From Intimidation to Impact, Helping Your Organization Make the Most of Social Media as a Coordinated Element of the Cross-Channel Marketing Conversation
We just covered the stages marketers go through when exploring and integrating the new world of social into their marketing mix. What's different for B2B-focused companies?
Special Considerations for B2B
For many B2B marketers, their use of social media tends to be more pragmatic than inventive. Even so, Forrester found that that the B2B marketing mix significantly shifted toward digital channels in 2009.
In fact, "two-thirds of B2B marketers (68 percent) have established group pages on social networking sites, exceeding inside sales use by 3 percent."6 And, according to Forrester's Q4 2009 North American B2B Marketing Organizations Online Survey, more than one-third of B2B firms will increase spending on social media in 2010.
The same Forrester survey also found that more than one-third of B2B firms are experimenting with social media and still trying to find good approaches to measure impact. But "of the marketers who say that they can evaluate social marketing value, 25 percent believe that listening into social conversations gives them deeper customer insight and better ability to identify and segment target audiences. By tracking changes in aided/unaided recall, online reach and share of voice, 20 percent of respondents see social media affecting their brand in ways formerly influenced by advertising and public relations alone."
Analyst firm SiriusDecisions has also done research in the area of social media measurement, particularly as it applies to B2B organizations. It too refutes the idea that social media is difficult to measure and have proposed a strategic framework for measuring social media's impact that examines metrics through three filters including reputation, demand creation and sales enablement. The firm believes that in order to truly understand the impact of social media, "B2B marketers must track how and when social media is being used through the entire buying/selling process, and how specifically it is making both easier."
Many B2B organizations base their social media strategies on best practices established by their B2C peers. For example, a leading European e-commerce site wanted to incorporate social media into its marketing strategy to improve and monitor its brand image, provide more personalized communications and improve sales through Twitter (Figure 3).
The company implemented a cross-channel marketing solution to not only automate these processes but also manage consistent messages and offers across all of its channels, and provide a unified interface for marketers. As a result, the company can now automate all Twitter activity, including tracking and identifying followers, monitoring all communications, as well as providing personalized direct messages, offers and automatic responses to incoming direct tweets. B2B marketers can take a similar approach, implementing the very same processes to help improve their own company's brand reputation, better engage with prospects and customers, and ultimately drive sales.
Examine Available Solutions. What's right for your organization?
A successful cross-channel marketing strategy is dependent upon being able to integrate all marketing channels, including social media, to drive conversations and offers in a consistent, highly-personalized manner. We'll discuss some of the tools and technologies necessary to support this new world of social media engagement, specifically enterprise marketing software, and how to choose the best solution to suit your needs. While there are a variety of "listening" platforms on the market today, few are truly integrated within existing enterprise marketing software ??" most social media capabilities have been added through acquisition, not organic extensions of current platforms. Some of the stand-alone platforms focus on monitoring and measuring, others key in on messaging. Whichever one you choose to focus on first, keep in mind that social media is about listening and engaging, they go hand in hand.
The secret to perfecting cross-channel marketing campaigns is to recognize every customer and what is relevant to them, in every communication, regardless of channel. When considering an enterprise marketing solution to power these communications, marketers need to be able to build and use unified customer intelligence to automatically generate personalized and localized offer recommendations at the appropriate time and frequency to add value and win credibility with customers ??" building loyalty and an improved lifetime value.
The most important requirement for these types of solutions is that they combine all of the necessary tools into a single marketing platform that can manage all of the cross-channel activities. All of the information that the marketer needs ??" contact details, prospect profiles, marketing initiatives and sales opportunities ??" should all be housed in one place.
Another important requirement is that these tools should be able to effectively measure returns on social media activities as part of the marketing mix. The right enterprise marketing solution should provide the ability to monetize each marketing activity so that marketing spend can correlate directly to revenue generated, and be defendable to senior management.
The solution should also be agile enough to embrace new social media marketing channels. Today we talk a lot about Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but tomorrow new social media channels will emerge and marketing solutions must be able to consistently manage conversations on both existing and emerging digital "contact points" like avatars or iPhone applications, for example.
In conclusion, with the right technology, skill sets and C-level buy-in, social media provides an opportunity for marketers to take a more personalized and interactive approach to achieve true engagement with customers and prospects. Utilizing targeted, complementary content and offers that are coordinated across other channels like email, mobile and direct mail, social media interactions can be used to drive sales, refine and enhance existing customer profiles, convert passive followers into active customers and upsell/ cross-sell to those already committed to the brand. Intelligence gained through engaging social media communities can be used to power hyper-targeted campaigns that drive inbound and outbound communications that propel your brand into a whole new phase of evolved customer engagement. So, stop broadcasting, start engaging and put your social media intelligence to work!