Widget Marketing-Can Widgets Benefit B2B Sites

There has been a lot of “buzz” about widgets and widget marketing recently as creative online marketers have discovered the use of widgets. Widgets are simply pieces of embeddable code that can be found on one site, and embedded in another that can be used to promote your own site or blog. Widgets have become popular with users of online communities as a result the business of marketing via widgets is a great way for site owners (including B2B sites) to promote their content and business.

Widget marketing is starting to catch on in the online marketing world. Today there was a great post by Nick Wilson over at Search Engine Land on link baiting for 2007. According to Nick, a major component of link baiting in 2007 will be “widget baiting”. Widget marketing has been discussed in a number of blogs over recent months. In fact, back in November, Top Rank Blog had posted a great interview with Lawrence Coburn on Marketing with Widgets. Coburn is one of the pioneers in widget marketing

How Can Widgets Help B2B Sites?

Simply put, widgets are all about providing your users with the tools to promote your B2B business or any business/online property for that matter. For B2B marketers, widgets offer the potential to be a means of acquiring new customers at a minimal cost, promotion of your site’s presence out to the rest of the Web, and can provide a traffic source to help build your external link inventory.

Widgets are a great way for promoting your site and your content. For B2B sites, which are looking to create streaming media channels (combining audio, video, photos, text, and RSS feeds etc) and broadcast them live across their site’s pages or blog, widgets can help accomplish this. Sites like splashcast specialize in just that.

As I result we have compiled a list of our favorite widgets and widget related sites:

Top 10 Favorite Widget Sites for B2B Search Marketing

My Blog Log

Mashable.com

Widgetoko

Snipperoo

Reuters Widget

Spring Widgets

Word Press Widgets

Poll Daddy

Business Week Widget

My Blog Log is currently my personal favorite as it is very user friendly and is home to a number of interesting and diverse blogs

Honorable Mentions

Sphere.com

I Like.com

Google Gadget Tryouts

Rollyo

Looking for more information on Widgets? Check out the following resources:

http://www.widgetgallery.com

http://www.sexywidget.com

[http://www.cameronolthuis.com/category/widgets]

http://widgets.opera.com

http://blog.snipperoo.com/marketing_widgets/index.html

http://www.widgetslab.com

While widget baiting can be time consuming, the results can be tremendous. Can widgets benefit B2B sites? Most definitely providing that you have a strategy for widget marketing, widgets can help B2B site owners promote their sites, their solutions and their brand.

What is a Widget?

A widget (also known as a gadget) is a small program that runs on your desktop all the time, which replaces the need to constantly visit a website in order to get common information. A Gmail widget on someone’s desktop that shows “10 unread messages” will make that user click and go back to the Gmail website. Microsoft (Charts), AOL (Charts), Yahoo (Charts), and even Nokia (Charts) also are some famous brands that offer widgets.

If we look back the age of Widgets, they actually began with an application called Konfabulator. Designed for Mac users, it would pull information from across the Web – weather, stock quotes, headlines – and place them on the desktop as tiny floating windows. The idea was so successful that Apple decided to build widget support right into its operating system. Yahoo bought Konfabulator’s creator, Pixoria, in July 2005 for an undisclosed amount that was rumored to be decent – big enough, anyway, to get a lot of developer attention. And suddenly everyone was going mad for widgets.

Of course, the main reason widgets are hot is that users love them. The reason for the same is because it makes the Web user-programmable. If My Yahoo spread it all over, Netvibes took this idea even further by offering the users more than 250 widgets to build a wholly personalized homepage.

I don’t see it ending either. As companies like Salesforce.com (Charts) and Google (Charts) are pushing the use of widgets inside businesses. We can see the opportunities and business models around widgets are emerging and will go a long way.

How can Widgets help expand your Online Business?

Today’s Internet web space is extremely competitive, as vendors and users demand efficient use of desktop. With websites being more proactive in nature, they want to drive more targeted traffic and develop more incoming links. Widgets seem to be the answer to assist in doing this. These Internet “widgets or gadgets” are an excellent way to market your product or service and make it easily stand out. If you place a widget on your blog or webpage, visitors will instantly be able to download your specialized widget onto their desktop or add them on their blog via small html codes. One of the biggest advantages of using widgets is that they are viral in nature. They allow anyone who has your widget on their website to to share and download your widget directly through their site.

FaceBook, the gigantic social networking site for example, revolutionized their interactivity and popularity by recently introducing and adding the Facebook Platform in May/07. Now Facebook widgets are the rage. You will find everything from entertainment and sporting campaigns to different political groups based all on widgets. Because of the popularization of widgets, Facebook has managed to exponentially attract millions of new members and a lot more advertisers. Other sites that have used widgets to promote and viralize themselves include: MySpace, Revver, PhotoBucket and Blogrush. Savvy internet marketer are increasingly jumping on the widget bandwagon and using it for their benefit.

