Basic Mass Communication Theory

Marketing coffee break: Marketing Automation makes investment in people profitable

This is our first interview in a new series on best practices in marketing technology. today we talk to James (Jamie) Morgan, vice president of global sales for SharpSpring, one of our technology partners.

Most companies, we have found, that invest in new tech for marketing and sales somehow think they can skimp on professional personnel but that has been a poor model for success. The marketing automation industry is growing rapidly, one of the fastest growing industries in the world, but the tools are complex. Very few customers of the industry are making effective use of the tools and customer turnover is as high as 50 percent annually. as a result, many industry members are scrambling constantly for new customers. SharpSpring, however, ties it's business directly to marketing and communications professionals and has an admirable 2 percent turnover rate. One of the lowest in the marketing automation industry.

Our discussion with Jamie shows why it is so low and why investing in competent professionals is key to success.

Video: People are still key to Marketing Automation

Marketing automation tools are foundational to improving your digital marketing ROI, but they are not a magic talisman to sales. You still need expertise and experience to get the results you need.

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Sharing is a thing, but it isn’t the only thing.

I received a few emails from a content services vendor this week (Here’s a suggestion…did you get my email… have you read my email…) and after getting over the initial annoyance of a rookie PR gaffe I decided to look into the suggestion while I made coffee. My response is this blog post.

The vendor was Venngage which has a nifty online tool for creating infographics for distribution on digital media, and competes with dozens of similar online tools. The offer was a very long white paper on engagement that, to their credit, had no blatant push to buy their service, but it wasn’t completely subtle. The premise of the white paper is “content that people share is a good thing.” In fact, if anyone from Venngage sends you the link to the paper, I just saved you a who lot of time because you don’t have to read it now. That is all it says, but with lots of statistics before they get to the point.


It’s true that a metric of content engagement is, in fact, how many people in your audience share your content. For a company like Venngage, creating sharable content is an important metric, which actually denudes their white paper of all subtlety. That being said, sharing is a not a great metric of the value of your content, no matter what the statistics say.

A recent study by Colombia University said almost 60 percent of content shared on social media is not actually read by the people sharing it. They look only at the headline and if it creates a gut reaction (positive of negative) then it gets shared. The problem is that the most common SEO practice is to create emotional headlines that often have nothing to do with the content that follows. The headlines are heavily salted with phrases line “will blow your mind” and “you won’t believe what happens next.” For infographics, if you are among the majority of people that doesn’t actually read shared content or, even worse, taken in by fake news this is problematic. As a result, many infographics shared are full of sensationalistic, inaccurate and down-right false information being spread throughout the digital world. 

This results in two outcomes: misinformed people and people who are angry at you for spreading disinformation.  In the former group, these people are not making a conscious decision to do business with you. If those people do any sort of fact-checking they become the latter group because they are pissed off about being lied to, even though that was not your intent. This practice rarely results in revenue for you, which is the stated goal of content marketing, and it destroys your reputation.

There are only two metrics that truly matter in the area of content marketing: (1) How much time do they spend on your content and website and (2) how many end up asking for a proposal. Everything else is interesting but not important.  You can have a brilliant infographic that gets shared and re shared hundreds of thousands of time, but if they spend no time actually considering that information and if they never end up buying your service or product, that infographic is completely useless.

It is more important to get one paying customer than 100,000 shares or content that no one reads. It takes time to build a relationship and relationship is engagement. So before you invest in tools and gimmicks for social engagement, focus on the quality of your content first. There are no magic beans.

Contact us if you want to figure out how to create engaging and trustworthy content.

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Echo Chamber Marketing

While you may have many happy customers, you can rest assured that every unhappy potential customer and past customer is going to your competitors and telling them how awful you are. You just don’t know it.


No matter how many tech companies we talk to we are constantly amazed at how many believe the exact same thing about two issues.

  1. Customer satisfaction

  2. Technical superiority

In issue one they believe that their customers are, collectively, more happy with their service and technology than with their competitors’; that their competitors are widely hated by their own customer base; and that their competitors, even those that no longer exist and all that are going to be are incompetent boobs.

In issue two they believe that customers see their contribution as the “secret sauce” behind the customers’ end products (e.g. “Our chip makes their mobile phone the fastest/lowest power/most versatile mobile phone ever). But that contribution is considered to be a “competitive advantage” by their customers and, therefore, the customers do not want to be identified or quoted.

Reality, however, is not as clear cut.

Reality check #1: There are incompetent people in every company and they annoy customers, some to the point that a customer will drop a product or service simply because they are annoying. But if the product or service provided gives them what they want at the price they are willing to pay, they will put up with the annoyance and incompetence. Any company that demonstrates incompetence, bad products and poor customer service will cease to exist. So if your competitor is still in business then they are doing something right.

While you may have many happy customers, you can rest assured that every unhappy potential customer and past customer is going to your competitors and telling them how awful you are. You just don’t know it.

Reality check #2: Every company we talked to in the past 20 years has told us, “off the record”, that they are providing products and services to a very large customer, or selling products and services to a vendor who is selling products to a very large customer. But at the same time, they say they are not allowed to publicly mention that customer or vendor because they are considered a “competitive advantage.” Every. Single. One.

We have found that smaller customers are generally more willing to give endorsements because it gives them attention in the marketplace, but we have also found that the companies we talk to prefer to talk only about the customers that they cannot publicly talk about.

So in both cases, their claims of customer satisfaction and technical superiority are unprovable.

This is what we call echo chamber marketing.

In their defense it is the only option they have because they really don’t know what the market is saying about them, or even if the glowing reports they get from their customers is anything more than polite conversation and a means to get a price cut for the next round. We have also noted that most of these companies have significant outstanding invoices on the books that have yet to be paid by their “happy” customers and when they threaten to withhold service or delivery the customer immediately calls a competitor. So how “happy” are they, really.

It does not have to be this way.

There are several tools and services that can get you honest feedback from your current and potential customer bases. There are ways to encourage customers who are truly satisfied with you to state so publicly. The choice is yours: Survive as long as you can in your self-built echo chamber, or learn how to thrive in the real world.


Bring real estate marketing into the 21st century

Footwasher Media has been looking into the arena of real estate marketing and communication for the past couple of years and has come up with a few interesting observations.

First and foremost is the reality that most realtors are far behind the curve adopting modern, digital communication. Websites are purchased as standard, so there is little differentiation between them. Metrics are employed but rarely studied. Social media is used sporadically and superficially. A very small percentage are breaking the mold and using digital tools with great success, but around 90 percent are far behind.

That last statistic tracks fairly well with the Content Marketing Institute’s numbers on general adoption of digital marketing and communication across all industries as of 4 years ago. At that time you could look at any industry and the numbers were the same as realtors today. However, current numbers put adoption of modern best practices for all industries at around 35 percent, so the real estate industry is falling far behind.

