Why Inbound Marketing sucks (#1 of 5 Marketing Tactics that suck)

Inbound marketing is hot. Who says so? The opportunists taking lots of VC money and building fast-growing businesses ‘while the sun shines’ and before the inevitable ‘consolidation of platforms’. We too love fast-growing technology businesses but the hype level here is off the scale. As one prospect we met last week acknowledged, the high-pressure “Create Marketing People Love” message is just not credible.

Full disclosure, Inbound Marketing competes directly for marketing budget with one of our core offerings, influencer relations. But that is not why it sucks for its buyers. It sucks because the vendors who are selling high-ticket item solutions for Inbound Marketing are claiming they have a Holy Grail a One-Size-Fits-All ’ERP for marketing’, a panacea to make B2B marketing easier.

Of course it is great to have a ‘Web to Lead’ process more sophisticated than first generation web forms and for SEO it is also fabulous to have click tracking which can automate the A-B Testing of headlines, copy and images, especially as Web Designers charged so much for these basics in the past. However, automation alone is not a strategy and the dirty secret is

A better mousetrap is useless without cheese

Without a compelling message and great content , it doesn’t matter how you track ‘website journeys’. If you just don’t have the traffic, you just created your own Zil Lane, which a select few travel up and down as they please, while the world moves on around it.

As the ultimate creator of content, Einstein, once said ‘Not everything that matters can be measured and not everything that can be measured matters.”. Belatedly, to address this gaping hole in their offerings, some of the leading players have been farming out a ‘commoditized’ version of content creation out to their partners. You can see this sneaking concession to the all-important content buried here on a leading inbound marketing provider’s website. This in itself tells a story – not so much ‘Who moved my cheese?’ as ‘Please sir can I have some more?’.

The truth is while you want an industrial strength mousetrap to be built sturdily in a factory, most of us prefer the taste of hand-crafted cheese to processed squares (even if the barcodes are great for tracking where we buy them). Great content is a pre-cursor of Inbound Marketing. Without it, the promise of torrential leads effortlessly flowing into websites rings as hollow as ‘jam tomorrow’. Just check out the outbound emails in your inbox and sales calls from inbound marketing firms for further proof.

Next time we debunk another ‘great white hope’ of modern B2B marketing – Content Marketing. Feel free to comment on what you have read so far and expect us to come out swinging again next time.

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POSITIVELY NEGATIVE – Five B2B Marketing tactics that, individually, suck

With a brand like Positive Marketing, you would expect us to be upbeat. We are – ridiculously so. Our clients notice how much we high-five and giggle as we create results. In fact we know how important it is to laugh hard while working harder.

To change things up a little and be contrarian, our next series of blogs looks at five of the hottest, some would say over-hyped, buzzwords in B2B Marketing and explain how, on their own, they portray a negative impression of our sector’s progress, especially compared to our slicker B2C brethren.

1. Inbound Marketing sucks
2. Content Marketing sucks
3. Thought Leadership sucks
4. Corporate blogging sucks
5. Earned Media sucks

Given we do all of the above, you may wonder why we are so down on them. Well, all will be revealed as we conclude the series with an article which explains how you can change these buzzwords from sucking the life out of you to sowing the seeds of career-defining success. As always, we welcome your feedback, negative as well as positive. After all, it helps if marketing creates an impression…

Now let’s get going, with our first critique

How was the feedback from your latest event?

“A great event, different from the usual!”
“Event was well thought through and executed. I’m all for interactive events to engage the audience. Just a wine and cheese thing can become quite repetitive.”
“Definitely an enjoyable and insightful evening. I will definitely use the access info you have given me and spread the word.”
“I was also impressed that the more senior people in the room were more than happy to chat with me and you guys were happy to let them, which doesn’t always happen!”

Positive Marketing spent three months planning a rather special event for one of our much-beloved clients. On what for most will have been for many just another rather uneventful Tuesday – together we pulled off an ambitious live launch of a new product surfing one of the hottest new trends in enterprise applications; Gamification.

Product launches like this involve time, money and energy spent on the details to create something which can redefine a company’s future brand awareness. Get it right and client and media walk away feeling like they gained valuable learnings. Get it wrong and in a world of instant communication your shot at leadership is set back considerably.

