Branding and Concrete…Not All that Different

I was reading a post on the importance of branding and evolving your brand over time as your business grows. All excellent points if a bit simplistic for today’s hyper-complex marketplace. Actually, let me rephrase that. It’s not a new hyper-complex marketplace, but like Wall Street, many are starting to be able to see the guys behind the curtains. We may not know all he hidden paths to success in a B2B digital-social-media marketplace, but we’re starting to draw useful maps.

Branding identities go much farther than logos, palettes and slogans. Product names (think Pt Grey), tone (funny, technical, market leader/gorilla),  application/industries, even the trade show booth, etc. And while branding is essentially a distillation of a company’s persona, it’s really a platform for the activities that generate real growth, which are a combination of inbound and outbound marketing activities efficiently integrated with sales…a simple enough supporting clause by itself, but one that the Internet, SEO, SEM, SMM, sales and marketing metrics, etc., have made exponentially more complicated (and fulfilling, if you’re a data hound that really wants to ‘know’ the customer.) If you’re like most machine vision companies, and stay somewhere near the beginning of Stephane’s post, well…’simplicity’ can be blissful…for a while.

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Social Media: Measuring What Matters

Social media is all about human interaction. And because you’re dealing with humans and their personalities (some would say egos), social media is a moving target and can be hard to read. As easy as it is to count the number of ‘likes’ on Facebook or views on YouTube, these indicators are merely introductory metrics. Rather, it’s evaluating what happens afterwards where social media shows its true value to B2B marketers and their clients. Here are some things I like to do to make sure I’m getting the most out of social media:

Review users’ comments. I want to know what users are saying about my videos on YouTube. I want to stay on top of comments they are posting (assuming they even are). Social media is more than just a vehicle to broadcast your message; you need to start a conversation. That leads to:

Engage the user. Be prompt in responding to comments or questions users leave for you or your client. Ask your own questions of the community, too. Participate! But no matter what the people say, don’t get defensive in your responses. I ‘liked’ a restaurant on Facebook and soon witnessed a war of words break out between the establishment’s owner and an unhappy customer. I get it’s hard to filter opinions when someone caps on your company. If you find yourself in this situation, offer to take the conversation offline a meaning far away from the eyes of other customers on your Facebook page (or blog or Twitter account).

See how they’re taking action. Are users sharing your Facebook posts? Are they Retweeting your Tweets? Web analytics guru Avinash Kaushik calls this amplification the rate at which your followers take your content and share it through their own network. Review the type of content that’s prompting these shares to find similar threads. The key word here is similar, and that might even be too strong. You always want to create original, meaningful content that keeps people interested.

These actions may not provide the solid analytics afforded by traditional media, but they get me that much closer to understanding what makes people tick on social media.

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And the Award for Biggest Email Marketing Pet Peeve Goes to…

About a year ago, I signed up for a newsletter on sustainability in business. What started out as a weekly newsletter has evolved (or perhaps devolved) into a daily email. As noble and cost-saving and PR-worthy as environmental action may be, there’s not enough new content out there to justify cramming my inbox five days a week.

This example illustrates my biggest pet peeve of email marketing campaigns — content that’s irrelevant, too frequent, and sometimes just plain boring. And I’m not alone: 90% of people unsubscribe from an email list for these very reasons. But the pet peeve list doesn’t stop there. Here are a few more that irk me (and remind me to avoid them as a B2B marketer creating email content for my own clients):

  • It’s a subject header, not a subject novel. You’ve got to give subscribers a reason to open your newsletter, but it’s a teaser; not a summary. On the flip side, just today I received a newsletter whose subject header simply said “Product Alert.” Snooze.
  • Make it simple to unsubscribe. Don’t make me reply with the word “unsubscribe” or provide my email address in order to opt out or I’ll unsubscribe you from my heart and buying patterns as well as my inbox. And clean your list weekly if you don’t want to be black listed as a spammer.
  • Provide me clear contact info. What if I like what I see in a newsletter and want to submit a product or news item for an upcoming issue? Sure, I could click on a link within the newsletter, go to the company’s site, and find the contact info there, but why not just make it easier for the user? You don’t need to use premium real estate (i.e., the preview pane) to include contact info — even a line at the end of the email will suffice.
  • Give me news I want to read. Not just news you want me to read. If you don’t know me well enough to select the news I need, you don’t know me well enough to get me as a customer.
  • Keep it fun, light, but informative. Knowledge is power, but too much knowledge without a little zing puts your customers to sleep. Trust comes from liking someone; make me like you.
  • Work at it. I can tell if you slapped a bunch of web stories together and called it a customer newsletter. The more you put into your newsletter, the more I’ll appreciate your work and concern for my time.
  • Variety. Not just columns, or specials, or news stories. Relevant apps, jokes, good stories, and weird stories. As long as they’re relevant to the common thread you share with the reader, then it all “blends.”


