Which Online Marketing Agencies will Survive the Recession?


Among the client pitches, creative brainstorming and status meetings, one thought is never far from mind for anyone working at one of the various flavors of online marketing agencies these days – “Will we survive?”

Its also a pretty important question for their clients since the last thing a marketing director, already struggling with a declining budget and fewer personnel, wants is to have to deal with the disruption of finding a new agency.

I’ve been there before. During the dot.com boom, I ran a small B2B integrated marketing agency in Silicon Valley. Thankfully, through a fortunate confluence of events, we were able to get out of the agency business just before the peak and were spared what seemed to be the complete decimation of high tech marketing during the early 2000’s. But other agencies weren’t so lucky and a lot of great people lost the opportunity to do what they loved most – find innovative, effective ways to communicate the value of products and services to buyers.

Sean Carton, chief strategy officer at Baltimore, MD web and communications design firm idfive, recently wrote a great summary of the predicament in which agencies find themselves entitled “The End of Ad Agencies as We Know Them.” (kudos for the wonderfully inflammatory title). Reading this article brought back a number of memories from the dot.com bust for me, just as it did for a number of those commenting on the article. The main question this article poses is:

“Do we really need advertising agencies anymore? Are we witnessing the great “reboot” of the advertising industry hastened (but not caused) by the current recession?”

The answer to the first question is yes, we absolutely do – there will always be a need for outside specialists to do what a company cannot (or should not) do internally, and this is particularly important in the creative and technical services domains where talent is both scarce and expensive. Along these lines, Mr. Carton certainly is not predicting the demise of either advertising or agencies. Rather, he feels the recession will drive a trend toward smaller agencies more concentrated on the following areas:

  • Strategy
  • Account/project management
  • Creative leadership (but not execution)
  • Media strategy (but not the actual planning & buying)

In this new world, according to Mr. Carton, agencies will be built with the purpose of providing high-level strategic guidance that clients need in a media-chaotic environment. These agencies will expand or contract as needed or will explore radical solutions to get work done for less money. In essence, the monolithic agency concept crumbles in favor of smaller, more nimble, focused, strategic agencies or consultants linked together via the (free) collaboration and social networking tools now available.

This vision is, as they say, “old wine in new bottles” (something Mr. Carton admits, with the exception that the collaboration/social networking tools now make this vision more possible than it was in the past). I see things a bit differently:

1) Large agencies make the best stories during economic downturns, so its no wonder people frequently predict the demise of the large agency model –  Large agencies typically work with large, well-known clients, both of which get a lot more press and public attention during good times or bad. When times get tough, clients cut back which forces an agency to contract, cut costs and the whole process draws much more public attention than the same challenges faced by smaller agencies or consultants. Let’s not fall into the “base rate fallacy” where people judge more visible events to be more common, even if that’s not the case.

2)  Both large and small online marketing agencies are hurting and facing changes to their business models – Online marketing is certainly faring better than offline, and drawing increasing budget from traditional marketing, but agencies large and small rely on the health of their clients to grow and thrive. A broad recession like this one doesn’t discriminate by company size.

3) The consumer and client backlash against agencies has more to do with the times than inherently inefficient practices – We know we’re in La-La Land when 66% of US Internet users in a recent Harris poll indicate that agencies are at least partly to blame for the current economic crisis.

4) The ability to collaborate isn’t an impediment to agency survival, strategy is – Collaboration and social networking tools have great potential to facilitate communications among dispersed experts, but are small agencies that use these tools inherently better off than larger agencies with more face-to-face collaboration in a central office? I’d argue that its not the tools, but the strategy behind the agency that matters. Agency personnel can collaborate like crazy on a project that’s still a horrible disaster for a client if the right focus on client needs, KPIs or creative standards aren’t enforced.

5) Which online marketing agencies will survive this recession? The ones keeping a laser focus on understanding and meeting changing client needs- Again, I don’t think this is a large agency or small agency issue. Its a strategic priorities issue. Clients are under amazing pressure to drive results with fewer resources. Under pressure, people’s focus tends to narrow – they become much more concerned about what’s happening today versus their long-term strategic plan, and also focus more on what they know best. In this environment, agencies must choose whether they or their clients will be most affected by this pressure. Will the agency take the view of their clients and adapt to changing client needs, even if this is incredibly uncomfortable at times? Or will the agency give in to their own pressure and fight back in the face of changing client requests, clinging rigidly to pre-recession practices? Agencies that put the client first may experience more short-term pain but are likely to be the big winners from these trying times.

