Startup Marketing and Sales
by April Dunford

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Weekend Startup Marketing Reading April 20


I’ve been on vacation this week and spending more time on the beach than on the internet. That said I did come across a couple of neat posts this week. Enjoy!

William Mougayar of engagio had a great post over on StartupNorth this week about his lessons learned over the past 3 years. I agree with a lot of what he has to say here about relationships, the danger of believing your own story if nobody else does and how helping people is important. I don’t agree with him that selling to enterprises is a dead end – but I do agree that it’s very, very different from selling to individuals. (full disclosure, I am an advisor to engagio)

Mark MacLeod at startupCFO had a nead post called Vision can Come Later talking about startups that start as services businesses that later transition to product businesses and the resulting domain expertise that comes with that. His thinking is very much in line with mine on that topic – there is no substitution for hands-on market experience.

The Content Marketing Institute has a summary of the results of the Brandpoint 2012 Digital Content Marketing Survey with some interesting data around social content, outsourcing and storytelling.

Earlier this week I posted about what startup folks are looking for in a marketing hire. MarketingProfs has a related post this week called 7 Traits of an Ideal Marketer. I agree with all of this in particular the desire to have marketers that have had some sort of sales training and also the need for great writing skills.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be in China next week working and eating as much food as I can in 6 days. I’ll be posting here but if it takes me a while to respond to comments, I will blame that on my spotty internet access. Have a great weekend.


marketing job

6 Skills That Will get you a Startup Marketing Job


I get about 4 calls a week from people looking to hire a startup marketer. The skills startups are looking for in a marketing hire are remarkably consistent. These are the skills I hear about the most and how you might easily get them.

Here’s what startups are looking for in a marketing hire:

  1. Content creation – Folks that can create engaging, relevant content are in short supply. Most are looking for writing skills but being able to create video, build infographics and create presentations are desirable skills too. Bonus points if you are a decent public speaker and can represent the company well on video (and face to face).
  2. Community management – Great social media marketing programs require folks that can work with the community to help build an engaged audience. Social media skills are important here but equally important are good people skills, especially around relationship building.
  3. Analytic skills  – Companies are getting better at tracking their marketing efforts through clicks, conversions, impressions, keywords, links, mentions, along with more traditional pipeline stage tracking measurements. Being able to not just gather data but make sense of it is a skill startups are looking for.
  4. PR contacts – Later-stage startups might use outside PR help but most are getting the word out to blogs and news outlets on their own. Having a set of relationships with key influencers in a particular market makes you very valuable to a startup.
  5. E-mail marketing – Still the cornerstone of most digital marketing programs, email programs are getting smarter and more sophisticated. Marketing automation tools from simple things like MailChimp through to more feature-rich tools like Eloqua and Marketo are now widely used. Knowing your way around those tools and having some experience in multi-stage email marketing is a rare and valuable skill.
  6. – Many startups are using Salesforce as their CRM system and although it’s easy enough to get started using the tool, using it to it’s full potential isn’t, particularly when it comes to tracking and analytics.  There are also loads of tricks to learn around account visibility, pipeline staging and customer segmentation that aren’t intuitively obvious unless you’ve got some time with Salesforce under your belt.

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to pick up many of these skills right now regardless of whether you currently hold a startup marketing job. Any one of these would get you skills that would make you hireable:

  1. Start blogging and creating stuff – I don’t think anything teaches you more about what works in a blog better than blogging and the more you write the better you get at it. It also gives you a place to experiment with other media. I’ve done a bunch of video, podcasts and graphic content in this blog and unlike my regular work I get to experiment a lot to see what works.
  2. Get active in your community – Being an organizer for a group or project can teach you a lot about what makes communities tick and what it takes to get them engaged and motivated. These groups are always looking to help out and getting involved is usually as easy as raising your hand.
  3. Track yourself (and learn some SEO) – This goes along with #1 but if you have an online presence, set goals and learn how to track them. There are loads of great SEO blogs out there. My two favorites for practical advice are SEOmoz and Portent (formerly Conversation Marketing). Runing experiments to put what you have learned into practice is probably the best way to build skills in this area and having specific example to share with potential employers will help you prove that.
  4. Make friends with bloggers/journalists – I think networking is the best thing that anyone at any stage in their career can do. If you have a set of relationships with folks in the media, journalists or bloggers that are influential in a particular space, those are very valuable to a startup that doesn’t have them.
  5. Learn how to manage a mailing list – Much like the point on SEO, this is an area where there are a ton of amazing resources available online to help you get smart about this topic really fast. For email marketing stuff I like the Mailchimp blog. Although the topics they cover are much broader than just email the Eloqua, Marketo and Pardot blogs are also great sources of information. There are also some low-end tools that you can use for free that can help you fool around with some of the technology in the space to learn it. As I mentioned in the above point on community management skills, community groups are always looking for help. Being the person that manages email lists can help you get smart on this and provide you a theatre to run experiments and learn about tracking, analytics and what works.
  6. Play around with Salesforce (or some other CRM) – Sure not everyone uses it but lots of startups do and the principles that you will learn from fooling around with Salesforce are pretty applicable to other CRM systems. If you have access to SalesForce where you work try creating a set of dashboards or reports that are useful to you. If you don’t have access, you can play around with one of the free CRM tools (ZohoCRM is the one I hear about the most). CRM tools are all different but the underlying principles of managing accounts, tracking pipeline, capturing and managing activities, creating reports and dashboards are all pretty similar across tools.