After a lot of buzz about OpenSocial, Netvibes decided to include all their existing Social APIs as plugins for UWA, their Universal Widget API. They intend to share 2 cool videos demonstrating some of the social features in their next release called “Ginger”. The videos provide examples of how Netvibes allows users to follow content and widgets that their friends want to share with them. One can also see some examples of social widgets created using the Social APIs.

Honda’s Acura RDX uses the Yahoo! Widgets application to deliver real-time traffic updates directly to drivers’ desktops in more than 30 cities. Honda promoted the feature to users who checked traffic on Yahoo! Maps and Yahoo! Widgets (where users can download existing widgets or create their own.) A key benefit was the traffic widget tying into RDX’s navigation system, which includes traffic data. The widget has been downloaded more than 30,000 times in three months.

These mini Web application downloaded onto a desktop or transported into personal Web pages, blogs or social-network profiles are a source of constantly updated information, from weather and sports scores to personal photos, which can eliminate the need to visit multiple Web sites.

So as long as you keep your widget informative, useful and simple to understand, they will virally drive traffic to your sites and work as a secret ninja to promote your products or services. Widgets are inexpensive and are an extremely effective way to promote your site through direct response marketing and social networking sites.

Widgets are certainly making a rise from desktop to webpages, blogs and social networks giving them a platform. They are now much, much more, and it seems every company has one. The hope is to embed their widget on the millions of blogs, MySpace and Facebook pages, and thus create cheap marketing while giving the users some value.

It’s a great strategy, at least when the widget is cool and people adopt it. The only question is, is your marketing firm aware of it. Do they know how to add value to the users and build an army of brand evangelists in promoting your product? Do they make effective use of Widgets?

The Guppy Tank – Assessment of the Real Small Business

I must admit that I proudly proclaim that I don’t watch reality shows. However, that’s not really true. I am an avid follower of ABC’s “Shark Tank” series. The question is why, and what do I learn from that show that can be applied to my business?

While we all strive for the multi-million dollar or even billion dollar business, the truth is that most of us would be happy to have a small business that satisfies our needs – both in terms of income and satisfaction. We will likely not develop a business in which Mark Cuban would want to invest. So let’s take a look at our business interests as they might be evaluated by smaller investors in the “Guppy Tank”.

A small business, by my definition, is a business that often starts from scratch, employs the owners, perhaps some family members, and a few others. Initially, at least, the business struggles with sales and is faced with at least some periods of negative cash flow. This, of course, differs from the definition of a small business that might include 50 workers and have five million dollars in sales. With this definition in mind, let’s follow a hypothetical business into the “Guppy Tank”.

Our show opens with the introduction of three possible investors. Each has had some level of small business success of his/her own. They represent hard work, good planning, and the recognition that not all small business owners will get to this point.

Next, in comes the owner of business “X” which designs, manufactures, markets, and sells widgets. The widgets could be a consumer product or service. It really doesn’t matter. The owner of business “X” introduces his or her widgets with some fanfare. He or she explains why business “X’s” widget is so much better than any other widget out there and why it occupies a unique niche in the developing market. Everyone is properly impressed at this point.

Our guppies, however, know nothing about the widget or business “X” or the person or persons behind it. The questions begin.

Guppy 1 asks how business “X’s” founder and owner, whom we’ll call Sandy, got into this business. The question, of course, is intended to find out more about Sandy. What is Sandy’s background? Does Sandy have prior business experience? Is Sandy committed to this business? Where did the idea for the widget come from?

Guppy 2 asks questions about the widget and its current acceptance in the market. Is the item selling now? What is the market? What do we really know about the market? How did Sandy form her projections?

Guppy 3’s inquiry is focused on the financial needs of business “X”. What is needed now? What will those dollars accomplish? What will future needs be? And, of course, what’s in it for the guppy that invests.

In our show, the guppies get their answers, are impressed with the widget, with Sandy, and with the future prospects. They fight over investing in business “X” and Sandy. Sandy has succeeded. But how?

Sandy demonstrated by her answers to Guppy 1 that she is passionate about her small business. She has always been willing to work long and sometimes stressful hours because she enjoys the enterprise. She sacrifices for her business. Her widget came about from a combination of prior experience and a love for the product or service. The business provides Sandy with more than a job. It is her vocation and hobby rolled into one. Hard work – yes. Time consuming – yes. She says “Bring it on!!”

To Guppy 2 Sandy presents some data about the product and market. The guppies and Sandy know that the data was less than stellar since there was no practical way to do a full-blown analysis. But it was clear that Sandy had thought this through. She had tested the market as best she could. The results were more than encouraging. Sandy is the expert when it comes to her widget and it shows.

And as for Guppy 3’s focus, Sandy presented a picture in sufficient detail as to how the funds would be used, how they would increase sales, and how profits would benefit. Sandy had done her homework.

As the show comes to an end, we are very happy for Sandy’s success and can’t help but wonder “how would I have done” in the Guppy Tank.

The lessons from the tank are simple. In order to achieve success, we have to be passionate about our business. We must understand our market. The ultimate bases for decision making in any business, cash flow and profit, must be no strangers to our thinking. Planning is essential. And we have to understand and keep within our available resources.

But we knew all of that, didn’t we?