Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Social Media Insight to Optimize Paid Search and Display

What if you could target your search engine marketing (SEM) efforts in paid search and display the way you target your direct marketing efforts?  Analysis of your b2b social media networks may give you that edge.

In my quest to get more out of social media than just followers and a soapbox platform, I am looking at what content my network follows, reads, and shares more closely.  In my last post I talked about the analysis of hashtags in tweets, and how that could help me better understand the personas of my network.

Now I am looking at what else I can gather and what I could do with this.  In particular, I am interested in the content being shared: blogs, web pages, video, etc.  The titles tags, description meta tags, and urls all have keywords that tell a lot about interest areas and build a richer persona.  This step got me thinking, could I tighten alignment to my network by optimizing…?

  • My paid search to reflect keyword tendencies in shared content
  • My display placement based on sites aligned to my market offers
  • The SEO on my own website

Right now, SEM allows anonymity which creates challenges when you want to focus digital marketing efforts on existing customers or known prospects.  My paid search and media plans look at broad behavior, demographics, and firmographics but specifics on their web patters at the individual level is sketchy.  However, if I align my followers to my customer list and profile their specific personas compared to the broader market, I get much closer to a targeted campaign.  This makes my digital efforts more closely resemble my direct marketing efforts – smaller targets, highly relevant content shared, higher conversion.

Another reason to think about  b2b social media beyond influence marketing and make it work to drive revenue and customer relationships.


Filed under: b2b, blogging, customer relationship, social media marketing, Web Analytics, , , ,

Understanding the Real Social Media Persona in B2B

Buyer Persona and ProcessWhat do you really know about your social media followers, friends, and network?

Interestingly, most marketers only have a high level understanding of the real persona those connected to them through social media.  Relegated to a PR mesurement, anonymity is the norm; influence (Klout) and perception are the KPIs.  And, to be honest, I wonder if a high level understanding of the social media persona is really understood – let alone connected to a B2B marketers prime target audience.

If you are like many, the most you get to show for your social media effort is a warm and fuzzy around your brand.  To be honest, the B2B CEO doesn’t care about overall brand perception in the market, he or she cares about the targeted set of buyers that connect with your value proposition.  If that is 10% of the market, then you better have 8% – 10% market share, 80% footprint with the customer, and a net promotor score of highly likely with over 60% of your customer base.  That is the goal in the mind of the B2B CEO, realistic or not.  At a minimum, it is what resonates and is understandable in the corner office.

For B2B marketing, brand awareness and perception just isn’t good enough.  On top of that, those metrics you track in social media don’t connect to the demand creation activities.  Corporate communications and demand creation remain silos within the marketing organization as they always have.  ROI of corporate communications remains a perceived high cost factor in the marketing budget with little connection to revenue generation, except anecdotally.

The reality is that the majority of your followers, friends, and network overall are silent.  Any social media measurement means nothing when assessing your influence on your marketing buying processes.  Structured around influence and reach, the only thing today’s current measurements really tell you are who can you leverage to SHOUT OUT your message?  The only ones that care about this are your PR agency as this is what they are paid to do.  Your marketing department is responsible for generating revenue directly and indirectly.

It is time we get better at understanding of the Social Media Buyer Persona of our customers, not the Shouters.  The reality is that many times in B2B the social media influencers are the vendors and consultants, not the buyers.  If we really want to know our buyers we need to understand what they read, what they share, and what they do to step into engagement.  It is more than the tag on the link to the blog or marketing campaign landing page.  We need to extend beyond our controlled digital environment and link to the digital environment that our customers interact with to understand.  We aren’t there yet.

The buying process is currently beyond what we track today.  It is time to think about how to connect the anonymous social media and digital environment to our B2B marketing waterfall.

Filed under: b2b, crm, customer relationship, Decision Cycle, social media, social media marketing, Web Analytics, , , ,

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, , , ,

Credibility Of Your Blog

Browsing through my Google reader for posts on everything on web analytics, social media, and business intelligence, it dawned on me the filtering process I go through before I click a link. or if I do click, if I even read the post.  It got me thinking about blog credibility and how it can and cannot work for you.  First, it is important to see the context of my blog reading.  I read blogs to educate myself on how to take things to the next level.  That said, I filter based on one simple observation: business or professional.

If I am looking for information on how to extend the value of web analytics, take a strategic approach with social media, or better design and implement business intelligence solutions I put more credibility in the insight from practitioners than a company.  So, when I see URLs that are from known businesses or have a business name in them, I don’t click through.  If there is ambiguity and I click through and get to a businesses blog, I don’t read the article.

To be fair, when I’m at the stage that I would like to find a service provider or interact with or hear comments from  other professionals using solutions and services I want to purchase or am using, then blogs from businesses have value and credibility for me.  However, I am already familiar with the brand/provider and directly visit the website and blog.

This goes back to the debate on integrating your blogs with your business websites or having them stand on their own.  I flip flop on this issue as there is huge SEO benefit from blog and website integration, but going back to my filtering behavior, it can have an unintended affect of not getting the most out of your thought leadership and branding effort.  Establishing a blog and determining how you want to implement it is highly tied to what you are trying to accomplish and how that fits into the behavior and needs or your audience.

Given what you want to accomplish will determine how you utilize blogging in your marketing tactics.

