Happy B2B Customers Can Get You More New Customers

b2b-customer-acquisitionAs we all know, word-of-mouth is the best marketing channel there is. Social media gives us the opportunity to create and scale word-of-mouth on a level that was impossible a few years ago. Top B2B companies are already taking advantage of this. According to a 2012 report by the Aberdeen Group, the top B2B firms gained 230% more leads via social media than their competition.

So how does this happen? The process has a few steps:

  • Identify why customers love you
  • Build a relationship
  • Ask for referrals and get them started
  • Make it a system

1. Identify why customers love you

Why do your customers love you? It may be your unique value proposition (i.e. we provide a super simple way to create media clips), or something distinctive about your company (i.e. we provide great customer service).

If you don’t know this, the way to find out is simple. Just ask. Ask your happiest customers why they are so happy with you. Ask them why they love your product and your company. Ask them what drew them to you, and why they are staying.

Make sure you write down as much as possible. You’ll be able to hear directly from customers what keeps them with you, and you’ll use this exact language later.

Now that you know why your happiest customers love you, it’s time to build a deeper relationship with them.

2. Build a relationship

When you’re dating, you don’t ask someone to be your boyfriend or girlfriend right away – you build a deeper relationship. And when you’d like a referral, you do the same thing. The goal is to transition from customers to happy customers, and from happy customers to evangelists.

To start, make sure that they’re getting top-notch customer service. Then get them more involved with your company so that they feel an emotional investment in your success. The best two ways to do this are through case studies and testimonials.

In a case study, you would feature the customer and their success using your product. If possible, try to make the case study a longer form piece of content, like a long form interview, a video, or a podcast. This gives your readers more quality content and allows you to spend more time with your customer.

Testimonials are also useful. It’s always good to have testimonials, and they also help build a stronger relationship with a customer. Remember, the more you interact with your customers (within reason), the better the relationship.

One you have case studies and testimonials, feature them on your blog or website. Share it on social media, and invite your customers to do the same. When they do, engage with them and have public, online conversations. This breaks the ice of you talking about your business on social media with the customer. It also makes them feel special, because they were highlighted on your blog and on social media. It’s a win-win.

3. Ask for referrals and get them started

After you have established a relationship, directly ask for a referral. At this point, this should be easy. By now you have a long-standing relationship with them, beyond just being a vendor. You have talked to them about why they are happy and what makes them stay, you have ensured they’ve gotten top-notch customer service, and you’ve given them exposure in your blog and in social media. They should be delighted with you, and delighted to do it. If not, you can win them over using the same language they used with you when they said why they loved you.

How you structure the referral program is up to you. There are many different flavors of this. Dropbox has a referral program built into the product – they offered up to 16 GB of storage space for referrals. Many companies have referral programs that are simply discounts for both parties for a certain period of time. Some firms don’t have formal programs, they just ask for customers to refer others as a favor. Figure out what works best for you.

The key to making this work is to make it easy for them and to get them started yourself.

Take the time to create suggested LinkedIn posts, Facebook posts, or Tweets for them. In the suggested posts, use the language that they themselves used to describe you. It will resonate more with them and make them more likely to share it.

When they do share, Like/Retweet it, and engage in (another) conversation with them online.

4. Make It A System

You should systematize this process in your company, moving new customers to becoming happy customers to becoming evangelists. In the process you’ll gain insight into your customers, create great content and testimonials, and ultimately, get more referrals.

Your B2B Prospects Want to Binge Your Content

b2b-content-binging-house-of-cardsB2B marketers are often focused on their industry competitors when they think about social media and content marketing, but that is frequently the wrong way to think about it. It also is not the best way to consider their prospects. They should not worry about a competitor poaching their prospects, or even their customers. They should focus on attention. Their prospects are not just watching Twitter, reading blogs and following influencers and companies on LinkedIn, but they’re watching Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and all those shows that they have been DVRing. Timeshifting is only the beginning of what’s happening to their attention. It’s now all about binging.

Netflix and Amazon drop shows a season at a time. This is not by accident. This is based on viewers’ habits in watching old shows. Since your customers and prospects are staying up all night watching full seasons of “Must See TV,” these platforms decided that there was no reason to continue the idea of appointment television on a streaming platform. If someone wants to watch all 13 episodes of season 3 of House of Cards, there’s nobody to stop them. This is part of what it means for the prospects and customers to hold the power in the relationship.

