Three B2B Marketing Lessons Learned From COVID-19

What wasunited-nations-covid-19-response-fWYgXKMCqo0-unsplash once considered, “normal” has become a thing of the past — at least for the foreseeable future. COVID-19 has significantly altered the ways we dine out, socialize and live than when we rang in the New Year over seven months ago. It’s also altered our marketing.

Of the many critical lessons COVID-19 has taught us as B2B marketers, there are a few standouts. Treating your current and prospective customers like people, not faceless organizations; living up to your brand purpose; and building and maintaining trust are necessities B2B marketers need to incorporate into their marketing strategies to survive and thrive in a current-COVID-19 world.

Here’s a round-up of thoughts and examples from industry experts across B2B marketing in a COVID-19 world and beyond.

1. Humanize B2B Marketing

Liam Parker, Head of Design and Web at U.K. digital marketing agency, Boss Digital, summarizes the case for humanizing B2B marketing. 

“As the great marketer, Dave Dye stated in an interview last year, [In B2B, you’re still] talking to human beings. They’re a bundle of emotions held together by cello-tape and string. They’re driven by all the same underlying insecurities, pressures and dreams as any consumer audience.”

In other words, cut back on the industry lingo and tech jargon in your B2B messaging. Instead, tell the stories of the people purchasing your products and how your products have made a positive impact on their lives.

Parker gives the example of a small business owner purchasing accountancy software. The customer didn’t buy this software, “just because.” The customer bought it for control over their employees’ wages, peace of mind and the ability to pay their mortgage.

“This messaging is becoming particularly important within a lot of B2B technology sales where the target is no longer a senior executive with a $5 million budget, but a mid-level manager or specialist looking to purchase a flexible, low cost and subscription-based solution. If you don’t know why these end-users are making the purchase, your marketing has failed before it’s begun,” states Parker.

2. Focus On Strengthening Your Brands Through Your Actions 

It may seem like there are bigger items for your business to focus on instead of brand building. However, a study from the Advertising Research Foundation notes its critical importance, stating, “Brands that ‘go dark’ take 5 years on average to recover market share.”

While reducing marketing dollars may have been inevitable for your business, branding expert, Denise Lee Yohn shares that instead of using your financial resources to tell people about your brand, use your business’s actions to bring your brand purpose to life.

“Ensure every touchpoint, every activity reinforces and interprets your brand positioning and personality. Think of how you can turn your interactions with employees, business partners, communities as well as customers into powerful messages about your brand. Transform your company’s everyday actions into extraordinary ones and you’ll naturally attract attention and improve your brand perceptions.

With all the talk lately about brand storytelling, story-doing has a lot more impact. You don’t need to run ads telling people you care about them and their communities. Take action to actually help others and you will be strengthening your brand far more effectively and sustainably.

3. Credibility Is More Important Than Ever Before

While positive customer reviews have always been important, research from PowerReviews, reported by Forbes, shows reviews have become even more critical in the COVID-19 era. Consumers are engaging with review content twice as much as they were before the outbreak. With tighter budgets and fewer resources, consumers need to be confident in the purchases they are making.

If your business has positive reviews, use them to your advantage by marketing them across your website and digital platforms. And if you don’t have them, simply ask buyers you have a strong relationship with to leave your business an honest online review.

If your messaging at the beginning of the pandemic included sentiments like, “We’re here for you” and “Supporting our customers is of the utmost importance to us,” then you need to live up to those statements.

Your clients may be under different kinds of stresses and you may not know exactly what they’re going through. Your reassurance of being there for them and putting an extra effort towards acting on such reassurances will go a long way in strengthening their trust in you,” says Paras Chopra, Founder and Chairman of digital marketing firm, VWO.

On top of that, Chopra also adds that if possible, try to be flexible with payment terms with clients who may be struggling at the moment. If you can afford it, do not lose a client just because they’re not able to pay you during this period. If you show flexibility now, they’ll remember it and will likely reciprocate in the future.

COVID-19 has forced us to adapt. From wearing a face mask to the grocery store to avoiding large social gatherings, things are undoubtedly different.

As B2B marketers, we’ve been forced to adapt as well. Whether your business’s language has shifted from addressing a corporation’s needs to addressing a human’s needs, you’re living out your company’s brand purpose through your interactions with customers or you’re focusing on building credibility, these changes are necessary and are guaranteed to make your business stronger in the long run.

Do you have questions about your COVID-19 B2B marketing efforts? We can help.

Time for Objective, Practical and Realistic Marketing

primary objective target

When we created our Marketing During Coronavirus survey in late March, we discovered something pretty heartening: objective, practical and realistic marketing.

A large majority of those surveyed examined the marketing landscape impacted by COVID-19 and said they made significant course corrections by shifting their message and/or cut back on business as usual.

We’d applaud this level-headed approach. And we’d like to see it continue.

So much so, we’re offering smaller to medium-sized companies that need help now two hours of time to consult with us. At zero cost.

Let’s widen the path

With shelter-in-place rules still enforced, B2B businesses are still walking the equivalent a precarious mountain trail with steep drop-offs on either side: continue communicating with meaningful, helpful and practical solutions while gearing up for a return of more traditional selling.

Use us to discuss your current strategy; what steps to take to re-engage customers, objective thinking about a particular challenge. Or just having a fresh set of eyes to tell you you’re going down the right path. We’ll begin anywhere to get you started.

Again, we’re offering help at no cost with zero selling.

If you know any organization, for profit and non-profit, that you think would find value in this, please pass our message along to them.

Click here to get started.



Advice for B2B Marketers on How to Communicate During a Pandemic

BrainstormBefore March of this year, there were very few, if any, webinars, white papers or E-books with advice for B2B marketers on how to communicate during a pandemic.

However, when the nation seemed to halt mid-March, content soon became rapidly abundant. During an already uncertain time, it’s hard to trust which advice is credible and what’s better left ignored.