To a degree that is understandable. Most realtors are private business people who associate with real estate companies (e.g. ReMax, Century 21) that provide the independents with office space and a certain level of generic marketing services, allowing the realtors to focus on their business, but even the largest companies are behind the national curve.

Surprisingly enough, when you go outside of tech-heavy centers like Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and New York, realtors get a bit more savvy and adventurous with technology. We have found realtors making seven-figure incomes in low-population areas of Montana using the most cutting-edge online tools and video to promote their business while realtors in the hottest markets of the San Francisco Bay Area struggling to make ends meet but dismissing the advantages of digital media altogether.

Granted these markets are nothing alike, and struggles boil down to more than just the use of social media.  The real estate market in Montana is not nearly as active and complicated as it is in San Mateo County where a two-bedroom bungalow goes for the same price as a 400-acre ranch with a five-bedroom home outside of Bozeman. And while you would be hard pressed to find a dozen successful realtors in that area of Montana, San Mateo County boasts hundreds of realtors fighting tooth and nail to make a living.

Keeping all that in mind it seems counter productive to dismiss tools that could give you a competitive advantage over everyone else. We met with one realtor that adopted blogging and advanced website metrics in San Carlos, California several years ago. Today he essentially owns the entire San Carlos market, which is filled with some of the most expensive homes on the San Francisco Peninsula. He is grudgingly acknowledged by other realtors as the most successful business they know, and yet they still refuse to adopt his practices.

There are reasons for that, none of them good.

In our discussion with realtors over the past two years the fears and misconceptions expressed by even the most tech-savvy include:

  • Social media is for kids

  • It's a fad

  • Real estate is local

  • It can’t help me/I don’t have the time

  • I don’t understand it

Lets break those down:

It’s for kids: The biggest audience on Facebook in the US are people over the age of 30. Most people, according to any reputable real estate company, begin to start thinking about buying a home in their 30s. Given it's the prime demographic for realtors, wouldn’t it make sense to have an active presence on it? Now, in truth, every realtor we’ve talked to does have some sort of presence on Facebook but they all say they don’t use it to promote their business but to demonstrate their knowledge of the community. That’s a good reason to do it but it ignores the potential to find highly targeted and motivated customers.

It’s a fad: Um, OK. Social media companies are among the strongest drivers of the American stock market for about five years now. Congressional hearings are being called to discuss their impact on national security, privacy, and the economy. We are pretty sure they aren’t going anywhere soon.

Real estate is local: Absolutely and social media and web search, including Facebook, NextDoor, Twitter, etc.  have been proven to be the quickest way to reach local audiences and people looking at moving into certain regions.

It can’t help me/I don’t have the time: We lumped these two together because the second is the more honest version of the first. Yes, setting up and learning how to use the tools available take a considerable amount of time away from doing everything the way you have always done it. Change takes effort, but as the example of the San Carlos realtor demonstrates, once done it is virtually self-sustaining and highly profitable.

I don’t understand it: Ding! That’s the most honest response of all of them. Most of us live in an understanding of how media worked in the 20th century and thing it still works that way today. That’s wrong and it’s also why most people get confused about social media.

In the 20th century, people had only three television networks, a couple newspapers, and a handful of radio stations to get information and for advertisers to promote business. Today, there are hundreds of television networks and a dwindling number of newspapers and radio stations. The technology exists, allowing customers and clients to ignore all the outward bound marketing messaging a business produces and look only for what they want. 

In social media, however, their search and content consumption is analyzed by algorithms and information is pushed to them, which can allow realtors to deliver information about their services to a highly targeted and motivated audience. All that needs doing is to take the time to understand how it works and set it up. It could take a few weeks of concerted effort to do that, but after that, it pretty much runs itself.

This last point is the primary purpose of Footwasher Media: helping our clients understand and implement the tools that make it possible.

Want to learn more? Contact us. 


Are lead-generation services worth the investment?

... and the answer is, maybe. Chart-spam1

Lead generation services are abundant and there is absolutely no reliable data on who is good and who isn’t, but there are enough customers for all providers to make a decent living or to at least persuade investors to support new technologies.

I get about five requests weekly to have a new lead-gen service demonstrate their wares. All of them use an almost identical pitch to describe the quality of their current lists, the abilities of their list screeners or the functionality of their artificial intelligence that scours the web for leads. I have tried about two dozen in the past year and I have discovered that none of the work as well as internal list development.

Let me clarify: the companies I work with (and my own company for that matter) do not try to reach millions of potential customers with their marketing. Footwasher Media does not do retail business. If you are in the retail business and you get a two-percent positive response from a 500,000-lead list, that’s a good investment. A B2B company looking to do a million-dollar deal with each of 10 customers in a year, a two-percent return would be good, too. But I have yet to see a B2B company get any return on a purchased list of lead-gen service, and zero-percent return is not good.

Why can’t these companies do what they say that can do for high-end B2B? First, because they all dip into the same set of Standard Industry Classification (SIC) codes to start their process and those codes screw up all the data. For example, I have taken flyers on a half dozen lead-generation technologies to see if they could deliver decent results. The process begins by me either giving them a list of 50-100 of my current customers (or client customers), or filling out a form that lists the industries, titles and revenues for the kind of companies we want to reach. That data is punched into the system and out comes…

Lists of lawyers, accountants and HR professionals.

That would be great if I was trying to reach those three groups, but I never am. None of those people ever invest in communication or marketing. Furthermore, they know nothing about communication and marketing. However, when they are filling out their industry classification that will list every kind of industry their clients work in. So if I am asking for a list of executives in the semiconductor industry, every lawyer, accountant or HR professional that works with semiconductor companies will be included in the list, even if I specifically request that they NOT be included.

The second reason lead-gen services fail to provide valuable information is the mobility of the leads. People move from job to job or get laid off. Right now, layoffs in the tech world are rampant, especially in middle management where initial purchase decisions are made. Companies regularly fail to update their websites and companies go out of business without taking down websites, yet that is the second source of data the services relief on.

There are Lead-gen companies that feature real human beings making phone calls to real human beings to validate the data they scrape from the SIC codes and web, and they charge anything from $12 to $100 per lead, based on what I’ve been pitched. Now, compared to trade show leads in B2B industries that cost about $200 per lead, that may be a bargain, but the question is, do they turn into business deals? Usually, no. but the human intelligence of this process is much more effective than the web scraping described above.

The services that do human screening usually have minimums in the thousands. So at the low end, you could buy a thousand leads for $12,000 and still have to close the sale. You might screen through them and find 10 percent are warm enough to make an initial meeting so you can say you’ve spent $120 per lead which is better than trade shows. However, Footwasher Media has discovered that internally developing that intel is more effective than hiring it. We can find a young, personable individual with no more than a high school education can be paid $15 and hour to take an internally developed list and create 100 warm leads within 8 hours or $120: $1.20 a lead. Those leads were developed using marketing automation software that costs $1000 per month for a subscription bringing the total cost to $10.20 per lead. For our clients, if one of those leads turns into a sale, it’s a 100x ROI.

