I Went to a B2B Trade Show, Was Underwhelmed by Your Presence and Kept Walking

b2b-social-media-trade-showB2B companies make products to solve problems and make their customers’ lives better or easier. B2B service organizations help customers run their businesses more efficiently or more cost effectively. These are noble causes. Sure, if we are successful at it, we make money, but a business product that doesn’t add value to the business is not worth considering.

And social media doesn’t help this problem.

If you have a bad product or service, social media provides both an outlet for frustrated customers and the means to amplify the message further.

So let’s assume that you have an awesome product that solves problems, a great team to provide services, and even a great sales staff to explain the value proposition and close deals. With all that awesomeness in mind, take a look at your trade show presence.

Really take a look at it.

Are you telling a compelling story? Are you enticing prospects to stop by and chat about your great products and services?

Or are you giving away pens and hard candy? Maybe you have progressed to give away squeeze balls in the shape of the world. Maybe you made enough of them that it is in the shape of your logo. These are perfect for the conference attendees who need a gift for their children. I know it has always worked for me. Even as a teenager my daughter still loves kitschy trade show giveaways.

And don’t even get me started on collecting business cards, scanning badges and any other means of gathering leads. “I just need a business card to give you one of those squeeze balls.” What’s the follow-up plan for those leads? Gathering dust on the sales manager’s desk?

Are you building awareness at the top of the funnel? Are you qualifying prospects or are you just trying to hit a metric that someone else imposed on the marketing team?

How about sending them an email newsletter or your latest ebook? It’s better than many of the emails I get. “Thanks for stopping by our booth. Did we tell you how awesome we are while you were there? Can we schedule a phone call with our junior level inside sales person to remind you how awesome we are?” This is not a follow-up plan. This is spam. And nobody will respond.

This is what happens when your only trade show metric is gathering leads rather that acquiring qualified prospects. And it is obvious to everyone who walks by your booth.

Here are 5 tips to change the outcome of your next trade show:

1. Adapt your personas for the trade show audience to make sure you present the correct message to the onsite audience.

2. Focus on qualified prospects as a metric of success, not raw lead numbers.

3. Don’t bother giving away something with no connection to your business that provides no value.

4. Create a true follow-up plan with a timeline, prepared emails and phone scripts and areas of responsibility.

5. Enhance your trade show presence with social media by posting and sharing content resources before, during and after the event to provide value to all attendees, but especially your targeted prospects.

Photo credit: Flickr

Increase B2B Traffic and Reach with a LinkedIn Blog

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoLinkedIn has long been the place where B2B marketers could build a professional network, create an online resume and share compelling content with that network. As part of LinkedIn’s content marketing push, they launched the Influencer program to bring top quality content from thought leaders across multiple industries into the platform. And they picked who could participate. And they worked with editors.

Now that this program is well established, LinkedIn is opening their platform up to all members. This doesn’t mean you and I can become part of the Influencer program. It doesn’t mean that you will instantly become a thought leader. It does mean that you can now blog on the LinkedIn platform and have it associated with your profile. Following will now become part of the regular vocabulary on LinkedIn. Someone can follow your posts without asking your permission to connect.

Create a Plan to Drive Traffic

Now matter how starry-eyed you become about the potential, and I mean potential and not real, reach of these blog posts, you should create a plan that still drives readers back to a site you own, like a company blog or web site. LinkedIn is still a platform that you cannot control. As they roll out this platform, things will change.

Write Unique Content

Your plan needs to focus on great content. If you really want to make an impact on LinkedIn look at the popular Influencer articles and see what resonates with professionals. There are no cat videos or list-based articles. It’s a look of good, solid advice that appeals to a general audience, but with a focus on careers, business growth, technology and entrepreneurship. Don’t syndicate your content between your blog and LinkedIn. Create unique posts for LinkedIn and offer more on your own blog. If your LinkedIn posts are general, your content on your blog can be a bit more specific and focused on your prospects.

Include Calls-to-Action

Have you seen what many of the influencers do on their posts? Subscribe to my blog. Follow me on Twitter. Sign up for my newsletter. While this overload of actions can cause readers to do nothing, the idea is still sound. Blog posts need calls-to-action. A connection to stay informed about future posts or activities is fine. Connecting them to another post you have published is great. Driving them to a landing page to download additional content works too. View these posts as above the top of your funnel and think how can you convert them with content and identify those who are prospects.

Use the Platform to Grow Your Reach

Posts will show up on your personal profile, so make sure you share them on the company page and within any active groups. Ask your colleagues, partners and customers to share these posts on their LinkedIn profiles (and other social channels) to get more reach on LinkedIn. There may be a most popular posts, like the Influencers have, so it will be beneficial to get lots of views on your posts. And don’t forget that you can tag people in updates that include a link to the post to make them aware of it, but don’t go overboard. You can also follow others and they may see you followed them. Until this is fully rolled out, we don’t know the complete functionality.

