November 20, 2012
I’ve been briefed by about 80 social software companies in the last 5 years, so it’s rare that I come across a vendor and say, “Wow, this is a new category.”
I first ran into Extole CRO Greg Brown at InfusionCon in Phoenix, earlier this year. The whole customer-to-customer (C2C) category had been on my radar for some time, but I always saw software companies taking a generalist approach to the category, and trying to lump C2C solutions in with their bigger suites (i.e. Buddy Media, CrowdFactory).
This isn’t a dig on those two companies, simply a different choice of approach – the classic point-solution vs. suite-solution software conundrum.
First, let’s define what “C2C” looks like, because any new social media acronym can be really confusing. This screenshot from Skymall, one of Extole’s customers, sums it up. Essentially, if you refer a friend to Skymall, you get $10, and they get $10. Sure, this is not a “new” formula – the idea of referral marketing goes back at least two generations.
But, C2C referral marketing has always been a really annoying, friction-filled transaction. Imagine trying to refer someone to your Toyota dealer in 1992. You would have had to call them, they would have had to walk into the car dealership and give your name… just thinking about it gives me a headache.
Extole’s software has removed the friction from this process for a cool and diverse set of customers. There’s one thing that I’m seeing in common from a lot of their case study customers – many of them are doing something new and cool, too. For example, Redbox changed the in-person video-rental industry and SolarCity changed the consumer-utility market. Sure, Extole has some more “mainstream” customers, but I dig their tendency to work with companies that are trying to change the rules.
Their product has three other legs: social promotion, social expression and social analytics. Now, it may not be a suite solution, like the Marketo/CrowdFactory suite, but if I were an $1B+ customer-facing brand, I would want to be using a point (best-of-breed) solution like Extole’s.
They’re seriously the first vendor I’ve seen that really takes a “fully integrated approach” (their phrase, not mine) to C2C social marketing. This video really nails it, around the 2-min mark.
Here’s a few of the things that I think they’re really doing right, from a customer acquisition perspective:
1. Across-the-board usage of all key social platforms (including Pinterest) – very few software companies with under 100 employees master this kind of blocking and tackling really well.
2. They have nearly by name brands that focus on real-world business objectives (sales, etc.) rather than silly social media vanity metrics.
3. Their library of whitepapers is cleanly set up, and materials focus on timely topics aimed at mid-level customer-facing decision-makers (Facebook Open Graph, Basics of Social Referral Programs)
4. Clean and easy forms: So few social media software companies understand the importance of using form-fills of less than 10 fields, to make for quick and consistent lead-gen.
5. Drinking Their Own Champagne: Extole uses referral marketing themselves, and offers $1k for customer referrals. It’s a small touch, but meaningful.
Here’s what I’d perhaps change, if I were them, and I wanted to add on a few more marquee customers.
1. The Inverse Bell Curve: Extole gates all (top-of-funnel) TOFU and end-of-funnel content in their content library. Statistically, this actually hurts lead quantity for MQLs (market-qualified leads). The place to “tighten up” is the middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU), where prospective customer pain is greatest. Hat tip to Jon Miller for this concept.
2. Auto-form-fills: When you’ve got super-cool technology, you want leads to be able to get their hands on it as quickly as possible. Using something like Reachforce’s Smartforms makes it easier for busy enterprise marketers to get their hands on your goodies.
3. CTA-driven blog posts: This is a mere tactical fix, but Extole’s blog posts don’t run full-text in RSS, and they don’t bear calls-to-action. Fixing this would better allow them to share their best practices, and develop leads. I agree with Techdirt’s article on this one. Even if you’re not a publisher, running a truncated blog feed is not usually good for creating new customers.
4. Quantification Around C2C Org Maturity: This is my big one. The one thing that I think Extole’s customers are going to look to them for, in the TOFU and MOFU buy cycle stages, is some kind of benchmark for where their organization is, around C2C, and what it’s costing them to not be further along in maturity. Some type of calculator or organizational “C2C revenue score” that quantifies this type of maturity would be really helpful in helping mid-level marketing decision-makers define and quantify their need.
5. Weekly Webinars: Since the C2C Referral Category is not nearly as well known to enterprise brands as the other 5 social marketing use cases, they could gain a lot more brand awareness by simply evangelizing not only their software’s use case, but all of the actionable metrics from it. This is something that marketing automation brands like Marketo and Hubspot did very well, in their early days. To beef up attendance, they can partner with big data vendors who hunger to be seen with cool social firms, or with analyst/consultant types with email invite lists of 10k-100k each.
November 19, 2012
1. We do not sell or share your data with any third party.
2. We purge bad email addresses from our marketing database on a monthly basis.
3. We keep all credit cards in a PCI-compliant system (PCI DSS), and you can read the specs on it here.
4. We only track website visitors for 30 days, and then we delete the cookies on our end. Of course, you can delete them on your end at any time.