Weekend Startup Marketing Reading


Here’s this week’s batch of interesting stuff for startup marketers.

The folks from the startup Pipedrive, a pipeline management tool wrote a great post looking back at how they grew to 1,000 paying customers. The post includes a great discussion about how they learned to say “no” to customers that wanted one-off features, how they ramped up their growth by spending more time with key influencers and removed as much friction as they could in the their sign-up process. This is a great lessons learned post.

An older article on Demand Gen Report, “Why Demand Generation Shouldn’t be Focused on Marketing Qualified Leads” inspired this post this week from B2B Digital Marketing called “Looking beyond Sales and Marketing Alignment“. The original article looks at the problem of Marketing’s continued struggle to provide good leads to sales and proposes that the solution to the problem is better orchestration and coordination between Marketing and Sales. We are focusing too much on MQL’s (Marketing Qualified Leads) when in a perfect process all leads should be marketing influenced as well as sales influenced. In the second article, the author takes this line of thinking one step further to make the argument that sales and marketing should just be “aligned” but actually “integrated”. These are two great articles to read if you are struggling with lead generation process issues related to a salesforce.

Over at SingleGrain there was a really interesting post on using competitive research to analyze a new market. This post describes the process the writer used to launch a new online business website from a very SEO-centric perspective. He describes the tools and methods he used to determine traffic potential, assessed demographics, analyzed key words and how he researched competitor’s tactics. A great read and useful even if you aren’t launching something from scratch.

Lastly, Michele Linn over at Savvy B2B Marketing had a good post on how to be a better listener in content marketing. The post describes how she monitors and discovers content from a variety of different sources using a variety of devices in a very streamlined manner. If you feel like you are spending too much time on Twitter, your inbox is overflowing and your RSS reader is a mess, this is the post for you.


Startup Marketing: Does the Competition Matter?


I have heard people make the argument that startups shouldn’t think about their competitors. I agree that many spend too much time worrying about how their feature set stacks up against another offering’s feature set. On the other hand, prospects are evaluating your solution against alternatives (which may not be products) and communicating how you are better than those alternatives is a key part of great startup marketing. Simply put – you should care about competitive alternatives if your prospects do.

Startups are not Big Companies

I very rarely see useful competitive analysis done by startup marketers, mainly because they are trying to do it like big companies do it. The big companies I’ve worked for have had departments dedicated to creating large detailed check mark matrices that showed how our feature set compared to competitive offerings. These matrices almost never included any feedback from customers. Needless to say, the products and their markets were very mature.

This approach completely falls apart within the context of a startup. Your competitors, from a customer point of view are almost never so easily defined. For startups, your offering is often competing with “do nothing”, “hire someone to do it”, use spreadsheets/documents/paper, or some other solution that might be completely unsuited to the task but is free/easy/what has always been used. Comparing features of one of these alternatives to your startup’s offering to makes absolutely no sense in this context.

A More Customer-Centric Approach

In the context of a startup the only competitive analysis that makes sense is the one that is happening in side the heads of your prospects. The more you understand about that, the more you can use that knowledge to improve your marketing.

Instead of the traditional competitive comparison matrix, a more useful competitive alternatives snapshot for a startup would look at what customers perceive to be the major benefits of the alternative, what risks they see that might stop them from choosing your solution and how you might address these issues in your messaging.