Now a month into this “new normal,” strategies have been tested, consumers and marketers have been surveyed and we have a much clearer understanding of how to market and communicate during this difficult time.

We’ve rounded up thoughts and full article links from a range of experts and hope you find value in them.

1. Press Pause and Reevaluate

If you haven’t yet, now is the time to press pause and reevaluate your upcoming content. It’s common practice to prepare and slate communication and marketing messages weeks, sometimes even months, in advance. Now, however, is the time to look at the content you created weeks ago and determine whether it would be inappropriate, tone-deaf or irrelevant to share in the near future.

In her article, How to Communicate With Customers During Times of Crisis, Heidi Robbins of Salesforce advises that before publishing your content, you need to “review your entire messaging stream, including social media, promotional and transactional emails, push notifications, and SMS, to identify communications that need to pause or shift as a result of the situation.”

For example, if a social media post sharing the benefits of attending an in-person conference falls through the cracks, you run the risk of appearing unprofessional or insensitive.

Northwestern University marketing professor, Tim Calkins agrees in his recent article, Four Steps Marketers Can Take to Navigate the Pandemic.

“If you’re a marketing leader, one of the first things you want to do is pause everything that you can.”

2. Shift Brand Messaging from Hard Sales to How You Can Help

As a nation still in the throes of this pandemic, now is not the time to focus on hard sales and business as usual. Doing so could make your brand appear callous and tone-deaf.

“After seeing news stories about consumer reaction to routine marketing at the onset of shelter in place orders and business closures, the tone-deafness in some of the messages prompted us to take a temperature of how marketers themselves were feeling and reacting,” says Bob Reed, partner and co-founder of Element-R. “We were interested to learn exactly where they are focusing in response.”

To better understand the thought process of marketers, Element-R recently surveyed 127 digital marketing, public relations and marketing communications professionals about their marketing efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. 74% said they have changed course or temporarily ceased activities, while 26% stated they have not altered their approach.

“While some marketers have decided to keep moving with their existing marketing plans, most others’ reading of customer and prospect receptivity to messages comes down to simply this: now is not the time to sell, it’s the time to show empathy and support through the delivery of relevant, informative and encouraging communication,” says Reed.

A recent survey shared by MediaPost titled, ANA: Most Brands Have Adjusted Their Creative Since COVID-19 Named A Pandemic, echoed our own findings. Of the 196 professionals the ANA surveyed, 92% have adjusted their messaging since mid-March, with brands now focusing on:

  • Messaging that reflects empathy
  • Removing price/item messaging, instead opting for “We’re here for you”  communications
  • Promoting social distancing and showing compassion over hard sales messages

In the blog post, A global B2B marketer’s take on coping with the COVID-19 crisis,
Tony Thompson, CMO of Australian tech company, Kemp, simply summed it up. “Remember, this is a very human situation where lives are literally at stake, so the message must come from a stance of compassion and helpfulness, not self-serving interests to meet a sales pipeline number.”

3. Utilize Virtual Resources

B2B marketers often depend on in-person interactions at conferences and tradeshows to build business and gain brand awareness. However, as a majority of U.S. states are under shelter in place orders, this is no longer a viable option.

There is no beating around the bush that this will hurt B2B marketing strategies, but there are still workarounds available as prominent keynote speaker and marketing consultant Michael Brenner shares in a LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog titled, What’s Trending: Marketing in Troubled Times.

“The hard costs and opportunity costs won’t likely be recouped, but there is still a chance to engage virtually and ensure that your reputation isn’t upended by not being communicative or transparent.”

While it’s not the ideal scenario, making the switch to a Zoom conference can help keep attendees informed and allow you to provide helpful information to a community looking for answers.

“Most importantly, stay empathetic to your attendees and sponsors and work together for the best outcome,” adds Brenner.

B2B marketers have also been relying on webinars, as digital marketing consultant Shane Barker states.

“In my 12+ years of experience in B2B marketing and sales, no other type of content has been able to move the needle in the sales process as much a webinar can.”

If you’re new to hosting webinars or are still trying to get comfortable doing so, we encourage you to check out Barker’s guide, How to Create a Webinar from Scratch in 10 Simple Steps.

4. Plan for the Recovery
Despite what it may feel like now, this time of quarantine isn’t going to last forever and as B2B marketers, we need to prepare for the future.

While there’s no roadmap to recovery, Michael Betz, partner at management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, has offered his perspective in a LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog titled, How Marketers Can Start to Prepare for the Path Forward.

“As hard as it is to think about now, the crisis will bottom out and people will start to spend again. While a lot is uncertain, there is a good chance the recovery, once it arrives, could happen fast – which means you need to be planning for it now. Build out the campaigns and offers now that you will need to run when the crisis passes. Or use it to build a more agile organization.

I’m hearing stories from CMOs who are looking to establish the dynamic fast-moving processes they stood up as part of the crisis response to build faster-moving organizations going forward.”

There’s no denying this is a time of uncertainty, but each day, professionals within every industry, including B2B marketing, are becoming more knowledgeable. What presented a challenge yesterday is surmountable. Though this a time of isolation, we can continue to learn from one another.

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How have you altered your marketing during the Coronavirus pandemic? Learn how digital, public relations and marketing communications professionals pivoted their communications. Download Marketing During Coronavirus survey results. It’s a free PDF with no email required. Go to

Want Your Content to Succeed? Begin with Strategy

Strategy-ImageSales leads. It’s the holy grail of your marketing efforts. You likely use a host of implements to get them.

You have a website. Maybe you’re using a mix of digital marketing tools, like e-mails, social media, a blog, and possibly, some online display or pay-per-click ads.

Is it all working? Maybe. And maybe not.

Back up a minute.

  • Have you created a measurable objective?
  • Are you executing a defined strategy against that objective?
  • Have you built a strong enough sales story to make your efforts successful?

