Friday, April 25, 2014

Are You Making the Most of LinkedIn?
By: Vicki LaBrosse
If you have not integrated LinkedIn into your marketing and sales strategy, what are you waiting for? As of September 2013, LinkedIn reported that it has more than 225 million members in over 200 countries and territories.
Since its launch in 2003, LinkedIn has diversified its business model to include other channels that seem like a logical adaptation to the application such as LinkedIn For Recruiters, For Job Seekers and For Sales Professionals.

Getting started

Think of LinkedIn as a social media platform as well as a lead-generating machine. Just as on other social media platforms, you need to be careful of what you post as what you say will be tied to your identity. The goal is to demonstrate that you are part of the community and you are there to add value rather than sell your product or services.
The key to having success on LinkedIn is to use it on a daily basis to provide valuable support to your connections and groups. While this may sound intimidating in terms of time commitment, it really only requires 10-15 minutes of your day and, as you get better at it, most likely only 5-10 minutes altogether.

Although deals won’t get closed via LinkedIn, it is the perfect place to gather intelligence not only about your industry but about your colleagues, prospects, clients and companies.
Use this checklist to make sure you have the basics*, completed:
  • Ensure your LinkedIn profile is complete and attractive to prospective clients.
  • Grow your network by increasing the number of people with whom you are connected.
  • Post useful and interesting status updates with links to helpful third-party websites, blogs and commentaries.
  • Provide recommendations for other LinkedIn users where you have firsthand knowledge of their services or skills.
  • Provide endorsements of skills you believe other users have, as prompted by LinkedIn when you visit their profiles.
  • Participate in local business groups or niche groups.
All of the suggestions above come free with the Basic subscription to LinkedIn. There are more advanced features and plans available for the more robust users.
Different kinds of plans:
·         Basic (free)
·         Business ($19.95/mo)
·         Business Plus ($39.95/mo)
·         Executive ($74.95/mo)
Search and connect

Every time you receive an email or hang up the phone with a new professional contact, your next step should be to go and find them on LinkedIn and connect! This is where the real magic happens on LinkedIn. Not only are you more or less scratching their back, but you can then find out more about that person with a simple search and click. You can also search for their company name.
You can use the advanced search function to search for businesspeople in your local area, in your niche or both. You can go further and search for key people within specific companies or within companies of the size you prefer to approach and find the name and job title of the decision maker you wish to engage with. Some of these features come with a paid subscription, but I think you are beginning to see the payoff of having access to this information instantaneously.

This is simply a LinkedIn tool for sending messages directly to someone within LinkedIn whom you are not already connected with. Some professionals use InMail a lot like how they use their email campaign system. You can send InMail to individuals, and you can also send messages to fellow group members, even if you are not connected to them.
The unwritten rule of thumb is to not send sales promotion InMails; this is an immediate turnoff and most likely will do more damage than good.
Who’s looking

LinkedIn will show you who has viewed your profile. This is important as you will notice that some of the visitors may be prospective clients; however, most will be other practitioners, recruiters, suppliers or perhaps even competition.  
It is a good idea to keep your profile updated and to show activity as it is more compelling to your ideal target clients.
Building opportunity

Here are some basic tips and strategies you can employ in order to start building new business opportunities:
Connect Personally ~ Don’t just hit the “connect” button, add a personal note and try to make it memorable. Even if you had an amazing conversation a week ago, someone may not remember you after a few busy days. People appreciate quality connections, so make your request to connect less automatic and more personal.
Groups ~ Start joining groups and engaging in discussions. If you don’t have a blog, group discussions are a great way to demonstrate thought leadership and get attention for your personal or company brand.

Company Page Posts ~ Engage your team and encourage them to post on their pages as well as the company page. Sharing on these pages is much less expensive than paying $2 per click to advertise on LinkedIn.

Status Updates ~ Update your business status on LinkedIn and keep your personal updates for Facebook. People who are connected to you will see your status updates. Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise as well as your company’s accomplishments.

If you are on LinkedIn, you want your network to grow. You want to connect with as many people as you can because there is some serious business that can be built from these connections. If you’re not taking advantage of this free resource to build your reputation and business, consider diving in as it will most likely give you the best bang for the buck when all other types of social media marketing are considered.
*Provided by

About the Author
Vicki LaBrosse is media relations director with Edge Marketing, Inc. Leveraging more than 13 years of experience working in professional services industries, LaBrosse works with clients to develop and execute comprehensive marketing strategies that will help grow their business.

