Stupid agency mailer FAIL

For those agency people who want to feel smarter than their competition … but mainly as a warning to marketers about the quality that agencies can put out.

Here from my mail is a really pathetic postcard mailer.

"and action!"
"Set the scene!"

Lunch is on us via a gift card? If I’m coming for a tour (a 150 mile drive), why not take me out to lunch?

Lots of other FAIL here. Feel free to add your observations in the comments.

Be smart about your Binghoo PPC settings

I humbled myself and showed you how Yahoo ripped me off with a Search Network of shill websites (See OMG, Yahoo Search PPC is a rip-off.

Now my paused Yahoo Marketing Solutions account has been moved/merged with my (active) Microsoft AdCenter account. Everyone is calling it Binghoo. Guess who’s billings jumped immediately?

(In case you are wondering, 3,600 impressions in the last week, 112 clicks and zero conversions. Apparently the crooks haven’t figured out how to fake conversions with AdCenter ads yet.)

Rather than shut off my AdCenter, I found a pretty easy setting to change on my account. Look for this box under General Settings and select “Only Bing and Yahoo! websites”.

Set your AdCenter settings like this.

Avoid those ‘syndicated search partners’ like the plague!

I’ll be watching closely the rest of the month to make sure this is effective, but it sounds like it should be.

Is this the best B2B website in 2010?

My company website needs a refresher. The home-page is functional almost to a fault.

I found a couple good examples of consumer websites (Subaru & REI) that had layouts that could work for us. And lots of style cues to consider. So what could be more fun than a redesign with a neat jquery ‘slider’ effect on the home page? Very 2010, I think, while still being functional!

Best practices?

Then I googled for best current B2B examples and found the WebAwards B2B winner for 2010. Take a look at the winner, Go ahead.

There is a lot to like, style-wise. Sliders with bold ‘purpose statements’, lots of white space.  Navigation by industry application.

But what the heck do they do? What business are they in?

They missed one of Vincent Flanders’ red flags: “It takes longer than four seconds for the man from Mars to understand what our site is about.”

Worse yet, the website is full of text with precious little images or effort to engage the visitor. And where the heck is a picture of the product on the home page (let alone any SEO terms).

Beauty before strategy

What we have here is an agency that did its job. And a company with enough sense to get a cool-looking website. But who forgot the content? Who forgot the STRATEGY?

Their Staples customer profile video on the website is 10 times … no … 100 times more effective in telling what they do and making their technology look cool. It should be up front on the home page instead of that cool ‘slider’ thingy with the truck and traffic light. (And proof how video can tell the real truth about a company so much more effectively.)

You’re a manager: get pushed, be pushy!

Handing off your website to an agency doesn’t mean you don’t have to do any work. Expect them to push you with questions. “What is your number one strength?” “We need some images to go with that copy, please.”

Push them with appropriate questions, too. “Why a picture of a truck and not our product?” “I can’t read that ribbon thingy at an angle on the corner of the slider.” “My mom still has no idea what I do at work after seeing this website.”

Maybe I’m being too harsh. It is a new website, and there certainly is some break-in time. Regardless, there is quite a bit of work left to be done. You know your story best, make sure it gets told.

Imagine posting this on your home page

We are currently targeting the solar panel industry, so I’ve subscribed to a number of newsletters about the industry. One today had a press-release about attempts to sell knock offs. Check out what the manufacturer (from Italy) had on their home page:

Not something you see in every-day B2B communications, is it?

My suspicion is that solar panels are pretty generic looking, and it would be easy to stick a brand-name label on a (dare I say) Chinese-made panel.

This was a bold and necessary step by the manufacturer, but I suspect this is not the end of their troubles. How would you handle this? How would you keep it from happening?

Our parent company overseas deals with a number of copy-cat competitors with similar styling, but it is clear the brand is different. One thing they did ‘just in case’ was select a very unique color for our products.

The Ugliest Brochure Contest?

Ugly brochures should be double-bagged for safety

Who doesn’t love to see an ugly brochure … as long as it isn’t ours?