Positive Marketing loves providing excellent client service and this often involves experiencing the same sleepless and afterwards the relief and excitement as we wave off the final guest from a successful launch event. So, in today’s environment- where on the night a 50% dropout rate is not unusual, what are the secrets to success?!

1. Minimal PowerPoint – Sounds simple but it is amazing how many companies still feel compelled to build that 30 page slide deck. Leave it. Your company is not two dimensional so don’t treat it as such. Microsoft code may have its place in your corporate board meeting but for the press it’s as popular as a stop smoking campaign in Mad Men.

View photo in message

2. Interactive – Let the audience ‘drive’ – How is your offering different from all the others? Journalist are invited to countless events, what can they experience at yours? Rather than telling your guests how to feel about it, let them make up their own minds with a product launch which lets them touch feel and play with your product. After all, the school teachers whose lessons engaged us hit home harder. So take a risk – everyone likes a trier.

3. The way to an influencer’s heart may be through their belly – Good food and wine are to be expected, but truly great catering could be your best differentiator. Why not theme your event from invite to venue to food? It may win you comments like this (from our event) “The sushi was kickin rad, as they say in the 1990s )”

4. Access All Areas – Rarely are journalists given access to everything and everyone, instead they are ushered from one sterile meeting to another having perfectly briefed spokespeople giving them a well scripted, news-free, company line. Having customers and senior spokespeople with the ability to have honest and frank debates is a winner for journalists.

5. Remember The 6 Ps (Perfect Preparation Prevents P*ss Poor Performance) – Yes the inevitable will happen so expect it. People get sick, flat viewings will coincide with your event (despite being in the diary for 2 months) and ‘dogs will eat homework’. So follow a simple ‘50% drop out’ rule and plan accordingly. Err on the side of caution and prepare for all eventualities, if you want to get results like this.

Hope you can forgive us blowing our own trumpet just this once. But the serious point is that events success is tougher than ever – there are more reasons than ever to say No. We would be very interested in your Best Practices around media events, get in touch, we have lots more hints and tips we can share one-on-one.

NATIONAL EMERGENCY OR TECHNICAL GLITCH?

For the last month the UK banking sector, arguably the country’s most important source of tax revenues, has been under fire. A typically British media circus of Parliamentary Committees, chairman resignations, CEO statements, CEO resignations, declined bonuses, and chairman ‘unresignations’ have created a lot of buzz. We like buzz, we create a lot of it, as you can see from our well-received spoof earlier in the year.

More concerning for those who, like Positive Marketing’s team, promote the vital economic role of technology, is the UK media’s continuing treatment of technology-based stories, even ones described as ‘the industry’s worst ever computer breakdown,’ as a mere distraction from political windbags and celebrities.


Tragically, even in an era where all businesses rely on technology and regulators use IT to check for wrongdoing, the UK press corps seem determined to skim over the important, albeit technical, details of how this happened and could happen again. Much easier to focus on self-serving politicians, calls for resignations and celebrity takedowns. But this was the tech story which would not go away.

To recap – a system error at a UK-government-owned bank meant a batch process, which may have worked perfectly for decades, went hellishly wrong. The results were non-payment of salaries, new homeowners being temporarily evicted from their future homes, vital medication missed and even extended incarceration for those legally free – all because no payments could move. A rip-roaring news story if ever there was one.

So, how was this major news reported? A scant few articles in the week it wreaked havoc (less than 1,000, or about the daily count of a celebrity divorce, according to Google News). Then virtually nothing over the weekend, where it was relegated to a small story midway through the news section of the UK’s best-selling national following, presumably, an effective damping down by the bank’s PR team. Unfortunately for the mainstream media, the issues were not simply resolved by ‘switching on and off again’.

By Monday there were still several million disgruntled UK citizens and a Twitter storm of brand damage and, inconveniently for some, the whole thing had to be picked up once again. The good news (forgive the shameless plug for our work) is this resulted in some intelligent comment as to what went wrong and why it WILL happen again , not least in The Economist (subscription required) and The Independent [Disclosure – this is what we do for clients].