At face value, the sheer number of digital tools seems to make marketing easier than ever before. Sure, you have more channels at your fingertips, but you still must have a strategy — and strong messaging — from which all marketing tactics should flow.

As SMB marketers, many companies still throw a variety of tactics against the wall, hoping something will stick. Usually, they’re trying to do too much on too many different platforms, with no real ‘what’ or ‘how’ behind it.

What’s Missing?

Strategy – Strategy is a given for larger companies and experienced marketers but seems to be a missing component that is MIA at many smaller firms.

Assuming you have created a very specific objective (like growing your sales in one market by 10%), you then need to determine your strategy or strategies — how you plan to get there.

A strategy is NOT the same as a tactic. A good definition of strategy is: “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” An easy way to understand the difference between objectives, strategies, and tactics is with an analogy to travel:

Your objective: Vacation in New York

Your strategy for how to get there: Take a plane

Your tactic: Fly out Friday at 10 a.m.

Strategy forces you to map out how you will reach your objective. Lacking a coherent strategy, companies often jump right to tactics – doing a little of this, a little of that. Haphazard tactics without a true focus don’t have the desired impact.

“We need to be active on Facebook.”

That may be true, but, does it fit your strategy?

 Work the tools that fit your strategy.

In short, don’t work the tools just because they’re available. This is especially important for SMBs. There is a limited budget and no room for waste. Instead, work the tools that fit your strategy.

Tactics should flow from strategy, and there is where you detail exactly what you will do.

Let’s look a few sample strategies against a growth objective, and a few of the possible tactics that would naturally flow from them:

Strategy: Better leverage our website so visitors take some kind of action.


  • Add lead capture and ongoing lead nurturing using content of value
  • Make sure there are calls to action throughout your site – give visitors a reason to contact you
  • Use and apply site analytics regularly (this shouldn’t need to be said, but needs to be said)
  • Make sure prospects have a reason to go to your site by keeping content fresh
  • Add content that speaks more directly to a vertical market, or your campaign
  • Feature and link to the most educational parts of your site on your Home page

StrategyReach target through thought leadership via online content marketing.


  • Regular and relevant (to your market and your message) content for social channels
  • Ditto above for blog posts
  • Ebook, webinar, video, presentation, etc. showcasing your subject matter expertise
  • Email campaign to share your content in complete or shortened form

Strategy: Leverage the sales team and their interactions with customers and prospects; equip them to better sell what you’re offering.

Tactics: Before you determine tactics here, this is a golden opportunity to engage the sales team in your gameplan:

  • Is there sales support you can provide?
  • A comparison with competitors you can compile?
  • A more persuasive way to tell your story?
  • A different way to approach current customers versus prospects?

You get the idea. Listen, and reap the benefits of their direct interactions with the market, in the form of new tactics, or maybe even new strategies.

By plotting your strategy before your plot your tactics, you will have a cohesive program. Everything you do tactically – emails, blog posts, content and social media marketing – will then be working cohesively against the same goal, in varying ways.

Many companies neglect creating a hard-hitting positioning statement. 

Messaging – You know your product or service is different. Better. Your customers believe in it, and so do you.

How you capture this in your marketing?

Many companies have a mission statement, but neglect creating a useful, hard-hitting positioning statement. While a mission statement typically describes the company’s goals and values, positioning is an externally-facing statement that should directly compare your offering to competitors, and explain why it’s different and of course better. It should also describe, very specifically, its ultimate value to customers.

Positioning is a science and an art with too many nuances to discuss here. But even this simple straw-man model can help:

Who: Who are you?

What: What business are you in?

For whom: What people do you serve?

What need: What are the special needs of the people you serve?

Against whom: With whom are you competing?

What’s different: What makes you different from those competitors?

So what: What’s the benefit? What unique benefit does a client derive from your service?

And the statement model:

  • [Company name] is a (business description) for (audience served) seeking to (special needs of those served). 
  • Unlike competitors, [company name] (what makes us different from competitors).
  • This gives clients (unique benefits clients derive from the service).

Usually, in composing your positioning statement, you find you can’t fit it all in. There’s simply much more you want to say. From a marketing perspective, that’s a good problem to have. So attack it – list out all of the key points you want to make, and below each one, expand upon and capture all of your differentiators and supporting points, one at a time.

Once these are laid out, your marketing team can then easily select and use those points in your marketing, across a variety of tactics, in creative and compelling ways.

A critically important point here: It is crucial that you create your your positioning from the outside in. Not necessarily what you think is important, but what your customers think is important.

If you don’t have insight into that, speak to several customers and prospects regarding what they care about when it comes to your product or service, why they chose you, what they value most about your offering, and so on.

Listen to your customers

To gather this input, you simply MUST have conversations – you should not rely on a written survey sent over email. Nor should you just add a few questions to the end of your company’s annual customer survey. There is simply no substitute for the back-and-forth exchange made possible by a real, live conversation. Like any good interview, you never know where it will lead. Very often, you will gain feedback you would never, EVER get through a written survey. (And also very often, the customer will appreciate being involved in your research, because it shows you value their opinion.)

In addition to talking with customers and prospects, get feedback from your salesforce on what prospects are saying, and from employees outside of sales about what they’re hearing from customers.

After you’ve gathered the raw input from all of these sources, hold a messaging session with a group of your co-workers from various departments. Take the time to brainstorm further, categorize, flesh out, add to and eventually, prioritize those points that are most compelling. Then use them to create a new set of differentiators, a new positioning statement and a new, full set of key messages.

Now, you’re ready to market. You have messaging that is relevant to your prospects, and that clearly sets you apart from competitors.

The perspectives revealed from customer interviews as well as group brainstorming are guaranteed to enhance and improve what a handful of marketing people can come up with alone.