Five Tips for Building Effective Relationships with the Media
By: Doreen Clark

You have a product, an idea, a thought leader or an event, and you want to gain the attention of writers, bloggers or editors – those who are connected to your target market. You put it out through a press release on the wire or forward an idea or a link via email. The response? Dead air … crickets … silence.

Technology has made the potential for relationship-building so easy that it is hard. Is it possible that we now presume that if we click “send” they will come? They will follow us? They will share our news? It is just as possible they will ignore our message. Why? Though we have the tools for media outreach, the basic skills may have been lost in the shuffle. Think about this: Are you more likely to do something for someone you know or a complete stranger? The media you are trying to reach would probably answer this in the same way. The bottom line? Taking the time to build a relationship before asking for something in return seems like a basic idea – so basic that it may be overlooked.

Consider these five “must-do” elements to get the media into your corner:

1.     Become “friends.”

One of the first things about building any sort of relationship is to understand the backstory and to reach out with nothing expected in return. After all, that is the basis of friendship, right? Media representatives respond just like everyone else. Building a business relationship takes time and research, and both are required before any further efforts begin. Understand the publication or outlet. Know the subject matter that interests them. Compliment them, genuinely, on their work. Share and re-Tweet their professional endeavors and suggest topics that may be interesting supplements to their most recent work – without inserting anything self-serving into the dialogue. The key to friendship is trust, and that is the basis of what the media is looking for. As with most things in business, hard work has a payoff, but it will have to be earned.

2.     Speak their language.

Technology has increased the potential for a company to get visibility due to online platforms; however, technology has also created more ways for reporters and editors to obtain sources and story ideas, increasing the difficulty to get through the clutter. If Tweeting is their language, you will need to learn it. According to the 2013 Oriella Digital Journalism Study, over 50 percent of journalists get story ideas from sites like Twitter. They also look to LinkedIn among other social networking sites. With this being the case, it would serve organizational efforts to follow trending topics, brush up on social media protocol and even create a TweetDeck so that the company can catch industry topics as they happen and comment in real time. If you are where they are (without media stalking), respect will come.

3.     Understand their preferences.
Reaching out to key contacts on recent articles or touching base on shared interests will backfire if their preferred method of communication is not understood at the outset. As the industry has evolved, there has been a shift from telephone outreach to email to social media or a combination. One of the quickest ways to find your message in the digital trash bin is to ignore your media contacts’ preferences for outreach. If you get no response, it might not be your pitch. You might be leaving a message when you should be making contact via #readthis.
4.     Know the difference between a pitch and a sales job.
Once the relationship is under way, the company may be ready to get down to business and suggest an expert or offer an article for review. Once trust is there, this is the next logical step. However, after all efforts, this could be a make-it or break-it moment. Media contacts are hungry for tips, analysis and insight, but they can sniff out an advertisement disguised as a pitch better than a bloodhound in the forest.
5.     Respect the inbox.
You have honored the rules and sent your inquiry/offer to the media. Now it is time to take a breath, allowing the contact space to get through the messages and to review the request. A follow-up is fair – but beware … too many reminders may be considered Spam, and if you fall into the junk folder, it is back to square one. With all considerations taken into account, do not be afraid to start over. Do not be afraid to rework the pitch – it is all part of the process. In the end, if the relationship is nurtured and respected, the reward will come.
About the Author
Doreen Clark is a public relations manager for Edge Legal Marketing. She has more than a decade of experience leading clients, throughout various industries, to increased success through public relations and marketing efforts.

Keeping Your Cool in a Crisis
Top Five Communications Tips

By: Cindy Moen
A top executive just quit and went to a competitor. Your company accidentally handed over a different client’s data. Someone was able to hack your network and obtain client information. These situations are all crises, no matter the level of severity or the number of people they affect. Now is not the time to cross your fingers and hope the problem goes away on its own. By being proactive, you can ensure that the damage that might have happened from a crisis will be contained.

What should you do instead of crawling under your desk and hiding?

