Archive for the ‘tech BtoB marketing’ Category

Integrated Communications: Blend Well to Stand Out

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

get-noticedIn today’s ever consolidating and shrinking editorial environment, individuals and companies with something important to communicate are wise to avoid relying solely on third-party editorial channels to communicate their messages. The days of simply briefing analysts and reporters and then awaiting their stories and reports are history.

Now, I am a huge advocate for the value media and analyst influencers bring to the dialogue and the marketplace. I enjoy building these relationships and nurturing them over time with great stories about how our B2B tech clients are advancing in their industries and engendering customer success.

But with the ability to go direct with their messages, companies of all types, whether B2B or B2C, need to harness new communications vehicles to reach their target audiences and influencers in increasingly value-add ways. And this makes it an incredibly exciting time for communications professionals and marketers to be innovative!

As Wendy Marx described in her recent Fast Company article, “the role of public relations has morphed into a bigger job…brands must widen the net and maintain an always-on presence. This means using a combination of third-party validation, along with branded content and social.”

At McBru, we are firm believers in taking an integrated communications and marketing approach for our B2B technology clients. Here are some tips and best practices to help ensure that you have the right blend of social media, outreach to third-party influencers, and content marketing in your integrated communications plan.

  1. Complement your PR efforts with a strategic social media influence, engagement and amplification plan, and back the campaign with high quality (aka, engaging and informative) content. B2B audiences want to be educated and informed, not marketed to.
  2. Go beyond the speeds and feeds of the news to uncover what’s in it for the customer; how can the customer win with your solution? This will help your message stand out and be better received. “Me Messages” are just not as interesting.
  3. How does your message translate to visual aids and supporting content pieces that help your message travel online? This might be a brief and descriptive video, an infographic loaded with rich customer-centric data, or an image slide show that illustrates the many customer implementations of the solution.
  4. How are you reaching those media influencers? The traditional methods still make sense – a short, sweet and very tailored email and perhaps a phone call (if you have a good rapport) – but we also believe in the power of social media to reach media and non-media influencers alike. @mentions are an easy way to get attention for your message and content. If an influencer is following your company, an @mention is a useful tactic. However, be careful not to go overboard; like traditional PR, be targeted, tailored and considerate.
  5. How is your message appearing on your company’s website and corporate blog, and are you taking advantage of paid advertising placements? All of these touches ensure a holistic and synergistic way to communicate with your audiences.
  6. Don’t forget the call to action! With so many messages, what’s your audience meant to do with the information? Make it plainly known and insanely simple. As we know, even in 140 characters, attention spans are shortening and the competition for your audience’s time is increasing. Make your message stand out in the right ways, in the right places.

CEOs and Social Media

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Social Media word cloudPR Daily posted an article today about the scant presence of CEOs on social media. According to the article, which cites research conducted by and Domo, 68 percent of CEOs are not active on social media. Of those who are active, the overwhelming majority are active on one platform only.

As a CEO myself, I get it. The job is demanding and there are never enough hours in the day to do everything I know I should and could be doing to help drive growth, profitability and success for my firm and my team.

To say I’m active on social media would be an overstatement. I tweet once in a blue moon, engage with LinkedIn a few times a month and use Instagram mainly to keep up with my kids. And yes, I completely understand the value of an active social media presence. I don’t need more data to tell me how well it could impact my business. I just need more hours in the day.

I know I’m not alone in that because McBru does a brisk business in persona building. Essentially, we help executives develop and maintain their online personas and establish them as thought leaders via blogs and consistent, personality-driven, and subject-matter-focused social media presence. We regularly see dramatic increases in Klout scores, followers, fans, engagement of all kinds, plus we hear anecdotally from our clients about new or deepened business relationships that spawn from our work.

Clearly, I need to hire McBru for my own persona building!

An Ice-Cold Marketing Phenomenon with Lessons for Your Next Campaign

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Rob Shiveley Ice Bucket ChallengeIt’s been the social media sensation of Summer 2014. It’s also a brilliant viral marketing campaign for consciousness raising.

