, this meant Positive Marketing has flourished, growing six-fold as we did what all start-ups do – adapt. Our lesson learnt ? If you can learn fast, evolve and execute it is possible to create great advantage from the market forces bearing down on Earned Media (N.B. the opposite also applies).

1. Smaller editorial teams mean more curational opportunities for original content.
2. Stealth editorial outsourcing via ‘contributed articles’ makes editorial skills more valuable.
3. Brands can win or lose in the course of a Twitterstorm requiring social teams who are ‘on it’.
4. Despite the rise of gadget tech, B2B stories are more relevant in economic downturns.
5. Apple/FaceBook/Google link baiting is an editorial ‘fact of life,’ PR leveraging this is crucial.

On this last point means we regularly have to persuade cynical European media of the merit of a story without major brand as linkbait. This requires more planning than ever plus the sort of tenacity which generalist in-house teams may, understandably, not naturally possess – theirs is a wide scope of skills, but not necessarily those needed to succeed in today’s new world of Earned Media.
Speaking from experience, most in-house teams, are more natural content curators and storytellers than frontline ‘story sellers’ and may not have the stomach to hear a time-pressed journalist ‘call their baby ugly’ (rejecting their new product launch). In-house teams are also handicapped because they have only one flavour of story to sell (theirs), whereas agency teams sell many and frequently switch between clients in a single email or, increasingly rare, phone pitch.

All this makes content consultants, who can create great pitches and can convert these to great stories more valuable both to clients and writers, who still have to ‘feed the beast’ which devours online content, despite their much-reduced staffing rates.

Earned Media has changed irrevocably, so how do B2B brands make the most of it? Firstly, editorial coverage is still powerful, especially in reaching non Digital Native senior decision makers, who are partly for historical reasons, or, just because of time pressure, less likely to devote time to surfing blogs. For instance, The FT’s pink paper still rightly holds a jealously-guarded place in the heart of CEOs.

Second, as news reporting becomes commoditised and democratised, exactly the opposite is happening to news analysis, which is becoming a rarer, more valuable commodity, increasingly protected behind paywalls. Once a news story breaks, whether read first in a magazine or newspaper, on a tablet, PC or phone, readers immediately seek strong, trustworthy editorial opinions. This makes news analysis stories which make it through editorial scrutiny more valuable than ever as part of a brand’s customer perception. It is this ‘second bounce’ which is the entrance point for many B2B brands stories – especially when they missed out initially on editorial stories driven by link baiting.

The point of Earned Media is that it is earned. The harder earned, often the more valuable. This is why, while we do less media pitching these days, it is valued more highly than ever by clients who realise the newfound scarcity of quality B2B media outlets, drives value for their brands. If they needed any proof, they need look no further than the publishers, who while struggling to justify print advertising rate cards, are only too happy to capitalise on the demand for internet usage with higher-than-ever website reproduction fees once the story is online.

Earned media ain’t dead it just grew up a lot and now gets on better with its neighbours. What was once B2B PR, and unthinkingly labelled ‘free advertising’ by some, is now more complex. As publishing economics blur the lines between owned, earned and curated brand communications, it remains a tough, but worthwhile benchmark of a brand’s credibility. Customers know editorial endorsement matters, even though they will no longer pay directly to receive that editorial.

At Positive Marketing the game is on to achieve the optimal blend of Earned, Curated and ‘Paid For’ media and we think we play it more enthusiastically than anyone else. This post is one of a series of five exploring the myths surrounding today’s B2B marketing buzzwords and is designed to stimulate debate, reconsideration and in some cases mild nausea. Please do add your comments below. Sign up to the blog as a subscriber and we will let you know how to turn these five disparate marketing tactics into campaigns which work in today’s market.

Why Corporate blogging sucks (#4 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

We all love a good blog. Teens have their fan sites, Middle Aged Men In Lycra (MAMILs) lust after bicycle accessories and armies of mummy bloggers review all the latest kit online saving their families money into the bargain. Should corporates also wade in?

MAMILs

Yes! But avoiding the pitfalls below…

Literally billions of opinions a year are now exchanged online, in and out of work hours on computers and smartphones without and increasingly with, the distractions of radio or SMART TV’s in our now multi-screened world. High quality B2B blogs increase an organization’s digital footprint and can create demand if well executed. The opposite is also true.