1.     Prepare your message.

Write a statement that explains what has happened, who has been affected and how the issue has been resolved. Be sincere and offer apologies that the incident took place. Take responsibility and explain steps being taken to preclude future occurrences. Your written statement will be used to communicate to stakeholders and the media.

2.     Designate a message sender and a spokesperson.

Who will employees and clients want to hear from in order to feel reassured? It will likely be the most senior executive at your organization. Initial communications should come from that executive. A spokesperson should be accessible and able to handle questions from clients and press. That individual should be able to decide when it is appropriate to forward questions on to senior executives.

3.     Distribute the message as quickly as possible.

After writing your statement, decide on who needs to receive the message, in what format and in what order. Does the crisis only impact employees? Employees and clients? Stockholders? Who is involved will determine the format of initial communications. For employees, an email, company-wide voice mail or staff meeting may be the fastest and most effective form of communication. For clients, a phone call or email should suffice. Stockholders and the market at large will require a different plan.

As a rule, employees should be notified first during a crisis. A message to employees should include the instruction that any questions from clients or press be directed to the company’s spokesperson. If client data is involved, it may be necessary to notify the client first before bringing the information to staff. Nobody – employees or clients – wants to find out news of a crisis in the media first before hearing about it from their employer or trusted vendor.

4.     Plan for media scrutiny.

Is this crisis going to garner media attention? If so, issue a press release as soon as possible and be prepared before you speak to any journalists. Be as forthright as possible without over-divulging information. Know your statement and understand what you can and cannot say about the incident. Anticipate questions and avoid the use of “no comment” when answering.

5.     Continue to communicate.

              Offer a way for employees, clients and the media to get updates on the situation. Social
media outlets like LinkedIn and Twitter are fast becoming the preferred method of receiving company updates. 

The dust has settled from your first crisis, so how did you do? If you feel it turned out as good as possible given the situation, congratulations! If things could have gone better, prepare for the next crisis by seeking training and planning help now.

About the Author

Cindy Kremer Moen is a senior account manager at Edge Legal Marketing. She has worked in the legal technology market for more than 12 years.

Demonstrate Expertise with Bylined Articles
By: Jennifer Marsnik


A key piece of public relations is managing the spread of information between your company and your target market. One of the best ways to control the message is by generating and delivering the information directly to your audience. When this is done in an educational or informative manner, the company is positioned as a respected authority on the subject matter or a “thought leader,” which helps to build trust and credibility in a competitive landscape.
Promoting thought leadership can be among the most affordable and impactful strategies in creating fresh leads, nurturing existing leads and even converting new sales. And one of the best ways to demonstrate your expertise is by writing bylined articles.
Bylined articles position the writer as an authority on the subject matter, indirectly bringing recognition to the company he or she represents. This creates a positive perception not only in the eyes of existing and new clients, but also among prospective employees, competitors and the market at-large.
Where to begin?
As with all marketing and PR-related activities, having clearly defined goals and objectives will help you develop a meaningful strategy around promoting thought leadership and getting articles published in particular. You must know whom you are trying to reach and what your key messages are.
Once you have identified your primary audience(s), research media calendars for publications that reach those targets. These schedules often include topic features for each issue, which will help to determine where your areas of expertise align with subjects being covered.
Next, familiarize yourself with the publication’s writing guidelines. Know the general writing style and type of content typically published, and make sure you are clear on the editor’s requirements for word count, footnotes/references and especially deadlines.

When writing for industry publications, limit the use of jargon or buzzwords. And never promote your own company or products in a bylined article. Editors want to share valuable knowledge rather than infomercials. And if the editor does not cut such references up front, the entire piece may be seen as self-promotional, rather than educational or informative, and both the author and the company will lose credibility rather than gain it.
Not everyone enjoys writing, and not everyone has confidence in their writing ability even when they know the subject matter inside and out. Ghostwriters are commonly used when the bylined author has the necessary expertise but not the time or desire to put pen to paper.
If allowed to include an author bio, keep it brief and focused on recent experience or achievements most relevant to the topic you are covering.

When selecting outlets to which you will pitch articles for placement, prioritize those that provide authors with a complimentary or low-cost reprint of their bylined article. Share the article on your company website, through email campaigns and via social media channels. If the content is good, it may be shared by your network and beyond.
Finally, be patient! Most thought leadership activities take time to generate measurable results. A single demonstration of your knowledge or expertise may not make the phone ring, but once the audience sees a pattern of authority and credibility on a given subject, you can expect their perception to improve, which can eventually open doors to new business.

