Posts from November 2010

At Universal Information Services our national news monitoring and media analysis efforts have evolved to a point where our client prospects are mostly found through inbound systems. In other words, with the growing use of #newtools from social media platforms, the need for us to interrupt/disrupt our prospective clients is greatly reduced.

Many resources have illuminated this shift away from outbound marketing, but essentially the #newtools (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Linkedin, Groupon, etc.) now let any organization that must routinely generate new clients, attract those clients to them rather than hunt them down and interrupt them with a marketing pitch. Mix in Google Analytics, and you have an amazing way to analyze your effectiveness for inbound marketing. Whether you call it "interruption marketing" or "disruption selling", it is a much harder sell than allowing prospects to find you when they are looking for what you have.

If you look at the economics of maintaining a staff of national sales people, how many calls and follow-ups do they have to make in order to bring one new customer to you? We both know the answer here, and that number is somewhere around a "boat-load". Figure in salaries, support staff, CRM costs, other consumables, and the expense in finding a new client is very high. But, if you can decrease the number of outbound marketers you employ, and convert those people devoted customer service representatives, you'll find that your ROI is much greater when focused on retention of clients and in selling additional services to those happy clients.

Allowing low, fixed-cost social media tools to funnel leads to your inbound marketing staff means your team is working with those who are already predisposed to want what you are selling. Equally important to this inverse marketing path, is the #samerules concept that clients want to have an enjoyable experience when working with their vendors. From the beginning of the sales cycle you now have a pleasant relationship instead of one that starts with disrupting your client's day.

Outbound marketing (interruption/disruption) has become a mostly adversarial encounter as we are all trained to initially say, "No!", when approached by a salesperson. In some cases the salesperson gets lucky and can warm the prospect up to what they are selling. But this conversion is the rare occasion for any service. The excessive abuse by the bad apples of telemarketing and direct marketing has inoculated everyone against the cold call. But if that cold call is now a warm call, and is initiated by the end user and not the marketer, you have a very potent sales mechanism.

Here are several resources that can help you make the jump from disruption marketing...the #newtools of social media.
Rick Burnes, Inbound Marketing & the Next Phase of Marketing on the Web
Brian Halligan, Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing
Lee Odden, 22 Social Media Marketing Management Tools

I love the idea that I don't have to deploy a force of clever sales people charged with penetrating the natural defenses of our future clients. It's much more enjoyable to be viewed as a solution to a prospects need when THEY contact us. We do still identify and proactively approach organizations that clearly need our services, but now we can be much more selective and increase our probability of winning that business.

The costly, shotgun approach of disruption marketing is dieing, but certainly is not dead. We'd love to hear your opinion on inbound vs. outbound marketing. What #newtools have you found that increase your ROI for marketing and sales?

Todd Murphy
Vice President
Universal Information Services
http://universal-info.com

…for Public Relations, News Monitoring, Design, or Services of Any Kind

You have heard it almost everywhere over the past few years. If you haven’t, you’re not getting out enough. For this post I decided to discuss the blue ocean strategy of being different from your competitors. It can also be explored as “being remarkable” as described in Seth Godin’s Purple Cow book. This post is “different” in that I’m writing only with subtitles (actually, about half in subtitles). What can I say, it’s something different. I like subtitles because they often tell what the author really wants to say, but couldn’t in the official title.

“Yes, Different Is Good”
Subtitled-
Separate Yourself from Your Competition
Clients Quit Services When the Service Grows Stale
Clients Find New Vendors When They Don’t Get Strong Support
Clients Like Innovation that Works
New Communication Tools Can Help Amplify Most Efforts (but not all)
The Media Amplifies Your PR Effort
Let Social Media Drive a Greater Audience In Traditional Media
Are You Exploring How to Differentiate Yourself from “The Same Old”?
Are Your Points of Difference What Your Client Truly Cares About?
Are You Monitoring the News You Need?
Are You Analyzing Media that Is Truly Important?
Are You Using A Service You Have Real Faith In?
Are You Tired of These Questions?