Are your prospects responding to cold calls? Are they responding to your generic blast emails? Or are they doing their own research about your company and your solutions before they ever want to talk to you? It is a very clear No, No, Yes. And according to research from SiriusDecisions, “67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.” Again, they hold the power in this relationship by seeking out the information that is most helpful to their journey.

So what about your content? Daily blog posts? Check. Monthly ebook? Check. Quarterly webinar? Check. But can they consume this content on their own terms? Sure they can read all the blog posts they want at anytime day or night, but what about those things behind forms? You’re creating educational content that they can download, but each time they have to fill out the form. Sometimes that form is auto-populated with their information, which is cookie driven or browser driven, but your prospects still have to submit each time to get each piece of content. And depending on how your marketing automation system is set up, those downloads might happen in the browser or in email. This seems quite contrary to how your prospects are consuming things in other parts of their lives.

Let’s look at each of these challenges that B2B marketers face when approaching content marketing.

1. Competition for Attention

The best way to compete for someone’s attention is to provide relevant, helpful information in an easy to consume form. Can you teach your prospects how to do something? Can you help them solve business problems? Can you make it quick and easy for your customers to solve issues related to your product? They are used to customer experiences like Amazon’s website and hotels where they are greeted by name. Would you wade through all the outdated pages on your website to find an answer? If there’s too much friction, prospects won’t bother. And this has nothing to do with how good or bad the product is. This is all about having little time and less attention, and when things are too hard to find they move on.

2. Buyers Setting the Terms of the Relationship

This is not a new idea, but many B2B marketers are still coming to terms with this. How well do you really understand your personas? Do you really know what their problems are? And how they like to consume information? And where they look for it? The way to make sure that you are part of their consideration set, or even just ensure that your content gets in front of them when they are looking, you must know how and why they are looking. Can you anticipate their questions? Insights into your own customers can give you some guidance in knowing more about your prospects. Using the word relationship to describe this is not accidental. You must be attentive to their needs if you want them to stick around.

3. Binge Consumption

Let’s assume that you are creating great content that your prospects want and you are using social media, search, influencers and advocates to drive awareness to your content. Every blog post has a call to action that leads to a deeper dive piece of content. And your prospects love it. But what if they are getting on an airplane and they want to read six of your ebooks and watch two recorded webinars? You have created successful content, but you are not all the way there. You must make it easy for people to download more content. If you are using landing page forms for an ebook, you can have related ebooks on your thank you page. If you send the ebook link via email, include related content there. In either case, you must make sure your system can track these additional downloads without filling out a form again.

If this is not possible, consider pre-packaged bundles of content. When a prospect comes to a landing page for a single ebook, give them the option to download the bundle instead. This gives them multiple pieces of content without multiple form submissions. Don’t let the technology drive your decisions. Consider the customer experience and the websites you interact with. If you are already sharing content, you have the data to determine if your prospects having binging habits. If so, consider developing connected content that meets those consumption preference and create the infrastructure to match.

The more you understand about your prospects and your customers, whether through well-developed personas or not, the better you will be able to create and share content that speaks to their interests and their habits. Again, that sounds like a relationship to me.

How B2B CMOs Can Turn Social Media into Social Storytelling

b2b-social-storytelling-cmoFor the CMOs of B2B companies, the to-do list is never-ending. Provide more original social content. Engage your target audience. Attract new followers. Create ambassadors. And these tasks can appear monumental given the lack of time and the fluctuating gap in social skills, which require an understanding and communicating on multiple social networks, each with unique style, form, and community.

To be successful requires more than a social presence. It requires continuous social storytelling. Original stories are now one of the most strategic marketing deliverables B2B companies can create for engaging social audiences and communicating a company’s core positioning and value proposition. If told in a meaningful and engaging way, this narrative can become more than just story – it can become the blueprint for a B2B company’s entire social communication strategy.

But how to deliver effective social stories and content every day? Recognize that social media has created a new marketing lifecycle, combining social awareness, education, and engagement. CMOs must execute this new lifecycle within a digitally driven ecosystem against unrelenting competition to win buyer influence. Storytelling is at the speed of social.