Some concluding recommendations for online marketing agencies:

Keep serving the clients’ stated, immediate goals as your #1 strategic priority.  It’s easy to get caught in the hype of all the new digital mediums and ad channels, risky creative, etc. This is no time to strongly argue that your clients should “trust us, we’re the experts.”  Understand what clients really want, insist on knowing how this will be measured (one area in which to dig in your heels) and execute efficiently.

Stick to your knitting – Its (very) tempting to say “yes, we can do that” to a client interested in a marketing channel, such as social media, where your agency doesn’t have much experience or expertise. With clients under considerable pressure to deliver results, this is not a great time to learn on the clients’ dime, so to speak. Instead, tap into talented experts across a wide range of B2B marketing domains who suddenly find themselves out of work (or underutilized). When the economy turns up, you may or may not choose to bring these new skills into your agency – as I said, I don’t believe that the smaller, focused agency described by Mr. Carton is inherently better – but the need to consistently deliver great results to clients today should drive outsourcing.

Crow about your true expertise like there’s no tomorrow. What is your agency really, really good at doing for clients that you have the case studies and stats to back up? Not what you think you’re good at, but where have you really driven great results? Clients want solutions. If their existing agency isn’t delivering, they’re going to be searching online, talking to their friends/colleagues, sending RFPs out via Twitter and otherwise trying to find an expert as quickly as possible. Make sure your agency is found, and make sure what prospective clients find is tangible examples where you’ve delivered results, not just unsubstantiated assertions about what you can do.

In summary, the online marketing agency that’s fit to survive in today’s economy isn’t going to be the one that offers all forms of advertising (or even digital advertising for that matter), the latest and the greatest innovations in advertising, or even the one that’s the epitome of the small, specialized, nimble agency described by Mr. Carton. Its the online marketing agency that makes itself truly indispensable for meeting their clients’ goals TODAY, and the one that can demonstrate this success in a concrete way.


B2B Twinternship (Twitter Internship) Poll Results


While Twitter and social media are all the rage among B2B marketers these days, are there enough skilled Twitter pros out there to meet the demand?

Today, Pizza Hut is making news with the announcement that they’re hiring a summer “twintern“, or Twitter intern, to start on June 1st. As Nicole Zerillo reports in this PRWeek article:

“While [Pizza Hut senior PR manager Chris Fuller] is currently tweeting on behalf of the brand at its new @PizzaHutTwitter account, the twintern will begin June 1 and “bring an outside perspective” to promotions, tweet about pop-culture news of interest to Pizza Hut consumers, and monitor Twitter for negative communications.”

Great concept – summer Twitter intern – but will it fly in B2B? We B2B marketers are used to being 12-18 months behind the hot new online trends driven by our friends on the B2C side, and have certainly heard “B2B is boring” more than once from those unfortunate souls not well versed in the beauty of our craft.  B2B marketers may love the concept of a Twintern to jumpstart the company’s Twitter presence, but is this something that the Twitter pros out there want to do?

We polled our readers and here are the results:

Business.com poll reveals significant interest in a twinternship, or twitter internship, with a business-to-business company.


The Cardinal Sin of B2B Search Marketing


The #1 sin in B2B search marketing is focusing on “search” or “B2B” over “marketing”.

I was reminded of this point while reading the excellent “The 7 Cardinal Sins of B2B Search Engine Marketing” whitepaper by B2B search marketing expert Todd Miechiels. Here are the B2B search marketing cardinal sins Todd describes:

  1. Not establishing a clear and realistic goal
  2. Viewing search engine marketing as a temporary tactic
  3. Not having basic fundamental sales and marketing elements in place
  4. Not performing adequate preliminary research
  5. Unwillingness to “lose it all” in order to “know without a doubt”
  6. Not being diligent about testing and refining
  7. Not putting the experts on it

These are definitely very significant issues affecting search marketing success across most B2B companies, and Todd provides additional details and solutions around each.

But look at the list again – couldn’t each of the seven cardinal sins apply equally well to other marketing channels (after rewriting #2 to be “Viewing [insert channel] as a temporary tactic”)?

For example, establishing a clear and realistic goal is critical whether you’re talking about search marketing, direct mail, print advertising, banner advertising, email, social media, PR or any other channel.  Same goes for treating the channel as temporary – lack of commitment rarely leads to success in the B2B world of relatively long sales cycles – or not being diligent about testing and refining.