I’m talking about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, of course, where a camera captures your reaction as a bucket of icy cold water is dumped on your head, and is then shared on your favorite social media channel with a challenge to friends or family to do the same—all as a way to increase awareness of ALS.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has been great for expanding knowledge of ALS and boosting charitable donations for the ALS Association (ALSA, But I’m not the only professional marketer who has wondered what we can learn from this social media and pop culture phenomenon: In her blog post, Melanie Taylor—a social media strategist at Ogilvy—discusses Five Learnings from the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.

The challenge has gone viral in a remarkably short amount of time—one of the first recorded versions was broadcast on June 30, 2014, on the Golf Channel, according to Wikipedia. In less than two months, the phenomena has circled to globe and earned the participation of celebrities and commoners alike, from Oprah Winfrey to Sarah Palin to the teachers at St. John’s Lutheran School in Lansing, Michigan.

Here at McBru, we even played host to one of our clients as he responded to his own ice bucket challenge.

Ogilvy’s Taylor makes a number of points about how the Ice Bucket Challenge is different from a commercial marketing or branding campaign, but also notes several take-aways that apply “to any brand trying to create a movement.” Several key points:

  • The specific cause matters. The Ice Bucket Challenge didn’t really take off until participants used a call to action, specifically putting the ALS awareness and donation appeal front-and-center of their videos. In fact, there has been intense push-back on social media when ice bucket participants have neglected to mention ALS or ask for donations during their videos.
  • Emotional connection matters. Taylor reminds us that “social media is about storytelling and sharing,” and with a narrative arc that blends a debilitating disease plus friends and celebrities doused in cold water, you have a combo that makes you care and eagerly anticipate your turn to be challenged. Because then you’re part of the story, too. “It’s challenging for brands to reproduce such an emotional experience, but to get this kind of traction, it is essential,” says Taylor.
  • Stunts need time to ramp up. On the one hand, the Ice Bucket Challenge managed to circle the earth in just six weeks. On the other hand, it took six weeks—which would be an eternity if you were a brand marketer and had promised a faster viral timeline to a client. “Most brands don’t employ that level of patience with a program. Instead, they invest in a huge push at launch; and if it doesn’t catch on immediately, it is often deemed a failure,” says Taylor. “True social movements, however, take some time.”
  • When you do the right thing, it resonates. Most of us know someone with ALS, and realize what a devastating disease it is. The Ice Bucket Challenge has taken off because giving money and calling attention to the need for research is, as Taylor notes, “simply the right thing to do. Let’s not forget about it when we move on to the next social media craze.”

Have you taken part in the Ice Bucket Challenge? How did it feel to become personally involved and help propel the cause forward? If you’re a marketer, what lessons have you learned from the campaign? Whether or not you have been doused, donated or are cheering for others, it’s an interesting case study in how to stir interest through a grassroots, organic effort that benefits a worthy cause. And don’t forget to donate to the ALSA!

Can You Beat the Algorithm? Take the Retweet Quiz and Find Out

Monday, July 14th, 2014

retweetWhat’s it take to get retweeted on Twitter? Three computer scientists decided to find out. They created an algorithm that sorts through flows of social media data to determine which of paired tweets (i.e., “two tweets about the same link sent by the same person”) is more likely to be retweeted. The scientists wanted to find out if certain word patterns, phrase lengths, vocabulary choices and other content variables were predictive for which of two tweets on the same subject by the same writer would be retweeted more often.

After running through some 11,000 pairs of tweets, the algorithm got pretty good at predicting which tweet is more retweetable. Pretty good, but not outstanding. According to the New York Times, the algorithm “can guess which tweet gets retweeted about 67 percent of the time, beating humans, who on average get it right only 61 percent of the time.”
The Times developed a 25-question quiz Can You Tell What Makes a Good Tweet? to measure whether humans can beat big data analytics when it comes to guessing which tweets get retweeted. Take the quiz and see how you perform against the algorithm.