An Example

Here’s an example for CRMster, a fictional solution aimed at mid-sized consulting businesses to help them manage their customer information. The points here are just to give you some ideas about how this might look:

Competitive Alternative Benefit customers perceive Risk in selecting your offering Value of your offering Proof points
Do nothing – we don’t use a CRM tool and that’s fine by us Free
Zero effort required
Budget spent on this will mean less money for other thingsConsultants will have to learn the tool and record data they don’t today More accurately predict future workloads so you can budget/staff accordingly and increase your profitability.Gives consultants access to more complete customer information making it easier to do their jobs. 3rdparty data: Research shows companies using CRM are X% more profitable.Customer data: CRMster customers have x% average increase in revenue/profitabilityEnd user quote “CRMster makes collaborating easy. I want to marry it! ”Customer case studies
Manage customer data in spreadsheets FreeEveryone knows how to use a spreadsheet Budget spent on this will mean less money for other thingsConsultants will have to learn the tool Eliminate the need to consolidate spreadsheets – a process that is time consuming and introduces errorsEasier, more effective team collaboration means projects are delivered on time, on budget. Customer quote: “Consolidating spreadheets was a pain and our data stank. CRMster lets us accurately forecast our business.”Customer quote: “CRMster got our teams working together better so we could deliver projects on budget”End user quote: “So fun to use I gave up playing Angry Birds at work!”Analyst opinion: “Folks using spreadsheets are big losers”
Use CRMFree, a free CRM tool Free Budget spent on this will mean less money for other things Expert customer supportProvides features for consulting companies that generic CRM tools don’t have. Analyst data: X% of CRM deployments fail because end-users don’t get good support.Customer quote: “Their support is so great we send them chocolates on valentine’s day”Press quote: “If you are a consulting company you are an idiot if you buy anything else”Customer logos, case studies
Use BigWig CRM, a CRM tool for mid-sized businesses of any type A safe bet: an established brand CRMster might go out of businessThe software might be unproven, buggy crap CRMster is way cheaper.Provides features for consulting companies that generic CRM tools don’t have. Pricing and guarantees.Screen shots, product demosTeam bios – emphasizing successes and background in this market.Investor profiles, investment announcementsCustomer logos, case studies

For this example, only the last couple of rows get into any discussion of product features and even there those aren’t the only considerations. The other thing to notice is that the feature discussion can happen as part of a higher-level theme (we’re better because we are cheaper, more targeted to this market, or a more elegant solution) rather than a checklist of niggley esoteric features like you would for mature products in a mature market. If you are going head to head with an established player in the market you’re doing it because you have something radically different.

The Output: Better Messaging

The next step is to look at the themes and develop key messages that highlight your differentiated value while addressing the potential big concerns. I’ve written about messaging here and here and I’ll talk more about how you would take the next step and construct messaging upcoming post.



Lipstick on the Enviropig: A Tale of Messaging and Manure


We marketers are optimistic by nature. We’re trained to see the most desirable aspects of the products we sell and minimize the potential drawbacks. This optimism can be a problem however if we lose sight of how customers actually perceive our products and start to believe everyone sees them the way we wish they did. In my first marketing job my boss gave me some very wise advice:

Don’t get caught smoking your own marketing

Which brings me to this example. Here in Canada, the University of Guelph announced a research project called “The Enviropig.” From the site:

The Enviropig™ is a genetically enhanced line of Yorkshire pigs with the capability of digesting plant phosphorus more efficiently than conventional Yorkshire pigs. These pigs produce the enzyme phytase in the salivary glands that is secreted in the saliva. When cereal grains are consumed, the phytase mixes with the feed as the pig chews. Once the food is swallowed, the phytase enzyme is active in the acidic environment of the stomach, degrading indigestible phytate in the feed that accounts for 50 to 75% of the grain phosphorus.

Simply put – this pig can digest phosphorus from pig feed more efficiently than regular pigs. This means the pig doesn’t need to get fed expensive phosphorus supplements and also produces manure with less phosphorus. Phosphorus in pig manure is a major source of freshwater pollution. Hey, less pollution, that sounds pretty good! The site even goes so far as to helpfully point out that raising an Enviropig is just like raising a regular pig:

…the technology is simple, if you know how to raise pigs, you know how to raise Enviropigs!