About the Author

Jennifer Marsnik is a senior account manager with Edge Marketing, Inc. Leveraging more than 20 years of experience working in professional services industries, Jennifer consults with clients to develop and implement strategic marketing plans that complement and support their overall business goals.

In the Market for a New Booth?
Four tips to make your next booth investment last longer
By: Dr. Leslie Garrett
Consider these tips and helpful hints as you investigate ordering a new booth for your next event.
Keep graphics and text nationally, seasonally and timeline independent.
The key to keeping a booth timeless is to follow a simple design in terms of graphics and text. Do not commit real estate on your graphics area to content or messaging that can go stale after one season. You can let less costly items like banner stands call attention the latest and greatest news.
Helpful hint: Design your booth to be the little black dress that goes with everything.
Embellish with banner stands and a custom tablecloth.
With a booth that has a timeless background your opportunity to call attention to new things comes via banner stands and tablecloths. Banner stands will cost in the neighborhood of 250 to 300 dollars, which is easier on the budget than a complete booth replacement when it comes time to update or replace messaging. Placement of your banner stand(s) can help your booth space stand out and catch people’s attention as they scan the exhibit hall aisle. Custom-designed tablecloths cost in the neighborhood of 200 dollars and add the finishing touch to a booth space.
Helpful hint: Design your tablecloth with a dark-colored top ‒ beverages and ink pens can ruin a light-colored surface in a hurry.
Keep drayage costs in mind.
When buying your booth and any additional display items such as banner stands, think about drayage costs and what you can or cannot physically carry with you. Drayage costs can be the one post-show item that quickly sends you over budget. If anyone working the event has to store, haul or assemble your booth, it will cost you. When purchasing your booth, also consider the weight of each package and if you must use the events exhibit property services (i.e., Freeman). If you must use property services, consolidate shipments under 200 pounds into one shipment. Doing this keeps your packages together and minimizes additional package handling fees.
Helpful hint: For packages under 100 pounds, consider calling the hotel’s package room and inquiring about having your package sent FedEx to them as a “Hold for Pick-Up” three to five days in advance of the event. When you arrive at the hotel and pick up your package, tip the package room employee who retrieves the package for you.
Expect breakage and things that need replacing.
Booth cases, lighting, collapsible booth structures, and graphics can fail. First and foremost, pack two-sided tape and duct tape in your booth case(s). Investigate replacement costs when buying your booth. If there is an option to upgrade your booth cases at a discounted rate when purchasing your booth, consider the upgrade. Know your vendor’s graphic replacement policy and consider ordering a second set of graphics at the time of your initial order, especially if you know the booth will travel to different locations or events where messaging or branding for the company is different (i.e., if the booth travels from the United States to Canada or if the booth represents two distinct products or companies).  It is common for new graphics purchased after the fact to cost nearly as much as the booth did when the initial order was placed.  These graphics might be significantly reduced in price if purchased or negotiated during the initial order.
Helpful hint: For booths that ship in rolling cases, expect the wheels to break and consider throwing in a wheel replacement kit when you order your booth.  The cost of wheel replacement kits should be minimal, under 20 dollars.
About the Author
Dr, Leslie Garrett serves Edge  Legal Marketing, Inc. as a marketing optimization analyst with expertise in marketing, public relations, and management.  She is instrumental in leading Edge's corporate consulting and search engine optimization website analytics services.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Seriously. Why Didn’t You Read My Email?

By: Melanie Brenneman
It is January. A time in Texas when young girls are officially allowed to hunt. Dressed in Brownie and Girl Scout uniforms, they staff the entrances of grocery stores, pharmacies and other high-volume establishments. The first eight times you leave a retail metroplex, more than likely you fold and buy a box of succulent Thin Mints, Samoas or Trefoils. After all – you only get them once a year and it is for a good cause.

But that ninth time, when that troop has the exit roped over and covered more heavily than a faceless band of villains wearing bandanas and preparing for battle against a 1980s action hero – that is the time when you might say, “Enough.” And you then engage in Olympian efforts a la Indiana Jones to exit without a flurry of green berets and colorful boxes popping you upside the noggin. Duck behind another shopper. Roll under a cart. Force the emergency door open.