In the end, being different, or making a change for change sake, is a waste of time and resources without practical goals in mind (#samerules). Evaluate what you are doing for your clients, how you are doing it, and how they view the value you provide them.

For Universal Information Services, http://universal-info.com , this exercise has brought us to where we are today. We are different. Clients find us when they need something more in terms of service, support, or cost savings. We don’t compete on the same old parameters for news monitoring and media analysis defined many years ago. We do provide real customer service, real client support, honest solutions, and prices that are really tied to our cost to serve the client. Our press clipping, TV monitoring, or web monitoring services are truly remarkable. Most importantly, we provide innovation that our clients really need.

It’s ironic, but the #newtools concept of “being different” is almost a result of common sense others have lost (#samerules). Develop, design, or deliver what you do in a way that separates your from your competitors. My suggestion is you do it now before your competition does it first.

Visit Seth Godin's blog for more insight on this topic and let us know what you think. Leave a comment, we enjoy the dialogue.

As my sixth post to Universal Information Services' blog page, I felt it was time to elaborate on the philosophy of #samerules and #newtools. This blog was intended to cast light on what new tools are available to the PR professional and business communicator. We also want to contrast the flood of new tools against the common sense thought that using these tools entails an understanding of the fundamental rules of communication and PR. At the core of the new tools is not a paradigm shift in the way we communicate, but rather a set of rules we've seen and used for many years prior.

For many people the prospect of mastering new tools to enhance their media relations efforts can be unappealing or simply a burden. Like it or not, new tools present themselves everyday and for every industry. These new tools do have differences that make them unique, but their fundamentals remain the same. Here are some examples of #newtools with #samerules at their core.
1. The iPod: Did it change how we enjoy music, or simply the ease with which we enjoy music? Most would say that the Sony Walkman ushered in the era of personal audio. The iPod represents a new tool, but fundamentally has the same rules as the Walkman. The phonograph brought music into the personal space more than a century before the Walkman.
2. Twitter: Did Twitter change all that we know about communication and public relations? No. Fundamentally one can argue that Twitter is a micro blogging system, stemming from the blogging conventions, that stemmed from the fundamentals of writing and journalism. Blogging and micro blogging are a great example of what happens when we democratize the tools. These new tools are now available to everyone and at no cost. But, the same rules of writing compelling content (did everyone just leave?) apply or else no one will read what you have to say (*small exception to this point, see below).
3. Rock & Roll: My friend, Jeremy Lipschultz, Ph.D., almost tripped me up with the illustration of what Elvis and The Beatles meant to music. Do these bands represent #samerules or new rules? Then it came to me, what the original Rockers did was analogous to what social media is doing for journalism and public relations. Electric instruments, amplifiers, and a faster tempo were, at their core, the application of new tools using the same rules. Aside from the most pure form of industrial music, Rock & Roll (including all variations) still adheres to the #samerules of tempo, notes, chords, chord progression, etc. Elvis used his new tools to amplify his message and draw a greater audience, much like the social media tools.

Now I don't want you to walk away thinking that none of the #newtools have new rules. I believe quite the contrary. All new tools do have new rules that make them unique, but they ALSO have the #samerules at their core. One should not forget common sense, human nature, and the fundamental conventions of good public relations. The new tools are great because they let us amplify our message beyond what we could previously do with the older tools. The #newtools help us engage other mediums by extending our audience and community.

I'm confident someone will find a new tool that has none of the #samerules at its core. When that happens I will embrace that concept and most likely discuss it here on this blog. But until then I encourage you to try and test this theory. Are there any new tools of communication you are using that you feel have no fundamental rules from prior modes of communication? Leave your comments to engage with me, or visit our website for some ideas http://www.universal-info.com/

Cheers!
Todd Murphy
Vice President
Universal Information Services

(*small exception: The Long Tail philosophy dictates that there is an audience or buyer for everything, no matter how unique the product or content. At the very far end of the Long Tail you may find some #newtools that have no corresponding #samerules. I love The Long Tail.)

Yep, another blog about customer experience. If you're like me, you're probably thinking, "Seen it, read it, know it...I get it." I'm going to keep this short and sweet, but underscore the fact that the points you might think you're competing on have nothing to do with what will make you a great company.