Consider ‘skunkwork’ blogs, often created without proper scrutiny from the corporate tentacles of ‘The Marketing Department’, some are great, others pet projects which distract from ‘real work’ and in extreme cases, off-brand diversions from marketing objectives.

But a bigger (readership) is better, right? Perhaps not.

Unlike SEO, blogging, is not just a numbers game, quality of what is attached to the eyeballs one attracts matters. When you are paying by the ‘click’ all clicks are good. Blogging requires actual relevant content, which may not appeal to all readers and so as well as rewarding quality content, blogging involves more corporate risk. Consider how Twitter’s microblogging can literally result in an expensive libel case to see why a more measured approach may be advisable.

Positive Marketing has oodles of experience marrying corporate blogging strategies with the world of Social Media promotion and below we freely share our philosophy, outlining four stereotypical blogs which you need to avoid if your blogging strategy is not to suck.

1. The Time Traveller blog – Traditionally trained B2B marketing folks, the sort who count business cards collected at exhibition booths as leads, worry so much about SEO they pay ‘SEO consultants’ for ‘strategy’. At heart these [back through] time travelling marketeers love nothing better than a thick, glossy brochure. The resulting brochure copy is a huge online yawn |-o.

Symptoms you have a Time Machine blog include – marketing-speak instead of engaging language, no calls to action and severely long edit cycles.

2. The Well-Meaning Amateur blog – When passionate amateurs, often from the ranks of product marketing (harsh but true) decide to blog they often do so before anyone notices. It is tolerated because they ‘know more about the product’ than anyone else. The resulting semi-official company blog looks and feels more like a support blog, which may fatally undermine a well-crafted corporate image. Worse, support revenues may become cannibalised by the ‘free advice’ on offer.

Symptoms of a WMA blog include – Lots of comments from a few readers, unexplained acronyms, no marketing oversight.

3. The ‘Me Too!’ Executive blog – When time is short (as it always is) blogging falls down a busy executive’s ‘To Do’ list like last month’s expenses. This a blog made up of repurposed, masquerading as original blog content. But if this information is available elsewhere, e.g. in the online press center, relevance drops and Google’s new algorithm hates you too. Just like the unpaid expenses, some of those readers may never be reclaimed.

Symptoms of a MTE blog include – No original content, over-length slabs of repurposed copy, falling readerships.

4. The video-only blog – No matter how cool your company, video is hard. You may think your content is just perfect for YouTube but it probably is not: here is one that is. With video there are lots of additional expensive production wrinkles to resolve. Who decides on dress sense/telegenics, on audio/camera technical quality, on output formats and who sanctions studio editing? While one of the most powerful media currently available, with a message changing as fast as many of our clients, is half-hearted video a good use of time?

Symptoms of a video blog about to go wrong include – Large planning meetings, long waits for edited content a failure to seize the moment.

If these scenarios ring true, feel free to comment, or if you are feeling adventurous, let us critique your efforts, or better still, just get your blogging on track. Remember blogging will on its own, almost never bring in sales directly. But if you can avoid these pitfalls, it can become a credible hub to a modern ‘owned media’ strategy.

Long term readers of this blog will know this post is just one of a series of five iconoclastic posts on how isolated marketing tactics do not work. For other ‘Marketing Tactics that Suck’ start here. Next time we set our sights on the whole reason for PR, Earned Media and look at why, that too, sucks today. Look forward to hearing from you.

Why Thought Leadership sucks (#3 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

In the dull minds of tickbox marketing people (who will not be reading this blog) the advantage of Thought Leadership is the same as the advantage of Media Relations – ‘free advertising’. What could be more simple? You sit your product marketing team, Chief Marketing Officer or, super worst case, your leadership team in a room, tell them to come up with some smack and sizzle, then add their favoured stimulants; caffeine, bourbon and if necessary (and where legal) marijauana and wait….

Wrong. For at least three reasons

  1. Thought Leadership is never the democratically elected decision of a committee
  2. It’s YOUR job. Thought Leadership pretty much IS Marketing – love it, sell it hard or no one will buy it .
  3. As Picasso almost said “Good marketing folks borrow, great ones steal”  (you’re welcome, now read on…)

So, is it time to give up on Thought Leadership in B2B? Nah. course not. The key is to make sure it’s Thought LEADERSHIP, as opposed to a thought.