Share Your Unique Posts on Other Platforms

Each LinkedIn post has its own URL, which means you can share these posts on Twitter, Facebook and any other platforms where your prospects spend their time. You can even include them in an email newsletter to drive more traffic to them.

What are you thinking about the new blogging platform embedded in LinkedIn? Are you working on that plan yet?

The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing

b2b-marketing-meaningOur friend Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners has written a lot about the what and the how of B2B marketing, but never the why. In this amazing Slideshare presentation called The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing, and embedded below, he tackles the question of what makes his career in B2B marketing meaningful.

In addition to the ideas expressed, pay attention to the presentation itself. Presented as a notebook with handwritten notes, sketches and more formal type, this comes across as the simple musings of a creative guy (which Doug certainly is). He really captures the right tone and visual style in this piece. And the voyeuristic quality of reading someone else’s notebook makes it even more fun.

b2b-marketing-meaning-doug

The honesty of Doug’s writing really creates a connection with his audience of B2B marketers. While he is working out meaning in his own career, he hopes that it helps others in the field. My favorite line is:

When you were a kid, you never said, “I want to be a B2B marketer when I grow up.”

You definitely need to check out the whole notebook, but here are the seven things that give his work as a B2B marketer meaning:

1. I like helping companies grow.

2. I Like helping our clients achieve success in their careers.

3. I love working alongside talented, engaged, positive people who also love what they do.

4. I love learning new things.

5. I love work that demands creativity.

6. I like honest work that asks me to build a great case for my client.

7. I like figuring out how the business of business works.

Are there other things that give meaning to your career as a B2B marketer?

Break Through the Content Clutter with Cool Infographics

Cool-Infographics-BookInfographics are key to many B2B companies’ content marketing efforts. Randy Krum is the president of InfoNewt and the author of the new book, Cool Infographics. Featuring over 100 infographic examples, this guide prepares you to create compelling infographics for online marketing, business reports, posters, presentations, and even design your own infographic resume. Randy answered the following questions about the business of infographics.

Data visualizations and infographics have become interchangeable terms to some. What is the difference and why use one over the other?

I often have to define the difference between Data Visualization and Infographics, because when a client asks for an infographic design it’s not always clear what they are requesting. I define the difference like this. Data visualizations are visual representations of data, usually in the form of a stand-alone chart or diagram. Infographics are larger designs that combine data visualizations, illustrations and text together to tell a story. For example, a data visualization chart could be one element of a larger design, as seen in the Could You Be A Failure? Infographic.

How do brands use infographics for storytelling, both within a single infographic and as part of a larger content strategy?

Infographics are a perfect medium for brands to tell the many stories behind their company, products and services. They have the potential to break through the information filters of customers that don’t want to take the time to read product descriptions, product reviews or packaging claims on the shelf. Specifically for brands, they can offer a fast-to-read and easy-to-share story, and visual nature of infographics increases customers’ recall when the time comes to make a purchase decision.

You make a point to say that you can’t just publish an infographic, but you need a launch strategy. Can you describe that?

Publishing an infographic without any promotion or strategy is like a tree falling in the forest when no one is watching. People can’t find or share an infographic online without a successful launch strategy, and it’s disappointing to watch companies publish an infographic online, and then just wait for people to find it. That doesn’t work. In the book I outline my three part Infographic Release Strategy that includes designing the landing page on your website, self-promotion through your existing communication channels and finally outreach to other sites and influencers that have audiences that would appreciate the infographic. This extra effort can exponentially increase the success of an infographic online.

Many B2B companies use content to drive leads. In the book you don’t mention putting an infographic behind a gated lead form. Are there any exceptions where it makes sense to gate an infographic?

I’ve seen a few companies put their infographics behind a form requiring your email address before you can view the infographic, but this doesn’t work in practice. It goes back to the data visualization vs. infographic question you asked earlier. An infographic is meant to be easy to share, and as soon as the first person shares the infographic image in social media, it’s freely available to everyone without completing the form. The nature of infographics also implies quick to read, which is perceived as only a small reward for giving up your contact information. On the other hand, including many good data visualizations within a longer content piece, like a white paper or research report, behind an form can increase the value of the overall piece, and make it more valuable for readers.

One of my pet peeves with infographics is the inconsistency of listing data sources. Can you share best practices for identifying where the data comes from?

Absolutely! This is a pet peeve of mine as well. I recommend designers include links to the original, specific data sources in their infographic designs. The original source may take some research, but the readers are expecting that from an infographic designer. Don’t list the news article or wikipedia entry where you found the information. Instead, track the data back to its original source and include that link as the data source. Also, being specific is just as important. If a designer lists just the home page URL as the data source, that doesn’t help anyone track down the original data on their own. Include the link directly to the specific data so readers can easily access the data on their own.

How has the explosion of mobile affected infographics? Is anyone making it easier to read those really long infographics on a smart phone?