My point is that its easy to miss the forest for the trees when diving into different marketing disciplines, but the best marketers focus first on the forest.

The answer to significantly improved marketing performance is rarely found in mastering a single “silver bullet” tactic (the trees). We all love the concept of silver bullets but they rarely exist. For example, writing better PPC ad copy may improve paid search campaign performance marginally, but its not going to change the trajectory of your business. Same with Twitter for B2B, or reducing the number of fields on your whitepaper registration page or learning the best SEO link-bait tactics. All trees. Useful trees, but still trees.

So how do you stay focused on the forest – on “marketing” over either “search” or “B2B”?

Addressing the #1 sin in B2B search marketing, to improve your focus on the forest (marketing) over the trees (B2B or search), requires consistently asking yourself a simple question – Where does this tree fit in the forest?” Print out this question in big block letters and paste it over your desk. Write it on sticky notes and scatter around your workspace. Create a graphic with the question and use it as your computer desktop (maybe one of the design pros reading this post could create and share an example).  Regardless of how you remind yourself to ask this question, just do it.

When you find yourself working on a tree without a forest – focusing on a B2B search marketing tactic without really understanding the big picture marketing strategy and priorities – immediately stop what you’re doing and reexamine the questions Todd Miechiels’ whitepaper reminds us to ask:

  1. Is there a clear and realistic goal for this marketing channel?
  2. Am I (are we) viewing this channel as a temporary tactic?
  3. Do we have the basic fundamental sales and marketing elements in place to see an impact from this marketing channel?
  4. Have we performed adequate prelimary research to utilize this marketing channel effectively?
  5. Are we unwilling to “lose it all” in order to “know without a doubt” (i.e., is our budget for this channel so small we’ll have no idea if it works or not)?
  6. Are we being diligent about testing and refining our campaigns in this channel?
  7. Are we putting the experts on it?

Clearly addressing the core marketing issues will drive B2B search marketing success to a much greater extent than exceptional execution of any single tactic.


Generating New Leads vs. Prospect Nurturing – What's the B2B Marketing Priority in a Recession?


If you had $1,000 today to spend on B2B marketing to either generate new leads or nurture existing prospects, how would you spend it?

Unlike this group of marketing executives at large European companies, I’d spend it on generating new leads – do you really know enough about the financial stability of your existing customers and prospects to place a bet that improved nurturing will unlock budgets and drive sales?

What are your thoughts? How does the unique challenges your business faces drive B2B marketing focus on generating new leads versus prospect nurturing?


Email Marketing: Not Hot But Still Important


No marketer is immune.  We’ve all been there. We’ve all chased the hottest latest greatest trend – whether it’s social media today or search marketing in 2002.  It can certainly seem easier/more fun/less daunting than developing a creative, effective strategy for optimizing current programs.

But in an era of shifting sales cycles, reduced budgets and staff cut-backs,  marketers need to monitor the effectiveness of every tactic.  We need to look critically at the new and old ways to generate leads and steward existing clients.  We have to consistently ask ourselves why we are doing things a certain way.

This hit home earlier in the week for our team while reviewing the results of a recent email test.  Now you may be thinking: email???  Email is sooo 1990s.  It isn’t nearly as sexy as Twitter or video or mobile right this very second.  But there’s no denying: email is still effective.  In fact, according to BtoB Magazine, it is critical to the ultimate success of all those cool social media efforts that have everyone atwitter.

Back to our email test: we found a significant lift in open rate on a day that in the past has been deemed a no-no for email sends. A simple finding, yes.  But one that could have a big impact on conversion and retention for Business.com.

Our team instantly began devising theories. One favorite?  If last year’s email guru report proclaimed a certain day of the week was the best to target, did all good email marketers start sending on the same day, ultimately creating more competition? It’s certainly possible.  It’s also possible that the economic downturn has changed user behaviors: who isn’t getting good at ignoring the increasing number of e-solicitations? It’s even possible that all the new social media outlets could be affecting how users interact with email: why email colleagues when you can tweet?