In order to answer the challenge, you must have a team in place that shares your company’s vision and positioning. Form a story marketing team that is capable of telling original stories with clear roles, processes, and techniques. The goal for a story team is to make social storytelling part of the internal flow of conversation, to reach messaging alignment, and to deliver lifecycle organized social communications. Without clear storytelling management and workflow, your marketing team will be stuck in a world of one-off social media efforts. Here’s how to get started:

  • The story team members: product experts, customer experts, digital media designers, and experienced social marketing communicators. Select individuals from product marketing, product management, marketing communications, customer experience, and social media management.
  • The story team roles: story owner, collaborator, and viewer. Owners create and drive ideation and targeting. Collaborators add context and content. Viewers help share and communicate stories before, during, and after delivery. Consider a center of storytelling excellence to share roles across teams.
  • The storytelling process: story planning, design, and production. Planning is simple and fast. Ideate and organize ideas everyday. Design includes social targeting, social contexting, and social message testing. Production takes feedback from tests and completely prepares the final digital versions, the sequence, and schedule. Make sure these three phases become a standard lifecycle. Story is a deliverable so it requires a lifecycle process.

Delivering these original social stories that drive awareness and increase engagement by your prospects must be designed with the following key strategies and techniques in mind:

1. Know your rainforest

Your social rainforest is your target ecosystems and social connections. Entering social networks is much like wandering into a rainforest where everything is fundamentally connected. If you enter this ecosystem without knowledge of the power of its connectivity, extinction is eminent. Stories provide the link between your positioning, digital media, and target customers. They are that crucial connecting thread between your marketing team, your desired image, and your target social communities. In other words, the marketing team needs to be one with their target community. Aligning your employees and your story is the first step to telling it to the world.

2. Be authentic and helpful

Stop the vendor speak. Making an emotional and real impact means telling your story in an authentic, honest, helpful manner that is accessible to all parties. Worry less about impressing your audience and more about engaging them.

3. Find the stories within the story

Your story is just the beginning. Within that story are additional narratives, flowing together to help express your core beliefs and ideas. Think about it – every blog post, webinar, e-book, and customer experience has many related needs, tragedies, successes, and conflicts that can be shared on social networks to increase awareness and positioning. Finding and telling those stories will only enhance your overall story.

4. Arm your team

Social storytelling marketing teams must compete like sports teams. They need the best equipment. They need to create the strategies and they need to craft brilliant play books. They need experts in the right positions and, above all, they need experience playing the game.

5. The right apps

Today, CMOs and their team improvise by patching together an ad hoc mix of marketing tools and unmanageable volumes of content without a blueprint for scaling people, technology, and processes for storytelling. Invest in integrated, social ware marketing applications that instantly guide users through creating the right story for the right ecosystem through the right content and network. Thus, the entire marketing team is able to focus on creativity rather than administrative tasks. Arming your team with collaborative, marketing intuitive apps for story planning, story component design, digital publishing, and story measurement allows your team to deliver empowering and compelling social stories every day.

Your story is your strategy. By creating a high performance storytelling marketing team for your B2B company with clear roles and processes you can begin to source and pipeline ideas and content from across your team, partners, and customers. Team consistency and alignment becomes the norm versus the project. Turning social media into social storytelling requires well-designed organization, digital content, and applications that truly orchestrate social story planning, design, and delivery seamlessly and successful from ideas to wins.

5 B2B Social Media Lessons Cisco Learned in 2014

b2b-ciscoWith 2014 officially behind us, it’s a perfect opportunity to reflect on the past and speculate on the future. At Cisco, we continue to explore how social media is used not only to generate awareness and buzz, but also to drive thought leadership, influence the customer journey and make a greater impact to the overall marketing strategy. During the last year, I’ve seen first hand how the growth and pervasiveness of social media trends are shaping new digital experiences. Here’s a closer look at our top 5 social media lessons from 2014 and what we can learn from them as we head into 2015.

1. Social analytics are mission critical

Proper social analytics methodologies can help you develop a more sound social strategy. Social listening is not a new concept, but understanding how to analyze the data and turn it into actionable insights is not always a simple task. Take for example our listening effort to determine the best strategy around the #IoE and #InternetOfEverything hashtags. While there is not a shortage of hashtag best practices such as use the least amount of characters, use the one where your audience is, and create your own unique hashtag, it’s knowing the one that is best suited for your strategy. By analyzing the usage, frequency and audiences that leverage #IoE vs. #InternetofEverything, we made a decision to invest more on the latter hashtag. The shift in our strategy led to an approximate 440% usage increase in the last 12 months.