Surprisingly no. I have seen a few attempts at mobile responsive designs, but nothing I would consider to be successful. Data visualizations are being used fantastically within mobile apps, but viewing full infographics on a smartphone is still a challenging process.

We’ve seen animated, interactive and video infographics used on a limited basis. What are some of the pushing-the-envelope trends of infographics? Will we see augmented reality or 3D printed infographics?

We will continue to see experiments with interactive, animated and video infographics as well as other new formats like augmented reality and zooming interfaces. I fully expect the art of infographics to continue to evolve along with the most current interfaces, but infographic image files are still the most successful because they are so simple and easy to share online. As people move towards wearable devices like Google Glass and smart watches, I expect new areas of data visualization to be developed to take advantage of the new displays.

Download Chapter One from Cool Infographics here.

Why I’m Not Making Any B2B Social Media Predictions for 2014

b2b-social-media-predictionsFor the past four years we have shared our predictions about where B2B social media would go in the coming year, but this year I am not going to do it. You can stomp your feet, hold your breath and even throw things in my general direction, but I am just not doing it. When I look back over the predictions for 2010, 2011, 2012 and even 2013 they all pretty much say the same thing: more B2B companies are going to adopt social media practices for their businesses.

Sure, there is more nuance to them than that, but that’s the basic idea. There have been specific predictions over the years that focus on the importance of mobile, social websites, blogging, better metrics, visual content and marketing automation, but at its core, all of the predictions are about greater adoption of social media.

Has this been happening? Yes. Will it continue to happen? Yes.

There are lots of statistics that point to growth in social media spending and commitment towards both content marketing and social media, but there’s nothing surprising or shocking about those statistics. No marketing manager is going to get fired for wanting to spend more of their budget on social media. And it does nobody any good for me to predict that this will happen. We all know it will happen.

The real problem with B2B companies adopting social media is the quality of their results. Many are still in such early stages of activity that signing up for a Twitter account and tweeting press releases allows them to convince someone that they are using social media. This makes it really easy to check a box on a survey to skew the results of adoption. But you, your boss and the executive team at your company will be disappointed in the results from this effort. That’s because there won’t be any results. You might pick up a few followers, but they will be of limited value.

So rather than regurgitate the same feel-good predictions about growing social media adoption, whether based on inaccurate survey data or anecdotal reviews of social media activity of real B2B companies, I would rather provide you, the B2B marketer, with helpful advice. If you need statistics or predictions to make your case, click the links, but if you would rather have some advice on how to be truly successful with social media lead generation for your B2B company, here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  • Who are your prospects?
  • What are their biggest pain points in their business?
  • Can you provide advice to help them solve their business issues?
  • Where do they spend their time online?
  • What are they talking about on line?
  • Who do they respect, follow and retweet?
  • What are the goals and objectives of your company?
  • How does the rest of marketing measure success?
  • Can you align your metrics with other marketing and company activities?

If you are not even to the place where you can ask these questions to begin your social media efforts, here are some B2B social media myths and objections that can get you closer to your own adoption of social media.

Photo credit: Flickr

Top 10 B2B Social Media Posts of 2013

b2b-top-10-social-media-postsThe best way for me to wrap up the year is to share what B2B social media posts resonated most with readers this year. Since I did not limit this list just to posts published this year I have included the year published after the post title. Half of these top posts were published in 2013, including the top three.

The posts are listed in reverse order, with the top post of the year at the end of this post.

10. 20 LinkedIn Tips for B2B Social Media Success (2012)

B2B marketers are looking for ways to improve their social media marketing results, and one of the platforms that helps with that is LinkedIn. Many B2B companies have seen success on the professional social network by getting employees to represent the company in addition to their own experiences, managing company pages and even running industry groups. Read more

9. 10 B2B Social Media Predictions for 2013 (2012)

It is that time of year again where we look forward and try to predict the future of social media for B2B companies. This is not a shot-in-the-dark exercise, but one based on observing how B2B companies have adopted social media over the past year. When we look back at 2013, we will not see a banner year with explosive growth in B2B social media. In many areas there will be continued gradual growth started in 2012 or earlier. If you have your own predictions or you disagree with ours, please let us know. Read more

8. 10 Ideas to Make Boring B2B Social Media Posts Captivating (2013)

Many B2B marketers are still trying to figure out social media for their companies. Years of product marketing driven writing, or content as we now call it, has honed their skills on features-based marketing. No matter how exciting your products and services are, this kind of marketing is boring. And it is not going to work in a social media context. Read more

7. Top 10 B2B Companies on Twitter (2011)

[Editor's Note] Rather than include the opening paragraph of this post, I wanted to mention that I created a methodology for this list 3 years ago that took into account things other than follower counts and some of the tools I used do not exist any more. This is an old post that still attracts traffic, and the list may be out of date. All these company accounts have grown much bigger since then, so you can still get an idea of some of the most successful accounts. Read more