So before you embark on your next marketing tactic, outline the following:

  • Who do you want to reach, and what you want them to do? (Your objective)
  • How will you reach them? (Your strategy)
  • What does your target care about, and how does your company uniquely meet their interests? (Your messaging)
  • What exactly will you do during the next three, six or 12 months to accomplish your goal? (Your tactics)

Taking the time to think through strategy and create and apply strong messaging will help you orchestrate your marketing against specific goals, apply concentrated energy against one or more strategies, and give you multiple selling points to use across tactics, enabling you to reach your target with messages that matter to them.

You’ll greatly enhance the likelihood of achieving your goals – or even exceed them.



Pity the Poor Press Release

newsroomWhen Christopher Penn dropped his post about the ineffectiveness of press releases, it verified what many of us already knew:

The press release, as a go-to communications tool, is yesterday’s news.

You might very well have information, insights and knowledge your audience needs, cares, and should hear about, but the press release ranks lowest on interest, effectiveness, and clickability.

Reporters, editors, and bloggers rarely read them. News organizations no longer cotton to them. A press release means the inevitable follow-up call that asks the one question a reporter never and still doesn’t want to hear: Did you get my press release?

Press releases are vain.  

Just because your organization thinks something is newsworthy, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is.

Who cares about being “pleased” and “proud” about the newest VP?

Is the latest but not very important iteration of your software, unless it does something phenomenally first, like Tesla’s fully autonomous vehicle announcement, worth an editor’s time?

Does your CEO like seeing his or her name in the press just…cuz?

Press releases are passive.

Your audience, editors and the web crave information that is relevant to what they care about, in forms they want to consume.

When a press release offers no context, no understanding of the receiver, and no story, it is lazy “action”.

Creating news and sharing vital market-building information takes time and research. If the information you supply doesn’t meaningfully speak to the receiver, you’re wasting your budget and the target’s time.

Press releases lack utility.

It was once upon on a time before Google Panda, Google actually indexed press releases and hence, provided some SEO utility. No longer. Using a syndication service and having your information plastered on a UHF station website out of the 50th biggest media market is definitely something to sneeze at.

If you must…

If you feel compelled to write a press release (many of you must for regulatory reasons) or you have actual real news (like Tesla, for example) keep the following in mind:

Is it really news?

When we discuss PR initiatives with prospects and clients, we always ask if the information passes the “who cares” litmus test. If you can’t come up with a compelling reason to communicate, think of another way to get that information into the hands of your prospects. Or, ditch the idea altogether.

If press releases come up, we counsel that the media, who wear many hats and cover much more ground, REALLY don’t care about a commercial messages poorly masquerading as news. They want objective knowledge and information to create meaty stories that keep readers, viewers and subscribers glued to their screens.

Know your target

The endemic banality of most press releases – and reporters’ negative reaction to them – show the majority of the people who send them know little to nothing about the publication, blog, or broadcast outlet or the reporters’ area of coverage.

You can weaken the reporter’s impulse to ignore your news with a well-written release directed to them, better yet, work your media contacts via email and phone with a tightly-honed pitch. Of course, we all have stories about a press release that led to an impressive placement. But routinely blasting news rather than taking a rifle approach isn’t effective in a world of building inbound links and winning hard-won domain authority.

Get to the point

Overly verbose and quote-heavy releases get deleted fast. Releases that take four paragraphs to get to the point often including details that cloud the reason you’re contacting the reporter in the first place. Releases don’t tell a story; they should offer up reasons why your story should exist.

If your information doesn’t create curiosity about a new story or add to an existing story and discussion, be ruthless with finding valuable particulars. Such specificity takes time and research.

Be available

A minimalist approach to news releases needs to be supplemented with additional info. Supply links to your website for the rest of the information about your product or service so reporters can determine if it’s worth a deeper dive.

Always include contact information at the end. And always reply to inquiries. If you add an email address, check it; a phone number, answer it. Be there and be responsive.

As with all marketing tactics, use the right instrument for the right task. Press releases have their utility. Practically, though, they now occupy a much smaller space in the tactical tool belt.

This is not to say that media relations isn’t relevant. It certainly is. But now your other content assets – blog posts, white papers, ebooks, infographics, and presentations – deliver your news and content more directly to prospects you aim to influence and want to consume your product or service.

A far better option is to plan and spend your valued marketing dollars on strategies and tactics that will propel your brand, enhance your domain authority, build traffic and entice your prospect to buy.

The B2B Social Spotlight: Jill Castilla


Jill Castilla

Citizens Bank of Edmond has people and businesses personally asking the CEO to take their money.  

Over Twitter.


How did a 114-year-old, single location suburban community bank get to the point of generating business over social media and compete head to head with institutions many times its size?

President and CEO Jill Castilla says the bank is thriving because she and her staff connect deeply, positively and consistently with the people, businesses, and institutions in and around Edmond and nearby Oklahoma City.

This Army vet and mother of three has kept community banking in the family. She is the 4th generation of ownership and management of the bank, founded in 1901 (before Oklahoma was even a state).

Like many banks, Citizens Bank of Edmond saw difficulty after the Great Recession. Upon returning to Edmond after stints as CFO with a community bank in Minnesota and various posts with Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, she applied the force multiplier of social media.

Leveraging it and positive messaging, Castilla and her staff have made the bank a vibrant and award-winning institution. It competes with 50 different financial institutions, yet is consistently ranked in the top five banks in the region.

Castilla was recently recognized as Woman of the Year award by the Edmond Chamber of Commerce, American Banker Top 25 Women to Watch and was named by Independent Community Bankers of America as a top social media influencer.

What did Citizens Bank of Edmond intentionally set out to do – or do differently – using social media?

I recognized early on, from my first interactions on Facebook and then Twitter, that the next interaction I had after the initial connection could go much deeper. Social Media allows a relationship to grow more quickly than even after years of being in a community. It allowed me to gain a lot of credibility, to connect with service organizations and really become a leader in the community very quickly.