Goal:  Thought leadership

The primary use of blogs, this offers challenges.  As I’ve described in my own blog filtering behavior, assessing expertise and leadership is done in two stages: (1) general education (2) vendor assessment.  The issue I see is that blogs on corporate sites try to take on a conversational tone and pretend to be non-selling, but this isn’t really accomplished.  Having the brand attached brings out cynicism in the reader.  Now, if you have subject matter expertise in your workforce, posting on community networks or through non-branded blog sites may offer a less “sell” type of approach.  Take networks like SocialMediaToday, here you have venues where subject matter experts in leading agencies, marketing organizations, and boutique services organizations provide relevant and thought provoking points of view.  Most recognize the underlying point of blogging is to generate buzz and build personal or business brand.  But, there is a subtlety here.  Blogger personalities become recognized and through little more than a click you get the connection.  At the end of the day you spread a perspective shaping the community’s thought without the stigma of selling.  The goal is to see how the market is aligned to your position and are your subject matter experts generating relationships that can lead to higher consideration of your point of view and company.

Goal:  Conversion

In this scenario corporate blogs are kings.  You don’t want to disassociate and can approach posts similarly to how you approach white paper development or press releases.  On your site, it is all about you and while the tone can be conversational, putting a sales spin on is not unexpected and is actually required.  Trying to be too soft in conversations won’t lend to conversion.  You need to not only re-establish thought leadership but provide prospective customers with a purpose of considering your products and services or actually clicking through to a sale.  The perspective that social media should be a party, on your website, forget it.  That isn’t to say that the marketing fluff you used in press releases for SEO and positioning statements for solution descriptions should be used.  The point is to still keep posts informative, relevant, and convince customers that you are their best choice at a more detailed and credible perspective.  Blogs for conversion are all about lifting sales either directly through e-commerce activities or priming the marketing funnel with more qualified leads.

Goal:  Customer Relationships

Similar to conversion, stay on relevant topics and be supportive of the after sale relationship.  Position case studies in posts to describe how to get the most out of your solutions.  Create interactive discussions for problem solving or new solution ideas.  Bring forth ideas to generate interest in new areas you may be moving into.  Leverage your blog in a forum format and become a member of your customer’s team.  This is where your focus is on engagement to improve satisfaction, likeliness to purchase from you again, and generate evangelists and advocacy in the market.

Filed under: b2b, blogging, customer relationship, social media, social media marketing

B2B Social Media: Got Your Toe Wet, Now It’s Time to Swim

You tweet, blog, have a Facebook page, and created a Ning community.  That’s great.  Nice first step.  Now what?

The great thing about social media is that the barrier to entry is not the platform any longer.  You have the ability to test drive ideas within or outside your online current environment before committing. That just didn’t exist as you built your web presence in the past.  In some cases you can shift existing resources as you phase out old interactive practices, although I wouldn’t bank on this as social media is more content intensive and requires consistent monitoring and responding to increase and maintain value. To take your interactive customer experience to the next level, it will require pulling the learnings you’ve had with Twitter, blogs, social networks, and social bookmarking and begin to sector out those that truly worked to drive sales, reduce churn, and contributed to market influence and leadership.

Many times, we’ve created our social media experience parallel to our overall web strategy.  Marketing campaigns still drive traffic to product and solution offers in landing pages or on a website, or they specifically focus on growing a community.  The website is still a place to become educated about the company, products and solutions, and there may be a link to a social network that has blogs and discussions.  The problem is that your website strategy and your social media strategy now need to become integrated.  You’ve built your communities, now what do you want out of them?  You need to drive qualified leads and incorporate successful practices into an integrated interactive strategy.  Remove the website and social media silo.

Here’s how:

Content Conversion: A key staple of web content and marketing content overall is the white paper and case study.  Marketers covet this content and leverage it as a call to action in direct marketing campaigns.  Typically in PDF format users are required to register to download.  It is used so much because it works well to get qualified leads into the funnel.  However, the missing link is the SEO factor.  In PDF format you don’t have the keyword rich content to attract paid and natural search visitation.  You don’t have the ability to build upon SEO through conversations, linking and authority.  It is time to open up the white paper and case study to a blog format leveraging the reach you get with social media at the same time continuing to require registration to comment, bookmark, or RSS subscription on the content.

Trackbacks: Creating thought leadership and product/solution leadership has always been tightly controlled on our websites.  It is all about what we want you to know.  We’ll through in an industry analyst study that showcases our solution or our perspective to create credibility and plop a sidebar banner in to get to the content.  Although, the content is usually a PDF contained in our CMS system.  There are a number of customer networks and media/analyst networks that have blogs and discussions on our business.  We even have created our own.  It is time to integrate those discussions into our website content through trackbacks.  This allows page content to stay fresh maintaining and improving SEO over time as well as allowing forums for customers researching more avenues to learn about what we have to offer.

Social Bookmarking: Leverage social bookmarking within your website to allow visitors to bring people to your website.  This will do a couple of things.  First, if you want people to bookmark you’ll be forced to produce highly relevant and valuable content on your site moving past the online brochure.  Second, allowing your content to go viral will expand your reach.

Content Commenting: Let people comment or create discussions.  Having customers provide ratings or feedback can be good in helping customers make decisions.  Even if a comment is not glowing but is constructive, it may provide insight for customers to consider when choosing.  You may want to populate comments from support or customer forums that show how the solution solved a problem or configurations necessary for specific customer environments.  Then, open it up to visitors to ask questions or drill into the forum discussions.  This is a cornerstone in online retail and is a proven factor driving conversion.

Forums: Normally a behind the scenes venue in your customer portal or industry networks, take that same venue and apply it in your website experience.  Allow visitors to discussion their needs for a solution and what they are experiencing in their business.  Rather than keeping this separate, by integrating into your website experience it encourages engagement connection with you, your customers, and other prospects.  It could be a similar format as LinkedIn groups or Twitter Twibes.

The point of all this is that stand alone widgets, networks, and branded social media venues in the long run won’t serve your business well.  An integrated and seamless approach will add value to your website experience and improve customer conversion by linking to your marketing funnel strategies.

Filed under: b2b, customer relationship, sales 2.0, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , , ,



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