Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Social Media Marketing and Sales Alignment

Incorporating social media into your B2B go to market strategy is a no brainer. Done correctly you get the conversation you want, the connections to customers you need, and position as a trusted advisor. Now it is time to nurture your new found groupies into engagements with sales. Again, all a part of the social media experience. Lastly, you get the all important meeting. You’ve done your job Marketing. Bring it home Sales!

It seemed pretty logical until I had a conversation with some colleagues about what the sales engagement looks like. The customer experience with social media is marketing to sales, not a starting point with sales. Disconnects can and will occur in the engagement with sales if the customer feels a distinct pass off and turn in the conversation from dialogue to promotion.

In the social media realm, it is a dialogue with the customer, not a one sided conversation with the provider doing all the talking. The conversation needs to continue in a more intimate and specific manner when Sales engages. The crux of Marketing and Sales alignment now has to be tighter than ever so as not to interrupt the conversation and continue to build credibility and value in the relationship. Failing to do so can disrupt and lend itself to disengagement.

A you bring on new products, solutions, and services, have you considered your conversation from the first Tweet or blog comment, to getting down to the business of solving your customer’s need?

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Filed under: social media, ,

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, , , ,

Is There ROI in Social Media and Display?

I sat across from a client the other day discussing how they measure digital marketing efforts. They had just committed and entrusted millions of dollars in online ad spend to our agency only weeks before. The SEM and Display Media teams had already come in to discuss ideas and strategy. Now it was my team, web analytics, to come in to measure and prove that we could get the most conversion out of these ad dollars. On the line – display dollars and social media.

As marketers, we know that display is the hidden lift behind search and conversion. We even realize that social media, beyond the hype, has as much if not more value than the a creative placement. It is intuitive. And, to be honest, executives get it as well – they just don’t know why they have to pay so much for it.  Yet, I still get the questions I got the other day, “How do we defend our display budget?  Is there really ROI in social media?”

Here’s the thing, if as online marketers we are in doubt, a definitive ‘NO’ is going to come down from above.   Research conducted by such reputable firms as ComScore Networks and eMarketer isn’t enough to change minds.  It wasn’t enough to convince the marketers across the table from me.  They wanted to know if display and social media spend was working to the advantage of our other clients.  If so, how did we know?

The current approach has been pick a few tactics, launch, and measure.  Results come in and they are lack luster; we chalk this up to not working and move on.  Why the test didn’t work is not always assessed.  The results tell it all.  Not really.  The results only tell us the outcome of the test.  It does not tell us the validity of the test.  This is the beginning of defining attribution to our display and social media tactics.

The Reality:

Not all campaigns and applications are made equal.  The trick with display and social media tactics is that you know what you want them to do for you.  What is the goal, awareness, drive to site, engagement, or conversion, or all four?  Once that is determined, what is the role of display and social media in attaining these goals – direct or supportive?

The Application:

It pays at this point to think out of the box.  Social media as commonly thought of – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. – is only an aspect of social media.  What makes social media work is the communication, proliferation, engagement, and connection it drives.  The venue of a network or blog is only a placement, the components that facilitate the experience of the venue are the engines.  Display as well is more than a billboard. Approaching display like you would an email campaign with a targeting strategy, crisp copy and creative, and a strong call to action is the key to making display work.

Next, taking into account how these tactics support the goals will define measures and metrics.  Saying that click through rate for display and social media are indicators of conversion is only a small portion of the value.  As seen, click through rates are dropping dramatically for display and marketers have yet to directly connect social media interactions with conversion.  It is not to say that conversions can’t or won’t happen.  It is just that the likelihood is much lower.  So, you need to measure how awareness and perception contribute to conversion.  And this is the crux of the matter.

Test, Test, Test Again:

The test at this point should be more clear.  You know what you will launch and why.  You have a perspective of how to measure performance and its link to goals.  It is time to develop the test plan.  Here are a list of things to keep in mind when developing the test plan:

1)  Know your baseline.  This is more than having a control.  A control segment assumes you have tested a baseline.  Don’t assume that several weeks prior or even a few months of data is representative.  You will need to measure a baseline of performance over a period that allows for seasonality, marketing cycles, and market forces.

2) Consider how long your display and social media campaigns need to be in market to be able to measure impact.  You need to attain a threshold of measurable sample and you need to take into account the length of time required for exposure.  You may reach a sample that is significant but if it was attained in a week and a display or social media standard is 3-4 weeks in market for impact to be felt, you don’t have a viable test.

3)  Start simple and progress to advanced.  Applying a simple in market – out of market approach can get you headed in the right direction and give you what you need.  As you begin to exhaust simple testing methods, this is when attribution analysis can kick-in and allow you to apply complex strategies.

4)  Got results?  Test again.  This is an iterative process.

5)  Those results you got, leverage them elsewhere.  Insights you gain from one set of tactics or a campaign can seed an expansion of activities.  Then, test assumptions in the new application.

Filed under: marketing technology, marketing/advertising, metrics, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , , ,

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, , , ,

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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