Coming out of the financial crisis, I first used Social Media to optimize our search results to help shift the stories about the bank from negative to positive. From there, that was the focus: deliver positive messages, advocate for the bank, the industry and the community. So, in the beginning it was mostly me on Twitter developing relationships.

I also loved the time efficiency of having meaningful conversations while multitasking at your desk, instead of shaking hands at traditional networking events.

Social is about producing business outcomes, but it begins with developing relationships and supplying valuable content. What did Citizens Bank of Edmond do to build dialogue?

We lift other people up and offer assistance. It’s similar to overhearing someone talk about banking, your community, your industry and then interjecting your perspective/assistance. If there’s a way that you can help them — being very genuine in how you interact with them — you are accepted and welcomed into that world.

With most of my local Twitter community, we’ve gone the next step to meeting in person. It’s how I met one of my greatest mentors. I’ve been following him for a long time and then tweeted that my New Year’s resolution was to meet him. He has a huge following on Twitter, lives in my community and shares wisdom that resonates with me. His response? Let’s make it happen! Now, we meet for coffee frequently, and he’s become a great advocate for our bank and such a great resource for me.

I don’t use Social Media as a targeting mechanism to try to get particular business. I don’t promote our products and services. It’s really just being part of the conversation that people start viewing you as more of an expert, or as a resource at least, for banking, and our community.

What other tools do you use besides Twitter?

While Twitter is my Social Media of choice, we utilize Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+. I also experiment with the Social Media tool du jour so that we can stay relevant and engaged with our target audience.  We use Instagram for many of our photos when we do what we call “Cash Mobs”, which is a way we interact with some of the small businesses. It’s produced amazing results for us, including traditional media coverage.

We give money to our team to go to a particular business on a specific day. And while wearing their Citizens Bank of Edmond T-shirts, and on a prior day, coordinate with the small business so that they know that we’re coming in, our staff goes in and takes pictures, and puts it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and then that business also does the same thing.

I use LinkedIn extensively to connect with peers as well as build on relationships that start via some other interaction, either on Social Media or in real life.

Twitter is the primary driver we utilize to interact with our customers and our community. It’s an amazing way for us to connect with financial technology firms because many of them are early adopters of Twitter, and so they’ll interact with you quite a bit. In some cases, you get to be on the leading edge of adopting a new technology because they feel like they know who you are.

I just got back from a large banking conference, and it’s amazing how many vendors and bankers that I saw there that I had previously interacted with on Social Media. As a new conference attendee, having so many “friends” made it very easy to network and further deepen relationships.

How did you arrive at your content and engagement strategy?

We have a social media plan, and structure, but we have no contrived content strategy. I have never scheduled a tweet.  I enjoy being in the moment and accessible so that I can have authentic engagements.

We’ll talk about what’s happening in town beyond the events calendar. We celebrate others – it’s the whole “rising tide lifts all boats” strategy.

I think other banks can make a mistake in maybe engaging a third-party service that’s going to provide generic financial information and banking information that’s being broadcast by five thousand other people, and kind of generically put out there. We want our personality to shine through.

How have your social media activities influenced your company’s bottom line?

I can easily say yes. I probably don’t measure our success in social media like people typically track their success on social media by boasting about the number of followers or interactions. I get at least one new account per week from a relationship that originated from social media.

I consistently gain loan referrals from my interactions on Twitter and LinkedIn. It opens many doors with the prospect of millions in commercial loans for our institution. It also solidifies relationships to acquire that next loan with little to no competition. Social media has made my bank more profitable and increased our loan volume.. The possibilities to develop the pipeline through it are a gold mine.

What’s the one thing people would never know about marketing a bank?

We’re regulated, and that can be scary. But I think the thing that would surprise everyone is how much freedom you have to communicate via social media that don’t trigger the regulatory concerns.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

I love rap music. My family has rap battles at home.

What three blogs would you recommend?  

Scott Williams and is my favorite., is an Oklahoma-based marketing podcast.

Becky McCrea, at and, talks about entrepreneurship and small business issues.

How can people connect with you?

Twitter is super easy, @JillCastilla, and via LinkedIn. Email is the most terrible way ever.


Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating and using social media to fuel their businesses? I want to talk to them and share their story. Drop me a note at or via Twitter at @RAReed.

The B2B Social Spotlight: Joy Gendusa

Joy Gendusa

To hear some marketing gurus tell it, social media is the only game in town. While they may not want to hear it, every channel has its place.

When it comes to reminding, thanking, inviting and acknowledging customers, the simple paper post card continues to be connective and effective.

No one knows that better than Joy Gendusa, Founder and CEO of PostcardMania.

Starting her business at her kitchen table 15 years ago, Joy now oversees 200 employees at PostcardMania’s production and fulfillment facility in Clearwater, Fla. The self-proclaimed artist, designer, foodie and entrepreneur built the company on the simple premise that business owners need to be informed marketers.

Joy has generated an impressive quantity of content about direct mail and marketing, eagerly and regularly helping her customers become smarter, years before the term “helpful” became part of the modern marketing lexicon.

What did PostcardMania intentionally set out to do – or do differently – using social media?

I didn’t put a lot of attention on social until it had a lot of attention from just regular people. We just kept concentrating on adding content and driving traffic to our website. I wrote most of the content until I started hiring copywriters and getting people to help me with content probably five or six years ago.

I would try something to market my own company and either fall on my face or have success, and I would try something else. I just felt it was my duty to educate my clients and prospects about it so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I made.

How did you arrive at your content strategy?

I was creating content for PostcardMania’s website when there was no content,“online”.  I was literally winging it for years. I wanted to educate people on what I was learning. I simply started writing article after article.

What kinds of useful or helpful information do you deliver to your customers?

We supply a real basic how-to approach with case study data. When we explain something, like I did in a series on PPC in my newsletter, I get a lot of real good feedback from people.