Sometimes, in marketing, reaching our ideal audience can feel like trying to target the shopper who has had just enough of those cookies. There are only so many general counsel, partners, corporate counsel and lawyers in this world. And there are a lot of technology companies trying to catch their attention.

With the multitude of marketing tools available to companies these days, email is still a solid contender for businesses trying to engage – and grow sales opportunities – with legal professionals. But that first step to success is often the hardest to broach – getting the email opened on the receiving end.

There have been multiple studies into open rates, looking at topics such as best content, best length and best symbols to avoid. Here are three reasons why your open rates might not be ideal. 

Wrong audience
Say you have a list of 2,000 contacts. They may all be members of legal organizations. But are they lawyers? IT staff? Legal administrators? Is the firm an AmLaw 200 or a solo shop? Where are they located? Do they have a say in the organization’s purchasing? The point is – if you blast out the same message to your entire database, you are probably going to get a lukewarm response at best.

Make sure that your email hits the right people with the right message. Tailor content so that it is relevant to each qualified recipient. This means know your recipients, their placement in your sales funnel, their pain points and how you can address them. That way, when you release the arrow, you are aiming in the right direction.

Wrong subject line
Subject lines are often the trickiest part of the email. Each one has to be interesting enough to be relevant and entice people to read further. Remember even when you are hitting the right audience, that does not mean they will notice you have knocked on their door. They probably get hundreds of emails each day; some they open and some get sent straight to the trash.

 Stay out of the trash.

According to studies, the most compelling subjects lines are short (fewer than 60 characters), contain personalization or a sense of urgency and focus on positive solicitation. Brainstorm multiple subject lines that conform to these best practices and run through some A/B testing. You will notice a difference in performance. 

Wrong content
Yes, even before an individual receives your email the wrong content can keep it out of his/her inbox. Content can form the basis for an entire series of articles, but here we want to look at one particular facet: What content – even unread – can send your email into the digital wastelands?

Spam filters are constantly scanning incoming content for popular spam terms such as dollar signs, words in all caps, anything with “free” in it or solicitations such as “dear friend.” (Want to see some lists? Here is one.) Know the list and know what to avoid in order to ensure delivery to an inbox instead of a junk folder.
Spam filters will also ban emails based on mail server IP addresses that have been blacklisted. Check to confirm your IP address – or the one being used by your email service provider – is not blacklisted prior to sending out emails. Do you have a dedicated IP or a shared IP address? If it is shared, activities by other emailers could affect your receiving status.

A high open rate for your emails is just the first step – and one of many – in email marketing. When combined with your overall marketing efforts, it can make a fundamental difference where it matters. 

About the Author
An avid marketer, Melanie Brenneman has more than 14 years of experience meeting the communication needs of small businesses and Fortune 500 corporations alike. In her spare time, she volunteers as president for the Austin chapter of the American Marketing Association and tries to limit her Girl Scout cookie purchases to 45 boxes a year. 
10 Lead Generation Tactics for Exhibitors

Gain the highest ROI possible for marketing dollars spent

By: Dr. Leslie Garrett
Lead generation tactics can range from spur of the moment safety-net initiatives thought-up out of necessity to well-planned and strategic initiatives that require preparation and pre-event marketing months in advance of the event.  Regardless of the tactic, getting prospects to the booth is one aspect, having a well-trained booth staff who can engage them in conversation or a demonstration is another. 

Hitendra Patil, Chief Operating Officer of Pransform, Inc. explained how his booth staff changed their approach which resulted in a more successful interaction with prospects while working the booth, “We used to talk about features and what our technology provides, but now we begin every conversation by sharing the benefits our customers have shared with us which seems to resonate with attendees quickly.”

The following list represents lead generation tactics -- some new ideas and some tried and true.

1       1.Value-added collateral (i.e. White Paper or survey results).  Giving away value-added collateral is a great way to showcase thought-leadership in an industry.  If leveraged well, much like the badge scanner, it becomes a great tool that allows the sales team to conduct a more targeted follow-up. Ideally your marketing person will know how to leverage collateral as a lead capture tool used to gather prospect data which will allow for more intelligent follow-up. 

