Brain Vibe

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Better Reach with Social Media Marketing in China

In marketing, information is king.  The more you know about your customer the better you are at targeting and promoting your message to control and grow your market.  In China, the ones in control of information have typically been government officials.  However, with economic growth and expansion of capitalistic practices, information is becoming democratized.

Even as information is democratized in China, the pace at which it is happening is creating chaos in a marketer’s ability to get the message out in traditional tried and true mechanisms.  Social media marketing is really the key and future of marketing in China.

For three years I was managing customer data globally for a multi-national software company.  The biggest challenge was the integration and management of global databases and maintaining local language.  Outside of process and technical logistics, China was particularly challenging.  You could almost directly map China’s eco-data system to disruptive technology adoption.

  • Huge choice and competition
  • Constant churn
  • Lack of standards
  • New is better
  • Jones-ing – “I want what he has”

This is China culture, from technology to everyday life.  Even as our social media usage in the US is beginning to mature, or at least become mainstream, China is still slightly behind.  The biggest reason I see is due to the fast rate of economic growth in individual wealth and fast emergence of a capitalist market.  The other aspect is that the Chinese are much more aware of each other and their relationships to each other making them more apt to shift and adapt.

You may think that this is the reason to avoid social media marketing in China but, I think the opposite is true.  It allows you to transcend targeting issues you are plagued with in traditional CRM or customer data management.

Issues with traditional CRM and Customer Data Management in China

  • Emails continually acquired and discarded
  • Non-stardard names mixing east and west and English and Chinese
  • Mailing address changes, undocumented,  or too new to have consistent delivery
  • Businesses go in and out of business in 6 months
  • Lack of centralized reliable digital data repositories for reference
  • Phone churn, landlines being forfeited for more reliable mobile phone service

What social media marketing offers is the ability to transcend and extend our communications to the China market overcoming issues with traditional communication sources.  The fact that the Chinese are adopting and embracing mobile technology and web interaction aligns the marketer to the customer.  This is not to say that traditional methods are obsolete.  There just may be a shift of how it is used and how it could integrate with China’s preferred method of communication and information gathering.  For instance, billboard usage and signage can be better connected to social media by providing SMS text to mobile phones for discounts or product sources instead of emailing an article or coupon to click and download.

At the heart of Chinese communication is social media.  Blogging and Twitter are pushing out news faster than journalists and the government can react.  New social networking sites are being created daily and gaining members fast.  It is the most reliable and pervasive form of connecting Chinese to Chinese and businesses to their Chinese customers.  Marketing models that don’t weight their communication strategies towards social media will not be positioned to capture the market and create loyal customer bases.

Related Stories:

China Government’s Role in Social Media

Social Media with a Chinese Touch

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Giving Control of Social Media to Sales for B2B Marketing ROI

Here’s a thought.  What if marketing relinquished control of social media as a marketing tool and turned it into a sales enablement tool?

The age old issue with ROI for B2B direct marketing is the difficulty in linking to a dollar amount.   Social media marketing hinges on connecting directly with the customer and conversing.  This is more of a B2B sales role and responsibility.  It is at this stage that you see ROI.

Marketing’s expertise is in the creation of content or assets defining brand and credibility.  Communications from PR to direct marketing spreading the word in a peanut butter approach.  Social media, while in some perspectives a great tool to reach out to the masses, also creates the conundrum of personal connections so that a broad message is impersonal and too vague for a person to connect to.

How about creating mechanisms for sales to engage with customers through networks?

  • Marketing provides sales with content that is appropriate to send out using Twitter such as time limited offers, event notices, service renewals, and upgrade notices.
  • Salespeople have community pages to hold forums or presentations
  • Community pages could act as portals to connect customers, sales, and partners for collaborative solution-ing
  • Customers could influence content on sales community pages by rating or voting in topics and solutions that best apply

There is some precedent for this today.  Collaborative solutions exist from CRM companies that allow for internal social/professional networks.  As sales is becoming comfortable in these environments, it can be an easy leap to expand beyond internal and allow for external customer facing interactions.

Where is the ROI?  Sales touts the benefits, closure rates increase, increased sales.

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Social Media Mature or Hype

For 2-3 years the buzz around social media is so heightened that there may not be much more to say, much less be gained  Or, is there?

Marketing Sherpa released it’s findings on barriers to social media adoption.  In December, marketers reported that lack of knowledge and the ability to see ROI from social marketing efforts kept social media from mainstream adoptions.  If social media is so mature, surely adoption rates would be higher.

Barriers to Social Media AdoptionIn a previous post I talked about barriers in B2B due to lack of trust in the medium for personal use, thus translating to lack of trust for business use.  But, I think there may be something more here.  Leveraging social media for marketing is not for the faint at heart.  There are real complexities to creating a customer experience and building relationships.  Companies struggle with this with their own known customers.  Even with emails and reach customer history, it is challenging to engage with relevance and consistency.  Now, try this with a decentralized and dynamic market where you cannot always control the message.

