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

How to Fail at B2B Social Media

Many B2B companies are heading into 2010 with a slight bit of optimism, but they still are operating under tight budgets that demand measurable results. The web in general, and social media specifically, can be metrics-driven environments, so marketing departments, agencies and consultants are being held accountable for social media results in ways that were never required for traditional marketing tactics. B2B companies need to understand that we are still in an experimental phase of social media that may require testing, monitoring, failure and change of tactics.

While failure may be part of a social media test program, here are four things that will almost guarantee failure of your social media programs. We can even assume that there is a social media strategy with a content strategy, and it is integrated with the marketing plan, and these failures will still occur.

Siloed Social Media Practitioners
No matter if you work internal for the company or are providing social media services through an agency or as a consultant, you must be connected to the rest of the marketing or communications team. And this is true whether you are providing strategy or content for the organization. If you don’t know what is going on in other parts of the marketing organization, you cannot effectively do the job you were hired for. There is nothing worse than focusing your approach around a given project only to find it has been delayed.

Solution for Success: A 30-minute weekly meeting or phone call to cover a top-level overview of other projects. This is most important if you work remotely or outside of the organization.

Lack of Engagement
After establishing accounts on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, you only tweet out your own content. You set up automated tools to gradually grow your followers, but you do not engage with them. As Twitter has become more about providing value by sharing links, it is too easy to only push out content, and only retweet others rather than seek out potential conversationalists and engage with them.

Solution for Success: Review your own tweets on a daily basis and revise your approach to include engagement. These things are cyclical, and you may want to do this on a regular basis even after you have gotten used to engaging with your growing network. If you have a Facebook fan page, make sure you visit it at least once a day to ask questions, provide information and respond to comments.

Rely Only on Social Media
Social media is part of a marketing mix and usually cannot drive sales by itself. No matter how great a blog post is, how engaging tweets are, and how helpful you are on LinkedIn, other tactics must be used as well. Social media can do a lot of things, but for certain B2B niche products or services, it is better in a support role, rather than the star.

Solution for Success: Continue to invest in traditional communications, but always include links to social sites to build those communities. A customer who is a heavy Facebook user will notice a Facebook logo on your printed catalog and become a fan. Make sure you provide content to keep him interested within Facebook.

Don’t Give It Enough Time
Building a community takes time and making drastic, knee-jerk changes too quickly without allowing natural growth will ensure your failure.

Solution for Success: Give your plan the time it deserves to grow and succeed. Set expectations at the beginning that it will take time to show results. Evaluate various metrics on a weekly basis to see if you are reaching your goals. After two months of data, you can evaluate how the program is going. You may need to make major changes to your tactics, but you have the metrics to show what kinds of things worked and where your focus needs to be.

What are some lessons you have learned about social media failures?