B2B Business Blogging: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff with Matthew Schwartz
For the next post in our series of B2B marketing thought leader interviews, we interviewed Matthew Schwartz, an independent journalist with more than 20 years’ experience working in the media, who is currently a contributing a writer at Crain’s BtoB and BtoB’s Media Business magazines. Schwartz helped to create ZoomInfo’s new blog, Follow the Lead, which provides the latest news and analysis for sales and marketing execs. Schwartz shared with us his secrets to the blog’s success, some forecasts of where social selling is going and why it is important for Follow the Lead to serve as a news-and-information hub for the sales industry.
ZoomInfo has created an industry-recognized sales and marketing blog that has become quite popular very quickly. Can you share some of the secrets to its success?
While it’s a little too early in the game to describe the blog as a success, we are very pleased with the response we have gotten so far. We think we’re drawing an audience due to the approach we’ve taken in order to grow the blog, which is the notion that we are a news agency covering the b-to-b sales and marketing industries. When you’re providing b-to-b information, it ought to be in the context of helping someone do his or her job better, so we’re taking an unbiased approach; we don’t have an axe to grind. For example, we’re not saying ‘sales training is better online compared to traditional training.’ Although it’s a digital age and the velocity (at which we have to perform) is getting faster, we’re not going to tell you, ‘in-person training is no good, you’re wasting your money.’ We hope to present the facts and analysis and let the reader decide for himself.
What motivated you to create the blog and what obstacles did you face when trying to create it?
The blog is the brainchild of Chip Terry, VP of Enterprise Solutions at ZoomInfo. WordPress being what it is, the obstacles were pretty negligible. The buy-in and the support from ZoomInfo were there right from beginning. It really has been a collaborative effort among the marketing department at ZoomInfo and myself.
We read about topics important to both executives and sales and marketing managers on the blog. What is the strategy behind this?
We want to cover a good part of the market while at the same time have the ability to home in on three subjects in which ZoomInfo’s audience and readers are living and breathing every day: lead generation (prospecting), data management and sales relationships. The last subject, sales relationships, is something that we incubated from early on. In an ‘iPhone world’, you still can’t forget that sales is pressing the flesh and creating some kind of harmony with prospects and customers. The internet is certainly a major channel, there is no doubt that it is a facilitator and it’s going to find you buyers whom you didn’t have access to 10 years ago. However, at the same time you can’t forget the human component and the ‘belly-to-belly’ selling that I don’t think is going to go away.
We noticed that there is a lot about Sales 2.0. What are some predictions you can make regarding social selling in 2010?
It’s very tricky being in the prediction business. However, I think that social media is going to have to play a larger part in selling due to the proliferation of social networks. You will be having more buying alliances and buying by committee. So having a social media strategy that is commensurate with the business and the market you’re targeting is very important. The question is not, how do I make money from Twitter? but how can these various channels (which more and more people are using) facilitate prospecting? How they can cultivate relationships and create integrated ways of communicating and selling to buyers? Again, certain traditional ways of selling aren’t going away, but they’ll be mitigated by the growth of social media.
We have seen many survey and polls on your blog. What are some interesting things you’ve learned from the results of these questions?
There is a massive hunger out there for sales prospecting, finding the right leads and separating the wheat from the chaff. Another popular topic is time management. Our readers only have so many hours in a day; every minute of the work day is precious. Spending time on a lead that ends up being a bust means time wasted, so that’s an area we want to further investigate.
What other ways is your team using social media to promote ZoomInfo?
After each post we’ll try to do a different spin on the headline for our Twitter and Facebook accounts and provide hyperlinks to the blog post. We’re not just putting our nose in social media for the sake of doing so. I’m on the feeds for various LinkedIn groups that are related to the sales-and-marketing sphere, so when I see a topic that we’ve covered I’ll insert the relevant link. Latching on to an online group and inserting irrelevant content is not going to work. It will come off as encroaching.
What other topic besides social media and blogs are on your mind right now?
In addition to data management and time management, other topics would be sales training, sales coaching and sales networking. We need to cover all of the relevant areas that are going to help sales executives break through this overwhelming clutter in the marketplace, and reach prospects who are going to turn into legitimate customers.