First, almost every service or product now has scads of competitors. For example, I'd hate to be in the "social media tool" industry right now (damn, I think we are). Just yesterday I read a blog about "220 Indispensable Social Media Tools". Ok, how do you go about differentiating yourself when 219 of them are SaaS systems? The reality is you do it either through a massive sales program (hire the college grads, pay only commission, and pump that service), or you be the ONE company that does it with an exceptional customer experience. Price, user interface, fancy charts and graphs...everyone has those. You need to be different. You need to stand out. You need to offer a customer experience that tells all who inquire, "We are the company you want to use."

Universal Information Services uses the far-from-unique approach of "take care of the customer first, and the cash will follow". Many companies like DELL Computers have ingrained this notion of outstanding customer experience within their organization. Backup 11 years to this Fast Company article and you'll see we're really talking about the #samerules applying to the #newtools of Customer Experience. With our Media Analysis and Social Network Mapping we don't just give you access to data, we interpret the results for you. The difference between a tool and a service, in my experience, is that a service delivers what you need, in a form you can digest, without requiring gobs of your own time to analyze and figure it out. We call this "reading the tea leaves".

PR professionals and business communicators still only have 24 hours in the day. Our job is to do the work they pay us for so they can focus on their mission critical activities. These professionals were not hired to measure stories, maintain a database of metrics, input earned media hits, AND THEN interpret what that means. That is the service they buy from Universal Information Services...and we go over the top to make sure their experience is great.

What is it you do for your customers or clients? From their perspective, are your clients having a great experience when working with you? If not, they'll find the company that does make their experience great. Customer Experience is truly the piece you are competing on with your peers...It is the one thing that can make you different.

For another perspective on Customer Experience, check out Marc Meyer's blog, "The Customer Experience Revisited". Please tell us your unique perspective on the customer experience. Your comments are important to us.

If you watch Twitter or follow public relations groups on LinkedIn, you've seen a common question about the #newtools for monitoring news or social media. Over the past week I counted no less than 200 sources people had offered up as their favorite new tool for tracking media. Some are free, some are paid, but what all of these services have in common is they are trying to help users and organizations cut through the deafening media noise. People want solutions, the answers, an educated interpretation of what their media exposure means in terms of values that are important to them. 99% of the services out there are missing the mark.

The subtitle of this post is "The Art of Noise", not as a reference to the avant-garde alternative band of the 1980's, but as a reference to the growing volume of news and information available to everyone. What PR professionals, corporate communicators, and anyone tasked with tracking media need is simply an answer to the question of, "What stories should I be focusing on? Show me what is truly important and why."

Here are a few of the services I believe have sound methodologies for generating meaningful earned media placements: Cision, Nielsen Buzzmetrics, BlueVision, and Carma. Yes, these are competitors: Universal Information Services offers many of the same services, but these companies have also demonstrated a high rate of reliability and are worthy of mention.

In contrast, the shortcoming in almost every online news monitoring solution available is that it is a software-as-a-service (SaaS). Invariably this means you, the customer, must know exactly what you want to track, what metrics you want to see, and then you have to do the work of correctly entering that information into an online tool. All of this effort on your part must occur before you can see any analysis or report outlining your results.

For accurate media monitoring and pr measurement, and to cut through the noise to just the news you need, human reasoning is ultimately required. Computers can only decide a yes or no proposition (1 or 0). Yes, the human is still critical for accurate news monitoring and media measurement. So, in the end your use of SaaS solutions, or a system that includes customized human interaction, may be the difference between receiving an overwhelming amount of media noise and getting truly valuable information. How loud must it be before you can no longer do your job well? We look at the #newtools with the #samerules in mind…then do what is best for our clients. What do you do?

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Universal Information Services has created this blog to illuminate ideas related to the intersection of communication fundamentals and new channels of information distribution. Our media analysis and position as a news monitoring service has led us to the conclusion that the fundamental rules of public relations communications has not changed, only the tools we have at our disposal are new (#SameRules #NewTools).