I present things simply; this is my story, this is how we do it, this is what this means. We really give good information, usable information, and we don’t throw in a lot of terminology. Those kinds of articles get the best responses and the most downloads.

How does PostcardMania target its social outreach?

We have over 60,500 customers, and we only have a few thousand people following us on Facebook. A lot of them follow me personally, but not even a lot of them if you look at the numbers. Of course we did all the normal things like putting our “connect to me” buttons all over the blog and the website and the bottom of email, etcetera.

Now we’re on a campaign to actually reach out specifically with email and phone calls to get those people connected with us, so that we can use social media to build trust and get them to like us.

We can make our customers into much better customers, just by being interested in them, and staying in communication with them on social media. That’s kind of what gave me the idea to reach out and actively grow that list with our customers, and reach our prospects.

Any traction in closing business through those efforts?

A couple of Valentine’s Days ago we did a little project where we took our top 500 customers, and we sent them wax mustaches and wax lips. We said if they’d take a picture and post it on our wall, we’ll give them some kind of discount. I think it cost us about $3,000, all said and done.

In the end, we only had a handful of people actually post pictures, and I think we gained maybe 20 likes on our Facebook page, but we wound up selling to 68 of those 500 customers. Those 68 customers, that week, I’m talking about Valentine’s Day week, spent $120,000 with us.

What’s your primary channel that connects PostcardMania with prospects?

Our primary channel is direct mail and secondary is PPC. Our newsletter has over 100,000 subscribers and each week we email it out and it routes prospects and customers to our blog. There I can kind of get in their face and say, “Okay. Buy this now; this is a good tool you could use, and this is what it costs; get a deal if you click today,” or that kind of thing. But mainly it’s helpful data and not ads at all.


“We can make our customers into much better customers, just by being interested in them, and staying in communication with them on social media.”


What do you regularly measure to see what is working?

We are measurement FREAKS… we measure everything and primarily it’s calls we receive via our marketing efforts because, in my particular business, a call indicates a hot prospect – the hottest. We also track downloads, through the information we would offer directly, and via Google through sponsored ads. Of course we measure all the usual things too – email open rates, unique visitors to the site, but conversion is where it’s at in the end.

On the social sites, where people aren’t expecting to be sold to, and where it annoys them, we’re just trying to make them like us enough to go back to our website where we can get serious.

How have your social media activities influenced PostcardMania’s bottom line?

We don’t really use social as a revenue generator, except for that one little thing that we did with the wax lips. While it was effective, it’s not yet a business driver. I don’t have a big enough list in social to affect my bottom line. We send out 140,000 postcards every single week to generate PostcardMania’s revenue, and we spend between $15,000 and $20,000 on PPC a week. That’s really how we affect the bottom line.

In the age of social media, is it a bit ironic that you’re promoting items that rely on regular mail?

People are somewhat surprised that our business is still growing as much as it’s growing, because it is snail mail and there’s so much bad PR about the post office and the expense of postage. But direct mail is still the very best way to target and enlighten. There’s a whole group of people searching for what you have, and another large group that have no idea they need what you have, so they’re not searching for it. THOSE people need direct mail.

We have integrated digital into our offerings with our Direct Mail 2.0 product, a post card with a call tracking number, a mail tracking number, and a re-targeting campaign all in one.

People don’t just call a phone number on a post card anymore. They go to the website, get cookied and see the ad on all the different sites of the Google Network. The repeated message is great and it’s taken DM to a completely new level. Users are getting ridiculous ROI. It’s been a great boost to our company.

What online tools do you rely on everyday? 

We use Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. I personally don’t do a lot of social except on my own personal Facebook page. I have a social media manager, and she’s on LinkedIn everyday, joining groups, trying to get involved in the conversation, answering questions.

What aspects of social haven’t worked for you? 

So many things have not worked for me over all, not just social. I don’t tend to keep my attention on those. We will throw the spaghetti at the wall a thousand times until it sticks. At this point, 15 years into this, we pretty much know how long it needs to boil for it to stick. We’re so metric-orientated; we only do what already works.

What’s the one thing people would never know about marketing a direct mail and printing company?

They don’t realize how much technology is used. It seems so brick-and-mortar, and it is, because we’re a manufacturer, but full on web developers and programmers working full time on various projects are all part of the future. We’ve really evolved into a technology company in so many ways.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

They probably don’t know that I CrossFit, because I’m so new at it that I don’t post a lot of about it. I’m addicted.

What three blogs would you recommend?  

I’m also a HUGE Flint McLaughlin groupie.

How can people connect with you?

I answer all my email I’m not super speedy, because I do get a lot of communication, but I do really enjoy helping people, regardless of whether or not they ever buy from PostcardMania, or want to buy from PostcardMania. I really, really just enjoy helping small business owners. People can also reach via Facebook. I get private messages all the time.


Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating and using social media to fuel their businesses? I want to talk to them and share their story  Drop me a note at or via Twitter @RAReed.

The B2B Social Spotlight: Roger Phelps

Roger Phelps

No one simply picks up a professional chainsaw for the first time and jaunties off to fell a tree, just as no major global brand starts using social media without knowing how to strategically implement the tools.

Roger Phelps knew that integrating social media for STIHL, the number one selling brand of gasoline powered handheld outdoor power equipment in America, required fundamental business reasoning behind which tools and platforms would deliver the right result for the company, its dealers and customers.

As a Naval Academy grad, active service veteran, experienced event planner and PR pro – and presently Promotional Communications Manager for STIHL Inc. (the U.S. subsidiary of the worldwide STIHL Group) – Phelps knows strategic process and planning. He took the better part of a year to assemble the company’s approach before launching the company’s social media program.

As an established global brand, what did STIHL intentionally set out to do – or do differently – with social media?