The obvious pig, er, elephant in the room however is the fact that we are raising these pigs, not to consume grain and produce manure, but to feed them to ourselves and our children. What are the risks involved in ingesting a few months worth of eggs over easy with a side of Envirobacon and pulled Enviropork sandwiches? The folks in Guelph decided that the best approach would be to simply avoid that question. Their discussion of “Societal and Ethical Issues” (notice the word “health” is avoided) contains nothing on the subject (although they do assure us that the pigs are very “fit”).

This head in the sand approach didn’t work out so well for the Enviropig project. The backlash was quick and loud. The “Frankenpig” was criticized by consumers, food groups and politians but most of all by environmentalists who quickly pointed out that:

  1. Regular old pigs are pretty environmental when not raised in gigantic mega pig farms and
  2. Pigs are being fed grain which they are not able to fully digest and changing the pig’s diet or adding supplements to it would also help fix the problem with no genetic engineering required.

Of course both of these things would be costly for conventional pig farmers.

So upon closer inspection, the Enviropig wasn’t a solution to an environmental problem at all. All the marketing in the world couldn’t change the fact that the Enviropig didn’t benefit anyone but pig farmers looking to grow cheaper pigs.

Consumers and the general public reacted with a hearty “hold the bacon!” Last week the project lost its funding from Ontario Pork and the University announced that the pigs will be euthanized. Optimistic marketing wasn’t enough to make those pigs fly.

So here’s the marketing lesson. You can’t ignore how customers perceive your product. Saying it’s great does not make it so and failing to address customer concerns won’t make them go away. Optimistic messaging won’t turn a crappy product that nobody wants into a winner.

Read This

Weekend Startup Marketing Reading


There’s a ton of great posts on startup marketing that I come across every week. Here’s my selection of the best with some color commentary from me.

Startup Marketing: How to Earn Customers Without Paying for Them – this is a video of a talk by Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz that is full of chunky marketing goodness. About halfway through he touches on the problem of attribution which I think is a HUGE one for marketers, particularly those that are heavily invested in content marketing. How do you track a funnel and measure what’s working when you have integrated content resources working together in a programmatic way? If a person sees a Tweet, watches your video, reads your blog and then clicks on a a search result to make a purchase, how do you attribute that lead? There is also a great discussion around organic search rank and how social plays into that as well as a great Q&A session at the end. The video is long but in my opinion, well worth the investment of an hour of your time.

How Perfect Pricing Got me 1500 Sales in 2 Days and Perfect Pricing Part Deux are two great posts from A Smart Bear dealing with a couple of experiments in pricing (ebooks in both examples but the lessons I believe are relevant beyond that market). The first post walks through the author did pricing research, decided on tiered pricing and the results that showed his higher priced product performed better. I am not sure this is really a price anchoring experiment in the way the author suggests but for me it spurred a lot of good thinking about segmentation and pricing. The second post is a great follow-on from another author who took a different approach and charged a much higher price for his ebook. His strategy, rather than tiered pricing, was to focus on a single segment that was willing to pay a higher price because they understood the value of his offering. If you sell on the internet and are thinking about price points, these 2 articles are great reading.

Over at the CMI Institute blog there was a super post this week called 6 Start Me Up Tips for Novice Content Marketers – In my opinion the highlight of this post is the “Message Matrix for Product Launch” example. On the surface this looks a bit oriented toward big companies (we startup marketers don’t usually don’t do things like style guidelines given our teams are so small) but the examples of how you would document messages by elements and key audiences is spot on.

Have a great weekend.

Keyboard close-up with three smiley keys

A/B Testing: Knowing What Works Doesn’t Tell you Why


I read a great post today called “Throw Everything you Know About Ads Out the Window”. The author describes how he ran a very simple test of two ads to see which would work better. You can see the two ads here.

The first ad was very professional looking with good looking graphics, nice fonts and a green call to action button. The second ad was in his words “some shit ad I made in 5 mins in Microsoft Paint.” The ad was a hand drawn picture of a car with the hand written words “Need for Speed!!! Play free!!”  He tested the 2 ads for 15K impressions each and found the low tech ad generated a clickthrough rate of 0.137% versus 0.049% for the more professional looking ad.

Whoa. That’s quite a difference.

His conclusion that, “every idea you have is worth testing no matter how crappy it is”  is a smart one in my opinion, but also trickier than it might sound.

