A Market Conversation Strategy Guide
Driving Search Presence through Industry Participation
By Garrett French
Your market – whether you’re in biotech or biotech software development – is deep in conversation online.
Heres what that conversation looks like:
- Industry journalists documenting your marketspace through interviews with your peers and competitors and news analysis.
- Industry practitioners, pundits, and your employees and coworkers publishing opinions, questions, advice and analysis in blogs, forums, social networks, podcasts and video.
Heres who observes this conversation:
- Your investors.
- Your prospects.
- Your employees and coworkers.
- Your industrys journalists.
- Your colleagues.
- Your competitors.
And typically these people are themselves participants in your markets conversations.
What this article does, and for whom:
This article provides a thorough market conversation strategy outline for the enterprising DIY marketer, with an emphasis at the end on search engine presence.
I sought to estimate the amount of time each step would take so that you fully understand the investment that an effective conversation strategy requires. I wrote this article with startup B2Bs in mind.
The core concepts and practices have B2C applications though, which I will articulate in later articles.
Obviously, the more resources you can put into these efforts the better your overall results will be. I am available for consultation on any aspect of your strategy.
The article follows the outline below (hours noted indicate approximate time it will take for you to implement these aspects of the project):
- Create Media Map and Determine Key Media; Assess Your Organization’s Position (6 hours)
- Assess Your Current Efforts (2 hours)
- Assessing and Harnessing Employees’ Current Industry Conversations (2 hours + ongoing)
- Establishing “Industry Participant” Responsibilities (2 hours + ongoing)
- Search Marketing and Your Conversation Project (tips for optimizing your conversation)
The benefits of implementing a conversation marketing project for your company include but are not limited to increased mentions at all strata of your industry’s media, an increase in industry “expert” branding, an increase in your internal knowledge base, and an increase in your search engine presence.
1) Create Media Map, determine Key Media; Assess Your Organization’s Position (~6 hours)
List out the major industry media you can think of. This includes blogs (possibly of competitors…), news sites, forums, etc. Use your favorite search engine and terms you associate with your industry to build out this “industry media overview” list.
Include in this list the various niches within your industry’s media all the news and information sources you find critical to YOUR role in your company.
Now poll others in your company. As many folks as possible, with as diverse a cross section of job roles as manageable. Ask where they go to exchange and learn new ideas for making their jobs easier, to make themselves more efficient in their jobs, or to improve their work lives in some way.
And be sure to ask which sites about your industry they find the most exciting, where they think the newest innovations are discussed. These sites are not likely to be included in your overview list and will serve to illustrate emerging, up-and-coming media in your space.
Now, analyze these media in both alexa and pubsub. These two services will enable you to judge the level of influence, rising or falling, that these media outlets have in your marketspace.
Once you’ve gathered all your media sources, organize them by category. These categories will vary depending on your industry, but could include:
- main stream (relative to your industry of course)
- job-function-based categories
- rising/falling/steady influence in your space
- red hot emerging media (all marketspaces have these its best if you buddy-buddy with these guys while theyre just getting their legs under them. Be a resource, etc I will have a future article on this.)
The categorization you devise constitutes your industry media map.
Your media map will be quite useful too should you decide to buy online advertising, or when you have launches that you suspect are interesting to only a segment of your industry’s media.
Next assess your company’s presence in these media.
This is done quite simply by checking each site for mentions of your company or the names of people in your company (with a [site:siteurl.com keywords] search in your favorite search engine).
Create a list of your current presence in these media and the tenor or nature of each instance of mention.
Your company’s “key media” includes the sites from your industry media map:
- that mention your company or your company’s employees by name
- that ANYONE from your company has personal association with
- that you’ve identified as influential
- that you’ve identified as emerging influential
Your conversation efforts should focus on these identified key media, and in keeping an eye on emerging media that you should target.
2) Assess Your Current Efforts (~2 hours)
Now that you’ve created your media map, assessed your presence in this media and determined which are your key media, it’s time to align your current presence with your existing efforts and see how these relate to your marketing goals.
Your official efforts include any kind of marketing or PR you’re currently engaged in. These efforts could include your company’s blog, your website itself, any ads you’ve purchased or participation in industry conferences.
Put your list of these efforts beside your presence in your key media and determine – as precisely as you can manage – how these efforts affect your specific online marketing goals, with special emphasis on key conversions you’ve identified as goal-reaching conversions.
Some goals/conversions could include:
- Investor inquiries
- Prospect inquiries
- Partnership inquiries
- Interview requests
- Mentions in key media
- Email addresses gathered
Keep your goals and conversions in mind as you develop the rest of your conversation project.
3) Assessing and Harnessing Pre-existing Employees’ Industry Conversations (~2 hours + ongoing)
There’s a high likelihood that your employees already participate in one or more of your industry’s key media. Assess who in your company’s participating and where through a poll, informal or otherwise.
Clarify upfront that you’re identifying who’s already leading your company’s industry conversation efforts and indicate that you’re seeking their advice and guidance on your overall project.
Assert that you – the assessors – think participation of almost any kind is a positive thing for your company and you want to understand how their participation benefits them.
In your assessments find who’s giving advice in their respective spaces, from forums to blog commentary to their own personal blogs. Keep a sharp lookout for who’s providing useful information to their communities.