Why did such a major story fail to be covered or even sensibly debated by the nation’s media? Three reasons, some of which we have touched on before:

1. Lack of expertise (as The Guardian’s Charles Arthur’s excellent, much commented, article reminded, few journalists these days have the expertise to even understand the issue)

2. An obsession with blaming the faceless (bankers) instead of taking responsibility (changing banks)

3. Trivialisation of the role of technology in everyday life. The truth is most of the outages which do occur regularly are easily avoidable with decent engineering but instead are seen as technical glitches, the fault of the technology sector rather than the business managers who are meant to be controlling them.

Thank God for the Barclays debacle (more later) which managed to distract the public’s attention away from the glitch and which has effectively let the bank off the hook. To-date there has been no further explanation of what exactly went wrong or what is being done to prevent future outages – nor can we expect any in the near future. As the media circus turns back to Westminster, it seems even ‘computer glitches’ which result in massive disruptions and large-scale pay-outs, are frankly not news for the UK media – yet.

So, let’s just await the next ‘glitch’ – here’s hoping this one’s even bigger. It might be just what this country needs.

UK to suffer week-long ‘news drought’

Unions call seven day industrial action and silence Number 10

News Drought hits Premier League of journalists

Embargoed until Saturday 31 March 2012, UK (NATIONWIDE) – The UK’s two largest Public Relations unions, the Federation of Online Lobbyists and the Association of Public Relations and Information Lobbyists today announced a week of industrial action designed to highlight their grievance over working conditions for their members and their treatment by the press.

From Sunday, the PR industry’s 50,000 UK professional practitioners including lobbyists and spin merchants will down tools. Analysts predict newsrooms throughout the land will grind to a halt as striking PRs fail to email press releases, research story angles or insert interview slots into spokespeople’s diaries. No news at all is expected from Downing Street, headed by former Carlton PR executive, David Cameron, until midday 8th April.

The dispute centres on a ‘complete lack of respect’ for the vital role PRs have in delivering factual news to ever-growing readerships, broadcast audiences and Social Media followers. The week-long protest comes in the light of weeks of nationwide ridicule by journalists and bloggers which included a ‘Wall of Shame’ and a derisory Twitter meme (#prsongs) which saw the microblog misused for open mocking of the PR profession which contributes to the UK economy.

Avril Lefou, founder of the Association of Public Relations and Information Lobbyists, reasoned: “Recent events have forced this unprecedented move by our members. For too long, our members have pitched some of the most unique fodder to ungrateful newsgatherers. Some of these so-called professionals frequently ignore perfectly newsworthy yarns. While perfectly happy to accept press trips and samples, our comrades in news are not putting pen to paper, finger to tablet or phone to ear as we believe they should. We have no option, but to retaliate and withdraw our labour.”

Local protests have been planned up and down the country which will see the printing presses of Manchester grind to a halt, the iPad screens of Hoxton blank and even the world famous BBC flagship Today programme without its trademark shouting matches – a move some predict will see the early retirement of Splott-born John Humphrys.

There is however some good news, rival unions, the Foundation Openly and Objective Lobbying [FOaOL] estimates a saving of electricity from reduced latte consumption, as well as much faster download times for Facebook, Pinterest and other vital PR-related websites.

[ENDS]

For more information please call Avril Lefou on 07900 600013 or Twitter @AvrilAPR_iL

Digital London rocks into the ExCeL

The terms ‘Tech City’ and ‘Silicon Roundabout’ are both the object of derision. Tech companies don’t need to be in close proximity if London has a fully integrated digital infrastructure. Or do they?

Surrounded by the din of aircraft engines taking off from the East London Airport, a burgeoning debate took place last week which gave the UK a chance to ExCeL and make its case to be the prime global location for technology enterprise and innovation. Digital London, the hybrid event where Thought Leaders from the private and public sector, investors and start-ups live networked and debated London’s Olympic year bid to have a successful, connected future.

The inaugural hybrid event lifted the veil upon the East Ends’ substantially botox’d face for 2012. It combined physical exhibition stands with virtual ones as speakers’ videos appeared over the web. Dominic Campbell from FutureGov case in point. It drew attention to London as a key technology long hub before Usain Bolt et al turn London into a sporting carnival during the Summer Games.

