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FM's Marketing Idea Exchange for SMBs

FM is practicing the conversational marketing techniques it preaches, most recently with the Online Marketing: Idea Exchange site for small business marketers. Anita Campbell at Small Biz Trends writes “A goal of the Exchange is to help small businesses and mid-sized businesses learn the ropes about banner advertising online.” A goal of some business-owning content contributors is to win $500 in graphic design services, courtesy of the Core 77 design community.

Marketing Idea Exchange

(Disclosure: Small Business Trends and Core 77 are both federated with FM.)

Microsoft and Small Business Trends Team Up on SMB Success Center

Anita Campbell’s Small Business Trends has launched a new section called the Small Business Success Center, sponsored by Microsoft Windows Vista. The body of the site is editorial content for business owners written by Anita, Harry McKraken (Technologizer), Ed Bott (Ed Bott’s Windows Expertise) and others. Adjacent to the editorial content, Microsoft supplies business case studies, technology FAQs and other resources.

SBT’s Small Business Success Center

More at ClickZ and Marketwatch.

AMEX Open Blog Wins Praise In Multiple Languages

I hope the folks at Cococu are saying nice things!

Marketing Shift weighs in, too:

“…companies are looking for ways to aggregate communities even if it’s not directly tied to their core business. Chris Brogan points out that American Express is doing just that with its OPEN Forum, which aggregates blog and business information in one place and encourages conversation in a sponsored area with the hopes of subtly marketing to people who have an interest in business information (e.g. potential American Express users). When you think about it, the concept is a no-brainer. We trust people more when we don’t feel like they are selling us on something. It’s why we hate ads — and marketing.”

Steven Lewis at Inside the Box, while not exactly speaking a different language, adds his support from Australia.

And if financial jargon qualifies as a foreign language, we can count NetBanker:

“American Express’s OpenForum: As the name suggests, it’s a business forum and resource directory, not unlike Bank of America’s…. American Express has added posts from several prominent bloggers such as John Battelle’s Searchblog and Anita Campbell’s Small Biz Trends, to keep the site fresh. The site has 5,400 members and monthly traffic of about 11,000 unique visitors, up three-fold from a year ago.”

Goes to show you: If your marketing projects are great media with quality content and authentic conversation, not only will you engage your customers more deeply, you’ll benefit from social-media amplification as those customers spread the word across the web.

Comcast Offers Small Businesses “Efficiency Center” Site

Given that human brain chemistry makes us jones for new information, it’s a smart idea that Comcast built their latest online campaign around an information-rich Small Business Efficiency Center for its professional customers, with business tips pulled from the pages of Guy Kawasaki’s, Anita Campbell’s, John Jantsch’s, Chanpory Rith’s and the Behance community’s websites.

Comcast Small Business Efficiency Center

Comcast’s ad banners, running on the sites that licensed the content and others, lead with content headlines rather than promotions.

How to be a Demo God

This campaign was put together by Jessica Richards at One to One Interactive, and John Shankman, Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Matt Jessell at FM.

American Express Invests in Search Equity, Social Media Equity

Last fall (if not earlier), American Express recognized the importance of search equity, the status of its brand among the organic results from search engines. These results — the free ones, not the paid listings — are a proxy for the relevance and trust your brand has earned among its business ecosystem: customers, partners, the press and the peanut gallery. In other words, your brand’s position in search results reflects how active and successful you are in the conversation.

I say last fall because that’s when I first noticed American Express paying careful attention to the small-business authors and bloggers that rank highly on search results for SMB terms and phrases (including American Express trademarks), and making sure its ad messages surfaced on those high-influence sites.

Now American Express is making an even greater investment in its search equity, a greater commitment to having a voice within the small business conversation. It has partnered with top independent content creators covering small business — especially those authors who don’t merely create content but also use content to inspire a conversation — to produce the OPEN Forum Insight from Business Experts site.

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Authors such as Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends, Scott Belsky of Behance.net and John Battelle of Searchblog are contributing exclusive content to the site. No plugs for Amex OPEN Forum Events or Travel Services from these contributors, mind you, just insightful editorial features on the topics Anita, Scott and John cover at their own sites. Content that appeals, quite obviously, to their existing audiences, which opens the door to efficient marketing in two ways. One, American Express is running ads on each site that invite readers to read more from the authors they came to read in the first place. Ads for original content by top business authors, targeted to those authors’ loyal readers? Needless to say, click-through performance on these ads is vastly better than average.

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Two, authors don’t want to publish content and then hide it from their core audiences, so American Express is benefiting from some unpaid (and un-asked-for) promotions, like this call-out by Anita Campbell to her own content at the OPEN Forum site.

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When audiences follow their favorite authors to the OPEN Forum site, they arrive ready for a conversation. A week in and visitors have clicked on the “I find this post useful” button more than 100 times, and the commenters are out-pacing the contributors based on word counts. Engaged visitors tend to carry the conversation with them, too, even as they leave the site that started it. According to Technorati, 17 blogs are linking to this section of the OPEN Forum site, and there have been news pick-ups by aggregators such as I Want Media (on 2/22/08). As more sites “endorse” the conversation by linking to it, Digging it and Twittering it, Google will take notice, and American Express’s search equity will feel the juice. And the 1% rule of social media suggests that for every comment post and every trackback link published, there are 99 others who quietly found the content useful. Search equity is the tip of the social-media iceberg — a partial indicator of a much larger phenomenon.

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180 Diggs

Jeremy Owyang Twitters Amex

Congratulations to the team that put this together: Steve Clark, Jason Ewell, Naama Ashkenazi Bloom, Amy Fitzgibbons and Lou Paskalis at American Express; Rachel Bogan, Lee Baler and Scott Cappuzzo at Digitas; and James Gross, Marcia Simmons, Matt Jessell and Teresa Nielsen Hayden at FM.

Disclosure: When Battelle isn’t writing Searchblog, he is FM’s CEO and my boss.