Here are simple but nevertheless vital reminders for B2B marketers looking to move the needle in 2009 and beyond:

  • Adopt an integrated approach. Test the new. Test the old. Test the new with the old. Testing will be the key to finding your competitive edge in the brave new world of online marketing.
  • Re-evaluate best practices you’ve applied in the past. Find out what works best for your audience in today’s market.  If you’re not sure, ask them. Send surveys, hold focus groups, have your sales team reach out to clients, include key questions in customer service scripts.
  • Stay on top of new trends for old strategies. Bottom line: New tools won’t serve you very well if the foundation of your online marketing program isn’t strong in the first place. Here are some recent tips we found for email marketing, landing page optimization and lead nurturing during a recession.

How are you finding success right now?  Are you mixing hot new tactics with your tried-and-true marketing efforts?  Share your thoughts and tips for B2B marketing in 2009!


Advanced Twitter Search to Build Your B2B Brand


If you’re a B2B brand and just getting started on Twitter, you may feel a little overwhelmed. You want to engage customers and provide useful info to them, but where are they and what are they talking about? 

Search Twitter to gain a real-time window into who your potential customers and partners are, and what they say and need. Using that info, you can create ongoing and robust relationships with them, glean insights, and help provide them with useful products and services.

To really begin to use Twitter as a data mining tool, head over to Twitter advanced search. This is where the fun really starts.  Search on exact phrases, hashtags, or different languages. Search tweets to and from specific people. You can even search tweets by places, dates, links, positive attitude :) or negative attitude :(.  Most intriguing of all, search tweets that ask a question by simply adding a “?”.

Here are several example B2B searches to show what’s possible with Twitter advanced search:

Work for a business that consults with companies about how to optimize their use of Salesforce.com?  Search questions about Salesforce to find conversations where you can provide answers and demonstrate your expertise

Offer business planning advice in New York? Search questions about business plans within 50 miles of New York city.

Want to see the B2B search marketing-related posts from Business.com’s @B2BOnlineMktg Twitter account? Here’s how to search for Twitter posts by B2BOnlineMktg about search marketing.

Looking for social media case studies involving B2B companies? Search Twitter for B2B social media case studies (singular and plural)

If you’d prefer to write your own detailed searches rather than using Twitters advanced search interface, here’s a list of Twitter search operators.

Have any other great examples of advanced Twitter searches useful for B2B marketers? Please share below.


No Surprise that Few Understand Twitter for B2B


The potential of social media, and Twitter in particular, is a very hot topic among B2B online marketers these days. It seems that for every one person in this discussion singing the praises of Twitter for B2B, there are 50 others saying either “What’s Twitter?” or “Using Twitter for business makes absolutely no sense to me – what’s the big deal?”.

For all the B2B Twitter-philes and Twitter-phobes out there, let’s be clear about the current state of affairs – as an emerging communications channel, Twitter really is confusing, and not just for B2B marketers. Don’t feel bad if you don’t get it. No one really gets it completely at this point because so many of the rules have yet to be written, including how other communication channels like search will interact with Twitter.

Knowing B2B marketers, this debate is going to go on for a LONG time until there’s a solid body of experience, demonstrable (and repeatable) results and best practice recommendations spanning a wide range of industries and company sizes.

Until then, you have a choice – do you want to be part of writing the Twitter rules for B2B, or would you rather let the dust settle and pick-up clear best practices as they emerge? Either is a viable choice, but don’t torture yourself (or your company!) by bouncing between the two.

If you’re currently in the majority that doesn’t understand Twitter for B2B but want to get a jump on your competitors by being a proactive participant in the emergence of this new communications channel, then here’s a few pieces of advice:

1) Set-up a Twitter account

You can’t understand a new communication channel from the outside. Visit http://twitter.com to create an account.

2) Ignore the hype – its still marketing!

Twitter, and social media more generally, are hot topics in B2B marketing and will probably stay that way for the next several years. Forget the hype. Focus on what you know about good marketing and communications regardless of the channel, and look at Twitter through that lens.

3) Build up your own body of evidence

Get a group of B2B marketers together to discuss a new marketing strategy or tactic and you’ll inevitably hear “Do you have any examples of this working in my [industry/company size/etc]?”. The “does this apply to me” question is absolutely the right one to ask. While you’re likely to hear the same B2B Twitter examples over and over again today, keep asking the question of different people and groups in your network. For example, ask about Twitter for B2B in a LinkedIn group, ask vendors in the next trade show you go to whether or not they’re using Twitter, find out if associations you belong to are addressing B2B social media and search Twitter regularly for references to your industry.