Picasso Photo

Here are five indications you may be on the right lines

  1. It is going to p*** someone off.
  2. You had help. Seriously. Why not risk a little outside counsel as a catalyst?
  3. There are provable short-term consequences to disregarding this Point of View.
  4. It creates a new category or points to a new issue.
  5. Someone wants to rip it off as soon as you express it (see above).

If you find this sort of debate stimulating, you might want to know this is one of five such ‘Why XXX sucks’ posts in a series which Positive Marketing has created to stir the pot and show why integrating PR, Social and Thought Leadership is the best. A little leadership can go a long way.

Why Content Marketing sucks (#2 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

As mindless jargon goes Content Marketing is right up there. To ‘market’ anything, from salt to silicon chips, requires informational content in addition to the goods themselves. Whether that’s a brandmark or, that holy grail of Content Marketing, the pseudo-scientific but not peer-reviewed Whitepaper. The idea is to reassure buyers that branded goods are of high enough quality to justify the additional premium buyers are expected to pay.

Technical buyers are different from salt or pepper shoppers. They want to know exactly WHY a solution will work for them by understanding HOW it works first. The Whitepaper and its ‘live’ equivalent the Webinar were until recently effective, if time-consuming, tactics to educate buyers about the HOW. They build credibility, helping convince IT buyers that a particular technology could work for them.

Content Marketing is reassuring, WhitePapers downloads and Webinar registrations (or even attendees) are measurable. Today though, the vast Whitepaper ‘farms’ hosted on technology publications’s websites give buyers an experience as confusing as Borat in a US Supermarket. Image

If buyers like the HOW from the Content Marketing, they could next learn WHY a solution might work well for their company. Traditionally they did this in three ways;

     1. Asking peers (if they were not competitors)
2. Consulting technology analysts (if you had deep pockets)
3. Reading ‘Success Stories’ from companies like yours who had implemented
the technology in the media.

This last means of checking, although prone to intervention by Positive Marketing and others seeking to push their clients’ successes, did at least have one guarantee of independence; the technology writer. The editorial process claimed to debunk as much ‘PR spin’ as possible and help readers understand if the claims made by vendors were true.

Now though, with B2B technology journalism in decline and advertising revenues moving online, Content Marketing has ‘worked around’ this journalistic scrutiny. In fact it has co-opted the very journalists who used to ‘look after’ the interests of their readers. Inboxes are full of ‘Last chance to Register’invitations and ‘Latest Technology News and Expert Advice’ apparently sent directly from the editors of publications. Although on checking with them, it turns out most know nothing about these email blasts, which are in fact sent by the advertising teams.

Short term, this is a problem for the press. Where once credible writers used investigative skills and strict editorial guidelines to provide a valuable service to their readers, now they pimp unscrutinised Whitepapers and Webinars at readers whose inboxes are now overflowing with very similar offers direct from marketing pros. Where once they could be relied upon to check the truth of the claims made by brands, now they are sending out un-edited propaganda in their own names, making them, well, samey and undermining their role.

Medium term it is the brands themselves who suffer, with pay-to-play Content Marketing now just seen as a form of brand advertising (never popular with technical buyers). The sheer volume of webinars and Whitepapers as a tactic also means they are having diminishing returns. Undifferentiated marketing makes for a lower brand premium over time.

Longer term, Content Marketing, as we know it today is doomed. As always with marketing, differentiation, authenticity and innovation will win out. Content Marketing is just too samey, too generic and plain lazy a tactic to keep the attention of discerning buyers. If you can’t tell your story these days in a better fashion, perhaps with the help of animation, video or an Infographic, you risk appealing only to IT folks of a previous era, one before smartphones, respected opinionated bloggers and ‘Try before you buy’ freemium software – all of which change the decision-making process.

The future will be much more Social, which implies briefer content, more fleetingly sampled, but delivered in increasingly integrated marketing campaigns, where content is less formulaic. We are building some of those campaigns right now and would be happy to explain more, so feel free to get in contact. Feel free to check out our previous post in the ‘Marketing Tactics that Suck’ series and check back for some ideas which do not suck.