2. Influencer marketing lends credibility to your narrative

It’s no secret that leveraging authoritative, expert voices in social content can provide deep insight into any conversation. However, there are many formats in which those conversations can happen – beyond TweetChats, forums, and blogs. We’ve seen the power of using industry analysts, pundits and thought leaders in our Future of IT podcast channel, which has received more than 6,000 downloads to date. The result is rich, engaging content that continues to get engagement over time. In fact, when combined with recap blogs, SlideShare decks with key quotes from industry thought leaders and social content across our various channels, we’ve seen more than 100,000 engagements.

3. Graphics and videos drive more social engagement

I may be stating the obvious here but it’s important to emphasize how information consumption continues to evolve in favor of visual content and short-form video. We clearly see this with the gaining popularity of visual social networks such as Vine, Instagram and Tumblr. Also, keep in mind other trends such as Facebook’s news feed algorithm update means brands need to get more creative with how they capture audience attention. We’ve learned that by visually showing the impact of the Internet of Everything on the Public Sector, we’re able to drive more engagement and social reach. And through experimenting with short-form video content such as our recent Vine videos, we’re able to increase our engagement by 500% compared to the average text social post.

4. The influence of social good campaigns can be transformational

2014 was a big year for social good campaigns such as the ALS ice bucket challenge and many others. Campaigns such as these showcase an organization’s ability to reach target audiences to shape real change. At Cisco we’ve seen the power of challenges such as the IoT Challenge for Young Women help increase awareness for our involvement in emerging tech development.

5. Social demand generation can drive demand for goods and services

With 67% of consumers (and 94% of B2B buyers) conducting their own research on goods and services online before making a purchase decision, how brands show up on social media can have a great influence on sales. This goes back to ensuring there is a good content strategy, as well and a digital journey that can be effectively tracked all the way to purchase. Admittedly, this is an area we are continuing to explore and refine, but have already seen initial success. We do see huge upside potential and will continue to explore.

Your 2015 B2B Social Media Predictions Are Totally Wrong. Or Maybe They Are Totally Right!

b2b-social-media-predictions-2015It is the time of year when bloggers dust off their crystal balls and try to predict what will happen in B2B social media in the coming year. I have done this for many years myself. Whether these predictions are based on recent data, anecdotal experience or pure conjecture, they are frequently wrong. Or maybe they are right.

But the best part of writing these blog posts is that nobody ever goes back and looks at last year’s post to see what bloggers got right and what they got wrong. It is a content creators dream come true: attractive headline, shareable content, no repercussions.

Anyone can predict the future if they are not accountable for being right.

These opinion pieces are just that. Opinions.

It is very easy to find a survey and say that B2B companies are increasing their social media budgets. The percentage of B2B marketing budgets spent on social media will rise from 9% to 13% in the next 12 months. It will continue to rise to 21% in the next five years. This single data point will let a blogger predict growth in social media budgets for the next five years. And this survey is updated every year, so this one can go on for eternity.

But nobody is checking up on the bloggers to see what really happened. Or the marketers.

Every year the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs release their benchmark report about content marketing. But in this year’s version they changed the definition of content marketing and the number of B2B marketers indicating that they used content marketing went down from the previous year from 93% to 86%. Does this mean that bloggers can use this study to predict the decline of content marketing? Of course they can.

But other parts of the report reveal that B2B marketers are spending more time and money on content marketing. These selective data points support a prediction of increased reliance on content marketing. A blogger can take their pick of the direction, based on their opinion.

And be right either way. Or wrong.

What about making predictions about mobile? Is this really the year that B2B marketers will finally embrace mobile? It’s very easy to predict. Even easier than it’s been for the past five years that bloggers, including me, have been predicting it. 58% of American adults have smartphones. The breakdown of that data is even higher when you look at groups that likely contain your customers. And that data is almost a year old.

Predict away about the impact of mobile, but B2B marketers will prove it wrong once again. B2B websites, white papers, ebooks are still designed and built for desktop computers. This is one of the biggest no-brainers for marketers in years. But bloggers can predict this until they are blue in the face, but it is just not happening.

Other areas that inspire prognosticating for 2015 are marketing automation, social media advertising, scaling of social media across organizations beyond marketing, measurements of success beyond chasing likes and followers and true executive understanding and adoption of social media.

But for every one of these data-supported predictions, there will be many B2B companies that just don’t follow the trend. And prove the predictions wrong yet again.