What about the obvious – asking a question on Twitter? This isn’t going to work very well for the interested-in-Twitter-but-don’t-get-it-yet audience to which this post is directed. To get quick responses to questions on Twitter, you really need a very engaged set of followers (like a number of your friends) and/or a lot of them – hundreds, preferably thousands. You can ask as a Twitter newbie, but don’t let a slow response, or lack of response, sour you on the medium.

 

Most of all – don’t stress about not understanding the role Twitter will ultimately play in B2B marketing. You’re in good company, and we’re all figuring this out together.


Web 2.0 Expo Wrap-up from a B2B Perspective


jascha2This year’s Web 2.0 Expo, which was held 3/31-4/4/09 in San Francisco, was buzzing with people from around the world who shared web (and increasingly, mobile) best practices, though there definitely were not as many participants as in 2008, nor were they quite so ebullient. In fact, this year the theme was “doing more with less”, and the stress on best practices to use social media towards measurable business purposes. However, good social media, even for business purpose, requires humanity, conversation, sharing, and building of social capital, according to experienced practitioners such as Intuit Partner Platform marketing lead Tara Hunt.

There were a lot of advanced tips on social design and creating a robust social media presence. Clearly, with companies such as Salesforce.com integrating Facebook and Twitter, the attitude is that companies, whether B2C or B2B, are now expected to have a social media presence, or else felt to be ignoring the conversation.

In the Designing Social Interfaces session, Christian Crumlish of Yahoo! and Erin Malone of TangibleUX, authors of Designing Social Interfaces soon to be published by O’Reilly Media and Yahoo Press,  presented the do’s and don’ts of social interface design. In designing an online community, remember to:

  • Start small and learn from your community
  • Design around activity and social objects – make sure there is a there there. Merely connecting people to each other is not enough – give people a reason to be social
  • Build your community to support existing behaviors
  • Don’t try to do it all at once – if you start complex and then simplify, you can harm your community
  • Why Social Media Marketing Fails – And How to Fix It was an interesting session led by Peter Kim (Dachis Corporation), Charlene Li (Altimeter Group), and Jeremiah Owyang (Forrester Research). First they started on the question of how to get a corporate culture to adapt to social media. Li said to get big gun backing, and Peter Kim added that the chief digital officer is now becoming the chief social officer. Owyang said that there was a step before executive buy-in – that often lower-level evangelists win people over, and eventually they have to convince executives. It’s pretty rare, in Owyang’s opinion, that execs initiate social media first.

    Peter Kim added that it’s a fallacy to think young people automatically know what to do with social media — Li recommended tapping into people who actually know how to run a business. Some companies pair executives with younger people.  Li said the fallacy of the “chief social officer” is that one person can take care of this – that fosters a “it’s not my problem, it’s someone else’s responsibility” mentality. According to Li, it’s everyone’s responsibility. She noted that at Schwab, they don’t talk about social media strategy, they talk about customer care strategy.

    Li said that instead of asking: “How do I make campaigns work?”, the problem is doing campaigns, not building relationships. Owyang also stressed the importance of a long-term view in terms of social network marketing. Li noted that a company should ask itself what kind of relationship it has today with its customers, and what kind it wants in the future. She commented that many companies have Facebook pages but you never hear from the company – their page looks like a press release rather than being a vehicle for conversations.

    Li said it’s really about a change in the way to do business – “It’s really a question of whether we should have marketing at all. This is something more collaborative.”

    How do you measure social media and ROI? Owyang stressed that measurement should go beyond “friends, fans, and followers”, be based on where the company is and where it’s going, and stress business objectives. Li asked for what purpose is the measurement – appropriate budgets, effectiveness of this channel compared to others, etc. How do you measure PR, reach, effectiveness, and satisfaction? How can you measure social media if you don’t measure in other areas of marketing? What does the number mean in the context of your organization? Kim said, “Measurement is the biggest fail. Tie goals back to P&L. Li noted, “If you’re not attaching social media to a specific business goal, it will get cut.”

    Li added: “Is failure going to be acceptable or not? If you are engaged in social media, you will fail. Can your culture adapt to this?”

    Kim said: “I think the expectations are too high for social media. I think today it doesn’t matter. Will it matter? Yes, a whole lot. It will take a lot of change in business for it to matter. It’s like the beginning of e-commerce.”

    Li said: “Why do you want to have a conversation? Why does it add value? If it doesn’t, don’t waste people’s goodwill.”

    “Dell had the biggest social media failure and came out of it. They learned from their failure to become a best case,” said Owyang.