6. The Difference Between B2B and B2C Digital Marketing (2013)

I was tempted to write a list of seven or so ideas on the differences between B2B and B2C marketing. Traditionally there’ve been several, but in 2013 (and soon 2014) I think there’s only one, albeit with seven or more consequences and considerations. Read more

5. Generate More Leads with B2B Social Media [Infographic] (2012)

Our friends at Inside View created this awesome infographic that gathers together many statistics, ideas and examples about using social media to help drive leads and sales for B2B companies. You can look through the stats yourself, but here are some to consider Read more

4. 5 Ways to Get More LinkedIn Company Followers (2011)

B2B companies now have the ability to share updates with their followers on LinkedIn. This is the first company page functionality that LinkedIn added that would be more effective with additional followers. Based on executive remarks, more functions are coming to company pages. To make sure you are ready, here are five ways to increase the number of followers of your company on LinkedIn. Read more

3. 7 Examples of Innovative B2B Content Marketing (2013)

At Content Marketing World, my good friend Ann Handley, coauthor of Content Rules and Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, presented a number of innovative examples of content marketing. The following are some of the B2B examples she shared in her presentation. Any metrics or results came from Ann’s presentation or published information. These examples are meant to inspire B2B marketers to think bigger than just basic written or video content. And bigger doesn’t mean spending more money. Read more

2. 21 Unbelievable B2B Content Marketing Statistics (2013)

B2B companies continue to be interested in content marketing as a means to connect with their prospects and customers, as a first step to generate leads with content and social media. Here’s a recent grassroots study from the 50,000 member strong B2B Technology Marketing community on LinkedIn. Here are some key statistics from the study. Read more

1. 4 Reasons Why Google+ is a Killer B2B Social Media Platform (2013)

Most of our B2B clients have staked a claim on Google+, but they don’t invest in it. Why? Because they consider it a ghost town. They say Google+ is irrelevant. They invest in Facebook and Twitter and (more and more) in LinkedIn. But you know what? Recent studies indicate that, while many companies were asleep at the switch, Google+ has emerged as the killer platform for B2B social media marketing. Read more/a>

Photo: Flickr

B2B Experts: Content Marketing Will Not Replace Social Media

b2b-content-marketing-replace-social-mediaAfter asking the B2B experts the difference between social media and content marketing, I asked them if they thought content marketing would ever replace social media.

This question was part of my original line of thinking. As more B2B marketers talk about content marketing instead of social media, it causes their social activities to be less siloed, less special. Content marketing feels more like marketing, and not an outsider art or mystical endeavor. With this in mind, I wondered if this change would shift the balance between the two. Read on to see if the experts think content marketing will replace social media. Share your own thoughts below in the comments.

ann-handleyAnn Handley (@marketingprofs)
Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and Co-Author of Content Rules
Blog: annhandley.com

The more likely scenario is that “content marketing” just becomes “marketing.”
 

lee-oddenLee Odden (@leeodden)
CEO at TopRank Online Marketing and Author of Optimize
Blog: TopRank Online Marketing Blog

In terms of a business activity, I think content marketing as a discipline will continue to rise and marketing budgets are definitely streaming in that direction. Some of that budget is being drawn from social media too.

Will marketing budgets towards content-focused marketing initiatives potentially exceed those for social media marketing? I think that’s entirely possible, especially for organizations that see social networks and media sites more as content distribution and engagement channels than purely as communities.

But with companies that operate socially across departments (marketing, sales, customer service, public relations, HR talent acquisition, legal, operations, etc) both internally and externally, overall social media investment could easily dwarf anything spent on content marketing.

jay-baerJay Baer (@jaybaer)
President at Convince and Convert and Author of Youtility

In no way will content marketing overtake social media in any corner of the universe with the possible exception of professional marketers. Social media is the new telephone. Content marketing is the new brochure. That doesn’t make it unimportant – hell, I just published a best-selling book about doing content right. Keep in mind that my mom uses social media every day. My mom could care less about content marketing, although she of course consumes content routinely. Social media envelops us like air. Content marketing is a place we (mostly marketers) can go visit, like a sparkling lake stocked with trout.

jason-fallsJason Falls (@jasonfalls)
Vice-President for Digital Strategy at CafePress and founder of Social Media Explorer

Content marketing is being leveraged by companies everywhere to fuel their social media content. For the companies that allow content marketing to take over social media, they’ll ultimately have less return than those who don’t. Pumping content without the social element — engaging, responding, interacting — is hollow. We have that today. It’s called regular media. The social behavior, valuing your consumers, caring for them … that will always be the kicker that takes good content marketing efforts into the realm of noticeable outstanding marketing.

joe-chernovJoe Chernov (@jchernov)
Newly Acquired VP of Content at Hubspot
I too have seen that same shift beginning to occur, and frankly we’re not the only ones. Venture capitalists are increasingly investing in content marketing startups. Within marketing tech, content is absolutely the hot sector. I think the two — content and social — will remain separate for the next few years. Content platforms are just so new that the space will need to shake out a bit more. But in time, I can see a convergence. Content marketing solutions will converge with either demand generation systems or social media management systems, depending on where content finds its “center of gravity” in large organizations.