Tweet this: Can you beat an algorithm at picking top retweets? via @m_sendhil Take the quiz and find out

So, if an algorithm can predict retweeting patterns, can we use its insights to write better tweets (assuming that retweeted tweets were better, more engagingly written)? Well, not so much.

The study found that asking for what you want is a good strategy: People are very suggestible. Using the words “retweet” and “please” in tweets resulted in more retweets. Using unusual or novel words or phrases also seemed to be predictive of retweeting. However, once you start reusing attention-grabbing language, it quickly becomes less so: “Once an algorithm finds those things that draw attention and starts exploiting them, their value erodes. When few people do something, it catches the eye; when everyone does it, it is ho-hum.”

It seems that longer tweets are more likely to be retweeted than shorter tweets. Of course, given that this is Twitter, you can push length only so far. And don’t start maximizing tweet lengths with the expectation that you’ll automatically get retweeted more often. The upshot is that longer tweets have more content, and more content is more interesting than less content, so content-rich tweets will get retweeted more often. “So the lesson is not ‘make your tweets longer’ but ‘have more content,’ which is far harder to do.”

Turns out that there’s no secret formula for writing tweets that succeed in getting retweeted. Instead, write creatively about interesting content and you’ll get retweeted more often. That may seem apparent, but writing good tweets takes time, wit, and attention to detail to get right. If you want to win at the retweeting game, then you need to bring your A-game.

Let us know how you did on the quiz – and tell us if you have advice on writing tweets that get retweeted.

What You Need to Know Now About LinkedIn Showcase Pages

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

With the recent removal of the LinkedIn Products & Services tab from Company Pages, it’s time for businesses to switch gears to the newly minted Showcase Page format. Showcase Pages are an extension of a LinkedIn Company Page that allows a business to promote specific products or services to a targeted buyer persona.  LinkedIn users can follow a Showcase Page without following the business’s Company Page. This allows business to promote for and cater to multiple audiences through up to 10 Showcase Pages.

IBM Big Data & Analytics Showcase Page shares visual content daily with an audience of 12,700 followers.

IBM Big Data & Analytics Showcase Page shares visual content daily with an audience of 12,700 followers.

Another reason for B2B brands to consider moving to LinkedIn Showcase Pages is the dwindling performance on Facebook Company Pages due to algorithm changes driving down news feed visibility. Janel Pettit, McBru’s social media manager, notes, “It’s a valid conversation to have with clients. Step back and consider your marketing objectives and how they align with Facebook as a social channel. Does the client want to build a Facebook community with an active user or affinity group? Can the client tag business partners with strong Facebook communities to grow its audience organically? If not, pay-for-play advertising on Facebook is the most legitimate option to reach a vast consumer base. The alternative is to consider reallocating your focus to a LinkedIn Showcase Page keeping in mind the platform’s lead generation features.”

IBM has a series of Showcase Pages dedicated to different market segments. You can see IBM’s list of Showcase Pages in the right hand column of its Company Page.

IBM has a series of Showcase Pages dedicated to different market segments. You can see IBM’s list of Showcase Pages in the right hand column of its Company Page.

IBM has a Showcase Page about cloud computing and another about Big Data and Analytics. By having different Showcase Pages for each business unit, brand, product, or initiative, users can chose what topics they want to follow. LinkedIn also provides dedicated analytics for each Showcase Page, which allows businesses to drill down into each of the buyer personas. By keeping content focused, personal and visual, a Showcase Page can drive high engagement and impressions.

In my next blog, I will share five easy steps for building and maintaining a LinkedIn Showcase Page. Has your business made the transition?

Don’t Bludgeon Your Audience, Nudge

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
Courtesy of Clik/Hear

Courtesy of Clik/Hear

Last summer I was fortunate to attend a presentation at Portland’s Urban Airship by Rand Fishkin, CEO of MOZ. In his talk, hosted by SEMPDX, Fishkin spoke about “The Mighty Nudge,” a method of influencing behavior that is being leveraged by everyone from policy-makers to content marketers.