There are certainly ways to try out social media marketing. Nicky Jameson recently provided great 7 Tips to get your feet wet.  But, how do you get your arms around what social media is beyond the buzz and hype?

So, here are some definitions to de-mystify social media.

Social media is…

  1. Another outlet for PR tactics.
  2. A mode to converse with contacts outside of email, events, or your website
  3. A vehicle to hear what you customers think and have to say.
  4. A segmented community with traits that make it easy to align your products and services

ROI is another issue altogether.  It’s the “so what” factor.  With marketing budgets lean and mean, why would you want to take a risk on something that you have no idea it will work? Exactly because you know that other tactics in the social media definition work.  The only issue now is figuring out how to measure it.  But, that isnt’ all that different from any other marketing tactic and PR effort.  You already know how to measure it!

Tips to Align Social Media to Business Outcomes

  1. Compare similarities of traditional actions and outcomes to social media marketing actions.  If you are able to show how press mentions impact business outcomes, you should be able to incorporate blog mentions, re-blogging, etc. into this equation.
  2. Trace social network interactions as they begin to funnel into your lead management processes.  Social media marketing shouldn’t completely stand on its own.  Your social network pages, micro-sites, and other social media assets eventually need strong calls to action to your website and lead generation processes.
  3. Integrate social media marketing tactics with traditional tactics.  If you track emails response then any social media marketing you connect to the email will track.

I’ll pose this on ROI for social media.  Marketing’s responsibility is to drive business strategy and outcomes through market/customer interactions.  The real measure of success is alignment with the C-Suite on what the “return” is on investment.  This may not necessarily be monetary but rather value of marketing’s ability to support business strategy and customer interaction.

  • Can you show through social media that the message you want to get out about your company and position is happening?
  • Do you see a lift in customer interactions through the introduction of social media marketing?
  • Is there a tangible value to social media interactions that is directly/indirectly influencing marketing’s ability to contribute to business outcomes?

Don’t get hung up on the dollar figure.  Investment is as much about reducing customer churn or the marketing adopting your thought leadership position as it is a direct bottom line result.  Your real task is ensure your marketing strategy is aligned to business strategy.  How you get there is through traditional marketing know how and the help and integration of social media marketing.

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Social Media for B2B? You’ve got to be kidding.

Could it be that social media lags in B2B because marketers don’t see value in it for themselves?

I’ve been talking to friends and colleagues about their perception of social media.  To be honest, I’m typically talking to the over 35 crowd.  But hey, these are the senior marketers and decision makers.  The ones that approve plans and dole out the budgets.  So, it has to be said that if you can’t convince them, how can social media succeed in B2B, at least today.

First, the idea of Facebook or MySpace is just plain frightening to them.  They can’t understand the urge to put your life out on the web.  This is way too risky and often frightening.  Here are the barriers.

  • When they consider hiring someone, they check out their pages and if their personal life doesn’t conform to a respectable life, an offer is unlikely to go out.
  • Anything you put up on the web stays there – FOREVER!
  • Their personal life is personal.
  • Social media is for teenagers and college kids.
  • It is too much time and effort and they have busy lives.
  • They just don’t need to know every detail about you – too much information

Social media may be the latest and greatest thing.  There’s a thinking out there that if you aren’t catching the wave, you are going to be caught in it and drown.  To a point it may be true.  It is certainly changing the dynamic of connecting people to people and companies to customers.  As a leading edge B2B marketer just dying to jump in and leverage this new paradigm, how can you convince the powers that be?

Tip 1:  Design a framework of your messaging architecture to social media venues.  Executives will understand better how and why you are entering this space when you show where you are going, what you are saying, and who you are engaging with.  You’ll be speaking their language.
Tip 2:  Don’t assume you need a huge budget, or any.  Re-use and re-purpose content.  Shift time spent from less effective communication avenues.
Tip 3:  Leverage your company or product evangelist.  Utilize their expertise the same way you would if you conducted a webinar, keynote, or by-line. Re-use these assets as video and podcast content.  Interview them and post the discussion of media.
Tip 4:  Participate yourself in discussions and blogging.
Tip 5:  Formulate ways to capture outcomes from social media interactions and report on these.  As with any communication, consider a call to action.  If your purpose is primarily awareness and to evangelize then incorporate tracking into your general PR watch.
Tip 6:  Create a relationship between your executives and experts in your industry that have a strong online presence.  Use classic PR strategy to have them evangelize for you.  This builds your executive’s network, yours, and your company’s.

The biggest point to get across is that your company has most likely been involved in social media.  Your company is already interacting with industry groups attending events, participating in discussions, speaking at events, and leveraging online discussions.  Social media for B2B is not the personal world of Facebook and MySpace.  It is the professional networks, industry venues, and media outlets that have evolved to expand the possibilities to interact with customers.

Do the work, show the results.  Your executives will praise your successes and be gently brought into the social web not even realizing it.

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