Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Does Data Quality Matter in Social Media?

Data driven marketing is reliant on high quality data, but with the introduction of social media and its pervasiveness in the marketing tool kit, it is easier to engage with your market without having to have correct emails, addresses, or profiles. It begs the question, does data quality matter anymore for marketing in a Web 2.0 world?

I think the answer is, “Yes, but…”

Direct marketing and bottom of the funnel mindset is what most B2B marketers work in as they have been more closely ties to sales goals.  Where sales won’t accept a lead without knowing who it is and the appropriate contact information at a minimum, it has to be collected at every opportunity.  Without this information, marketing also doesn’t have an adequate single view of the customer to profile and segment reliably.  In this context, data quality is critical as it determines if a lead is passed, how to pass the lead, and align the lead to existing opportunities or account profiles.  Name, company, location, phone, and email are the cornerstone to this.

Social media is not outreach, it is in-reach.  It isn’t lead generation, it is relationship generation.  You don’t collect details on your connections and contacts.  You cultivate engagement and conversation.  Without the need to maintain a list of connections in your CRM and the ability to leverage social media organizers like HootSuite to communicate to your community, contact information is somewhat irrelevant.

So, where is data quality necessary?  Having a single customer view that is inclusive of social media profiles and engagement. At some point, us B2B marketers do need to move relationships out of the 2.0 world and into face to face engagements, particularly for complex sales.  At this transition point, the social media profile becomes an invaluable part of the customer view.  Just as CRM captures order transactions, direct marketing interactions, and sale interactions, it also needs to show social media interactions.  Why? The social media interaction is probably more telling of your relationship with your customers than traditional interactions.

The catch? Linking a limited profile from LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook to a standard contact profile in CRM can be problematic.  Your CRM system may not have the ability or capability enabled to link the 2.0 world with your customer data. You may not have a social media platform that is capturing what is needed to integrate your customer data between online and CRM.  Or, it does, but integration needs to be established.  Those are just a few examples.

Ultimately, data quality will matter for social media as B2B marketers mature in their use and linkage of 2.0 activities to best practices for lead creation, nurture, and pipeline generation.  We live for now in customer relationship silos, but the real advantage and benefit of social media to show ROI for marketing will be improved integration and profile management across the entire relationship.  As soon as integration is introduced, just as in the past, data quality plays a critical role.

Filed under: b2b, CMO seat, crm, data quality, marketing technology, social media, , ,

Engage Customers Online or Offline? Microsoft Goes Brick-and-Mortar

It struck me as ironic that a leading technology company puts in motion an engagement strategy that hinges on a brick-and-mortar foundation.  Microsoft opened it’s first store in Scottsdale, AZ today specifically as a way to better connect to customers.  While it may be an attempt to be on a level playing field with Apple (I hear the Microsft store has a similar format), the fact remains that in each case, these two companies founded on technological innovations feel the need to invest in direct connections with consumers.

What about the promise of social media?  This is where the customers are, online.  This is where and how you need to engage with them.  Blog, create fan pages, converse on Twitter.  Brick-and-mortar is dead as is TV, print, and all other traditional marketing efforts.

The fact is, if you want to grow and maintain your business, you need to offer multiple communication and connection points to your customer.  You need to be where customers are regardless if it is digital or tangible.  Some of your connection points are highly scalable, some are more intimate.  Each serves a purpose in your marketing arsenal.  Each can compliment each other.

I don’t know that Microsoft stores will be successful in the long run.  Gateway, Dell, and other technology companies have tried the brick and mortar model and failed or at least haven’t done well.  I think it depends on how Microsoft defines success of the stores.  If the over-riding strategy is truly to create customer connections over stellar store sales, then the storefront may well prove its usefulness and ROI.  Staying on that course though will be challenging when sales may be low and operating costs are not balanced out.  If sales are important, the coming holiday season may be an indicator if Microsoft made the wise investment.

Filed under: CMO seat, communication, customer relationship, social media marketing, , , ,

Are We Really Conducting Integrated Marketing?

I was thinking about the structure of marketing organizations today.  Maybe it was because of Forrester’s point of view on how marketing organizations need to change to serve brands better.  Or maybe it was because it struck me as odd the disconnect between online and offline marketing efforts.  Regardless, there is something drastically wrong with the way we organize our marketing efforts.

In the end, if we have silos in our marketing organizations of online and offline, how is that really serving the better good of driving awareness, engagement, revenue, and customer value?

This divide between online and offline is now becoming more fractured as companies search for ways to transform into social media marketing initiatives.  Digital marketing is now being divided.  There is also the fracture of offline between communications and direct marketing.  We seem to be creating organizations around tactics rather than organizations around strategy.  Having centers of excellence with subject matter experts is certainly important.  Flawless execution in the end gets you to your goals.  Although, why start with the ‘what can be done’ if you don’t know what you are driving to do? This organizational divide of marketing enhances and exposes the weakness in our strategic ability.

Companies that have gotten it right and have leading marketing groups have program offices responsible for marketing and campaign strategies.  They leverage field, creative, and internet marketing organizations as internal agencies and services.  Program offices are the glue managing the value proposition, message, and coordinating the tactical strategies of subject matter experts.  Those companies that market in silos tend to stay in secondary market positions and languish chasing their competition.  One silo gets all the attention and creates a lopsided marketing approach.

It is necessary to grow our organizations and shift to take advantage of new technologies and approaches.  I’m just not convinced that creating organizational silos are the right way to make marketing efforts successful.  It may be the easiest way to get things started and track success.  Yet, in the end, a cohesive marketing organization will get you further.