Ultimately you’ll be building a single hub – in the form of a section on your site or possibly as a part of a blog – that aggregates all your employees’ (most positive) industry-related participation. This hub should be organized, and you’ll find likely organizational structure from the categories you determined in your initial media map.
This participation hub should be on or near the press clips and press releases on your site, and as your conversation efforts become more crystallized this hub will include blogs and articles of your company’s key industry participants.
In this particular piece it’s highly important that the only rule of employee media participation be that, “it benefits the company.” You will have to assess for yourself what is and isn’t material to your competitive advantage, though be sure to embrace transparency as far as you’re able.
Despite effects on enthusiasm towards participation you may find it necessary to create an employee guideline for industry conversation.
Make clear your reasons for imposing restrictions, ie, show how not following these restrictions could hurt your company. Most importantly though, be willing to make adjustments through intelligent debate with your internal industry participants.
4) Establishing “Industry Participant” Responsibilities (~2 hours + ongoing)
Create amongst those in your company who are already industry participants a loose affiliation through the information hub on your website. It may be helpful further to identify someone internally who serves as a sort of editor for the hub section of your site and organizes and arranges it.
Encourage these individuals to increase their involvement and give them paid time to engage in these activities to make them more official roles. Encourage them especially to participate with your pre-identified key media – so long as it makes sense in regards to their job function.
Distribute their knowledge internally through your company “editor”, and look for opportunities to increase their involvement in product development. Industry participants are often highly ambitious “change seekers” who can contribute positively to your company’s development and direction.
Channeling information from your industry participants into an informational email newsletter for investors and clients is another excellent way to emphasize the level of contribution your company has in the industry.
Having these conversations is important, but you will get far more value from them if they are displayed/published/aggregated in an effective and compelling manner.
Work with your key participants to establish general guidelines and best practices for anyone else in your company who participates – or would like to participate – in online media conversations.
5) Search Marketing and Your Conversation Project
As a non-techie SEM content strategist I break search marketing down into two loose categories on-site and off-site.
On-site search marketing includes building search presence through things like adding new pages of content, arranging site architecture and link structure, optimizing page tags and ensuring that your site is as usable as possible.
Off-site search marketing includes building search presence through, in a word, links.
Your industry conversation efforts will deliver the highest search marketing value to your company if you observe the following general rules.
To derive the greatest ON-SITE search marketing value from your industry conversation efforts you must:
a) Create a hub section or page on your site that aggregates your industry conversations.
b) At the top of this section include a blog that’s updated daily by your “company editor.” The purpose of this blog is to highlight especially interesting or relevant bits of conversation you’re having online, and to serve as a more general company news resource for journalists and investors.
c) Link to this section from your home page. Include post titles and links from your company editor’s blog. Especially brave companies may consider making the conversation-hub section their home page.
d) Encourage article and white-paper writing and syndication. Include a writing directory in the hub section of your site.
Assuming there are no technical issues barring your site from search engine indexes, these efforts will enhance the likelihood that your site appears when people search on keyterms that relate to your business.
Further, if you’ve determined the terms that are most likely to lead to conversions on your site then you can encourage your publishers to use them in written conversations.
To derive the greatest OFF-SITE search marketing value from your efforts you must:
a) encourage your participants, when they post anywhere off of your site, to link back to your company’s site. What page on your site they link to will depend on your overall search presence goals and the nature of their participation.
Worthy pages for linking include key resource pages on your site, your site’s home page, the home page of your info hub. If you’re targeting a specific conversion page on your site then you should make this clear to your participants and ask that, when possible, they use this link.
b) Ask that participants identify that they’re from your company when they leave comments on the blogs of others, in industry forums, or in any kind of online participation they’re doing (including sites like MySpace). And especially in their personal blogs if they have them. Be specific about how you’d like the company referred to.
c) Arrange to publish your articles in your industry’s media – especially if you can get links from key media sites. This builds your company’s brand and drives your search presence. Be sure to reserve the right to publish these articles on your site too if they’re accepted.
d) Have your participants alert key industry bloggers/participants when you write new articles or have new resource offerings.
e) Involve your key industry participants in spinning big company news to various levels of your industry. How does your new product relate to the various levels of conversation that are happening in your industry?
Get your team together and let them figure out which aspects are the most exciting and let them reach out to people they think would be interested to have them discuss your new product.
Craft and release a press release that includes links, quotes and contact information from your conversation crew plus a more traditional company contact.
This encourages links from all media strata in your industry.
Get Engaged: Start Your Market Conversation Now!
This article is an outline for implementing a strong market conversation strategy at your company.
Your market conversation strategy can drive results similar to traditional PR and marketing efforts at a substantially lower upfront cost. They do, however, require an ongoing investment of employee time and effort.
A strong conversation strategy plus strong marketing and PR efforts is best. However, it’s ideal that you START with developing your conversation strategy and let your findings and experiences there guide all your other marketing efforts.
That’s what makes startups especially good candidates for market conversation strategies.
If you follow this article’s core concepts and apply them to your unique industry you’ll see an increased presence in the media, an increase in perceived expertise, a growing intra-company knowledge base and an exploding search engine presence.
More importantly and less measurably youll find that your company becomes an increasingly important player in your industry. You’ll find that surprising and disruptive opportunities emerge that would never have been there if you hadn’t been engaged in the conversation.
About the Author:
Garrett French is a partner in Bold Interactive, an online marketing firm specializing in conversational marketing tactics. Reach him at 919-696-4225 or email@example.com.