It is easy to sign up for a Twitter account, but hard for many B2B marketers to embrace the platform and share information that is of value to their customers. It is easy to pull a white paper out of the archives and say you are doing content marketing, but harder to build a content funnel that matches prospects’ interest and timing so it can all lead to sales. And yes, it is easy to look at your own behavior on your mobile device as a rallying cry to go “Mobile First,” but to get all the pieces in place to make this happen at most B2B companies is hugely challenging.

For many B2B companies 2015 will be the year of true social media adoption and success at many levels. Unless I’m wrong.

Photo credit: Flickr

20 Most Important Stats from the 2015 B2B Content Marketing Report

The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs released their annual benchmark report on B2B content marketing. It is based on surveys of 1820 North American B2B Marketers across all industries and company sizes. This is the fifth year that they have released this report, and it continues to improve each year. The entire report is embedded at the end of this post.

The first, and most notable stat in this report is that number of B2B marketers using content marketing has gone down from 93% last year to 86% this year. That is because they changed the definition of content marketing to “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Apparently this helped some respondents realize that there is a difference between content marketing and just creating content.

This is a benchmark study, so it gives you something you can compare yourself to. The study also examines the habits and activities of the most effective B2B content marketers, so you can see how you are doing against those who report that content marketing is meeting their goals and driving business value.

1. 86% of B2B Marketers are using content marketing

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2. Only 38% of B2B Marketers rate their content marketing as effective

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3. 47% of B2B Marketers have dedicated content marketing groups

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4. 69% of the most effective B2B Marketers have dedicated content marketing groups

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5. Only 35% of B2B Marketers have a documented content marketing strategy

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6. 54% of the most effective B2B Marketers have a documented content marketing strategy

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7. 55% of B2B Marketers plan to increase their content marketing spending in the next year

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8. The top goal for B2B content marketing is brand awareness

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9. 83% of B2B marketers use content marketing for lead generation

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10. 81% of B2B marketers use content marketing for engagement

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11. 70% of B2B Marketers have created more content in the last year

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12. 63% of B2B Marketers use website traffic as their metric of content marketing success

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13. 94% of B2B Marketers use Linkedin to distribute their content

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14. 88% of B2B Marketers use Twitter to distribute their content

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15. 84% of B2B Marketers use Facebook to distribute their content

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16. 54% of B2B Marketers see producing engaging content as their biggest content marketing challenge

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17. 50% of B2B Marketers see producing content consistently as their biggest content marketing challenge

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18. 49% of B2B Marketers see measuring content effectiveness as their biggest content marketing challenge

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19. 54% of the most effective B2B Marketers publish content daily or multiple times per week

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20. 37% of the total marketing budget of the most effective B2B Marketers goes to content marketing

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Professors Share Observations on the State of B2B Marketing

b2b-marketing-ebookI recently participated in a project with the Oracle Marketing Cloud where they interviewed marketing professors about the state of B2B marketing and how they are using that knowledge to develop curriculum to train the marketers of the future. It was an esteemed panel of professors, including:

  • Barbara Kahn, Patty and Jay H. Baker Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
  • Josh Murdock, Professor of Educational Technology & Social Networking, Valencia College
  • Mark Schaefer, Marketing Consultant, College Educator and Author, Rutgers University
  • Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing, Co-Director of Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
  • Eric Bradlow, K.P. Chao Professor of Marketing, Statistics, and Education, The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jessica Rogers, Graduate Social Media and Marketing, Southern New Hampshire University
  • Jeffrey L. Cohen, Distinguished Lecturer of Marketing Analytics and Social Media, Ball State University (hey, that’s me!)

Download the entire ebook here (registration required), but in the meantime, here are my answers to the questions.

1. What is the number one thing marketers may have lost sight of?
Too many marketing activities are siloed from the top-level business objectives of a company, and are not measured against metrics that others in the company care about. If your executives follow daily, weekly or monthly numbers related to things like sales, customer retention, cost savings and customer satisfaction, then reporting softer marketing numbers will not win any points with those executives. Marketers need to find ways to tie their efforts to those business metrics.

2. What are your observations with respect to the nuances of the B2B and B2C marketing disciplines?
As a lifelong B2B marketer, and co-author of The B2B Social Media Book, B2B marketing makes sense to me. No matter what techniques you use, you are ultimately driving prospects into a buying process where you can track where they came from. While selling through a distribution network can complicate things, a company sales rep, or someone no more than a couple steps removed away from the company, handles B2B purchases, making tracking possible. I have never understood how Coca-Cola marketers can track their efforts to sell a bottle of Coke at the grocery store or convenience store. This action is too far removed from their brand marketing and advertising to attribute action to particular campaigns.