5. When we do a joint event with another company, we always give any newly acquired “leads” or, as we prefer to call them, invitees, the option to opt-out immediately. Even if we’ve legally acquired opt-in, we prefer to have real, knowing consent.
October 15, 2012
We’ve received a four emails lately regarding the MetzBox functionality of the website, and I wanted to explain why we’d yanked it, post-publication, from The Social Customer. It’s our intention to remove all references to it from the future editions of the book, so no readers will be confused.
In the world of publishing, publishers typically promise non-fiction authors certain amounts of marketing monies. When publishers do not come forward with promised monies, as they are non-binding promises, authors must dig into their own pockets to cover marketing and advertising expenses, at times.
This can put authors in a difficult financial position of having to decided between delivering upon promised “extras” or simply making their book available to a wider audience, by pouring previously earmarked development monies into marketing and advertising.
This allocation of funds does not improve the author’s financial state, as all the author is trying to do in allocating said monies is to recoup their initial publishing advance.
The choice we made was a difficult choice, but it’s one that we think any non-fiction author would have made, had they been in our shoes.
In addition 90% of the promised content is still available for free in our DOWNLOADS section.
September 25, 2012
I had a great support call yesterday with Maurice Colon on Infusionsoft’s support team. We’d been trying to set up a way to make a campaign for not only our series of upcoming webinars, but for cloning, so that when we had a webinar in the future, we could clone the whole darn campaign. That saves us about 4-5 hours of work. It also allows us to give a copy of the campaign to our webinar partners, who usually use software like Infusionsoft, Hubspot or Marketo, so they can copy what we do.
We’ve been using Oakland-based Maestroconference for about a year-and-a-half now, and although we only initially began using them for tele-conferences, Starting in a few weeks, we’re dumping Webex and GoToWebinar and beginning to use their ScreenShare product. Yes, we know it’s only in beta, but Maestro’s Customer Service has been absolutely top-notch, and when we have a vendor that good, we want to help them “break in” their new offerings. The $97 version of their screenshare product is extremely competitive with Webex and GoToWebinar, and if you’re an Infusionsoft customer, it’s the best deal. Here’s why.
If you’re an Infusionsoft customer, with only two clicks, you can get Infusionsoft to automatically sign up a customer (or lead) for one of your webinars. You don’t need any apps, or any funky integrations. It’s really easy. (Hubspot actually got rid of their webinar product recently, for the right reasons – it was simply too complex. I’m thinking they’re working on something new right now. In the meantime, I’d encourage Hubspot customers to take Maestro for a spin.)
So, Marketo published a great 16-page eBook on webinars about a year ago. And, if you turn to the third page, you’ll see a freaking brilliant webinar tip. I don’t know who came up with this, but I’m guessing it was someone on Maria Pergolino’s team (one of the best marketers I know). Here’s what they recommend. Read this really slow so it completely sinks in.
OFFER PEOPLE the option of NOT coming to your webinar and having you mail them the slides. It turns out that 20-30% of the people who were given this choice actually said YES! Seriously, how long does it take to grab your slides after a webinar, and either email a powerpoint, or set them up in Brainshark. The leads and customers will love you, and you might get people to attend the real webinar next time.
If anyone feels like trying out Maestro, the link above is good for a 30-day trial, so go ahead and do 4 weekly webinars on the house.
September 24, 2012
I work with small business execs for the most part, and I have since 2008. One thing that most of them have in common is that they’re smart and interesting people, and they typically share cool content, when they choose to use social media.
Way back in 2007, when small business execs began using social, they just manually shared stuff. They posted cool items to their Facebook or Twitter feeds manually. That was good enough, at the time. Then, around 2010, social media software got pretty affordable. For $30 a month, execs were able to buy software that would allow them to pre-schedule posts. You could sit down once a week for 45 minutes and set up the bulk of your social media content for the next week. Throw in a few spontaneous posts over the course of the week, and you’re good to go, right?
So, I’ve been a Sprout Social customer since about a year ago, and when they came out with their Queue offering, I was kind of blown away. The whole notion of having a “smart queue” for posting social media content is a tremendous boon to small business execs. Let’s face it, when you’re posting social media content, it falls into one of two categories:
1. Super-important stuff that my followers need to know about now (FIRST)
2. Not-so-important stuff that people can find out about later (LAST)
And the queue is set up just for that. They even have a function that figures out the optimal time to post stuff. I’ve begun using that function in the last week.
Ever since I started using the queue, my numbers have done just great. Our Facebook fans are up 2500%, and Twitter followers are up 24%. There was a minimal Facebook ad investment as well (about $4/day), but that was the only thing we did differently in that time period.
If you want to try it out queueing, here’s a 30-day free pass. Their support is absolutely amazing, so if you get stuck on anything just call them at their office in Chicago, and they’ll hook you up.
See if it has a big impact on your company’s numbers, and then make your decisions from there.