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Collaborate on the Cheap with Open Source

IBM is rethinking how its employees interact with each other and their customers. E-mail, company reps say, is “anti-social,” and that, of course, goes against the very grain of social media. So, the conglomerate is promoting a social business model that uses digital work tools so employees can “do great work together.”

Sure, IBM has cash at the ready to throw at the program. But this idea can work at the small business level, thanks to open source collaborative platforms. First of all, open source means cheap, or even free. With open source, you’ve got a group of volunteer software programmers who are always making tweaks. And because of this robust community of developers, you don’t need that large IT department. (An important note: Any open source program worth its salt will have a governing committee to keep bad apples from slipping through).

These online collaborative platforms (Redmine, dotProject, Manymoon via LinkedIn, to name a few) get everyone in your company on the same page, regardless of employees’ locations. Users can easily work together with a virtual online program that allows them to manage documents, share files, create charts, facilitate communication, and the like. There are open source platforms for CRM, too, whether it’s for record keeping, sales integration, support, or troubleshooting.

Social media is all about collaboration, and so is business. It makes sense, then, to use social media software to improve business development and CRM programs. And the best part? You don’t need to have an IBM budget to do it.

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5 Tips for Tech Telemarketing

Good advice from the cold-call specialists at SalesStaff. Funny how long it can take us to describe common sense. Know what you’ll say; practice; get to the point; etc. And here’s another SS insight that shows what marketing channels had the greatest impact on IT purchases.

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Help Jackie Help Kids in Jacksonville

Jackie brings sports back to Jacksonville foster homeJackie has been working with a local foster home as part of a community service project named “Choose to Matter“. Jackie raised money to fix playground equipment and sports facilities at Jacksonville’s Foster Home while working with local high school sports teams to visit the facility and invite the children to local sporting events.She now needs your vote to win an opportunity to join Julie Foudy at the 2012 Summer Olympics as a Youth Ambassador for McDonald’s Champions of Play Program. Check out Jackie’s project page, watch the video and vote for your favorite.

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Machine Vision, Motion Control, Robotics Trade Association Update Brands

AIAKudos to Jeff Burnstein, Dana Whalls-et-al at the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the new name and brand for the Automation Technologies Council, the parent organization to HBC clients the Automated Imaging Association, Robotic Industry Association, and Motion Control Association.

Burnstein unveiled the new A3 brand at the recent AIA business conference to, “…more accurately reflects our mission, which is to be the global advocate for the benefits of automation.” He also introduced a new logo for the machine vision focused trade association, the Automated Imaging Association (AIA). You can read more here.

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Automation Industry to Be Strong in 2012

My favorite economist, Alan Beaulieu, spoke at the Automated Imaging Association’s Business Conferencethis week and had good news for the advanced automation industry: 2012 will be a good sales year.

Economist Alan Beaulieu speaks at AIA Business Conference in Orlando.

But another recession should be around the corner starting in 2013.

To me, this is pretty good news. I’ve been a little concerned about the laundry list of problems facing the developed world and automation markets: Europe and U.S. debt issues. Middle east unrest. Spiking oil. Accelerated depreciation going from 100% in 2011 to 50% in 2012, etc. And, interestingly enough, Alan says the only headwind facing automation is the depreciation issue. Otherwise, he says, automation could expect to beat or exceed 2011 (and many companies will anyway).

Look for more info? Check out HBC’s 2012 Machine Vision forecast article to appear in the February 2012 issue of‘s newsletter.

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2012 B2B Marketing Study Says What?!?!

First things first: Huge fan of Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute. And if you’ve ever had to do a market analysis on your own, then you know how much fun it is to type “The End” and then paint a big cross hair on your back with a “Kick Me” Post-It right in the middle.

But I think what we have in CMI’s new annual Marketing Benchmark study is “a failure to communicate.” Cool Hand Luke aside, the new report raises as many questions (for me) as it purportedly answers. Continue reading

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Rise Above the Clutter with Smart Link Building

Type “link building” into Google, and the search engine finds more than 87 million sites. It seems that everyone has an opinion on the topic—and rightly so, considering the value of SEO. So how do you break through all this clutter to make sure you’re doing right by your client and getting them page views? I’ve gathered some of the best tips out there from the likes of Vertical Measures and SEO Book, among others, who live and breathe link building. Continue reading

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