jason-millerJason Miller (@jasonmillerca)
Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Marketing Solutions at LinkedIn

Content marketing will not replace social media by any means; they are and will continue to be two very different things with two very different functions. Social media channels are the tentacles from which your content extends its reach while opening up a direct line of communication with your customers and prospects. In addition, what were once known as “social media vanity metrics” (shares, plus ones, Likes, retweets, and comments) are now playing a much bigger role in how your content ranks within search engines and the social platforms themselves. At the end of the day, content and social will be broken out of their respective silos and pulled together as an essential part of an overall integrated marketing strategy.

doug-kesslerDoug Kessler (@dougkessler)
Creative Director and Co-founder of Velocity

I see lots of social media experts and agencies furiously rebranding themselves as content marketing experts and agencies. I don’t see many content marketing experts and agencies going the other way.

I don’t think content marketing will replace social media marketing because they’re very different things. But I do think it will become more important, more central and more strategic than social media marketing — because it is!

But content marketing will one day dissolve into marketing, too. (Try to imagine ‘content-free marketing’). And the next hot term will come along and replace it.

The discipline won’t go away – it’s just way too fundamental to what good marketing is – but the term and its attendant buzzwords will.

chris-moodyChris Moody (@cnmoody)
VP of Marketing at Compendium
Blog: chris-moody.com

Content marketing will never take the place of social media and probably will never outrank the term. Everyone is using social media. A few actually get it right. Being smart with the content you’re producing will help grow your business. Then you actually have something worth sharing.

The irony of it all is that content marketing allows us to be more successful with web, email and social media.

rene-powerRené Power (@renepower)
Business Development Director at Barrett Dixon Bell and Author of Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing
Blog: Marketing Assassin

No, I think they are a natural partners when it comes to online marketing, and especially in B2B, depth of information is critical in social media marketing as we know information is crucial right throughout the decision making process. The long term question for me is more whether marketing inately becomes more content and socially focused, effectively rendering both specialities obsolete.

tom-skotidasTom Skotidas (@tomskotidas)
Founder of Skotidas

This is not possible, because they are interrelated, symbiotic concepts. Social media refers to websites and internet-based applications that are used for social networking between users of these websites or applications. Content marketing uses content in the form of dialogue or information – shared within social media – to drive effective networking between users. This networking allows B2B marketers to use social media to activate relationships, build brand, grow demand and generate leads. Wherever personal brand and person-to-person relationships are key (e.g. in social selling), content – and its use for marketing purposes – serves as the lifeblood of B2B marketers.

Photo credit: Flickr

B2B Experts: The Difference Between Social Media and Content Marketing

Many B2B marketing conversations have been focused on content marketing lately, rather than social media and I wanted to understand if this was a real trend and what it might mean. The graph below shows worldwide Google searches for the terms social media and content marketing. The comparison for November 2013 shows 33 times the average search volume for social media versus content marketing. This means that social media is still what people are looking for, compared to content marketing.

With such a large disparity in search interest, and one that doesn’t seem to be changing on a global level, I asked several experts about the difference between social media and content marketing. Below are their answers to this question. The experts also weighed in on if they thought content marketing would ever replace social media.

ann-handleyAnn Handley (@marketingprofs)
Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and Co-Author of Content Rules
Blog: annhandley.com

I see content marketing as the larger umbrella under which social media lives. I explain how social fits into a content publishing strategy here. (Along with a handy DIY-drawn chart!)

lee-oddenLee Odden (@leeodden)
CEO at TopRank Online Marketing and Author of Optimize
Blog: TopRank Online Marketing Blog

I don’t think social media and content marketing are an apples to apples comparison. Even so, in terms of Google Trends, I think the difference between the phrases “content marketing” and “social media” is that content marketing is entirely a business term.

Your neighbor isn’t going to talk to you about those darn teenagers and their content marketing. But there’s plenty of discussion by businesses and citizens alike about social media. From business publications to gossip magazines, the phrase social media is ubiquitous because it’s part of everyday language for any internet connected human being. Therefore, when it comes to tracking services like Google trends, there’s little chance of content marketing surpassing social media as a popular expression.

jay-baerJay Baer (@jaybaer)
President at Convince and Convert and Author of Youtility

Content marketing is a device used by companies to educate, inform or entertain customers or prospects by creating attention or causing behavior that results in leads, sales or advocacy. Social media is used by customers and prospects to communicate among themselves, and occasionally with companies. This communication can result in leads, sales or advocacy, but is often less structured and conversational, and can be reactive too, as social media is increasingly used as a customer support channel.

From the company perspective, the goal of content marketing is consumption, then behavior. The goal of social media is participation, then behavior.

