Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

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.

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

Direct Revenue From Social Media Marketing

Now there is proof.  You can generate revenue from social media marketing – and it is big!

CNN reports that an $11,000 indie movie ‘Paranormal Activity’ grossed $7.1M this past weekend and landed in the top 5 with a limited distribution across 200 theaters.  They did it through word of mouth marketing efforts heavily leveraging YouTube and Twitter.

By: Trendistic

By: Trendistic

What is most interesting about this is that the call to action was not a coupon or offer.  Buzz drove attendance.  In addition, as the first attenders watched the film, buzz peaked and carried through to quick conversion.

Now, I also tried to get data on YouTube trends but was only able to grab total visitations, which as of this morning were 1.9M.  However, search stats on Google showed a similar trend as Twitter so I’ll make a leap assumption that YouTube views were probably following a similar curve.

The reason I’m honing in on this so much is that awareness marketing has really taken a back seat as lead generation and direct revenue models have become the rage.  We look at social media marketing and can’t accurately measure the grey area of word of mouth to revenue generation.  So, we adapt social media to fit our tried and true direct marketing efforts – ie. using Twitter to mail out coupon codes.  The reality is that social media does have a place in our revenue generation mix close the point of sale.  It just takes us into a realm outside our comfort zone.

As you consider social media in your marketing mix, consider tests that introduce word of mouth marketing efforts close to the point of sale.  You may learn the trick to leveraging SMM in your specific revenue generation mix.

Filed under: Awareness, marketing/advertising, 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, , , , , , , ,

B2B Social Media: The Silent Majority Opportunity

B2B Customer Silent MajorityThere is a huge silent majority out there.  Are you speaking to them?  I think you should.

This has been an issue with social media in B2B that I keep coming back to.  There are those of us that produce content, those that comment, those that share, and those that just are there on the fringe – the silent majority.  As marketers, free press (engagement) is typically measured more in actions and thus the measure of social media success.  But, what has me thinking is, are those that are most vocal and interactive really representative of my market or who I want to convert?  I know that they have influence by their ability to advocate the brand and spread my message.  Though, it makes me wonder if my message is really being shared in the manner that I would intend.  Ah, the loss of control.

But, I digress…

There is a part of me that thinks social media and how we measure effectiveness may be a bit flawed.  Taking a step back and looking at the B2B decision process, social media is not proving to be a big conversion component at the bottom of the funnel.  It is really a thought leadership component.  As such, while I certainly want to engage those visiting say in a blog or community, I think that the silent majority may actually be my real customer.  I’m not even determining how I’m influencing them or who they are in how social media effectiveness is measured today.

Here’s why I care about the silent majority.  They are the ones that are probably in a serious research phase as they assess their business and ways to improve it.  They are the ones that don’t have other motives outside of becoming more knowledgeable.  It may not be in their best interest to publicly communicate their opinions or questions as it could expose their strategy to competitors, thus they are closer to considering next steps.  They share content rarely, but when they do it is highly relevant to their purpose.  I think the silent majority is actually the closest to being converted, and we don’t even track them well.

Initial thoughts are that we should look at members/subscribers and content sharers that are active in visitation but less so in direct engagement – taking a bottom up analysis rather than top down.  This may point towards more qualified leads to engage in direct marketing activities and other traditional conversion tactics.  We might want to look overall at our social media and begin to track metrics that point towards research behavior that resembles behavior of those ready to engage in the sales process in order to determine potential effect on marketing conversion.  Thus, giving a window on our social media’s effect on conversion.

What do you think?  What is your strategy for the silent majority?

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

Social Media Myth: You Can Be Everything To Everybody

You walked over to your IA and said, “I want a dynamic, modular, customizable, and personal website for my visitors.  Let visitors design their experience!”  They went back trying to configure that requirement into their traditional web software design tools, and they freeze.  Trying to implement a social media strategy on your website and throwing up your hands in frustration as the nebulous and fluid nature of social media destroys that rock solid and logical foundation is probably why most have yet to attempt that pull vs. push strategy. If this is really the way you want to go (and by the way, you should!), then there are a 3 things you’ll want to establish at the onset.  Some points are things you should already be thinking about with a traditional site, but it is even more important when you allow interaction and content to travel through a social media platform.

  1. Keep it focused, keep it simple.  Determine up front the primary objective for you website.  Selling cookies, servicing existing clients, a how to on shrinking your carbon foot print, what ever it is, pick one thing and focus on that.  It is inevitable that you have multiple types of visitors and segment and they all have different needs.  The reality is, you can’t be all things to all people.  Your website is the one place where you can do what you want to do best online.
  2. Timing creates relevance.  Recognize how seasonality or periods will impact what your visitors are expecting on your site and be flexible and automated in what they see first.   This is how you can be agile in attempting to serve multiple interests.  Campaigns in market drive visitors with specific needs based on what your call to action was.  However, after these periods of heavy advertising, visitation profiles and behavior change and your primary content should as well.
  3. Website as an Ad Network.  This is the real change in thinking.  Your site is no longer an internet PDF.  Your blogs, widgets, articles, and comments will travel.  If you don’t think you have any control over this, you are partially correct.  However, how you decide to place and allow content to travel to tell your story is in your control.  Rather than tighten control over content, strategically leverage it in the same fashion you would with contextual marketing and display advertising.

Taking these three points into account will ensure you have the right place to start and the most flexible design to fit your purpose.

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

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