Similar to Gladwell’s Blink and Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, Fishkin’s presentation was based on the book Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, which examines how people make decisions and how, as marketers and advertisers, the “nudge is mightier than the sword” when it comes to influencing behavior.

For example, Fishkin’s presentation showed how different messages about tax evasion in Minnesota—when tested—produced different reactions toward solving the same goal, which was to get more of the 7% of Minnesotans who were not paying their taxes to pay.


• When the message was “Tax dodging costs millions,” the main response from non-payers was “I won’t get caught.”
• When it was “Taxes go to really good works,” response was “Cry me a river; most people cheat on their taxes.”
• But when the message was “Actually, 93% of Minnesotans pay their taxes,” more non-payers paid!

Fishkin’s Marketing: Many Ways to Nudge

The Minnesota tax-dodger example introduced the first of twelve points Fishkin says marketers need to use to nudge (rather than bludgeon) their audiences.

1. Show Social Proof
Social proof is based on the human tendency to seek out kinship and commonalities with fellow human beings. Showing social proof sounds something like this: “They’re like you. They like us. You should too.”

The closer social proof gets to the audience you’re trying to reach, the more effective the social proof phenomenon. Telling Minnesotans about the effects of tax dodging had limited success. Giving them social proof that “most other Minnesotans pay their taxes” made the difference. The nudge was small, without explicit threat of punishment or offer of reward, but this was the message that had a positive measurable effect.

2. Play the Name Game
aspirational-namingChances are you’ve probably seen a pricing menu that read something like this: “Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum.” However, aspirational naming conventions—names that reflect who the audience actually is—have been shown to result in higher conversion rates at higher price points than generic naming conventions such as Bronze, Silver, etc. If you are a large company, you are more likely to identify with a plan titled “Enterprise” than one called “Platinum,” and therefore be more inclined to pick that plan as the appropriate option to fit your needs. Again, a subtle difference in naming can have a significant impact in behavior.

3. Limit Choice
Fewer choices lead to more actions. As marketers many of us are already familiar with the Paradox of Choice, yet we continue to paralyze our audiences with too many options: four pricing tiers where three would do, options for sharing to ten different social channels under the assumption that if the user doesn’t see the option that is an exact fit, she won’t act. In fact, the opposite is true: when the options are too many, choosing becomes more difficult and action less likely. Which brings us to number four:

4. Don’t Make Them Think

Courtesy of Kyle Rush

Courtesy of Kyle Rush

People like quick and easy, even if it means more steps. Back in 2012, the Obama campaign did some fascinating experiments with an eye towards optimizing their webpages. After many rounds of high-volume a/b testing, they were able to show that a donation form broken up into sequential steps outperformed a similar form that was presented all-at-once. As Kyle Rush, one of the members of the optimization team put it, “turns out you can get more users to the top of the mountain if you show them a gradual incline instead of a steep slope.”

5. Tap the Power of Reciprocation
Give and ye shall receive. This powerful nudge shows up in marketing, politics, and day-to-day life. It’s the principle driving the pay-what-you-want restaurants and digital “tip jars” across the Internet. If people feel they are getting free value, in many cases they will nevertheless feel an obligation to reciprocate, often generously.

6. Use Ego and Competition to Drive Participation
A little stroke of the ego can go a long way toward nudging users into action. Not surprising, considering the degree to which social activity on the web is about self-fulfillment. Sites like put this principle to work by showing users to what degree his or her social sharing resulted in action on the part of other users. Seeing the results of one’s actions, especially when presented in comparison to the results of others, is a powerful motivator and a great way to spread a message.

Fishkin went on to describe another six methods for marketing through nudges. The bottom line is that marketers are moving away from the bludgeoning tactics of the past and embracing the power of the nudge to move audiences. Tactics of begging for social shares, shouting slogans, and interrupting audiences are being replaced by subtle cues based in research and human psychology. Are you leveraging the power of the nudge?