There are lead-generation services that are results oriented (you don’t pay until you get the expected results) but they are just as expensive as the “humint” services, sometimes even more. In fact, we have discovered that the cost of third-party lead generation is as much as you would pay for a content marketing agency and marketing automation software per month, both of which do all the work in finding and turning leads into sales before the lead hits the salesman’s desk.

This is not to say you should not consider hiring one of these services, but remember, they are pretty much all alike and deliver pretty much the same results, so factor that in when you are making the budget decision.

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Is Linkedin a valuable business tool or a spam bucket?

What no one is telling you about the media.

We see rumors and conspiracy theories popping up every day and some people believe them because they fit in a particular world view. Just because it sounds true doesn't mean it is true.

There is a phrase that pops up in a lot of blogs, social media posts and general conversation that really annoys me.

"The media is not covering this."

It doesn't matter what the socio-religio-political position of the person making the statement because it is a universal belief among all stripes that something they consider crucial is being ignored by the news media. This article is to describe why your crucial information is being ignored.

  1. You don't actually read general news media so you have no idea if it is being covered or how it is being covered if it is. Few people actually read legitimate news sources anymore. More people get their news from click-bait sites or gossip shows like TMZ; partisan blogs and news commentaries; and social media posts than they do actual news organizations. Those people also don't know how news and opinion are two different forms of information. Part of that problem is there is more media investment in the low-information content because there is a greater return on investment. Stating an uninformed opinion takes a lot less work and cost than digging out a news story.

  2. What you consider news is actually not true.  We see rumors and conspiracy theories popping up every day and some people believe them because they fit in a particular world view. Just because it sounds true doesn't mean it is true. News professionals are supposed to take their time and research information to report truth. It is the first tenet of the professional journalist code of ethics: Seek truth and report it. Now it is also a truth that many professionals don't do a very good job of the seeking part, especially lately. That doesn't necessarily mean they are lazy, but that they don't actually have time to do their jobs well, which brings us to point three.

  3. The news media you think exists died out a decade ago. I've been a media professional for 40 years. I started out as a reporter and branched out into marketing communications, PR, and communication strategy, so I have been intently watching the contraction of the news industry. In the Electronics Industry media alone, less than a third of the publications I used to work for and with still exist and 95 percent of the professional journalists have been replaced by marketing executives and low-level engineers who hated to do engineering. Hundreds of newspapers and broadcast news organizations have disappeared in the past decade. We have more access to media channels than ever before and less than half the personnel to cover actual news. Jobs that used to go to professional journalists at one time are now going to people who can be entertaining rather than good at finding truth. I recently saw a "news" story by a freelancer on a cable news network who I had seen previously doing standup on the Comedy Channel. So if the media is, in reality, not covering a particular bit of news you consider important, it probably because they do not have a human being available to cover it.

So what can we do about this?

  • First, maybe you can pick up a newspaper once in a while and actually read the news. Several times a week I read two local newspapers, I subscribe online to Al Jazeera, The Economist, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post and Politico. I also have in my bookmark bar so I can quickly review if what I’m reading is accurate.

  • Second, on Facebook, rather than follow pages like Huffington Post, and TMZ you could start following the really boring stuff that may or may not coincide with your theological and political views. Instead of watching MSNBC or Fox and Friends, watch the news programs on ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS... and NOT THE COMMENTARY sections.  Instead of reading opinion pieces on what was said on Meet the Press and Face the Nation, I actually watch them to see what was really discussed. Online sources of information are not all bad. is a great source of information about Supreme Court news, for example. 

  • Third, a good filter for any online source is any that does NOT use the phrases, "What they are not telling you...", "A little-known fact...", and "what the media isn't covering." 

  • Fourth, stop listening to people that tell you what you want to hear. Step out of your comfort zone.

  • Fifth, don't trust anyone under 30 with an opinion (OK, just kidding about the last one... sort of).

If you follow these guidelines you will not only find out just what is actually being covered, but you will hone your BS meter’s ability to make you properly skeptical.

The cost and potential of speaking engagements

Unless you are already mind-bindingly successful and in demand as a speaker, don’t count on being able to get people to pay you to show up and speak… or even speak for free.

Every client I have ever had makes one request that can never be satisfied: Obtaining speaking engagements.

It’s not that it cannot be done, but that the client either lacks the patience or resources to make fulfilling that request possible. So I thought it might be a good time to actually put down how those engagements actually happen.

First, one needs to understand that speaking engagements are generally offered 6 months before the event actually happens because events just don’t start spontaneously. Most of the planning stages begin the day after the event last occurred, subject matter is decided upon and the search for participants in the program begins. Who is chosen to participate generally comes down to the following:

1. Sheer luck.  

This occurs when a person originally selected to speak has to bow out at the last minute and there are no other options immediately available. I recently placed a client in an opportunity that literally arose 5 days before the event. We had to quickly put together a presentation that shoehorned the client’s technology into a narrow application and, while the talk was generally well received, several of the attenders made a point during Q&A to say that the technology really didn’t match the subject matter. It was an acceptable alternative to the organizers because they had a hole to fill. This doesn’t happen often. In fact it may never happen for a client. Don’t count on it.

2. The speaker is very well-known and in demand. 

One of the deciding factors on who gets to speak is that the main speakers will attract more people to the event. For example, Thomas Dolby, a musician and producer popular in the 1980s, was chosen as a speaker at a tech conference I went to a couple of years ago. He received a pretty good check and had all his expenses covered by the organizers for coming to the event and talking about how he had pioneered electronic music. It was a good talk, but he was well known by the crowd and was quite entertaining. The room was packed and enthusiastic. I have had clients that became well known after a few years int he business, but by then we had moved on to other clients. 

Unless you are already mind-bindingly successful and in demand as a speaker, don’t count on being able to get people to pay you to show up and speak… or even speak for free.

3. You have a non-promotional presentation of significant value to attendees of the event.

Many conferences invite people to submit ideas for presentations to a review committee. The committees receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications, but can choose only a few dozen. Those applications are screened for promotional material and technical importance. You also have to get by the bias inherent in the selection process, much of which will be run by people you compete with. 

I’ve been involved in this process with a dozen different organizers. One of them has the person in charge of PR for the event on the committee. This person also represents several companies that exhibit at the event. Unsurprisingly one or two of those clients gets a speaking slot every year. So most of the selections in these events have more to do with politics and money than merit. That brings me to …

4. Money, money money, money.... MONEY!

At one time, a keynote address was only one slot in the schedule. It was a coveted slot and events would labor to find someone who would do the entire industry proud. Then the organizers came to realize that the keynote was also something that CEOs of corporations would pay a great deal of money in order to get the slot.