2. Seating area. Seating in the exhibit hall area can be difficult to come by which is intentional.  Event organizers want to encourage attendees to keep moving through the exhibit hall. You can take advantage of this by creating a seating area.  Rent an additional booth space and encourage attendees to be seated to watch a demo.

3. Pre-event postcard mailer. Pre-event mailers should ask the recipient to stop by the booth, provide the booth number, and perhaps some incentive to visit the booth.  Mailers can be expensive; there are ways to minimize costs. 

Michael Giardina, CEO of Office Tools Pro shared his cost-saving approach to mailers, “Even though we may only do a mailer for a group of 300 at one time, we print 5000 postcards. We leave a space to print the booth number for an event which allows us to customize the mailer for each event.  Our cost savings are in the printing.”  As for effectiveness of the postcard mailer, Giardina commented about several attendees producing their post card mailer when they approached his booth.

 4. Give-a-Ways.  Giving away pens, gadgets and widgets does entice attendees to walk by your booth, however leaving the merchandise out where it can be easily scooped up without a conversation will not result in leads.
A tactic when using give-a-ways is to have the item deeper in the booth space, or have booth staff hold on to the item and offer it to passers-by while making the effort to engage them in a brief conversation.  Francesca Zelasko, Channel Marketing and Program 

Manager at SurePayroll commented, “Year-after-year the attendees come looking for SurePayroll’s booth to discover what new goodies we have, it works well for us.  We always try to offer something that would be of value to the prospect as well as help promote the SurePayroll name,” said Zelasko.
1      5. Food and/or beverage
·         Candy. Catering to attendees’ sweet tooth is a surefire way to get people to walk up to your booth; however, keeping them at the booth beyond a one-second snatch-and-grab is the key to this being successful.  At a recent event PayChex handled this well. They used a shelving unit in their booth with “fill-your-own-bag” self-service area for attendees.  This setup required attendees to spend time at the shelving unit and scoop their selections into a bag.  This tactic gave the booth staff time to swoop in for a conversation. 

·         Popcorn or ice cream. The smell of fresh popcorn will draw a crowd. If you are exhibiting the Midwest Accounting and Finance Showcase in August 2013, there is a good chance the ILCPA will have their popcorn machine going and you will find a long line of attendees standing around waiting for their popcorn. A savvy exhibitor could take advantage of this by offering free bottled water -- or smarter yet -- a coupon redeemable at your booth for free bottled water. Much like popcorn, attendees will stand in line for free ice cream

2       6Games. The purpose of a game is to attract and keep attendees at the booth long enough to engage them in conversation.  If you use a game your booth staff should be out in the walkway recruiting prospects to play the game. 

3       7. Register to Win. Drawings will attract attendees. Requiring a business card as their entry to win will ensure you have correct contact information.  For the booth staff at Office Tools Pro, getting the attendee’s business card is only the beginning of their lead capture process.  They have refined their tactics and efficiently collect qualifying information while conversing with attendees -- writing coded notes on each business card -- which enables their sales team to make more pointed follow-up calls immediately after a show.

4       8. Booth attraction (i.e. Luggage tag laminator, photo booth, massage chair). Shorten the sales cycle by promoting your booth attraction to your existing database of prospects.

5      9. Professional photographer.  Offer a professional head shot to prospects and clients.  Market to your top prospects well in advance of the event to ensure they secure a photo shoot time and arrive dressed for their picture.

6      10. Badge Scanner. This technology cannot be beaten in terms of efficiently capturing data on booth attendees. Badge scanners are exceptionally valuable when you to identify personalized qualifiers that enable your sales team to conduct a more targeted follow-up.

Discuss Your Plan B

Despite your efforts in planning lead generation initiatives that gain the highest ROI possible for marketing dollars spent, there is always a chance you will be forced to go with Plan B, improvising as a result of some unplanned factor such as collateral or a booth not arriving. If this happens to you, consider renting a 6x6 screen and projector, or a large flat-panel monitor and try to make the best of the situation.  Be prepared for unplanned event setbacks; discuss Plan B with your team.

About the Author
Dr. Leslie Garrett serves Edge Marketing, Inc, as a marketing optimization analyst with expertise in marketing, public relations, and management. She is instrumental in leading Edge's corporate consulting and Search Engine Optimization website analytics services.