I’ve always said that you earn the right to be heard. You can’t expect someone to listen to you unless you’ve established first that you’re worth listening to.

I started with the fundamental business reasons why our company was going to tackle social. Not because it was cool. Not because it was trendy. Not because everybody was telling me, “Oh you need a Facebook page”. You don’t “need” one unless you have first figured out why it benefits your business.

Our premise – and our promise – is this idea of family. We’re family owned. A STIHL dealership is often family-owned. When you buy a STIHL, you are in a way joining our “family” and we wanted to capitalize on that. Our business goals and objectives were to increase our brand awareness, influence brand preference, and create an open dialogue with our customers. Then I worked to find what platforms could deliver on those goals with our desired audience. In some cases, it was a B2B audience; in others, it was a professional consumer or a homeowner.

I think that’s what social media does; it enables people to become part of something bigger; this family, this group of STIHL followers. The content and information we share will hopefully be interesting and helpful to them, and will inspire them to share their own stories and interests.

STIHL caters to wide range of users and industries. What steps did it take to connect with those distinct and diverse segments?

It comes down to simple word of mouth. STIHL chain saws were initially built for professionals – loggers, landscapers, smoke jumpers, firefighters and rescue workers. A passion built up between these pros and their tools. Then we branched out into consumer tools. The influencers, what we call “Eddy Experts”, were the people everybody else in the community asked about the chain saw and trimmer they use.

Social media is word of mouth gone high-tech and makes it easy for people to share their stories and identify with our brand. They know they may not be a smoke jumper, but if that pro depends on a STIHL then if they need a tool for their backyard, they should buy a STIHL because if it’s good enough for a pro, it’s good enough for them. And now as part of the STIHL “family”, they can share their own story.

What is STIHL doing to build followers and connect with prospects and customers? I see that video plays a large role.

We’re active on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as our primary platforms, as well as our blog, and video is our next big focus. The lifespan of content on a platform makes it that way. Twitter is probably hour and Facebook maybe one to two days. You look at YouTube and content there lasts a comparable lifetime. A key metric for us on YouTube is subscribers, which represent our truly engaged users.  They are the ones who have indicated they want content from us, leave comments and share with others the videos that have been uploaded.

How is STIHL using social to engage its dealer channel? To what extent are they using social?

When I first mapped out our social media approach, we knew our dealers would be an important part of the strategy but they weren’t part of the initial approach. A couple of them are very active both on Twitter and YouTube. One dealer even created his own cable TV show, and uses Twitter and Facebook to organize viewing parties and discuss the show afterwards. But it really was not widespread.

I wanted to make sure we understood how the brand was going to be represented and received before we started actively advocating or pushing out social media to our dealers. These are independent businesses. We can’t necessarily tell them what to do or how to do it, except when it comes to how they treat our brand, so I wanted to be sure we knew what we were talking about before assisting them in their efforts.

Now that we are in our third year of social media experience, we are shifting our efforts to assisting our dealers with their social media efforts.  We are creating content that they can easily reuse, customize, and personalize, such as tips, how-to’s, blog posts and videos. We have also just launched formal dealer social media training as part of our company’s online training program. And we’re researching the way social media activates locally so we can help our dealers understand that as well.

How have your social media activities influenced STIHL’s bottom line?

Our main business goal is to promote the brand, our products and our dealers, but as social media tracking becomes more sophisticated we’re getting closer to being able to track the impact of social media interactions on sales.

We don’t sell online, but our STIHL Express service enables people to reserve online. Through tools provided by Facebook and Google Analytics for instance, we’re tracking individuals leaving the Facebook page, landing on the STIHL USA page, and to pages, they navigate to when they get there. So now, we’re able to tie content on our blog or other platform to the STIHL USA page and then track them all the way through the STIHL USA process including a STIHL Express transaction.

We have enjoyed significant sales and market share increases over the past 5 years, and I would say that social media has played an important role in this as part of a coordinated marketing plan.

What do you regularly measure to see what is working and what is not?

We review online mentions of STIHL on a daily basis. At the end of the week, we receive a “buzz report” from our social media agency that provides us a summary of mentions, tone, links, and trends. This assists us in getting a feel for what is being said about us and where.  We also measure the number of followers for our various social platforms, and most importantly the degree of their engagement with our content.

I get jazzed every time I read the monitoring reports. Because we’re two-step distribution we’re somewhat removed from our customers. With social media, we are able to develop a relationship with our customers more directly, and hear exactly what they think about our products, our dealers, and us.

What aspect of social hasn’t worked for STIHL? 

Content development has been a learning process. In the beginning, I would cut and paste standard press releases into the blog, and then maybe a part of it became a Facebook post. I quickly figured out that this was not what our fans wanted. I learned that we needed to pay attention to the tone and type of conversation that was taking place on each of these platforms and adjust the content to fit what was expected.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

I was a nationally ranked collegiate saber fencer.

What three blogs would you recommend?  

I tend to be eclectic regarding the blogs I read, but for the PR side of what I do, Mr. Media Training is phenomenal, and Mashable is regular destination.

How can people connect with you? 

Twitter: uphelpsr (Personal), STIHLusa (Professional)






Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating and using social media to fuel their businesses? I want to talk to them.  Send me a note at or via Twitter @RAReed.

The B2B Social Spotlight: Dennis Salazar

Lenora and Dennis Salazar

Nuts to peanuts.

No, not the kind you eat, rather the messy, clingy polystyrene foam bits that may have come along with that eBay item you just won.

What do you do with them? How do you get rid of them?  And what happens to them when you do?

Dennis Salazar and his wife, Lenora, decided they needed to help reduce not just that problem but to change the attitudes and practices around environmentally sustainable packaging when they started Salazar Packaging, Inc. in 2007.

Just six years later, after the two left lucrative jobs with a much larger packaging distribution companies, Salazar Packaging is a certified green business; it’s products vetted by numerous organizations; and is a leading voice in packaging, environmental and business circles. More than 800 articles have been written by them and about them.