Did you ever wonder why Bill Gates was always the keynote speaker at Comdex/CES? It’s because Microsoft always bought the largest exhibit booths. Apple also had several keynotes at Comdex before they backed out in favor of their own events, but one of the reasons they never came back was because they thought they were high enough that they shouldn’t have to pay. 

Microsoft has also downscaled their participation in CES, which is why Intel, with it’s large presences, got the keynote this year. So when it comes to speaking slots, money talks and innovation walks.

That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money at an exhibit to get a speaking slot, but you will get more opportunities to speak when you buy exhibit floor space or sponsorships.

From this we can determine whether your PR/marketing folks can get you a speaking engagement:


  1. Highest potential - Fame and fortune. No cost but you probably don’t qualify 

  2. High potential - Pay your way onto the program 6 months in advance. Could as much as $100,000 so you have to determine if the value of the opportunity is worth that much. 

  3. Crap shoot - Submit a non-promotional tech presentation. Increase the odds by buying space or sponsorships. Ask if it is worth it first.

  4. Lottery ticket - Last minute program addition. No cost but highly unlikely.


So let me wrap this up. Speaking engagements are a good way to raise visibility, but they are not cheap or even free. If you have limited resources it may not be the best course. If you are good at speaking a better option is podcasting. If you have engaging content and aren’t selling stuff, you have a good chance of building an audience. If not, at least you will have made your CEO feel good about himself, and some days, that’s important.


Time, talent and desire to connect make Linkedin valuable

This final post of the series looks at how to become a valuable source of information and attract important connections. But first, let’s address whether you should even try.

In my previous posts about Linkedin I talked about the value of the platform, the frustrations users are having, changes that Linkedin might consider to reverse those frustrations and how you can screen contacts more effectively to minimize spam. This final post of the series looks at how to become a valuable source of information and attract important connections. But first, let’s address whether you should even try.  Leverage-linkedin-for-success

A communicator is a person who can bring disparate and anonymous people and groups together through the distribution of information those people and groups find valuable. If you don’t care if they find that information valuable, or you don’t really like bringing people together, you might consider avoiding social media altogether. That is a valid option.

There are people that have plenty of business and don’t really need more. There are people who are considering retiring from business altogether and they don’t need more connections. There are people who just don’t like human interaction. For all of those people, social media is a useless place to be. But there are billions of people who do need to know how to do it right and, for business, Linkedin is a very good place to be, but its value to those people is dependent on whether the people they want to reach find their information valuable.

Linkedin is an excellent blogging platform. I maintain a professional blog, a political blog and a theology blog but only with the first one do I make an effort to expand my audience as the rest are just hobbies. However, my audience on my Linkedin community is larger than my blogs, my Facebook pages and my Twitter accounts, simply because the target audience for what I have to share is primarily on Linkedin. I’ve also used Linkedin to boost traffic to client sites, as well as my own. I’d like to think that’s because people on Linkedin find me to be a brilliant writer, but it’s more likely that I post information and comments that people find interesting.

Developing interesting content, however, is not simple and there is no real formula for developing it. There are tools and techniques for writing effectively, but finding out what is interesting to your audience takes time and observation.

For example, when I wrote a post about how things are getting better in online journalism no one cared. Essentially, all I did was point out a few observations I made.  But when I write about a problem and offer a potential solution, like the first post I did about Linkedin, there was a mammoth response. 

That’s the beauty of social media. You can get almost instantaneous measurement of the value of your content and adjust accordingly.  It’s a constant work in progress and, again, takes time and effort.

Producing timely information is another way to boost your audience. For example, I did a piece about the Tesla battery product a few months back that got thousands of views and hundreds of responses, but follow on posts about alternative energy have not gotten anywhere near the response. That’s because when I wrote the piece on about Tesla it was the same day that the company announced the product. It was fresh and on the minds of my audience. The followup pieces lacked a breaking-news hook.

That does not mean, however, that small responses are not valuable. In social media it isn’t about how many people follow you or read your material, it’s whether the right people do. My followup pieces attracted twice as many valuable connection requests than the Tesla piece did.

That final point is the real value of Linkedin. If your profile and content attract 1 new piece of business, or one new partner, or one investor for a client (and this series has done all of that), it is better than getting thousands of views without a single connection request.

You need three things to make Linkedin, or any other social platform, valuable. First is your ability to create attractive and engaging content, the willingness to put in the time to study the responses, and the desire to increase your potential market. If you lack one of those three, find someone who does have the attributes you lack and get their help. 

And if all of this feels a bit overwhelming, feel free to give me a call or shoot me a request to connect.  I’d be happy to give you an analysis of your current program and put you in touch with someone who can take care of all of this for you.

A brief history on the rise and demise of SEO

Google took the issued of keywords and shoved its priority to the very bottom of SEO and pushed paid search to a specific box on their search page. Suddenly a new group of sits were climbing rapidly to the top of the search engine… traditional media sites. Newspapers, broadcast organizations and bloggers. How could that be? Because Google had changed the algorithm priorities.

 Google has always kept the lid on the secrets of their search algorithm, but since the beginnings of online search, the secrets have leaked out and been discovered by very smart people. These people make up the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry.

There are multiple points of SEO, but from the start, key words were the most important. At first, putting the words in the header of websites was the major starting point so the SEO experts, mostly web designers, made that the primary focus of their counsel to clients. Finding what the most important words were became the definer of the successful site design.

Then Google saw how much money designers were making with this understanding and started selling key words and the designers went wild buying up key words like they were candy and using them for their own resale opportunities. The problem was that you could put ANY key words in the header, even if they had nothing to do with your company.

So Google changed the algorithm to say that for the key word to be valid, it also had to be used in the viewable content. That made it tough for designers to use the key word “President Obama” in a website about boner pills. So designers started grafting in content from other sites and scattered it through websites just to meet that requirement and people using search got pissed off that they were getting links to sites that had absolutely nothing to do with their own search. And the designers were making even more money. 

So Google instituted paid search making companies that wanted to be first in searches pay for the right to bee seen first. That was the first step in killing the importance of key words and the value of traditional SEO.

But searchers didn’t want to be slapped with dozens of ads when they did search and the resulting backlash served as a boon to social media. For the first time, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin started taking searchers away from Google, Bing and Yahoo. Something had to be done. 

Google took the issued of keywords and shoved its priority to the very bottom of SEO and pushed paid search to a specific box on their search page. Suddenly a new group of sits were climbing rapidly to the top of the search engine… traditional media sites. Newspapers, broadcast organizations and bloggers. How could that be? Because Google had changed the algorithm priorities. There are actually dozens of priorities but for our purpose, we just need to concentrate on the following six.