With the likes of Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Broadvision divulging their insight on topics such as future innovation, smart infrastructure and development of talent, content was aplenty. This fed into the hands of tech and national writers typing away in the much-appreciated large Wi-Fied support press room.

Note: Event Organisers Houses: Wi-Fi + promise of food + interviews = happy journalists

In total, the event [Positive Marketing ran the events press office] have produced 53 pieces of coverage thus far such as Virgin Media chosen to deliver Wi-Fi to 80 tube stations for Olympics and Open data must not be neglected by local government: Nigel Shadbolt.

Referring to Bolt and his doppelganger Richard Branson, headlines were made and trends ignited at Digital London. Maybe with one eye on appearing in future Virgin adverts, Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor’s Director of Environment & Digital London in his keynote announced that Virgin Media has been contracted to provide hotspots to 80 Tube stations in time for the Olympics. Mr Ranger wasn’t at all subtle about the announcement first calling the audience to get their devices ready before he let it out. Even with Usain Bolt and Fibre Optic Broadband, Virgin was slow in response and finally confirming one day after the original announcement.

Civil servants were in amicable mood during the event. Tom Loosemoore Deputy Director, Government Digital Service kicked off the event with a well rehearsed quip ‘I am from the Government and we are here to help you’. Will these words come to fruition over measuring and releasing transparent data, or will it end up as mere pettifog, only time will tell?

There it is, not #SXSW yet but the ‘Davos of Tech’ it could well be. We will end with an apt quote from Ray Wang, CEO Constellation Research who tweeted “Good for a first year conference. Will be awesome next year.”

If you did not make it along this year, see the highlights here.

Car crash TV or a sharp PR lesson?

As the UK mainstream media obsesses with the usual fare this month; stories about itself (Leveson enquiry), the Westminster circus (Chris Huhne’s alleged traffic offence) and celebrity tragedy (this month it is Whitney Huston).  It remains the case that we need more Technology stories and geek spokespeople, more women in IT and in the view of many of us, fewer politicians on TV.

As you will know from previous rants here, we just need more awareness of the importance of technology employment to the UK economy. Why then, was the appearance of Julie Meyer, CEO of Ariadne Capital, who according to the private equity advisor’s website has ”pioneered a new model for the financing of entrepreneurship” such a ‘Horlicks’? Seldom has one appearance caused so much negativity. Here is a sample of Twitter comments, ranging from the amusing (in an ironic British sense)

@kristiancarter That awkward moment when Julie Meyer gets home, checksTwitter, and finds that all the “digital natives” hate her.
@RolandMooreTV: Anyone else playing the Julie Meyer “entrepreneur” drinking game? I’m smashed. #bbcqt

To the potentially brand-damaging

@stellduffy: Julie Meyer is only following 8 people on Twitter. Does she need a free, young intern to explain how it works?
@carysafoko: Why is BBC obsessed with Julie Meyer? She’s
done #bbcqt and news night this week. Despite being mental.

This is a real shame because, having worked with Ms Meyer (a LONG time ago) in her earlier role as an entrepreneurial founder of First Tuesday, she was clearly eloquent and intelligent in equal measures and others have called her telegenic (judge for yourself if relevant ). In other words, her appearance should have been a breakthrough for smart females in tech.

Elements of her ‘performance’ were refreshing. Perhaps more guests, often clueless but feeling compelled to say something in front of an audience, should follow her lead and simply duck out of discussing topics of which they are totally ignorant or disinterested (as she did when asked about the issue of regionally-elected mayors).

Speaking to ‘sources close to Julie’ it seems she was ill-advised. But the real question is how far has this car crash cost the rest of the Tech community their shot of getting seriously clued-up technology commentators back on mainstream telly?

We fear a lot, in which case the best that the tech community can hope for on the media which ‘middle Britain’ watches (free to air TV)  is the ghastly combo of gadget ghetto and light entertainment which is Channel Five’s The Gadget Show,  its Murdoch rival Gadget Geeks and the BBC’s very dated Click.

Surely there is an audience for intelligent debate on technology in UK broadcast? Sadly we are missing the mark so far. If there are any TV production teams brave enough, we reckon we know where to start.