B&Z Marketing is running a promotion to find the ugliest B2B brochure. The prize? A complete re-do. With a prize value of $5,000, you might call it the ‘What Not to Wear’ of marketing.

What is ugly? From their rules:

“For the purposes of this contest, an ugly brochure is one that is unbalanced, unfocused, cluttered, distracting or otherwise visually off-putting, subsequently making it an ineffective delivery vehicle for the marketing messages contained within it.

There is no scientific measure for ugly, making it impossible for B&Z to offer criteria for determining what ugly is and what it is not. However, if looking at your brochure makes you or others physically ill, we highly recommend you submit it.”

Physically ill? Can I submit a few I’ve seen? Unfortunately, the submissions are supposed to be from the owners (and printed copies only).

I don’t know how successful their campaign is going to be, but I imagine landing even one client due to this promotion may pay off for B&Z. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the before-and-after results.

Engaged? Don’t tell my wife!

I’ll be spending the rest of this week in Chicago at the Annual BMA (Business Marketing Association) Conference.

The theme this year is ‘Engage!” And while I don’t expect anyone to drop on one knee, I do expect we’ll be talking about how to woo … the customer.

I was there last year (link to 4 posts) as part of a panel discussion on blogging. This year, I’ll be testing my blogging chops as part of the Social Media team for the event.

A social media team is an interesting concept, and I’m not sure how common it is. I’ll be with some top B2B SM talent; documenting, commenting, and socializing the event. Based on my experience last year, this type of team raises the buzz, the engagement, and the overall learning at such an event.

My goal going into this, essentially a reporter, is to be a bit of a reality check. Engagement only happens when you aren’t blowing smoke. What is sustainable marketing that engages, and what is just the ‘flavor of the day’? What is stuff that can really be pulled off for the average company?

That, of course, requires me to be an engaged listener. But if the speaker is hitting the topic right, I’ll probably end up sounding like a fan-boy anyway.

I almost didn’t go…

I am busy this year working on building up our ‘vertical’ markets, and keeping up with important shifts in product. So I felt heavy-hearted when I got the mailer for the event and couldn’t see how ‘Engage!’ fit into my focus this year. As bad as it sounds, customer engagement is just way off the radar for me right now. That’s our salespeople’s job, right?

So when I was invited to join the SM team, I reconsidered. Yes, it’s not what I’m working on, but ‘engagement’ is a part of the awareness, if not tactics, that a marketing manager should be mindful of. And of course the blogger in me was excited to have the chance to put my own spin on things!

Engaging the engaged:

If you’d like to follow the event as it happens, you can use with all the bells-and-whistles. Or if you’d just like to see what I’ve got to say, follow me (B2Btw) at Twitter or everyone else via hash-tag #bmaengage.  They’re going to be trying to expand the SM coverage into a LinkedIn group, to generate discussions and lock-in those all-important business contacts.

Or just wait till I get back and put together a summary blog-post.

Directory listing scammers charged in Canada

In 2007 I posted: The same old directory scam, will it never end? It’s the basic “we’re calling to update your listing” rip-off call I’ve been getting since I started doing marketing here over 15 years ago.

Well, the company and owners have finally been criminally charged by the Canadian Authorities:

OTTAWA, April 12, 2010 — The Competition Bureau announced today that criminal charges were laid against three Montreal brothers and six companies allegedly involved in deceptive telemarketing activities related to business directory scams…

The charges stem from a Bureau investigation into criminal deceptive telemarketing by a group of corporations led by the Frank brothers, collectively known as Infotel… These activities are estimated to have generated approximately $60 million in revenue between 1999 and 2004.

The United States’ FTC sued the company(s) last June and won an injunction as well as getting the Competition Bureau to raid their offices (couldn’t find original news on this so relying on posting at Rip Off Report):

The FTC has been granted temporary restraining orders … doing business as Reed Publishing, halting the deceptive practices and freezing the defendants’ assets….