  1. Amount of time spent on the content

  2. Degree of comments (no comments first, one comment second … 57 comments big time)

  3. Amount of shares, likes

  4. Number of views

  5. Paid key words

  6. Unpaid key words

At present, when you talk to web designers and SEO experts, you will find they fall into two categories:

  1. Off-shore click factories that build quick and dirty websites from half a dozen templates and still focus only on key words for SEO. They are dirt cheap, promise the world and prey on small businesses. They send out massive email blasts and fill your Linkedin box with requests to connect because they “saw your profile and believe they can help your company.”  They are to be avoided at all costs.

  2. Experienced web designers/SEO companies that continue to make a good living off of small to large company management who think they know how everything works. These service providers know what the story is, but they follow the philosophy that the customer is always right so they will deliver only what is expected. Their costs range from reasonable to very high and they can be directed, grudgingly, to do the right thing if you know what to tell them.

Footwasher Media won’t work with the first because we know the way only leads to pain and suffering. We will work with the second as long as they realize that we are not going to be taking the easy way. The recalcitrant providers are not on our list, nor are customers who insist on letting them do what they want. 

Keep in mind, however, that neither group are content strategists or providers. They take only the content provided them by the customer. That’s you. If you know how to create engaging content that delivers results, you are on your way to greatness.

If you’re not, contact us.

Overwriting is not a FANTASTIC way of getting the job done. It will not BLOW YOUR MIND!!!!

The first thing most people want to do when writing something is to prove that they are smarter than the reader regarding the given subject. Really bad move. That’s the best way to turn them off. What works best is to tell a story they can use to determine where they stand in this budding relationship with you, which is what every piece of content you create should do.

I’m not writing this for marketing people. I’ve worked with marketers for a long time and they, for the most part, don’t have time to be concerned about effective communication. I’m writing this for salespeople because, in the world of social selling, they are beginning to understand that being trustworthy and forthright are the keys to making sales and revenue grow.

Let me tell you a story.

I was sent a document today with a request to post it on my website.  I had to say no, and not because it wasn’t useful information. It was just too hard to find the information because it was horribly overwritten, like much marketing content is.

End of story. Let’s look at how they could fix their document.

Occasional grammatical errors and typos are excusable because mistakes happen. A decent spell checker app can fix most of that, so use it. Intentionally overwhelming a reader with empty prose, however, is not excusable. It turns the reader off, damages your web statistics, bores your audience and kills sales.

The first thing most people want to do when writing something is to prove that they are smarter than the reader regarding the given subject. Really bad move. That’s the best way to turn them off. What works best is to tell a story they can use to determine where they stand in this budding relationship with you, which is what every piece of content you create should do.

In the story that started this piece, I established four potential characters: the person who is partnering with another company, the person in charge of the company’s partner relationships, the reader of the content and a professional marketer. Whoever reads this piece will be one of those four characters. Whoever doesn’t fall into those categories doesn’t need to read this piece. Moreover, the story was very short. Two sentences, 46 words. It established the relationship and the purpose of the communication. If you can’t do that in less than 50 words, you’re complicating things and you’ll lose the audience.

Avoiding adjectives is another good practice. In the story above there are exactly two adjectives. It needs no more, and they were entirely appropriate to paint a picture. Most marketing content creates a false picture that is easily ignored. Words like “exciting” and “Industry leading” are meaningless because they do not describe anything .  As Mark Twain put it:

“When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of Mark_Twain_pondering_at_desk_crop1
them, then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are far apart.”

Finally, ignore the committee input. When any document goes into development, committees become writing teams filled with people who have no business writing. Take press releases, for example.

Every press release begins with one person developing the content. They will spend multiple hours crafting the story if they have any ability at all. Then it goes to the committee where 90 percent of the time will be spent on “punching up” the headline; making sure the quote from the company executive (usually the CEO) tells how “pleased” he is about this announcement; and making sure the lead contains all the buzzwords that have been committee approved.

Almost every journalist I know ignores the headline, lead and quote (as well as the boilerplate last paragraph) to find out what the news is. Because only 10 percent of the effort went into that part of the release, it generally means that there is very little news. The committee and approval process of marketing content is dedicated to ensuring that nothing of value is stated.  

Committees are of value only when they set the parameters of what must be included in the content. The approval process should be nothing more than a checklist of those parameters and the actual prose should be the domain of the person with the ability and experience to write it. That way you speed up the process of content creation and, if the content does not produce the results, you know that the parameters were faulty, not the content or the medium.

Of course, that requires that you have someone on the team that can write. If you don’t, call us, we can help.

Journalism at the Crossroads: a panel discussion

A couple of months ago I published the results of a survey we did about trusted communications and discovered that corporations, in electronics B2B industries, are more trusted than journalism. That ignited something of a firestorm in my inboxes, both pro and con. 

The conversation evolved into a proposed panel discussion that we concluded this morning, involving Lou Hoffman of The Hoffman Agency, tech journalist John Blyler, and Bernard Murphy of Atrenta. We think it's worth a listen.


Marketing Automation vs. Customer Relationship Management: What is the difference?

The biggest barrier to adoption of marketing automation (MA) is a complete lack of understanding of what it is and what it does. That is also the single biggest barrier to effective use of customer relationship management (CRM) software.

 The biggest barrier to adoption of marketing automation (MA) is a complete lack of understanding of what it is and what it does. That is also the single biggest barrier to effective use of customer relationship management (CRM) software.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, (CMI) which issues reports on the state of the content marketing),the use of content marketing as a strategy is growing and is prevalent in growing companies. However, only 39 percent of the companies reporting having a strategy are claiming to see results, which tracks well with the stat that 35 percent have a documented strategy.  

To check those numbers, we approached more than 50 companies in the past year and asked them if they were doing and we focused on the use of marketing automation tools as part of the documented strategy and, if so, what were they using.  Less than half of companies actually had a clear understanding of what content marketing actually is which tracked well with the CMI study Howver 43 said they were using marketing automation tools identifying Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics, primarily. We found that interesting because neither are MA platforms. They are CRM platforms.  So, in this post we would like to spell out the difference.

  • CRM will help you manage the relationship of customers you already have.

  • MA helps you create new customers.

It is that simple, but let’s expand a bit.

As Salesforce defines CRM: “You can store customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads and sales opportunities in one central location, ideally in the cloud so the information is accessible by many, in real time.” That’s a really good thing… once you have the customer on the hook. Getting them on the hook is the job of the MA platform.

Marketing is a combination of advertising, public relations, social media and just plain relationships. Until MA technology came along, that required an overwhelming amount of work for a few people, or an overwhelming amount of personnel to do it well. An MA platform does for a marketing team, what CRM does for the sales team, and does it with relatively low cost and complexity, depending on what platform you choose (see previous post).