The confusing thing today is that as social media expands, brands need to create content to populate these channels. Further, many content repositories have rich social media overlays (the new G+ fueled comments on YouTube, for example).

[Jay was inspired by this question and wrote the following post: Here’s the Difference Between Content Marketing and Social Media.]

jason-fallsJason Falls (@jasonfalls)
Vice-President for Digital Strategy at CafePress and founder of Social Media Explorer

Content marketing is creating content for communications channels (blogs, newsletters, social posts, press releases, videos, photographs, interactive media, etc.) that persuade an audience. Social media are some of those channels and are defined by gathering points of an audience that allows open communications to, from and between its members. For businesses, and tactically, social media marketing is leveraging online gathering points and conversations with participants, to persuade an audience.

[Jason was inspired by this question and wrote the following post: Content Marketing Alone will Fail.]

michael-brennerMichael Brenner (@brennermichael)
Vice President of Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP
Blog: B2B Marketing Insider

The difference between content marketing and social media is huge. Social media is a new channel. And it competes with other media channels like TV, radio, print and all the digital channels available to us.

Content marketing and storytelling are as old as human beings. We have always needed to find ways to convey important information in useful and entertaining ways. Social media is just the latest evolution in the way we can tell the stories. I think soon we will drop the “social” and go back to calling it plain old “media.”

doug-kesslerDoug Kessler (@dougkessler)
Creative Director and Co-founder of Velocity

In the early stages of a new phenomenon, people need to know all about it. Everyone’s on the steepest part of the collective learning curve. But that curve starts to flatten out over time, as the new discipline kind of dissolves into the wider discipline (of marketing itself in this case).

Social hit the big time before the new incarnation of content marketing did. Its curve is starting to flatten out.

For me, social media marketing is almost a complete subset of content marketing. You can do content marketing without ever logging in to a social site (your programs would suffer for it, but you could do it).

But to try social media marketing without content… and you become that crazy guy with the megaphone on the street corner. Or the people who post ‘Positive, inspiring quotes every day!” (Even these, are arguably content — just annoying content).

Content marketing is sharing your expertise to help your prospects do their jobs (or live their lives). Social media marketing is using social channels to listen, engage with people, build communities and participate in conversations relevant to your brands.

Social is one of the most important places your content can make an impact. But it’s not the only one. It’s also a powerful source of insight for your content. But it’s not the only one.

chris-moodyChris Moody (@cnmoody)
VP of Marketing at Compendium
Blog: chris-moody.com

You’re definitely right about the trends. But, content marketing stretches across everything. Traditionally, it hasn’t been as sexy or desirable as social media. As individuals, we’re much more concerned with our presences on social networks than our content marketing strategy. Much of that perception has stalled the adoption of successful content marketing execution.

Many marketers focus exclusively on web (websites, blogs, landing pages, optimization, etc.), email and social media. Since Facebook launched, social media has been the most desirable niche for jobs and day-to-day tasks. But, as Marcus Nelson wrote recently – social media missed out on what it was created to do…build and strengthen connections. While we were all busy sharing away, most of us forgot to take a step back and strategically plan out our content marketing strategy. By the way, content is needed for all areas of marketing. Regardless of the execution or distribution channel, you need the right content. That’s the big difference. At the end of the day, social is a distribution channel and a method of communication. It is distributing the content that we need to have a strategy around. We also need lots of it to fulfill the promise of 1:1 personalized marketing.

rene-powerRené Power (@renepower)
Business Development Director at Barrett Dixon Bell and Author of Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing
Blog: Marketing Assassin

There is clear distinction for me. Content, simplistically is the fuel for social media marketing. There are a variety of surveys and data sets (from companies like Hubspot) which point to the majority of relevant social media updates actually containing a clickable link. For social media to engage, these updates and links need to be relevant and action oriented. That’s where content comes in. Content is a way of repacking and republishing content previously created for a sole or different purpose, but with a focus on being helpful to customers (and potentially lead generative for the creator). Consider news releases, blogs, sales presenters, brochures, video, audio etc and think about how with a little work and a calendar, this can be reused. Everyone is talking content, but just try finding good b2b examples.

tom-skotidasTom Skotidas (@tomskotidas)
Founder of Skotidas

The term social media refers to websites and internet-based applications that are used for social networking between users of these websites or applications. For effective social networking to take place, a content exchange is required; that is, the sharing of thoughts and information. So they are interrelated, symbiotic concepts. In the B2B space, content marketing refers to content exchange in which the key objectives are relationship building, brand building, demand generation, and lead generation. Content marketing can benefit either the personal brand, the organisational brand, or both.

B2B Marketers Must Balance Organic and Paid on Facebook

b2b-facebook-earn-itJim Tobin is the president and founder of Ignite Social Media and the author of the new book, Earn It. Don’t Buy It. The CMO’s Guide to Social Media Marketing in a Post Facebook World. I recently had the chance to sit down with him and talk about the book.