3. What do you think a B2B marketer can learn from B2C or vice versa?
B2B marketers can learn creativity, creating an emotional response and storytelling from the B2C pros, and B2C marketers can learn more about calls-to-action, attribution and leading a buyer through a journey from their B2B brethren.

4. Can you compare and contrast the curriculum that you’re teaching and the current roles and responsibilities of today’s marketers?
I am teaching students about the importance of their public, online presence and how to keep up with a constant flow of information in their industry. This would not be an explicit part of their marketing role, but an understanding of this will make them stronger marketers. Traditionally, it has been social media savvy folks on the team who really understand how to build a personal presence and follow all the right sources in a manageable way, but these skills are important as a solid foundation for all marketers.

Students learn how to create and analyze social media marketing campaigns that resonate with customers, B2B and B2C, and are based on solid marketing and business principles. Proper goal setting and how to review analytics to understand success are also a key part of my learning objectives. This fits in with the skills and requirements of marketers in the field. Marketers create campaigns, analyze competitors’ campaigns and review the success of their own efforts.

5. What will you teach my future employees this year?
I start by explaining the difference between personal social media, which is what most college students do, and professional social media. They need to understand the importance of a professional profile, not just on LinkedIn, but on all social platforms, if they are going into marketing. This is part of the transition to the working world. I tie social media to business results and the basic principles of marketing, so students understand the value of social media to an organization. I go though major and minor social platforms, looking at current examples and best practices, so students have an understanding of what is happening right now in social media marketing.

Please download the ebook here to learn what the rest of the panel thinks about the state of B2B marketing and how education feeds into it (registration required).

B2B Sales Teams Can Use Content Marketing to Generate Leads

b2b-social-selling-content-marketingMy friend Tom Skotidas and I talked about what can finally bridge the gap between sales and marketing. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation. We have been talking about the intersection of sales and content marketing for B2B companies. A lot of people call this social selling, but we talked about a situation where the sales team can actually generate leads with content marketing.

Some of the highlights of our conversation:

  • How to use content within a LinkedIn profile to generate leads
  • What happens when B2B sales teams start to understand what content converts
  • How sharing content through individuals targets audience segments
  • And the sharing of this content is trackable. You will know which of your B2B salespeople have results.

Photo credit: Flickr

9 B2B Marketing Lessons from Judging Online Campaigns

b2b-marketing-contest-judgingI recently judged the online marketing category of an internal marketing competition for a B2B company. The marketers chose their best online marketing campaigns and submitted the details of their strategies, activities, creative work and metrics of success. There were a lot of great ideas and great effort on the part of the marketers. The following lessons are derived from my feedback to the entrants and some reminders for all marketers that occurred to me as I reviewed their entries.

1. Marketing Goals Must Align with Business Goals

Marketing cannot exist in a silo. This is one of the biggest issues that marketers, especially social media marketers, have. They create their own set of goals that are not important to anyone else in the company. While those goals may be important to the marketing team, you also need goals that relate to the high level business goals. These are the things that executives care about. These are the things that you must report on. These are the things that have material impact on the business.

2. Tactics without Strategy Will Only Get You So Far

It is easy for marketers to do things to look effective, and maybe on small levels, they are effective. But unless those small tactics add up to the overall strategy, you will never truly grow the business. Can you get more people to like your Facebook? Sure, but how does it relate to growing sales or improving the customer experience? You need to make sure you understand how to leverage that larger audience to meet the strategic goals. Grow your audience for the sake of having a bigger audience is not going to win any points with anyone. And if your boss wants a bigger online audience just so the numbers look bigger, tell them they are wrong. It’s about more than that.

3. SMART Goals are the Best Way Ensure Solid Marketing

Make your marketing goals:
Specific
Measurable
Actionable
Relevant
Timely

4. Great Results Don’t Count if They’re Not Against Your Goals

Every so often fantastic things happen as a result of a marketing campaign. Maybe you achieved a big bump in sales that you weren’t counting on. Whether or not you can attribute this to your marketing efforts, or it just occurred in the measured time period, you cannot take credit for this success if it wasn’t one of your goals. The point of goals are to plan what is going to happen and what success looks like. So that success can become repeatable. Happy accidents are not repeatable. Your boss might be happy with the extra sales, but if you don’t know how to make them happen again, they are not one of the success points of the campaign.