Filed under: CMO seat, marketing operations, marketing/advertising, , ,

There Is Revenue in Social Media

social media revenueRight now the value of a social network is tied to ad dollars.  Facebook allows you to place ads.  LinkedIn charges for job postings.  Blogs have ad text and banners.  Ad dollars is what is making social media go round.  The notion that social media is about the party is no longer the case.  It may not be as obvious or it may be very obvious, but Twitter, Facebook pages, LinkedIn contacts, and blogs all have agendas and it is about making money in some shape or form.  On the internet, free to the user has generally been the norm.  I’m not convinced it has to be.

One of the first social media venues was online games.  In 2007, online gaming reached $8.6B.  People pay monthly fees to access, entertain themselves, and interact with others.  They derive value from the experience and equate that with what is in their wallet.  It is one of the biggest growth areas on the internet. Another interactive experience that in some ways is also social is e-learning.  Here, the market hit $17.5B during 2007 in the US alone.   By the way, B2B companies are already tapping into this with their training offerings.  Contrast these markets with social networks like Facebook that is free and a membership the size of the US, and you realize the revenue potential and loss.  Granted, global internet advertising had reached $45B in 2007 according to the Kelsey Group.  So it is understandable that getting a piece of the internet advertising pie seems easier and more appealing.  Google built an empire on this.  Combine that with the fact that the internet is ‘free’ to the user and you know how to follow the money trail. I say, this is short sighted.  The ROI for ad spend will be less than what you can get from a direct revenue model.  The other aspect, you aren’t Google and your business model is about selling your products, not advertising another company’s offerings.

The value in social media for the user is not unlike that of online gaming or e-learning.  There is opportunity to be had by putting a dollar figure on the experience.  Social Networks are micro communities and associations that provide a value.  There is a place for these communities to be fee based and to continue to be true to the experience.  Other’s have implemented a for fee experience and are successful:  Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek.  Associations give access to their members and communities as part of the annual membership fee.  This has allowed these venues to maintain integrity and continue to provide information and experiences to subscribers.

B2B is looking for ways to generate value and revenue from social media.  Simply looking at it in terms of the Marketing Funnel and lead conversion is only a part of the potential.  Leveraging the interactive and informational quality of an experience and you have the potential to have direct revenue generation.  There is also the opportunity for new forms of revenue generation evolved from information service providers like LexisNexis and Elsevier.  They sell full or limited access to high value content and community networks.  Services may aggregate memberships in trade associations and sell full or limited access to online forums and content.  Meeting services can act as conduits to extend trade show seminars and key notes into virtual experiences people pay to access.  In each of these 3rd party offerings companies derive direct revenue while building credibility and relationships.  Afterall, customers pay to attend events, if there is enough value, they’ll pay for access.

B2B needs to start thinking out of the box in tying social media to direct revenue generation.  Social media experiences have value in more ways than an advertising vehicle.  With the right value proposition, customers will pay for access.  It is all in how you create and package it.  Now that is marketing!

Filed under: b2b, CMO seat, networking, social media, , , ,

Are You Culturally Aligned for Social Media?

Let’s get back to basics.  Now that the numbers are in and you’ve had a chance to get comfortable with using social media in your marketing efforts, what are you finding out about your corporate marketing culture?

Maybe you were testing the waters to see if social media really worked.  Or, maybe you were expanding on initial efforts and were applying it in a more strategic manner within an integrated marketing mix.  At this point, how you are using social media is starting to take shape and there are indications of if it works to create affinity with your community.  It also has given a perspective of what it will take to continue and be successful extending social media marketing within your organization.

We have spent a lot of time looking at metrics to measure how effective social media marketing is to achieve reach, awareness, increased connections, and depth of interaction.  The IAB has gone so far as to create a standardized list of metrics and definitions.  This is good, and aligned to successful marketing goals.  However, another aspect to consider is how the rest of the business is also committed to participating and embracing a new way to interaction with customer and the community.  After all, social media marketing is about interaction, connection, and transparency.  It can be solely a marketing function, but to really work, it must match the corporate culture and that may mean changing the way your company thinks and interactions with your customers.

Here’s a list of things to ask as you move into your next phase:

  1. If you’ve recruited your company experts and evangelists to post articles for your blogs, are they committed to continuing their contribution?
  2. Are your experts available and transparent in their discussions and follow-up with comments?
  3. Are you able to integrate your new community successfully into your sales process?
  4. Does your senior leadership team perceive the results from your social media marketing efforts as a benefit to the company AND they are willing to further invest?
  5. Is sales finding value in the community to follow-up on leads provided?
  6. Is sales utilizing information from conversations and participating themselves in your communities?
  7. Has the use of social media become part of nurturing a customer relationship and not just the beginning of a customer relationship?
  8. Have you been able to directly and clearly connect social media marketing efforts to business goals?
  9. Does marketing still consider social media marketing new and exciting or is it now ubiquitous in overall marketing efforts?
  10. Do negative comments and perceptions voiced within your communities still keep you up at night?
  11. Does the voice you use in your social media marketing efforts coincide with the voice of your leadership team uses with customers?
  12. Which online effort does your overall business think is more successful and beneficial: social media, the website, email marketing?
  13. Is the website experience tightly integrated with your overall website and online presence or is it a separate experience and venue?
  14. As the marketer, are you still trying to figure out if social media is effective or how you want to use it?
  15. Does conversation and interaction amongst connections in your community happen parallel to business to customer conversations or is it integrated with your active participation?

Social media marketing requires a level of commitment that traditional marketing efforts did not require.  If marketing is the only one responsible for shaping, contributing, and interacting with customers, then social media marketing will fail due to a lack of resources available and the inability to connect customer conversations and interactions throughout the relationship.  Maintaining a silo within marketing disconnects the customer and in the end can create a wedge in the relationship.  In order to be truly successful, social media needs to integrate with the overall business relationship.  Is your company culture up to the task?

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Filed under: CMO seat, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , ,

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