Feed the market what it wants and you don’t need to do marketing – podcast

on August 23, 2008

Episode five of the “Be the Voice” podcast stars Dana Gardner who is the founder and principal of the analyst firm Interarbor Solutions.

Summary (Dana Gardner):

  • Deliver high quality content and the social media tools and search engines will do their work to make your material discoverable.
  • Answer your audience’s questions.
  • It is possible to produce editorial content that satisfies the desires of your audience and your sponsors.
  • BriefingsDirect aims to expose in full the analyst briefing experience. A valuable conversation that traditionally has been hidden from the public.
  • Social media allows for interaction and feedback from your audience which is far cheaper and faster than conducting traditional research.
  • Flame wars can result in great traffic, but they don’t solicit the audience you really want.
  • Don’t rely on a single individual to be the voice of your company. Create a network of voices.

Full article:

Dana Gardner is the founder and principal of the analyst firm Interarbor Solutions, he blogs for ZDNet, and he’s also the host of BriefingsDirect, a podcast that lets sit in and listen to the in depth conversation during an analyst briefing. Gardner has been a journalist and industry analyst for years, covering IT in the enterprise and currently focuses on hot issues for enterprise organizations such as service-oriented architecture or SOA. The combination of being an analyst, producing freely available content, and distributing it to the people who need it make up the three pillars of his business.

Gardner began producing all this content when he saw a need in the market for someone to be an advocate at the enterprise level for IT decisions and spending. The enterprise has traditionally been the space for innovation, said Gardner. Discoveries happen at the highest levels and then they work their way down to the masses thanks to economies of scale. Gardner though readily realizes that the complete reverse happens all the time. It’s what’s getting all the press these days. Technologies start at the bottom, at a pedestrian or grass roots level, and then they bubble up to the enterprise. Think Web 2.0 and it’s enterprise moniker, Enterprise 2.0.

Steve Gillmor, Dana Gardner, Dan Farber by Scott Beale, LaughingSquid

Steve Gillmor, Dana Gardner, and Dan Farber (photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)

Detailed answers to audience questions

Gardner is always looking to answer questions people have in his area of expertise. He recognizes that he’s riding the hype curve, but that’s what people are interested in that given time. And if Gardner wants to stay relevant he has to provide answers to what concerns his audience at the time they need the information.

Given the complexity of IT development in the enterprise, any discussion on the topic has to be thorough in order to be credible to the audience. In Gardner’s own work, what he discovered was the more detailed, deep, and rich his content was, the more the search engines paid attention, driving traffic to his Web site. Pointing to one example, he wrote a post on “application modernization.” It only got a couple of comments, yet today a search on “application modernization” into Google, brings that post up as the second post.

Feed the market what it wants and you don’t need to do marketing

“When you become associated as a content producer with essential keywords in IT you don’t have to go out and do advertising or marketing. The fact that you’re defining some of the top organic content around very important up and coming and global IT subject matter makes people recognize it,” Gardner said, “I don’t know enough about the algorithms of the search engines to feed them what they want, but I try to feed the market what it wants in terms of education, evangelism, and understanding, and hope that the algorithms recognize that and then that becomes a self fulfilling or virtual adoption pattern.”

Gardner has found that by finding his niche of delivering high quality B2B content, the social media tools and search engines will do their work to make his material discoverable.

Producing editorial that satisfies your audience and sponsors

Companies will sponsor Gardner’s content, but as Gardner explained, “I take into full account what they’re (the sponsor) trying to accomplish, but my number one role is to be an advocate for the listener and to be important and valuable and productive for the people that find the content. And my secondary role is trying to be productive and an advocate for the sponsor. The nice thing is that you can do both. It is not an either or or zero sum equation. However, you don’t want to err too far in one way or the other. If you’re just out there for just a consumer level discussion then somebody wouldn’t be interested in sponsoring it. It has to be deep it has to be specific. It has to be about a technology that’s emerging. On the other hand if you’re too far in the advocacy side of the sponsor well then you become of diminishing value to the end listener. And so striking that balance is what becomes essential and that’s why the analyst briefing model works so well is because organizations that come in to brief an analyst know they’re not going to BS them. They’re not going to pull a snow job over on these people. These people are too well versed and well educated in the subject matter to do that. At the same time the analyst does legitimately want to learn a lot more about this organization because they need to present this back to the market.”

Take cutting room floor content and produce it as social media

Gardner said he got the idea for his podcast BriefingsDirect from his work at a previous analyst firm. “We’d have hour long discussions with people – fabulous discussions – deep penetration into the markets, the trends, the competitive analysis, the implications, the ongoing business outcomes, but 5% of what took place in these discussions would end up in an analyst report. I figure I’d take the 95% left on the cutting room floor and present it out as social media,” said Gardner.

Allowing for conversation across social media has proven to be a fabulous research tool. “The feedback you take back from that (allowing comments on your blog) is very valuable. I highly encourage anybody to blog for no other reason than to enjoy a rich market research capability,” said Gardner, “You can learn so much from a few quick comments that might take you months and then some significant investment to uncover otherwise.”

Social media is alluring, but don’t fall into its traps

Gardner has seen other companies fall into the trap of not committing to social media even though they “say” they want to do it. “Unfortunately, many times, like with blogging, companies will do this (social media) three or four times and then suddenly it falls to the back burner. Other people are very busy. They don’t have the time. They see it as an imposition. Publishing and/or presenting in a media format is not their core competency. They feel a little unsure of themselves. And because they don’t do it frequently, it becomes stale,” Gardner said.

In his past, Gardner admits he would get into online arguments that would get him excited to keep doing it because the traffic on his site would shoot up as a result of all the arguing. But over time Gardner realized that flaming and reflaming and getting into these arguments don’t amount to much and it ultimately doesn’t attract the right kind of audience. “Going to the lowest emotional common denominator to me is an ineffective way of reaching that audience. I’d rather come up with valuable insightful fresh innovative content then appeal to angry white men sitting around computers that don’t have anything else to do,” Gardner said.

Your company’s voice should be a network of voices, not just an individual voice

You have to make a decision if this is worthwhile for you as an organization to do. Is there a lot of information your company possesses that your audience wants to know? If so, then you need to be out there communicating. But remember not every business is capable of producing content on an ongoing basis without it becoming arduous and consuming. That’s when you have to decide is it better to do it yourself, partner, or buy.

Once you go into production, be wary of giving one individual too much public authority. “If you’re a company and you’ve got an individual who becomes the voice of your company, they might leave in two months and you have to start from scratch,” warned Gardner. “If you’re a company though, be careful that you don’t place this visibility and brand in the hands of someone who is only a resume away from moving on to some other place,” said Gardner. If someone leaves, you will lose the audience you had two days earlier.

Gardner advises to create a network, not an individual. Have a stable of people, third parties, and outside influencers. You want to create a community and conversation, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

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