Some CRMs, like Salesforce and Dynamics have options for marketing automation, but none of the companies we talked to were using those options because they are expensive, difficult to understand and buggy. In fact, none of them were using the CRM capabilities to their fullest, even though they were spending thousands of dollars every year on the tools (and almost all were unhappy with the results).

All MA companies we talked to provide integration with leading CRM platforms. Some MA platforms, like Hubspot and Sharpspring, offer CRMs included in their offerings at no additional cost, although they are not as robust as a leading provider, like Salesforce. However, since most companies are not using their CRMs to their fullest potential, it is something of a waste of money to have a top-of-the-line CRM in place. 

With that in mind, a company hoping to get the most out of automation on a minimal budget, it makes more sense to purchase a subscription to an MA service than a CRM. And if you can afford the cost of a leading CRM, adding an MA service will increase the value and ROI of all your sales and marketing efforts.

Your company might be one of the few that has truly embraced modern digital marketing, but it is unlikely, especially if you have not seriously considered a marketing automation platform. From our personal experience at Footwasher Media, our use of MA has increased our ability to find new leads by an order of magnitude. Our clients who adopt it willingly have seen similar results. Those that rely only on the CRM do not see growth.

In our next post, we will get into the specific value of these tools in respect to content strategy and development.

If you'd like to talk about how to figure out this content strategy thing, drop us a line.

Why do you exist?

I've written on this subject before but it bears some repeating.

Explaining what you do, who you are and how you do what you do is not as important as being able to explain why you exist as a company. That seems fairly simple but I find very few companies that can do that well, if at all.

Of course you know why your company exists. You've been eating, sleeping and bathing in the reason for a long time. To you it is fairly obvious now. The problem is, you are not explaining well enough it to the market. Before anyone will care about the who, what and how, you have to explain the why in terms they understand.

We've been working with several companies dealing with this issue. They are not seeing the sales or leads they expected from their program. They blame the sales automation program, or the marketing department or "the stupid customers." In reality, when you take a look at their content, they are ready to work with people who have already bought their product or services, but there is nothing about why potential customers should consider using them, instead of whoever they are using now or someone else.

This sets up a crap-shoot decision for the customer and the vendor only wins if the customer roll a hard eight.

It all boils down to the quality of your content. The moment you decide that the reason you exist is obvious, you are ready to take that first step to insolvency. Focus on the why. Everything else will come out of that.

Drop me a line if you want to know more.

Don't make your content meaningless

 I love words. Always have. And this week, after reading several articles that use words badly I’ve come to understand why.

 Words have clearly discernible meaning when used correctly, while finding meaning in life is often very difficult even in the best of circumstances. When used incorrectly, words lose meaning and that makes me feel a little lost and frustrated.

 This line of thought began earlier this week when the redoubtable Brian Solis wrote an article on VentureBeat that was headlined “14 Startups That Will Change Our Everyday Life.”  Hyperbole

 Brian is high on my list of trustworthy people so whenever he posts something or I find he has written something, I generally read it. Don’t need a lot of hyperbole to encourage me. And Brian doesn’t engage much with hyperbole anyway, which is why the headline bothered me at first, but I read it. The article was about 14 companies with interesting products and services for specific market niches, but there was nothing in any of the companies that I found life-changing for me or pretty much anyone I know.  It was a good article and I enjoyed reading it, but that headline…

 So I asked Brian about it publicly and we took the discussion offline. That’s when I found out that the original article he wrote was titled:

 Here are 14 startups you should know about

 That was accurate, clear and engaging to me. But the editorial staff at VentureBeat decided it wasn’t enough so they pumped it up beyond all reason. That’s called click-baiting. You see it all the time from disreputable online publications and in print from publications like the National Enquirer. The practice is designed to get people to click on a link to the article and it works. But here’s what else it does:

 It destroys trust in the publication and sucks all meaning out of the words.

 I’ve stopped reading sites like Buzz Feed, Gawker, Motley Fool and TechCrunch because of their dependency on hyper headlines. The trustworthiness of the content generally drops the more breathless the headline. And now I guess I need to add VentureBeat to that list.

 I would read an article under the headline Brian wrote, even if he didn’t write it because I am interested in learning about new startups. I don’t need to be pushed and I don’t need my expectations set high and then dashed. Most people feel that way, which is the reason Google and Facebook are constantly adjusting their algorithms to keep this crap out of our feeds.

 H.L. Mencken once said that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public and that is still true today. Click-bait tends to attract rather stupid people who might actually do business with the company. The intelligent person who is brought in by the headline, generally loses respect and grows distrustful of the source. But it is the former that joins the class action suits.

 The question you need to ask yourself is: Do you want stupid people suing you, or intelligent, trusting customers?

Uber is not an isolated issue. Every business is vulnerable to stupidity.

This thing about the Uber executive drunkenly suggesting digging up dirt on journalists is an interesting observation point in the evolution of journalism in the 21st century. But rather than get into the issue of ethics and gender issues in the Silicon Valley, I’d like to point out another issue that this brings up.

It is important that companies, now more than ever, get trained and effective communicators on staff. I’m not talking about marketing executives. I’m not talking about engineers who understand how to string a sentence together. I’m not talking about some sweet young publicist (be it male or female) that can charm people at industry events with their dazzling smiles and impeccable fashion sense. I’m talking about people who know how to tell the truth even when it isn’t pretty.

Emil Michael, why are you smiling?



In all this foofarah over Emil Michael’s sexist pseudo threat, and the on-going sexism of the Uber culture, I’m wondering where the chief communication officer is. The answer is: they don’t have one. I also note they have dozens of junior level job openings in which communicating with the public is a PART of what they are supposed to do. So there is no one at the company whose job it is to fix problems like this and none of the senior executives have a clue about how to do it right.

They invest in lobbyists to grease politicians. They invest in advertising. They invest in “community management.” But outside of that… nothing.

It would be completely understandable if Uber was an outlier, but the reality is that they are the norm, and this week, it’s their turn to demonstrate their incompetence in just having a conversation with the public.

Recently I met with a company outside of the "Silly Con Valley" who offers products and services for creating and distributing content over social media, a practice also known as content marketing.  But in meeting with the C-staff I learned that not a single member of the team believes in content marketing.  They believe their technology is so great that all they have to do is offer it and people will beat a path to their door. 

This is why 95 percent of companies are struggling to succeed.  They don’t know how to tell a story and when things go bad, they can’t figure out how to right the ship.

Get help before it goes bad.

Video (and other tech) doesn't have to be expensive.

I’ve done several posts on both the value and process of creating video content, but it was pointed out recently that some people have misunderstood my position on investing in high quality equipment and professional videography services. So I thought it would be a good idea to clarify my stance.

There is nothing wrong with making a significant investment in equipment, professional service and personnel. It will make your videos look great. However, if your investment comes before you make a budget for the creation of what you put in the video and how you measure its effectiveness, then it’s going to be a big expensive mess.

