Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Social Media Content – Too Big, Too Small, Just Right

B2B marketers are an interesting breed when it comes to social media. Our training is to create relevant content in the form of white papers, collateral, and deep websites.  When it is time to tackle the subject of content creation, out come the media, event, and campaign calendars.  Enter 140 characters on Twitter, blogs that should stay in the 300-500 word range, and video or audio that is less than 5 minutes and it is enough to drive us mad!

Certainly the venue will dictate a bit of what you actually post.  But, the B2B marketer will break the rules when possible.  We’ve got so much to say!  Don’t you want to know how smart we are and what great things our company provides?

Here are things I think about when creating content:

  • If you can’t use a single word to describe what you want to say, move on.  My word for this post, “Size”
  • If it takes longer than a minute to read what you write, people get bored and stop reading
  • If it needs to be read more than once, its only good if what you said was amazing (most of the time it is not…sorry)
  • If you need to think too hard about what to say, you are trying too hard
  • If you post multiple tweets in order to get your point across, it should have been a blog, email, or phone conversation

Social media isn’t complicated, there is no need to make it so. Live in Twitter for a while, it teaches you brevity and spontaneity.  Embrace the medium rather than fit it into what is comfortable to you.  And lastly, enjoy it.  Marketing is so much more fun when you break from the confines of structure and dogma.  Have a digital conversation.

What helps you get your content just right?

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Filed under: blogging, social media, social media marketing, , , , ,

Social Media, Program or Vehicle for B2B?

Social media is only one way to connect to customer and should be treated as a vehicle, not a program.  There, I said it.  I know it is heresy, but it is the truth.

I was talking with a lot of colleagues and friends in the 30 something range and found that social media for them was more effort than it produced.  They were too busy to tweet.  They didn’t get much value from Facebook other than keeping up with a small group of friends they couldn’t see all the time.  The rest of the time Facebook was annoying and they didn’t frequent it, and now the privacy issues made it even less desireable.  LinkedIn was mostly a way to maintain a contact database with professional colleagues.  YouTube was entertainment.  What they did use religiously was email and texting.  Two things I got out of this were:

1) These 30 somethings were successful professionals with decision make authority and spending capacity both personally and professionally.  Social media has only limited value to them.

2) Social media was hype and comprised only a portion of their communication and social time.  It did not fundamentally change the way they were communicating with friends and colleagues.

One of the things I see companies and marketers do when they get the social media bug is to approach social media as a separate program.  This really misses the point.  Marketers have a multitude of communication vehicles available and instead of thinking about the best way to converse with customers, they think about what is the best new shiny method they can use and focus all their energy there.  Teams are even split by vehicle (social media, email, search, web, online display, etc) making marketers experts in a narrow band of communication.  What’s the point in that?  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be thought of as a great marketer building relationships and business.  I don’t want to be known only for my ability to communicate in 140 characters.

We all know the social media avenues available to us so why over analyze at this point.  Most of us have used them personally and its either become our sole means of touching the world or, on the other hand, we are burnt out or driven out by the social media outlets and the ‘why did I friend this person?’.  In many ways, social media just is and we don’t think about it much anymore.  This is where marketing needs to be.  We shouldn’t think about social media anymore, we should just use it.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are my customers?
  • How do my customers learn about what I provide?
  • Where do my customers go to learn about what I provide?
  • What vehicle provides the best venue to show my value?
  • What level of trust do my customers have with my product and brand?

Notice that there is not one mention of social media or any other marketing vehicle.  It is all about how to market your company and product the best way to get people interested and to purchase.  Social media may just be that venue either as a leading component, an aspect, or not at all.  It may also depend on the research and decision cycle of the customer for your product.  The key is how you position.

The way to make social media work is through discipline and integration with our existing communication vehicles.  Treating it as its own separate effort will not get you the biggest benefits and return on investment and effort you could.  You need a varied tool kit for marketing that includes social media in it.  It provides lift, it doesn’t provide all.