Your Test Results Tell you What Works but not Why

So we know the second ad generated a better CTR. Now what? Here is a list of reasons the second one might have gotten more clicks:

  1. Novelty – we are inundated with ads and something that looks very different is interesting and click-worthy.
  2. Freeresearch shows that this a bit of a magic word for folks and it appears much more prominently on the second ad.
  3. Less Text – the second ad had much less text and is easier to read.
  4. Single Image – A single image might make the ad easier to process.
  5. Simplicity and Flow – The second ad is much simpler and it flows simply from top to bottom. The “professional” ad is more complex and flows right to left and top to bottom.
  6. Weird Psychology – Maybe that hand-drawn ad reminded us of the doodles we made we were 5 years old and a Proust-ian nostalgia swept over us and gosh darn it we just had to click!!

OK, so the last one isn’t all that likely but hey, anything’s possible. So what does this test tell us? It tells us that we can improve our CTR in one (or maybe many) of these ways. It’s giving us some clues about what hypothesis to test next but without those tests, the “why” around the increased CTR is not clear.

CTR is not the Same as Conversions

Another important thing worth pointing out is that there was no mention of conversions after the clicks. If I look at some of the possible reasons that the CTR might have been higher I could see that maybe some folks are clicking just to see what the heck this crazy ad is all about but aren’t really serious about taking any other action. While the test might have proven the second ad generated more clicks, it did not prove the second ad “worked” better from a business perspective.

industry analysts

Industry Analysts: Can You Buy Coverage?


I had a B2B startup founder ask me if it was possible to buy placement in a Gartner Magic Quadrant. The question shows a fundamental misunderstanding that the big industry analyst firms like Gartner Group and Forrester are “Pay for Play”. That simply doesn’t make any sense.

You care about analyst coverage because customers care. Customers care because vendors can’t purchase it.

The only reason marketers care what some industry analysts have to say is because some customers respect their opinion. The moment customers suspect that this opinion can be bought, they would stop paying for their advice. These markets where an analyst opinion really matters are often those where the decision is made by a purchase team that doesn’t have the time/skill/money/risk tolerance to perform a complete evaluation of every vendor in the market. They trust analysts to educate/advise them enough to quickly get the vendor list down to a more manageable size. It varies by market/geography/company size of course but if you are selling to a Fortune 500 IT buyer in North America, you may not get on a short list if Gartner doesn’t cover you (if you are selling to consumers, you probably should stop reading this right now).

You can’t buy love. But you can purchase a date.

So the entire business model of an analyst firm depends on customers trusting that the analysts are not biased for or against certain vendors. Vendors cannot purchase coverage in a report, nor inclusion on a Quadrant or Wave. Analysts do cover companies that don’t pay for their services. So does paying an analyst firm increase your chances of getting favourable coverage in their research. Heck yes it does! But it doesn’t guarantee they will write nice things about you. Purchasing a contract gives you their attention. It gives you the ability to interact with them regularly (the biggest mistake you can make is pay for the contract and not establish regular meetings with the analysts, more on this later). This leads to several things:

  • A better understanding of how the analyst firm views the market
  • An opportunity to educate the analysts about the value of your offering and your point of view on the market
  • The opportunity to influence their thinking about how the market is evolving
  • Advanced warning about upcoming research and the ability to respond to questions and surveys before the research is published
  • The opportunity to introduce them to your customers, further illustrating your offering’s value and increasing your chances of coverage.
  • The ability to establish the credibility of your company and your depth of knowledge of the space, increasing the credibility of your offering in the eyes of the analysts.
  • The ability to establish relationships with the analysts (hey, they are people too and it never hurts if you all know and like each other).

So buying the contract is a bit like buying your love interest dinner at Le Bernardin instead offering to split the bill at McDonald’s. It won’t guarantee that you’ll fall in love but it will increase the odds that they’ll show up so you can make your case.

The often-ignored but equally important reason you want to work with analysts – to learn from them

But here’s the thing. Coverage isn’t the only reason you want to work with an analyst firm. It may not even be the main reason you want to work with them. You want to work with them because you can learn from them. They spend all day thinking about the markets you are in. They spend a significant amount of time talking to customers. They know what your competitors are up to. Who else in your market can give you this kind of perspective? How valuable this perspective is to your company depends on a lot of things but here are some things I’ve used analysts for:

  1. Feedback on messaging and positioning – they know the terms the rest of the market is using and they know how customers express themselves. That puts them in a unique position to give you feedback on how you are expressing your value proposition and your terminology. They also have a firm grasp of what your competitors have and can help you understand what really differentiates you.
  2. Competitive insight – we are all under non-disclosure when we talk to analysts so they can’t tell you anything that isn’t already in the public domain (well technically anyway). but it isn’t always easy to keep up with what the competitors are doing especially if you are in a crowded market. Part of the analyst’s job is to stay on top of who’s doing what in a market.
  3. Customer insight – Analysts do a lot of customer briefings. I find myself asking questions like “Have you ever seen a company with this problem?” or “We think that customers using competitor X’s product tend to look like ABC. Would you agree?” You should never trust any one person’s opinion as the final word on a market but the insight you get from an analyst can help you understand where to look next.