When it comes to content development, most companies approach from a “fire, ready, aim” philosophy. It is both backwards and inside out. I’ve talked with dozens of potential customers over the last year, and in nearly all cases these companies have seen a competitor using a particular delivery technology and decide to look into doing the same thing, rarely looking to see if the competitor’s effort is accomplishing anything positive. This has been true in the area of websites, blogs, podcasts, social media, and now video. 

The providers of these technologies and services are more than willing to provide glowing case studies to the efficacy of the technology. They will tell you only if pressed that if the content sucks, the tech won’t achieve its desired goal of increasing engagement. While it looks flashy and beautiful, if your content is bad, you can not achieve your goal.

The companies we've talked to rarely understand that the process always begins with an investment in content, in conjunction with measurement.  What is left of your budget can go into the the tech, and only then. Most companies, however, have very limited budgets and are so enamoured of the tech (fire), that they want to skimp on or eliminate content (ready) and measurement (aim).  So when the issue of video comes up, they immediately want to hire or build a studio, get $10,000 in cameras and lights and film their CEO reading from a marketing brochure.  When they finish with that, they lack the budget to do more than one or two videos, poducing poor results.  In the end they decide that video (or whatever tech they invested in) doesn’t work.

So here’s me making my position clear: if you don’t have the budget to do the first two steps (content and measurement) along with massive investment in tech, then back off the tech investment.  Get a good content provider, a reasonable measurement tool, and then create content to be captured on an inexpensive HD camcorder.  Use a good mic. Shoot in natural light or get an inexpensive lighting system. Focus on what the customer needs to hear, not on the bells and whistles.  It will pay for itself quicker and give you more budget for something shinier down the road.

Content comes first.


Publitek, Footwasher Media find the good and bad news in Semiconductors

If one company finally decides to go strategic, it will dominate not only their niche, but will be come the de facto thought leader.

Publitek recently released its second annual report on “Who’s winning the social media battle in the Semiconductor industry,” with an expanded list of selected companies.  The good news is more companies are getting into the social media game with vigor. 

Even better news is the amount of primary engagement (likes and follows) obliterates the belief that engineers don’t use social media with more than 30 million Facebook likes of posts in one month for the top five companies alone.  You could discount as much as half of that as bogus traffic from clip farms and even a significant number of corporate hacks boosting their numbers, but that means millions still are attributed to customers.

The bad news of that last point is companies are still, by and large, ignoring that potential channel of conversation with the customer.  One company was able to gather more than 1000 likes on Facebook and doesn’t even have a Facebook page.

 The even worse news is that the industry is still measuring the wrong data.

The report measured six channels this year: Blogs, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Twitter and Youtube.  So far, so good.  Next, it expanded its list from the top 25 semiconductor companies to 39 semiconductor companies and one EDA company.  Not exactly sure what the selection criteria were, but it was good for the one EDA participant, Cadence Design, who ended up third overall.  The report looked at only a single month, August 2014, to gather its data, which is also a little suspect.  Most companies in the sector effective shut down over the summer which could depress the numbers significantly.

Publitek based it’s ranking on the numerical size of their audience (likes, followers, etc.) multiplied by the engagement the company had with comments (it was a bit more detailed than that but that’s essentially the criteria) and I’m not sure how valuable those metrics are.  Recent studies show that people who like and share content are unlikely to have actually consumed the content and the numbers can be easily fudged, as I mentioned earlier.

Footwasher Media did its own study earlier this year.  Data was gathered over 8 months (November 2013 to July 2014, ignoring activity during December 2013) from a selection of 95 Semiconductor, EDA and Embedded software companies.  Half the companies were selected from the top public companies according to industry reports and half from nonpublic companies who were within the top five of Google searches using the terms Private semiconductor, EDA, and Embedded software.  Rather than look at whether a company respond to comments, we measured the average number of comments from customers, subtracting comments from company employees.  And rather than measure the sheer volume of connections over all channels, we looked for companies with a documented strategy for using communication channels as the multiplier.


The results for our survey were so disappointing we never published them.  What we discovered was that only two companies had strategies beyond a list of tactical channels: Intel and Qualcomm, and less than half of the companies had significant engagement from their customer base.  Almost all comments and interaction came from employees or business partners of the companies.  Moreover, all embedded and EDA companies landed in the bottom quartile. 

The two surveys demonstrate the rather large gulf that exists between the semiconductor industry and the new-media-savvy world.  To be fair, more than 95 percent of US industry has yet to truly embrace “best practices” of social media and are still measuring success with outdated SEO standards involving sheer volume of statistics.  Likes, followers, the number of posts and even shares are less likely to produce an ROI. More valuable is the time spent, on average, consuming the content; time spent on the site; and conversion to sales or qualified leads 

But there is good news over all.  What both surveys demonstrate is that no company in the semiconductor sector is doing modern marketing right.  They still don’t understand content, engagement or their audience.  That means if one company finally decides to go strategic, it will dominate not only their niche, but will be come the de facto thought leader.  Won’t take much but a little willpower.

Nine words and phrases that kill your content

Avoid these words at all costs. And if you discover that by removing them your content ceases to be interesting to you, imagine how little it means to your customer.

9d488c4dd6b949416c85906c5bd7a4c3d3163632d5606a6a068e487c0f3a2d73There are lots of lists that identify words, phrases or concepts you should avoid using in your content, but I've had a list of nine for several years that I've never seen included in those lists.  Joe Basques and I went over a few of these in a Hangout (that you can see here).  The full list follows.


There's an old Afghan saying. “If you think your are leading, turn around.  If there is no one there, you are just taking a walk.”

Everyone who claims to be a leader in this world is really following after someone else.  They’re probably far behind the pack and everyone knows it.  If you want to know who the leader is, look for the company that never uses the term to describe itself.  Leaders don’t have to say it.


This actuality means “of crucial importance” but if it really was important, anyone who doesn’t have it will fail, and since many have succeeded before you, they know your stuff isn't "key." It is so overused that it has lost all meaning and can be replace with “Blah.”


Lots of companies say they are “the first” to do or provide something and they are usually wrong.  A VC once said in a meeting with a client, “If you are the first/only company to do something that either means no one thinks it is worth doing or you have not done proper market research.”  Then there are those companies that actually were the first to do something but no one remembers because someone came along and did it better.  GO was the first company to come out with a tablet PC.  But they are gone with the dinosaurs now.


This means either how a problem was solved or a stable amalgamation of multiple components.  But most companies describe neither the problem, nor the components so no one knows really what they are talking about.  An engineer once told me that whenever a scientist designates something as a “field” it means they know something is there, but they don’t know what, why, or how it exists; only that it exists.  (Electric fields, magnetic fields, etc.)  Complete mysteries.  A solution is the same thing in marketing.  It would be more interesting and accurate to call it a Felgergarb. (No, that isn't a word, but it would create more intereste than "solution.")