Filed under: b2b, marketing/advertising, social media, social media marketing, , , ,

Customer Connection: Terms of Understanding

it is inevitable that as we move further into social media and leverage it for customer engagement that new approaches and terminology will come out to help define the strategy and experience.  Yet, it can require more than just creating a term and putting it out there.  I’ve come across this problem in a business perspective when associations and vendors come up with terms to describe technology and practices and it is interpreted incorrectly.  It causes confusion between what the customer needs and what the vendor has to offer.  It is not that different in a consumer setting.  I got to witness this in action.

I sat in the theater waiting patiently for Star Trek to start.  A gang of boys that looked to be in high school sat next to me and my husband.  The typical banter ensued: young, immature, crude, hilarious!  As the lights dimmed and the advertisements and movie trailers began, they began the annotations and comments of what they saw.  It was the perfect focus group test if you wanted to get into the minds of teenage boys.

Not having been in a theater in over a year, I took the experience in as a marketer analyzing the ads/commercials, and the reactions from the audience – particularly the teenage boys.  What caught me by surprise was the way the boys reacted to a new interactive experience for movie trailers – the hyper-trailer.  Now, I didn’t really get why I should care about it and it came across more like a video game than a movie trailer.  I didn’t really understand how ‘hyper’ was really better.  Besides, they way the announcer said the term I burst out laughing.  It just seemed frenetic and loud.  I chalked it up immediately to a generation gap.  Afterall, I’m GenX and advertising is almost never aimed at my market segment.  So, the fascinating thing is how the teenage boys next to me took it in.  They verbally abused it!

It seems that instead of ‘hyper’ meaning a positive and improved experience for a movie trailer, they associated it with a negative connotation.  Their discussion went back and forth over what ‘hyper’ really meant and how ridiculous it was.  Then, the word association game began all showing how ‘hyper’ was anything but positive.

  • hyper-active
  • hyper-sensitive
  • hyper-thyroid
  • hyper-tension
  • hyper-chondriac – so they didn’t really get this one right, but it was funny.

The point of all this is that creating new terms is an art form.  It requires more than introducing words within a concept.  It requires an understanding of initial perceptions and translation of the term by your audience.  Marketing has a knack for creating new terminology and acronyms to help generate buzz and gain mindshare.  However, it can also backfire if there isn’t concensus around the meaning or it provides an opposite reaction than anticipated within your customer base and market.  It could be a hyper-flop.

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Filed under: communication, social media, , , , , ,

B2B Lead Nurturing is Not Linear

Lead Nurturing Lead PassIt is much easier and cheaper to work with people that know you than it is to build a new realm.  That is what many marketers and companies are realizing as they shift marketing investment.  Lead nurturing is now more important than ever.  Yet, if you analyze your database, what does lead nurturing look like?  When is a lead qualified to truly enter into the sales cycle?

Demand and lead generation steps have typically progressed from response to lead pass without adequate filtering or analysis that a lead is ready to engage in the sales process.  This has hurt marketing’s credibility in generating real value to the pipeline.  It has put the work on sales to ‘clean’ the database and have them focus energy on leads that aren’t interested or ready for personal connection and may be of lower value than cold calling.  Additionally, some companies try to alleviate this by adding a telemarketing stage prior to a lead pass to personally assess and qualify a lead for the pass.  This can be a costly investment for marketing if again, it is putting leads into this step of the process before leads are fully baked.  Yet, that doesn’t have to be the case.  Properly analyzing and defining leads or groups of leads by their activity within an account can offer sales insight that puts them closer to the opportunity.  This is where lead nurturing can be a strategic effort rather than a tactical process.

Traditional lead tracking reports show a linear funnel from response to disposition within a campaign or program which mimics the linear aspect of the lead process.  In reality, leads have most likely been associated across campaigns, social media marketing interactions, organic web visitations, and even events or interactions with sales and other organizations.  How leads interact, where they go, the frequency, and topic concentration tells you a lot about how ready they are to enter a sales engagement process.  Additionally, compared and correlated to other leads within the same organization, you get a good picture of account readiness and opportunity.