What are the big ideas behind the book?

I’ve been a little frustrated over the past few years. In the early days of social media you couldn’t buy social media coverage. We were all social media marketers. How did we get people to care about our content? There weren’t even fan pages. How did you get people to care about this brand and talk about it online? That was the most challenging marketing ever. The traditional advertising that I used to do seems painfully easy compared to that. And in the past couple of years we’ve gone from zero to six billion dollars in advertising on Facebook and half a billion on Twitter. And it’s supposed to grow a billion dollars next year.

If you think about who controls these budgets, it’s people who are used to spending money on ads. They’ve gotten away from who cares and who is this going to resonate with and they are just throwing money at impressions and exposure. I’ve seen enough with my clients to know that organic exposure drives better business results. Measurably better business results. It goes back to discovery, the momentum effect and how people feel when they discover something. We are better off if we get back to being social media marketers, not social media advertisers. Not that there is no place for advertising, but maybe the ad budgets should have been three billion, not six billion. That other three billion into great content would have driven huge dividends.

The second point is illustrated by the subtitle: The CMO’s guide to social media marketing in a post-Facebook world. We’ve gotten into this feeling over the past couple of years that social media marketing is Facebook and social media marketing is content in the stream. It’s Oreo. It’s funny memes. And that’s just such a fraction of what social media marketing is. I amassed this data just by paying attention to the fact that Facebook has huge problems. My teenagers aren’t on there anymore. Everyone I talk to says that it is less interesting than it was six months ago. As marketers, what does that mean? We need to prepare for a multi-channel, multi-social world and a lot of people are not doing that.

How do you reconcile the need for organic interaction with Facebook’s stance that paid advertising is the only way to get in front of people in their streams.

I don’t know if Facebook has realized it yet, but they have only one choice, and that’s to loosen up the feed [and show more content]. They have tightened it twice, first in September/October last year and again early this year. The satisfaction among users has plunged. Facebook is boring. In part because I see the same stories. This story bumping they introduced a couple of months ago is horrific. I’m seeing the same story over and over again. And marketers are angry. A lot of my clients have really big Facebook budgets. Advertising budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And they are really upset with how little coverage they get organically. So you have the brands that pay the bills upset and you have users who are saying this isn’t interesting.

On the side you have Twitter who was asleep for four years suddenly doing great things and being really interesting. Facebook says they have five times the content of tv. You wouldn’t know it. They’re doing a good job hiding it from everybody. There’s this battle now that Twitter is winning, and Facebook can only win if they loosen up the newsfeed. They’ve also said that they are only going to show an ad for 1 in 20 updates. If you tighten up the newsfeed, you restrict your own revenue. The best way to increase it, without getting off that 1 in 20 is to show more content. So it helps the user. It helps the brands, who are less angry about spending, because they are seeing some organic stuff on the channel. If they don’t do that, in three years they are dead.

Where does Facebook sit on a CMO’s radar?

Picture the CMO has a grid of things he or she has to think about. There’s a ton of stuff in that grid. The 4Ps [price, product, promotion and place] are there. In one corner, probably big enough to take a quadrant, is digital marketing. And a quadrant of that is social media marketing. And a sub quadrant of that is Facebook marketing. So it’s a medium to large sized dot in the corner.

The reason I am talking to the CMO is because they are the ones who think they have solved it by allocating budget to it. You should allocate budget to social media, but the mix is wrong. It should go much more toward content, toward feeding really good fans, rather than amassing 18 million fans, of which 2 million are good.

There’s data in the book from one of our clients. We map their interaction rate and their reach percentage for the four months before they ran a large fan acquisition buy. And then we map it after. They lost two-thirds of their engagement and 60% of their reach. They killed their own page. There’s no point in having a fan that you can’t activate. They’re making huge mistakes to brag about hitting a number of fans, whether it’s one million, five million, ten million fans, whatever the next milestone is. A few of my clients have started to come around. They don’t care about how many fans they have anymore. They care about activating them. And that’s really what it’s about. If you can’t get them to share content or come to your website or give you their email address or put your product in their shopping cart there’s no point in having them. That’s a message that hasn’t gone up to the C-suite.

So how does this relate specifically to B2B companies trying to use Facebook for social media marketing?

With the way the sales cycle works, and that your buyers are 60-70% of the way through the sales cycle before contacting you, your content has to do so much more work in building authority and trust. As an agency, I am a B2B marketer. We spend a lot of time on our blog creating content that is not link bait. We’re not copying Buzzfeed. We want the small amount of the right people to read our content and decide that we are smart. You can’t do that with ads. When the book came out my marketing team wanted to buy ads. That would be ironic at best.

Jay Baer, author of Youtility, who wrote the forward, talks about how do you add value. Because of the nature of B2B marketing (long sales cycle, committee decision making, etc), I will never be in a position to know when someone is looking for a social media agency. I can’t do a calling program to convince them that they need one or that they need to change. They need to determine those things on their own. But we put a lot into our content and earning shares in the right places where the right people will see it, including LinkedIn.