    Li notes that Walmart is doing social media very well. They have been active in this space since 2006 and they have kept trying. The Hub, their social network, was miserable. Their Facebook pages were taken over by protesters. Then they recently came out with Check Out, their buyer’s blog, which has been very successful – they learned from their failure.

    Owyang added that Kinaxis, which makes supply chain software, is a good example of a company in the B2B space using social media well – they created their own version of TechMeme for supply chain management. Even in the B2B world, there are many opportunities for creative social media that helps create customer awareness and cultivate loyalty.



    Are Virtual Trade Shows Worthwhile for B2B?


     

    This week Business.com participated in our first ever virtual trade show, MarketingProf’s Digital Marketing World Spring 2009. Unlike last week’s Search Engine Strategies NY, this event didn’t require any packing, security check points or jet lag. Our team didn’t even have to leave their desks to man our virtual booth, attend sessions or network with over 13,000 registered attendees. Instead, they simply logged on, chose avatars and let their fingers do the talking.

    As with any new event we sponsor, the Business.com marketing team looked closely at the audience composition, brand impact and ROI of DMW Spring 2009. However, we ultimately viewed this show as a bit of an experiment. After all, we’ve been monitoring the increasing interest in virtual events.

    Last December, BtoB Magazine reported on a best-practices research study among 545 professional IT buyers.  The study found that they are attending one virtual event per quarter on average. Eighty-two percent consider virtual events to be a valuable source for learning about new technologies, and 62% agreed with the statement, “They are an efficient use of my time, enabling me to see a variety of technologies in one place.”

    Attendees of this week’s MarketingProf’s event seemed to agree. The event rocketed to Twitter’s #2 spot on trending topics the day of the event. For those of you still new to tweeting, this means the conference was the second biggest topic being discussed on Twitter on April 1st! According to event organizers, that equates to about 8 tweets a minute during the height of the conference. It probably helped that the keynote speaker was Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign Manager.

    From an exhibitor standpoint, we were pleasantly surprised with the volume of traffic to our virtual booth. Here are some of our tips for B2B companies considering exhibiting at a virtual trade show:

    Don’t Over-Staff Your Virtual Trade Show Booth

    Though many attendees will wander the virtual trade show floor and stop by your booth, most are looking to gather information and click on your offers/links. Don’t take it personally if attendees aren’t inclined to chat one-on-one. We found many people enjoy the anonymity of not having to get pitched at every booth. Keep in mind that many may not even know exactly how to engage in individual chats.

    Do Provide Virtual Trade Show Booth Visitors with Links to More Information

    We found click-though rates were strong on these five links: Special Offers, About Business.com, B2B Marketing Research, B2B SEM Newsletter, Read our Blog. Make sure to also include collateral (whitepapers, media kit, audience profile, etc.) in the event’s Resource Library. Downloads of Business.com content numbered in the thousands!

    Don’t Miss Out on Networking in the Virtual Trade Show Lounge 

    We found it’s a hotbed of activity. Not surprisingly, ROI on virtual events, the economy and social media were hot topics. Via a group chat feature, our staff answered b2b questions, shared resources and when appropriate, let folks know about all the benefits of advertising with Business.com. What would a trade show be without shameless self promotion?

    The jury is still out on the quality of leads from this event but initial analysis looks good. In fact, we’ve signed up for MarketingProf’s Fall 2009 virtual event. What’s your take on virtual events – future of the industry or flash-in-the-pan fad?


    Twitter for Business Case Study: @B2BOnlineMktg at 30 Days


     

    I was a Twitter for business skeptic – I’ll admit it.

    I covered my initial attitude toward Twitter for B2B in a prior post. Now, 30 days after my first post from Business.com’s B2B Online Marketing Twitter account, here’s where we stand:

    Followers: 596 –  SOOO close to 600, but I refuse to follow someone just to get the reciprocal follow

    Following: 112

    Tweets: 144

    Tracked clicks on tweets: 875

    Top 10 @B2BOnlineMktg tweets by number of clicks in the first 30 days:

    1. 4 Ways Companies Use Twitter for Business (ReadWriteWeb): http://ow.ly/1vza RT @SocialMedia411  (92 clicks)
    2. Business.com launches conversion tracking to help advertisers unlock the B2B web analytics “black box” http://ow.ly/1lwk  (56 clicks)
    3. Sometimes good to laugh at ourselves – fun If B2B Emails Could Talk video from @berelevant http://ow.ly/1vjQ  (51 clicks)
    4. Business.com launches local business search, additional site changes at #sesny. http://ow.ly/1lfa  (48 clicks)
    5. Social media metrics – measuring engagement on Twitter from web analytics guru Jim Sterne (@jimsterne) http://ow.ly/11NS  (44 clicks)
    6. Incredibly good guide to Twitter for B2B marketers just getting started – from @DesignerDepot http://ow.ly/1H9u #twitter #marketing  (42 clicks)
    7. 27 Twitter Applications Your Small Business Can Use Today from @myfindsonline http://ow.ly/1zvg #marketing #twitter  (28 clicks)
    8. What factors affect web site landing page conversion rate? Great model from @dericloh http://ow.ly/1UgB#ppc #seo #wa  (24 clicks)
    9. How marketers are using facebook, twitter, apps and widgets. from @adage http://ow.ly/1GY4  (23 clicks)
    10. Shameless plug – sign-up for our B2B search marketing e-newsletter for insights longer than 140 characters! http://ow.ly/SSw  (23 clicks)

    In the spirit of taking a much more open and positive view after some experience using Twitter, watching stats, observing what types of posts are most popular and doing my share of tweeting, retweeting, direct messaging, following, searching and more, I’d like to offer some suggestions to B2B marketers interested in trying Twitter for their own businesses:

    Top 5 “Must Do” List for New Business Twitter Users

    1) Start with the Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter from Webdesigner Depot to get oriented to Twitter.

    There are many more great guides out there, but this is the best broad, practical overview I’ve found. Kudos to the authors. Suggest your favorite general Twitter overviews – digestible by someone planning to use Twitter in their business – by adding a comment below.

    2) Next, shift into business mode – read the Twitter for Business guide from Business.com’s Shara Karasic.

    Great stuff. She’s a good tutor. Also check out 4 Ways Companies Use Twitter for Business from Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb.

    3) Understand your business purpose for using Twitter, and align your Twitter strategy/tactics with that purpose.

    For example, are you looking to build a relatively unknown brand? If so, then:

    • Determine your topic niche and stick to it – the narrower and more clearly defined, the better. Be the expert on something.
    • Set-up saved Twitter searches on topics that matter so you know who else is tweeting and what’s being said (we use HootSuite to manage everything, but there are other options)
    • Dive into the conversation by posting valuable new information
    • Identify and use common, relevant keywords and hashtags – after all, this is how most new people will find you
    • Retweet valuable information on your niche topic from others
    • Be consistent to build a following
    • Encourage your customers, contacts and others to follow you on Twitter once you’re comfortable with the process and feel like you’re getting the hang of it.

    Do you have an established, popular brand but want to be an active participant in the social media conversations around your company? If so, then:

    • Use a company- or product-branded Twitter account – be upfront with who you are
    • Set-up saved Twitter searches on variations of your company and product names, including common misspellings
    • Dive in and provide useful information or support to those already talking about your brand
    • Be human – repeating stock company soundbites repeatedly doesn’t work
    • Know when to take the conversation outside of Twitter – reminds me of the training we used to get when I was at eBay about how to handle very upset customers at eBay Live…acknowledge their concerns, walk with them away from the booths or public spaces, and bring them to someone who can solve their issue ASAP.

    Those are just a few examples. If your business purpose for using Twitter starts and stops with “I want to use it to blast my marketing message everywhere!” then you need to reconsider Twitter and social media more generally. It won’t work, and you’ll annoy a lot of people in the process.

    4) Establish your Twitter metrics.

    I know that for a lot of people social media is really cool, fun, something “you’ve just got to try!”, etc.. But this is Twitter for B2B marketers.  Its for business. We need to have metrics.

    What metrics matter also depends on your business purpose for using Twitter (see above). Building your brand? Focus on building followers and Twitter engagement metrics. Addressing negative company mentions? Grow the ratio of positive to negative tweets about your company. Check out the metrics available in TwitterCounter, Twitter Grader, and Twitalyzer for a sense of possible Twitter key metrics.

    5) Tweet away!

    I’ve always admired great business people, and high achievers more generally, for their ability to just jump in and go for it. There’s no better way to learn Twitter for business than to use Twitter for business. Things will go right. Things will go wrong. You’ll look back at your early posts and shudder. Such is life. Jump in, remember that you’re in business mode and go for it!