You can  read more from Rand Fishkin at his blog.

A Team of Writers

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

content-treeAt McBru, we have an excellent technical writer on staff. You’ve probably heard of him: Bill McRae. Yes, he’s quite the celebrity among our deep tech clients. He whips and wrangles their content into easy-to-digest and highly credible technical pieces. Anyone who has worked with him can appreciate he knows his craft, and he knows technology. It’s impressive.

We also have Kevin Fann, our Creative Director. But in him, we not only have a spark plug of a creative mind (or maybe it’s a bon fire?), but also a Cracker Jack copywriter. To someone outside the field of marketing, being a copywriter may seem like a grunt task. Kevin loves to write and proves to anyone who reads his work that it is in no way “grunt” work; it’s masterful and poetic.

These two may hold the titles of “writer” in the firm, but we all are here and drawn to McBru because at our core, we love to communicate with technical people – and do it in creative ways.

Writing is one of the most fun – and challenging ways to do so. And always cut out the fluff and stuff – we know our clients’ technical audiences don’t want to hear it.

One of the ways we enjoy writing is through this blog. It allows each person at the firm to share why they love the work here, cool projects they’ve been a part of, quiet think time to reflect on an industry trend or piece of insight or put forward a bold point of view about where tech B2B marketing is heading.

Just like our secret sauce when trying to speak to deep tech audiences, some of the things we believe are important in our writing for this blog include:

  1. Educate. We all read this, and our clients do too. If you aren’t a client presently, we’re so glad you’re tuning in. We hope you learn something about us and how we think differently. For us, we love to see our colleagues’ smarts come through on the screen. We are a unique group who holds tremendous respect for each member of the team.
  2. Arm. We arm our readers with resources that help them get their jobs done. We love to talk about tips and best practices for our “Great Eight” disciplines.
  3. Inspire. This comes from being truly inspired by what our clients and their customers do; genuinely and authentically appreciating their work. Yes it’s cheesy but we get our cups filled seeing our technology clients succeed. We are glad we get to help.
  4. Have fun. We never take ourselves seriously. Ever. We’re always open to new ideas, a good laugh, and being stretched and challenged. Yes, to us, a challenge is fun.

What topics do you love reading on our blog? What could you use more of in the future?

Is Emotion Relevant in Tech B2B Marketing?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

For those of us who spend our days trying to solve the riddle of successfully marketing to audiences who hate being marketed to, it can be easy to fall into the trap of “just the facts, ma’am” content and messaging.  But that approach is almost certainly not a winner.

Just because engineers and developers mistrust marketing doesn’t mean they are robots. It sounds corny to say “technologists are people too” but, well, they are. And all humans have a left brain and a right brain; most of us even use both sides.


This image appears in an ad we created for a client in the e-learning space. The target audience: chief learning officers. We were playing around with the idea of “knowledge” and how knowledge is attained; the notion of the tree of knowledge (think Eve, apples and serpents) was tossed into the creative mix. But our client is a very innovative company delivering e-learning in a fresh new way (they’ve been called the iTunes of e-learning, for good reason).

What’s fresher than a just-picked orange? And thus, the “orange of knowledge” was born. He’s friendly, eye catching and makes you want to know more. That emotional appeal breaks through the clutter and allows us to tell the serious story, backed with data, that our client needs to tell. Both sides of the brain are stimulated: the part that makes you smile back at the cute little orange guy, and the part that takes the facts and figures in, and makes an assessment.

The fact that the emotional tug is a little quirky helps. Even as tech B2B audiences resist being marketed to, they would resist overt manipulation of emotions even more. So yes, emotion is relevant in tech B2B marketing… as long as it is delivered with a dose of affection, respect and admiration for the audience.