Every week we track top of the funnel traffic, total visitors, leads and pitches. And we see where it all comes from. We’ve gotten posts on the front page of Reddit and they drive a quarter of a million views, but they are of no value. While we track the top of the funnel, that’s not the big goal. It is important because a percentage is going to qualify. If you look at the trend data, you would think we need to get on Reddit again. But that’s not the right audience. We need people to value our content and to believe we know what we’re talking about. And Facebook is often the wrong platform for B2B. Good B2B marketers have been thinking beyond it since the beginning.

You’ve got to remember why you need page views. Buzzfeed needs page views because they are serving up ads. But we’re not. We need page views because the people need to conclude that we are really smart. So if you hook them in and you stop at 300 words when you’ve got 1200 words of really good information on that topic, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Your content has to be good enough to change minds over time, not just to drive traffic.

Ways to Improve a B2B Cold Sales Call and Make it Social

b2b-sales-call-appointmentYesterday my cell phone rang and it was a Raleigh NC number that I didn’t recognize. I often get calls from numbers that I don’t recognize, but since I live in the Raleigh area, I answered this call.

“Hello, this is Linda from [company name]. I like to tee up a 10-15 minute call with [name], our CEO.”

“Can you say all that again? I didn’t understand any of that.”

“I calling from [company name] and I want to tee up a call with our CEO. It will only take about 10-15 minutes of your time.”

Since my number is out in the world from business cards, email signatures and contact databases, I was not surprised to get this random call on my cell phone. I also get calls from PR people pitching me on irrelevant stories for this blog. It was not clear to me which this call was, so I asked her.

“Is this a PR call or a sales call? What is the point of this call?”

She then proceeded to the next line of the script and briefly described what the call would entail. It had something to do with targeted leads and prospects. She did a terrible job explaining the product and phone call demo she was trying to schedule.

I still didn’t know the name of the company. I still didn’t know if this was a sales pitch or a PR pitch. Since neither of them were relevant to me, I told her thank you, but I was not interested. I hung up before she could respond. This is how I have always dealt with cold calling sales people that do not quickly demonstrate their relevance to me.

What was Wrong with this Call?

1. Linda was so unenthusiastic that I did not even understand her when she told me what company she was representing.

2. Her do-over was no better than the first time, and I still did not catch the company name or the CEO’s name. Because I didn’t recognize either name after two attempts, this was clearly a cold call.

3. She provided no context for the call. Not for how they got my name or what company they thought I represented. Did I sign up for something on a website? Did I meet them at a trade show? Did I drop my business card in a fishbowl at a restaurant? Did they buy my name from a list where I expressed an interest?

4. She was trying to schedule a call with no statement of benefit for me.

5. When I asked is this was a sales call or a PR call, she couldn’t answer me. All she could do was resort to phase two of the script, which apparently is where she provides some context for the call if I don’t automatically agree to talk to the CEO.

6. It is not common to arrange sales calls for the CEO. That’s more common with PR pitches.

Ways to Improve this Call

1. Linda needs to stop acting like she is reading from a script and get excited about her calls.

2. The script needs to change to incorporate a description of the company in the opening. Since this is a cold call, and I probably haven’t heard of the company, I can remain engaged in the conversation is I know what they do.

3. Add a mention of my company or position so we can determine if I am the right person to talk to.

4. Add a benefit to me. If this is a lead prospecting tool, let me know that companies similar to mine have increased their pipeline by 50% using their product, tool, service.

5. If they want me to talk to the CEO, which automatically makes me think the company is small, sell me on the experience and influence of the CEO so that I want to talk to him.

6. Unless they bought a list, or just mined some data from a list, let me know why they are calling me. Again, this is a way to engage me in the conversation. If the call is because I downloaded a content resource or registered for something at a trade show, share that context with me and I am more likely to accept the appointment.

Ways to Make this Call Social

1. Search for me on Google, Twitter and LinkedIn before calling me. My name on my business cards is the same as all my social profiles, so I am pretty easy to find. Learn a little bit about me so you can add context to the conversation that is relevant to me.

2. If you have one job, setting appointments, you need to come prepared to engage me in conversation. There are lots of things that I can talk about that you can learn from my social profiles. This makes me more receptive to your message.

3. Confirm that I fit your target personas by looking at my latest position. This did not seem like a product for marketers, but if she could make a connection with me as a way into my company, that is a step in the right direction. Very often you are selling to wrong people at the right company.

4. It is called social selling for a reason. Yes, it is about using social media, but it is also about being social. If you are engaging and friendly on this interruptive call, I will respond the same way. An attitude of “I can’t be bothered” presents that as the attitude of the company. And my response is that I can’t be bothered.

Have you responded to a cold call to set an appointment? What made you engage with the company, and what there any use of social media to help that engagement?

Photo: Flickr