Apart from a laser focus on his niche and endless knowledge about his industry, Salazar’s dedicated blogging has helped drive the company’s growing national brand awareness from the its home in Plainfield, Illinois.

When it comes to marketing Salazar Packaging, what did you intentionally set out to do differently and how did social media/marketing fit in?

We recognized that interest from business in general about more sustainable packaging practices was very high. A friend, who was also in the industry, knew the direction we were heading with the company and suggested that we write about what we already knew about and recommended that we educate our market, develop a voice, and even be a bit controversial.

So, my first post was called, “Am I Retrainable for Sustainable?”, a tongue-in- cheek piece about how sustainability was all about waste reduction, and all of the things that I had been doing for decades anyway. I sent it on to one of my favorite blogs, Sustainable is Good, and was later picked up by five other blogs and eventually wound up on Reuters. From there, inquires for speaking rolled in, and invite to write for Packaging Digest not to mention many inquiries about business. Six years ago, a lot less people were talking about sustainability, but I guess I was leading the pack and got ahead of the curve in the industry.

Social begins with developing relationships and supplying valuable content, but it must produce a business outcome. What is Salazar doing to connect with prospects and customers? 

We looked at the way our customers want to do business. One of the strategies we use is to cater to a diverse customer base through our store and various websites. We collected and packaged our products to low volume users in a way to market them and sell them in an efficient manner. You don’t want to spend 10 minutes on the phone with somebody who wants to buy a case of tape or 100 boxes. The exposure to small and medium sized companies is helping us attract and serve much larger customers, which is where we’re headed next.

How have your social media activities influenced the firm and its bottom line?

The more I was blogging the more I was speaking. The more I was doing, the more inquiries we were getting, and it really turned out to be a major part of our marketing. Because of all this activity, the search engines love us. We were all over Page 1, and Page 2 on Google for almost any “green” term searched for. Some of it I refer to as “dumb luck” and some of it is timing, but it’s been a lot of hard work.  Hours and hours have been spent on my blogs. I think I have over 400 posts just on one of them.

What do you regularly measure to see what is working with your marketing?

I think a lot of it was a matter of being at the right place at the right time.  Some of things people are talking about, optimizing key words and things like that, we’ve learned and we did along the way, but I can’t say that we ever sat down and formally created this grandiose strategy for ranking them on Page 1 under particular terms. We do run analytics, but we also mostly monitor our feedback, our call-ins and our inquiries.

What aspect of social hasn’t worked for Salazar Packaging?

We are not great believers in social media. Our strategy is to be found on the web. We were active on Facebook and Twitter, but as a business-to-business company, we felt those platforms were attracting consumers who are not our customers. As for LinkedIn, I think we haven’t taken advantage of it the way could or should. I don’t doubt there is a strategic use for it, but we haven’t found it and frankly, we haven’t had the need.

What blog posts in particular have stood out?

We monitor feedback and when you have a good one, you know it. A post from late January, Custom Printed and Branded Packaging FAQ and Tips, has been a monster hit for us. We’re just getting all kinds a neat emails, comments, and inquiries.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

I really have a passion for old-time television shows like The Honeymooners. I like revisiting some of that stuff because of the quality of entertainment without profanity, the nastiness, and the meanness. It was just good, clean entertainment.

What three blogs would you recommend? 

Marc Gunther

Environmental Leader


How can people connect with you? 



Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating and using social media to fuel their businesses? I want to talk to them.  Send me a note at or via Twitter @RAReed.



The Problem With “Down and Dirty” Marketing

I have to get something off my chest.

I like strategy and process.

I like developing communications roadmaps that take companies someplace and accomplish something.

I’m not one of those “pull it out of no where” communicators. A strategy based on engaging in correct and extended tactics during a long period of time will pay off and yield tangible returns.

Call me crazy but cogent plans help me sleep at night.

Yet, so many companies persist with the need for instant gratification. They persist with short-term thinking brought on by even shorter-term attention spans.

I don’t mean to go on a rant here (apologies to Dennis Miller and not the current one; the one at the time when he was funny), but precision is needed to strategize and execute integrated social media marketing campaigns and to measure their business outcomes. Anything else is mud wallowing.

Having said that, I propose the following phrase be banned from our business lexicon forever:

Down and dirty

These three words are the harbinger of wasted time, effort, and budgets. I’ve worked on the agency side of PR and marketing for most of my career, and out of the list of useless business jargon, “down and dirty” is the one that makes me clench my teeth to the point of cracking a molar.

Too many marketers use it to convey to their agency they want to just get something out quickly and inexpensively. “Keep it simple,” they say. “You know, don’t spend too much time on it; just get it out. ”

So much for strategy.

Executing something with the down and dirty mind set is like sitting inside a German dirigible brimming with hydrogen while holding a match.

Oh, the humanity.

The only aspect remotely strategic about the phrase is the person saying it is being lazy, cheap, or both.

I’ve created a list of talking points here so next time you get asked by your client or employer for down and dirty, you’ll know what to say.

Down and dirty marketing:

  • Threatens brands because of a lack of strategy behind the efforts.
  • Does nothing to enhance reputations.
  • Won’t build products, services, or your business model.
  • Will not positively ingratiate your company to people and their needs.
  • Is sloppy.
  • Won’t encourage others to share what is good about your company when you don’t care enough to do it for yourself.
  • Is for poser marketers.
  • Doesn’t engender trust.
  • Won’t keep your company top of mind.
  • Won’t position you as a thought leader.
  • Won’t help you invest in the best marketing strategies (whatever those maybe) to boost customer loyalty and retention.

Well, almost never. There’s only one use of down and dirty will ever be acceptable:

Down and dirty describes the kind of work ethic that is needed to succeed.

A version of this post originally appeared at Spin Sucks.