5. Present the Context of Your Success

Measurement is a key to understanding your success. Did you meet your goals? Did you grow your business? Did you drive traffic back to your website in significant numbers to make the effort worth it? Just like marketing doesn’t work in a silo, neither do metrics. How do your increases compare to a similar period? That could be the previous period or the same one last year. This context is required to understand the success of your marketing. And if you are doing something new, look to industry averages as your baseline. Even if a click-through-rate sounds good to your gut, you need to compare it an industry benchmark to know if it really is good.

6. Let Your Customers Tell You What They Want

Your customers are your marketing audience. Even if you are trying reach new prospects, they are like your current customers. Make sure you know what things are important to them. And not just as they relate to your products and services, but in the running of their business. What are their typical business problems? How do they like to receive information? And how do they communicate back with you? Thankfully we have stopped using fax machines to communicate.

7. If You Can’t Explain the Value of Your Efforts to Your Boss, What Are You Doing?

One of the more interesting evaluation elements of the marketing contest was to view the submission from the perspective of a company executive. This is very different from looking at it from a marketing perspective. Does your boss understand what you are doing? Do they understand the value of it to the business. If not, there could be one of two main problems. There could be a communication problem. You are just not explaining it very well. The other is that your efforts just don’t have real value to the business. This happens when you are chasing the wrong things. The ones that don’t have enough business impact, or they don’t lead to something with business impact.

8. Focus on One Core Campaign for the Best Results

Sometimes marketers get caught up in big, complicated campaigns with lots of moving parts. Not only are these expensive, but they are harder to measure. Marketing campaigns should have a core strategy and all the elements pointing in one direction. Successful campaigns should have multiple elements, but they’ll be more successful if they are ultimately trying to do the same thing.

9. Don’t Get Left Behind Best Practices

Today’s marketers need to keep up with trends in the marketplace. This means paying attention to their own industry verticals, but also marketing trends in general. Social media practices have evolved over the last 5 years and what made sense then no longer makes sense. For example, merely growing your social media followers as an end goal is one of those activities. Nobody cares how many people like your Facebook page. But if you are growing your audience on Facebook and other platforms as a means better serve your customers and drive prospect traffic to your website, that makes sense. As overloaded everyone is, you need to make a little time in your day to dip into some of the top marketing blogs. You will get a better sense of what other marketers are doing and where they are finding success.

Photo credit: Flickr

Give Your B2B Customers Clear Calls-To-Action on Social Media

b2b-social-media-call-to-action2Sometimes B2B marketers focus all their efforts on creating the best content, the ultimate customer experience, the perfectly nuanced status update to drive traffic back to their website or blog, but they forget to provide a clear call-to-action for the visitor.

The other extreme is to create a complex series of Rube Goldberg-inspired steps to get a visitor to the right place that is very nearly personalized for their interests, industry and stage in the buying cycle. This is not a bad idea in theory, but an overcomplicated process confuses prospects and they may never convert to a customer.

I was on vacation in Alaska for the past week and stopped at Meier’s Lake Roadhouse to get gas (click the picture above to enlarge it). This remote roadside stop understands the difference between just telling their customers something and providing clear instructions what action they would like them to take.

“Meiers Lake Roadhouse is now on Facebook,” reads a simple printed sign (shown below).

As a traveler passing through, and unlikely to ever return, I would not gain much value from liking their Facebook page. But maybe it was the perfect spot in this remote area to get gas before running out. Or maybe I ate at their restaurant, stayed in a cabin or bought the perfect souvenir to remember my trip. Maybe I just enjoyed my interactions with this Alaskan independent businessman.

“We appreciate your reviews,” was the second and only other thing on this sign.

Liking their Facebook page is not the action they want you to take. It is just a means to get to the call-to-action. They are asking you to leave a review. If this was a good place for you to stop, then it might be a good place for others. And the owner of Meier’s Lake Roadhouse wants you to let others know about your experience. It is a simple ask, and it is very clear.

There is no need to beat this idea into the ground, especially since I am just back from vacation. Here are the two social media lessons from this Alaskan roadside business:

1. Make sure you give prospects, customers and visitors an obvious call-to-action, by telling them what you want them to do.

2. Make it simple and clear.

And even though these are lessons for social media and online activities, they definitely apply for physical interactions.

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