360 Degrees To A Kick-ass Social Media Program

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

kickHave you done a 360 lately? That is, a comprehensive macro view of your social media program. Whether for your own tech B2B business or a client’s, a Social Media 360 can help lift your head up to analyze morphing goals and find out how they line up with a program that drives results.

You may have noticed that social media changes quickly. Where do you and your competitors, and especially your customers and prospects, live in that mix? Are you leveraging emerging channel features? Does your social media program have a direct line to ROI with concrete measurements to track KPIs?

McBru can help you answer these questions with a Social Media 360, a deep analysis uncovering insights that set the foundation for a results-oriented social media program. We zero in on key influencers and conversations that can move your business objectives, and bubble it up to a customized social media marketing playbook.

Social media moves fast, and keeping your program ahead of the curve can be a challenge. Here are three things you can to do bolster your program in 2014:

1. Where do you and your competitors, and especially your customers and prospects, live?

Find or validate the conversations you want to be in to build long-term authenticity. Use your hashtag and influencer search tools. Don’t forget about Google’s Keyword Planner – it does have utility. Discover new or ancillary communities to broaden your reach and influence.

Tweet this: Where are your customers and competitors on #socialmedia? Freshen up your program insights.

2. Are you leveraging emerging channel features? 

It’s no secret that channels are continually evolving, especially with monetization, which is a good thing for B2B marketers—and for customers who want access to products and services. Scan channels for demand gen and CRM options; what mix is the best for achieving your goals? Have you checked out StumbleUpon?

Tweet this: Are you leveraging emerging #socialmedia channel features? Amp up your program and results.

3. Does your social media program have a direct line to ROI with concrete measurements to track KPIs?

This is consistently a leading question and challenge, but it doesn’t need to be difficult if you are deliberate. One key is to determine, right off the top, the metrics that tie back to your business roadmap. Then, find what repeatable and sustainable measurement tools are readily available that accurately report on identified metrics. They’re out there, it’s just harder to plug them in if a results reporting plan is developed after or independent of the program launch. Download this free Social Media ROI Calculator.

Tweet this: Does your #socialmedia program link to #ROI? Download this free Social Media ROI Calculator.

At McBru we love Social Media 360s! 2013 was a great momentum year for building out highly customized social media programs for clients based on their business needs. We’re happy to do the same for you. Let me know how McBru can help at @janelpettit.

LinkedIn Ranked #1 Social Platform for B2B Marketers

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

LinkedIn Surpasses YouTubeLinkedIn reigned supreme in 2013. According to Holger Schulze, a B2B content marketing executive, LinkedIn surpassed YouTube as the most influential social media platform. It also saw the highest adoption rate among content marketers this year according to the Content Marketing Institute.

Two factors leading to this development include LinkedIn’s new layout: the site’s professional audience and atmosphere, and targeted advertising options. Company pages are not only a great place to consolidate your company’s information, but a company profile with many followers helps expand the reach of your B2B content.

If your business is thinking about jumping on the LinkedIn bandwagon, follow these steps to create a comprehensive company page:

  1. Company information: Add your company’s description, address and specialties. This section also functions like keyword tags for search purposes.
  2. Cover photo: A cover photo that represents your company is an opportunity to grab your audience’s attention and get more clicks to your page.
  3. Products and services tab: This section gives viewers a snapshot of your company’s offerings. You can also gather recommendations for your products or services to help establish trust and build a strong brand reputation.
  4. Page updates: Create an editorial calendar for updates about your company, industry news, customer testimonials, and other relevant material. Post content on a regular basis to stay top of mind with your followers.
  5. Customer engagement: As with other social media profiles, the key to LinkedIn is to build relationships. Be sure to foster two-way communication with your followers.

If your company has a budget for social media campaigns, LinkedIn offers a compelling advertising program. You can target ads based on job function, which Hewlett Packard used to encourage followers to recommend the company’s products.  In the first two weeks of the campaign, HP gained 2,000 recommendations and later became the first company to reach 1 million followers on the platform.
What B2B marketing strategies have you found successful on LinkedIn?