Now don’t get me wrong – I have worked with analysts that I though had a spotty level of knowledge of their market, had obvious biases toward certain vendors and seemed to be incapable of constructive feedback. Every profession has a few that maybe should be doing something else with their lives. Fortunately for me that has been the exception rather than the rule.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you will have a much deeper understanding of the particular slice of the market that you play in than any analyst you will meet. They on the other hand will probably understand the broader market better than you do. You need to keep this in mind when you are filtering their feedback.

Two big cautions for startups!

  1. All of the good stuff that you get from analysts only happens if you do the work. You have to establish a regular calendar of meetings with multiple analysts. You have to prepare for those meetings. You have to find customers that are willing to talk to them. You have to have interesting new news to talk about. You have to complain like heck if your analyst is a dud. If you simply sign the cheque and wait for the good stuff to come rolling in you are wasting your money. Without an analyst relations plan, it’s pointless.
  2. Don’t forget your other marketing priorities. If you are a B2B startup working with analysts is going to be on a long list of things you have to do including lead generation, sales support, enabling your salesforce, building content for your site and campaigns, securing customer references, etc. etc. You have to weigh working with an analyst firm against the other things on your list and take your budget into account. If you only have $60K to spend on marketing, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone spend half of that on a Gartner contract. Even though I think analyst relations is very important for certain companies in certain markets, you need to be smart about it and make sure it makes sense for the value you will get.


pitching bloggers

Pitching to Bloggers (and Journalists) – Tips for Startups


Most early stage startups don’t have the budget (or the desire) to hire a PR agency to help them get news coverage. Getting coverage for a startup is (in my opinion anyway) easier than it has ever been – there are loads of online publications that cover startups and they’re easy to find and contact. But as least favorite engineering prof used to say to me “April, just because I say it’s easy, doesn’t mean you can’t mess it up.”

Here’s my list of Do’s and Don’ts

Do This

  1. Cultivate relationships before you need them – Did you ever have a friend that only called you when they wanted something? Don’t be that person. There’s generally a ton of runway pre-launch you can use to establish relationships with bloggers and journalists. Meeting face to face (at events, social gatherings, industry meetings, etc.) is always the best way but I’ve had good relationships that started out with me commenting a lot on their blogs, sharing their content, and linking to or blogging about their content on my company blogs. The goal is to get a better understanding of the person (what do they like/dislike, how can help them out, etc) at a stage when you aren’t asking for something.
  2. Have something newsworthy to talk about – this isn’t just about having a great product, it’s about having a great story to tell that people will want to read about (and yes, great products make this easier). Why should people be excited about your news? How does it relate to other newsworthy things (market/buyer/cultural/economic trends for example) people are interested in? Most startups are great at tying their solutions to technology trends which works well for tech/startup publications. If you want more mainstream press your tie-in’s will need to be more mainstream. I talked to a startup recently that got good coverage tying their product news to the Occupy movement, and another that had a great story related to wedding planning that launched at the time of the royal wedding. You need to answer the question – why is your news interesting right now?
  3. Pitch writers that are a good fit for your news – I’ve seen few examples where folks have been successful by blasting large lists with a generic pitch. Do your homework and understand what the writer covers, their likes and dislikes, whether or not they have written about other companies in similar markets and if so, what were the stories like. Build a personalized pitch that includes why you chose to pitch them specifically. If possible tailor your story angle for the publication or for them personally.
  4. Make it as easy as possible – I like to have a media page that I can direct folks to where writers can get quick easy answers to basic questions (i.e. who/when/why was the company formed, who are the noteworthy employees/customers/partners/investors/advisors involved, what is the value the company delivers and to what markets) and get easy access to logos, screenshots, video, graphics etc. Write your press release so that it’s easy to copy sections from it to create a story (hard to believe but this happens more than you would think). Video and/or images (I seem to be the only person on the planet that’s sick of infographics) that compliment the story work well because they make it easy to create a visually interesting post.
  5. Kiss butt (a little) – Just like regular folks, bloggers generally like working with people who are nice to them more than they like dealing with jackasses. In my opinion, putting a little sugar on it just helps move things along. Tell them you loved their most recent post, say thank-you when they cover you, send them a happy holidays note – this stuff seems simple but so few people do it that you will stand out when you do. Just be careful not to spread it on stalker-thick.