This is as useless a term as saying “I breath air.”  Every technology should interact seamlessly with other related technologies.  No one is going to say their product doesn’t interact with anything else, even if it doesn’t.  Someone out there is going to find the seam and call you out on it, and then you will be in CYA mode.

Working closely

This is a synonym for seamless. The opposite of the term is, we really don’t work well with those folks, but that’s your problem.  No one is going to say that, either, but it is probably what your customers believe because all marketers are lying rat-bastards, you know.  Why stir up bad thoughts.

Easy to use

Speaking of lying…  You should never EVER say this.  You should let a customer say it.  And if you can’t find one that will, then you aren’t.


This is often used as a qualifier for “solution.” What you mean is that it actually accomplishes a task that you said it would accomplish within the parameters you define.  More simply: Hey, this thing actually works! That reality, in itself is a major accomplishment, but, then, most customers don’t believe you when you say it.  So, again, it’s something a customer should say.


An earthquake is exciting.  A walk-off home run is exciting.  Shakira doing a belly dance while singing is exciting.  Your “powerful, easy-to-use, seamless solution” is not exciting.  Neither is your recent partnership with a “leading” company.  No one but your CEO is excited about this.  And no one cares that he is excited about it, nor that he is “pleased” about it.  In fact, unless he is a hatchet-wielding maniac, no one cares about his mental state.

Avoid these words at all costs.  And if you discover that by removing them your content ceases to be interesting to you, imagine how little it means to your customer.

The AHA! Moment

Almost every company describes themselves to the customer base almost exactly the same way. Customers are left to make up their own minds and without any differentiation they make the same choices: the one they know that costs the least.

Every company is unique.  Every company has something that sets them apart from all the others.  Products and services have been developed with care and dedication.  But almost every company describes themselves to the customer base almost exactly the same way.  The same phrases, same buzzwords, same claims, same features, same keywords.  Customers are left to make up their own minds and without any differentiation they make the same choices: the one they know that costs the least.

The companies believe their products and services are their differentiators, and they would be right… from their perspective.  The customers, however, have no idea what it is that sets those products apart because they are described the same. Differentiated-red-apple

A company may decide to invest in marketing and technology to grab the attention of a significant portion of the market, raising their visibility to the level of the market leaders, but they will still fill that communication pipeline with the same phrases, same buzzwords, same claims, same features, same keywords as those leaders. The customers have only the option of price to differentiate.

How do you break the cycle?

First, find an uncrowded, interactive communication pipeline to grab attention.  For example, everyone uses Youtube, or Vimeo or Brightcove to disseminate video, but all of the most used video platforms are crowded, minimally interactive, and filled with a lot of repetitive information.  They deliver basic information about viewers, but very little, truly valuable information… like who the heck are these people and how can you contact them.  There are technologies that will give you significant information about each viewer and their preferences; allow you to create a conversation with your most likely customer and find out what they need to know that sets you apart from the crowd, demonstrate your true value and minimize popularity and cost from the decision process.

Second, find out what makes you different… AND THEN SAY IT!  Here’s how you figure that out: Grampy-A-Ha-320

Your customers don’t care about your technology and that you adhere to the same standards as everyone else.  Knowing your technology doesn’t help them.  What makes you different is that you solve their problem.  Show that you actually understand their problem because you spent some time listening to them.  When you find them, ask them questions.  Get a clear idea what they are facing.  Remember, everyone is different, so offering them a solution based on what you assume is everyone’s problem says you don’t think they are unique.  In fact, they may not be, but you have to make them think they are.  What comes out of that conversation will be a story that will resonate will many potential customers; customers who will say, “Hey, this company gets it.  Let’s find out more.”

That is the AHA! moment you need, the thing that differentiates you and makes you into the rarest of all companies: The customer-focused company.  

More to come.

(Are you ready to create the moment for your customers.  Ask for a free consultation here.)

38 new companies face curse of Silicon 60

You may have heard of the Sports Illustrated Cover Curse: It states that any athlete featured on the cover will immediately experience a rapid decline in skill and accomplishment.

What you may not have heard of is a similar curse in the electronics industry: The curse of the EE TIMES Silicon 60

Peter Clarke compiles the list irregularly after evaluation by the UBM Tech editorial team.  Most of the companies identified since it started in 2004 have disappeared from the earth. The curse goes beyond the list, though. There is a reason for it, and it has nothing to do with UBM or the list itself.

Back when I owned a PR agency, many of my clients expressed a desire to be included on this list.  I never really quite understood why.  There are a lot of startups that seek to make the list, and all other media coverage as a validation of their business model or technology.   Companies that make the list trumpet the achievement, for several years, before they disappear altogether.  Basically, it’s because they have nothing else to say. And if they have nothing else to say, they disappear.

Getting a meeting with a B2B editor is relatively easy for a startup.  They all want to talk to you if they are getting a scoop.  If someone else wrote a story about you, forget it.  If they ever wrote about you before, you'll probably never get them to write another... unless you have something important to say.  


That's what makes a Silicon 60 listing so dangerous. Many of the companies have had some mention before by a UBM Tech editor and have been lurking in the wings for some time when the press finally decides to pay attention.  Once they are listed, however, they have to really deliver on the promise and there likely will not be a single follow-up story about them until they do.  That's the way modern B2B media works.

Content marketing is generally thought to be an answer to that problem.  Become your own publisher and tell the story you want told.  But like the B2B media, you have to figure out if the story you want to tell is what your customer wants to read.  Journalists are generally better at figuring that out than you are.  That's why they won't write anything more about you once the story has already been done.  Repetition doesn't build readership.  If the press has already told the story you want to tell, your customer won't care anymore.

Forrester recently put out the results of a survey that showed only 14 percent of marketers found their content marketing programs are highly effective.  That seems to fly in the face of the Content Marketing Institute's research that says 75 percent of marketers are highly satisfied with the results of their programs until you realize the qualifier in the latter study: the marketers that are satisfied are those with a content marketing STRATEGY.  And according to CMI, less than 5 percent of marketers are working on content strategically.

So what is a Content Marketing Strategy? I'll make it simple for you.  It's making sure that your content is engaging your audience, not your CEO.  The real challenge is, everyone thinks they already know what content will engage their customers, but the Forrester survey proves that most don’t.  What’s really needed is an outside view to help you see the broader picture when determining your strategy.

 If any of the Silicon 60 companies accept that truth, they just might survive the curse.

Need help figuring out what your content strategy should be?  Give us a call or send an email and we’ll help you figure it out.  It’s what we do.  In fact, I’ll even throw out a limited time offer.  We’ll give away a FREE 30 minute strategy session to the first 10 people who contact us at 650-366-8212 or click here.