This analysis in many cases is conducted to create target segments as launch pads for new campaigns.  Leveraged within a lead nurturing process, it can be the used as the decision point for when it is best to pass a lead to sales.  It becomes what qualifies the lead to move on vs. relying solely on a single response point on its own or in a linear context.  In fact, analyzed properly, reports and dashboards can be provided to sales that provide a picture of high opportunity areas within their accounts that they may not have seen.  For instance, an up-tic in white paper readership and participating or scanning of social media marketing content on products within an account might provide account managers early warnings that companies are assessing new solutions.  By having a report that provides context on the customer relationship provides sales a greater ability to pick up on the lead nurturing process without having to wait for marketing to pass the lead themselves.

Today, leads are classified as meeting minimum requirements of responding to a campaign and having check boxes of information filled out.  Lead nurturing is really about understanding interactions with your customers and how those interactions are indicators for next steps in the relationship.  Analyzing and recognizing patterns within your contact and account databases is more than identifying segments for targeting new messages and offers.  Used strategically it can be a transition point in your lead pass process improving your ability to generate business and reduce resources and budget through better focus.

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Filed under: business intelligence, crm, Lead management, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Fine Line in B2B Social Media

Social media, and more specifically social network connections with real friends and family is a much more interesting and comfortable place to be than it is for business.  How I envy even the business-to-consumer businesses where they can cozy up with entertaining and light games, gimmicks, and discussion.  Yet, while we all dress business casual these days to go about our daily work routines, we still have to put on that respectable suit in client and customer facing activities.  Thus, is the case with social media marketing.

If the intent of social media marketing is to provide greater transparency, where do you draw the line?  And, does that line move depending on how engaged and connected your customer is?

Several years back I had a conference call with an executive at a large media company.  The call was on a day that I was working at home and happened to be in the kitchen with the back slider open letting in the beautiful day.  As we were discussing the finer details of a project, a turkey chick happened to wonder up on my deck and right into my kitchen.  Wide eye’d and shocked, I ran through the kitchen to grab a broom and shoo it out.  As I did this, who happened to follow looking for the chick, you got it, mamma turkey.  Half in the conversation, and half out of my mind, I began to swing carefully at the birds to get them back out on my deck.  Mamma turkey was all too ready to defend her chick and the gobbling began, the wings flapped, and clawed feet came up.  I squealed half under my breath but of course my client was on to me.  First I had to explain that I was working from home, then I had to explain the noise and squeal.  I was mortified.  As it turned out, my client found the situation hilarious and since we had a fairly good relationship, it all worked out fine.  Yet, I was not prepared for such an unprofessional event to intrude on my business at hand.

Had this been a sales call or first meeting, I don’t know that this incident would have come across as well.  Such is the issue with social media engagement.  Since conversations are typically out there for all to see, there are going to be times when long time connections and newly created ones will interact with you and each other at the same time.   With newly engaged connections you may want to err on the side of safety and maintain the business suit, but with long time customers, jeans and a button down may be just fine. You don’t have control over what is said, only how you respond. Will you shoo away newly engaged customers if they intrude on conversations you are having with existing customers or those that are ready to enter your sales cycle?  Or, will you shoo away long time customers when you are developing a new relationship?  In social media, you don’t really have the option to ignore or push off if you want to hold and nurture your community.

The more I ponder the nature of relationship building in social media, the more I conclude that engagement and transparency may take on a more homogenous aspect and that the line moves as engaged connections move into the sales cycle, solution cycles, and support cycles.  Social media is good as a communication stream with a broad ability to form direct connections, but it won’t necessarily build deep connections where the line of transparency and relationship begins to dissipate toward arm chair discussion.

If the goal is a customer relationship that is a partnership, social media is a piece of this and can facilitate communication.  However, will it really be the primary mechanism of the relationship?

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Filed under: b2b, communication, customer relationship, networking, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , , ,

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