Marketing

Vocus Marketing Solutions - Worth the Cost?

Prita Kumar

November 27th, 2013

Hi all, I'm gearing up to launch the beta version of my site on Jan 1 and recently was introduced to Vocus Marketing Solutions to manage all of my social media / press / PR. However, they require an unfront payment to initiate the program which I was able to haggle down to $5K (30% off) though that is still a sizable price. Here is what I like about it: 

1. Ability to find original relevant media content and push immediately to FB / twitter etc. to keep newsfeed relevant and informative. Basically this thing scans the web and I can sort by bloggers / publications etc. and if I find an article say on "top 5 gluten free snacks" (my company is fitness)-- I can push that directly to my social feeds. 
2. PR Web-- allows 5 original press releases to push out to PR web 
3. Twitter buying cycle categorizations - Auto searches and characterizes people into buying cycle so I can respond directly. Ex. someone tweets "looking for a new workout to try!" and I can directly respond with "check out booyafitness.com #booya" 
4. Analytics (though I am aware I can likely get this on hootsuite)

The price is steep and I am curious if others have had experience with the tool and what they think about it. I also am aware that if I pay for the tool, I am likely to work my butt off to make sure I get every dime worth of value out of it. I imagine other founders may be the same. Curious to get the thoughts of the community on this! 

Thanks!! Happy Thanksgiving!! 
Prita 
Growth-hacking isn’t about quick wins and shortcuts, although they exist. In this course, we’ll cover the six-step growth hacking framework, how to measure user retention for your business, how to increase engagement and retention, and a bunch of case studies.

Manny Acevedo Business Systems Analyst & Entrepreneur

November 27th, 2013

First off, I'll state I don't know much about Vocus other than that  they have a habit of spamming journalists with PR releases that they NEVER read. Don't be that guy.

Do you really need enterprise level SM/press/PR  tool?   I work in a large enterprise, and I see things like this pitched all the time. Most never stand up to any real scrutiny for the pricing.  

What are your  specific goals?   If you don't have these metrics clearly defined , you may have no idea how much value you get for that $5k / year.  Even if this is allowing you to do a lot in 2 hours a day. 

Do you  have any in house talent that  you can leverage ? One of the groups I work with had little or no marketing budget, we got smart and down and dirty. Now we are driving 3x as much traffic to our content as another group, that spends over $12k per month in media buys alone.

What alternatives have you looked at? I've very uncomfortable paying out $5k+ for an  expensive magic bullet. And that is what Vocus sounds like to me. Some of my opinions on alternatives:

Social media: 
I have yet to meet any agency/tool  that can do everything I need  consistently well. A tool only gets you so far.  Don't do what big brands are doing.They generally suck at it. Look at George Takei on FB. That is 1 guy on a laptop and he has the the #1 FB page. Social media is about talking person to person and sharing stuff like cat videos.

Content:
Speaking of cat videos, you have to be smart about this. I find 0% value in regurgitating someone else's content when over 95% of the stuff is mediocre and not worth sharing. Don't be that brand. Instead I suggest you use a service like LittleBird.com (starting @ $50/month) that will put you in front of a trend. Then you get to create truly unique & valuable content and interact with SMEs in the space. Letting you become a thought leader in the space.  If you want to save money, the drop some feeds in Feedly and set up a content curation schedule and share the best stuff a few times a day. That takes me like 1 hour / day

PR Releases
No one reads them, except your competition.  What's their purpose? Low level back-links and saying to your investors " Look we wrote a press release!".  There are cheaper ways of doing this. You could get a fancy PR on PRWeb for $369 and then drive 5k views to the PRWeb listing for $5 and have it as the featured story on the PRWeb. You can also drive backlinks/traffic to the PR releases on other sites and get them ranked higher as well. But I would start with a $99 PR, get the process down and also look at other traffic generation tactics. 

Press
Got to HARO, helpareporter.com, sign up and start looking for reporters that are looking to write about your industry. Build those relationships.Then when you have something to pitch, you now have a contact. Do this daily. 

All of this takes more work, but until you understand  what actually works for your brand and market, I would keep my wallet in my pocket.. I'm not saying Vocus wouldn't work for you, I'm just saying you won't actually understand why or how it is or it's not working. Regardless what the sales people told you. 

Harrison Magun Digital Media & Tech / Sales and Marketing

November 27th, 2013

I have a pretty strong bias against start-ups using agencies. It may make sense in certain circumstances especially when the start-up is well funded. I just founded my second start-up, and have run agencies and agency departments and have had the experience of taking start-ups as clients, as well as seeing start-ups go with other agencies. I could probably write a full blog post on this, but here are the reasons not to do it in a nutshell:
1. As a start-up, you should not abdicate any responsibility - you need to learn it first, own it ifirst, then if you REALLY need to outsource something, outsource only the tactics, but you don't hire an agency for that.
2. As a start-up, no one will understand the vision and strategy more than you. You may save time in execution using an agency, but it will cost you time taken up by communicating and clarifying strategy.
3. As a start-up, you will either be charged more than you can afford, or be charged what you *can* afford, but you will be the smallest client of the agency. There is a misalignment here -  your $5k may be worth more to you than the $20k paid by a larger client; however you will receive the least attention/ resources. Agencies will promise not to let this happen, but it is inevitable.
4. By not having your fingers in the dirty, daily business of what the agency is doing, you will miss out on key insights.

Hope this helps.

Prita Kumar

November 27th, 2013

Thanks so much. I totally agree. And now am upset with myself for not being more clear. This is a tool, not an agency for $5K / year. This helps ME manage all of my social media outlets much more effectively as well as generate my own press releases, custom emails etc. It also allows me to respond immediately to media requests as well as real-time target folks that may be likely buyers of my product via social media. I would spend at least an hour on this tool every day, if not more, to get the most out of it. Prita

Richard Rosen Founder of FastCall --​> #1 Phone Sales Productivity app in the Salesforce AppExchange

November 27th, 2013

Prita - are they asking for $5k / month.. Or a one time payment? And you do not mention press other than PRWeb. Do they plan to pitch any stories for you. My view of PR if you get one really good hit, the $5000 was a good investment if you have this budgeted.


Prita Kumar

November 27th, 2013

Sorry no-- it is $5K for the full YEAR!! The issue is that it is all up front and 1-time and not month to month which makes me nervous. They also don't seem to allow a trial period which also raises red flags to me. 

Joanan Hernandez CEO & Founder at Mollejuo

November 29th, 2013

Hello Prita,

I have the same doubts as you, as VOCUS also offered us that plan. Still, we haven't made our our minds, for the reasons stated here by others.

Manny, Vocus and HARO are under the same umbrella. I don't know if they're the same company, certainly, they're related.

Cheers!

Rob G

November 28th, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

Janet Kennedy Director of Marketing & Digital Strategy

November 29th, 2013

HARO was started by Peter Shankman and he sold to Vocus. It is the same company now. Janet

Anonymous

November 27th, 2013

Try HootSuite first. It's $10/month to manage your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ engagement from one simple tool. 

Manny Acevedo Business Systems Analyst & Entrepreneur

November 27th, 2013

BTW Happy Thanksgiving everyone!