Try to Avoid This

  1. Phoning people (or pestering them on social media) – What’s the definition of zero? The likelihood anyone will return your unsolicited phone call. I could have also said the probability that a blogger will pick up the phone when you cal,l but you get it. There’s a reason most folks don’t publish their phone numbers. Most publications have a preferred method of contact for pitches that they publish (usually a dedicated email address that is monitored) and going around it just annoys people. This goes for sending private messages to people over social media. Those channels are full of spam and using them when you don’t know the person makes you a spammer too.
  2. Getting the names and/or genders wrong – My name isn’t Apple but I get a lot of email addressed to her. It’s hard to take people seriously after they have mistaken me for a fruit. Also confusing someone for a member of the opposite sex is just no way to start a relationship.

What am I missing?



Infographics – The Lindsay Lohan of Content?


I’m sick of infographics. I’m sad about it too because I used to love them. I was excited about the potential for infographics to help us get more visual in the way we communicated messages and told stories. Sadly this isn’t the way it played out. We got beautiful graphics alright. Lovely ones. But somewhere along the way Infographics became all about the look and the story was forgotten. They’ve become the web version of shouting “Hey look a rainbow!!” and we look, even though we know most of the time it’s a trick and there isn’t a rainbow there at all.

I’m worried that Infographics are becoming the Lindsay Lohan of content – People still click on the links to see the sordid photos but they stopped paying to see her movies a long time ago.

Let’s look at an example. Last week I came across this one – The Best and Worst of Marketing (if you built this, I’m sorry for picking on you but this post needs an example and unfortunately, you’re it)

infographic best and worst marketing The Best and Worst of Marketing
Infographic by Marketing Degree


Does it look great? Sure it does.

Now what’s it trying to tell us? It lists the “best undergraduate marketing colleges.” In terms of what, you might wonder? Most difficult to get into? Most CMO graduates? We’ll never know because in teeny font at the bottom we see the list of sources which include such specific references as and the website for the University of Pennsylvania. I supposes that’s how they made #1.

Moving along we see a list of best and worst paying marketing jobs. The best ones are a couple of Chief Marketing whatever jobs and then there are 3 Director level titles. Where are the Vice Presidents? Obviously we’re underpaid.

Then we have the best and worst marketing campaigns, best and worst marketing slogans and worst marketing slogan translations. Like there is a way to actually measure or rank any of that.

What is the story this graphic is trying to tell me? That if I don’t go to the University of Texas I run the risk of writing a slogan that translates into “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate” in Spanish? I have no idea. The graphic is a set of random marketing tidbits (I can’t even call them facts or data points) prettied up by a graphics person for the sole purpose of getting me to the page. It worked – I’m here. I’m here and I’m baffled.

Has it educated me? No. Has it inspired me? No. Did it make me want to take any sort of action at all? Nope. What we have here is a hot mess of “data” that doesn’t tell a story.

We Can Do Better

Don’t be me wrong – I don’t think all Infographics are terrible. There are some great ones out there. I’ve mentioned Eloqua’s Content Grid here before and it’s a good example of one that’s really useful and informative. I’ve used it a handful of times in the past month when I’ve been trying to describe how different types of content is relevant to different prospects at different stages of a deal.

(totally random aside – I loved Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence. Here’s a post where he highlights the work of Megan Jaegerman from the New York Times that was done over a decade ago. Again, I wonder where we went wrong on this stuff)

But for every graphic like that I get a dozen like this, or this, or this.

When our content becomes the equivalent of tabloid journalism, I’m sure we can generate clicks and some short-term attention. We all like looking at interesting pictures. But great content needs to inform, educate, motivate, inspire or enrage. If our content can’t do that then we’re no better off than the scandal-prone starlet who’s embarrassing photos still fetch a fee but can’t land a movie role because the audience no longer pays to see her movies.

In marketing terms what I’m saying is this – it’s nice you can drive some traffic with those pretty pictures but I don’t believe you are driving any business.


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