Canadian Press, Tue Jun. 02 2009 3:55:38 PM (Competition Bureau of Canada) About 150 investigators executed 10 search warrants in and around the city of Montreal today but deputy commissioner Andrea Rosen says no arrests have been made yet. The newly amended Competition Act which carries significantly higher penalties for those who are convicted could finally bring justice to the FRANKS, Gordon, Ted, and Sean who have run the largest and longest B2B Telemarketing Scam in Canada.

The Rip Off Report also shows that their offices had been raided as early as 2004. Why does it take so long to shut these guys down? If they made $60M in five years, imagine how much they made since 2004. And how many B2B companies they called and nagged to get that money.

Two neat tools for the ‘one man show’ marketer

It’s no surprise that bloggers ignore email pitches that sound more like press releases, and get down-right annoyed when it’s not even relative to their blog. I’m no exception.

But I do give extra consideration for those who give me a pitch that is relevant, and proves that they at least read something on my blog besides the title. At the very least I’ll write a personal reply. Today I’d like to share two neat tools that came into my inbox the right way.

Marketing automation for the ‘one man show’kutenda logo

That’s the way Emily Thompson of Kutenda described her comprehensive online marketing service. Nothing fancy, but covers all the basics to make a website that is ‘marketing ready’. And I’d argue for smaller/start-up companies, bells and whistles like A/B testing, CRM integration, and such are not going to happen, so why be distracted by them.

via U!Madison Ave quality photography on the cheap

When it comes to photography for your marketing, you have two choices: DIY or hire a professional. DIY looks like crap and wastes your time, and a half-day with a pro can cost a grand.

ViaU is an online tool for product photography. Hmm, that doesn’t make sense does it? Actually, on ViaU you select the view and background, ship your products in, and he posts your completed pictures. The stuff I sell is too big, but if you have products that fit on a table, that would be about right. The shot selector tool is very extensive (and kinda fun), so you can be sure about what the result will be.

Maybe one of these could be of use to you, if not now, when you have a future project. And at least a lesson on how and what captures my eye to blog about.

B2B SAAS puts pricing on website, salespeople gasp

Us industrial marketers have lots of logistical excuses reasons that we don’t post prices on our websites. I’ve made a valiant effort to discuss it here at B2Blog in the past. Software is a borderless, virtual product, so the bar is a bit lower. And if you are in a very new marketplace, there’s no legacy issues either. So maybe others didn’t notice this post by Steve Woods of Eloqua earlier this month Publicly Available Pricing: Theory and Practice:

“Last week we made the pricing for Eloqua’s software product packages public on our website for the first time: The starting prices range from $1450 to $10,000 per month, depending on the level selected. Just hearing this likely makes everyone who has ever been a field sales rep cringe. Won’t this blow up deals? What if an Enterprise buyer hears of an SMB buyer making a purchase at 1/10th the price? Won’t you be excluded from deals based on the price being seen as too high or too low?”

Yes, salespeople cringe–just read the comments on that posting.

People walk away from products they should really buy. But others bookmark the page and write up their proposal to their boss. Then they come back. And buy! Those that got away might have been too fickle or budget conscious anyway. Good job Eloqua!

Proof it’s not about the benefits, but your product

Go look at Anne Holland’s Which Test Won. Sorry to bypass the quiz screen, but my post’s title already gives away the answer.

“Version A, with its main visual of the printer itself, enticed 37.2% more visitors to complete the online call-back form, thus generating more sales leads for the industrial printers.”

While an awareness of the customer’s use of your product is important, repeating what they already know (what an codes on a can look like) obscures the real information they want. And that’s what B2B marketing thrives on … information.

Do as I say, not as I do
At the trade show I was just at, this was the first time I displayed a sample of a user’s product, not our equipment. But it was the best way to show what our product does at a trade show where most visitors don’t know. In Anne’s example, the visitors had already clicked on a link, so they knew what to expect and were interested in the product.

So, choose the appropriate image based on the situation. But don’t feel guilty next time you put your product front-and-center.