Intelligent Metrix

Data to Metrics to Insight to Intelligent Decisions

Driving Marketing Effectiveness and Efficiency from Within using Social Media

I wonder if the real value of social media for B2B marketing is not the external use to drive sales and customer relationships, but to improve marketing capabilities and become more efficient.

In 2007, the company I worked for set up a social network and everyone was commanded to create a profile and connect with our fellow marketers.  The reason behind it was that we were expanding the team to China and it was a way that our new collogues could feel integrated with the marketing groups in the US and Europe.  It was all very ‘friendly’.  To be honest, I groaned and only created my profile because I was required.  For me, personal life is not what I wanted my marketing leadership to see or the people that worked for me.  My profile was tame to the point of boring.

It goes to show that they didn’t really get the value.  Outside of the fact that it was a requirement to share you personal self, there was a real missed opportunity to drive marketing effectiveness and efficiencies.  

Improve Effectiveness through Sharing

Each quarter regional and program teams were required to review campaigns and programs.  For several weeks marketers prepared their slides to show what was working, what didn’t, and next steps.  These were long conference call sessions where people presented and we all listened in.  Mostly, unless you were involved in the program or campaign, your phone would broadcast the meeting while you worked on what ever it was you had to do.  Not a lot of value there.

Social media would have provided the perfect platform to post presentations and create forums for questions and discussions on how to apply what was learned to other sectors of marketing.  Discussions on the calls were limited to those that were involved which was required for time sake.  But, using Twitter or micro-blogging on a social network would have provided key points to marketers to read as well as offer the ability to shoot over questions.  Reviews didn’t have to merely operate within the allotted time slot and webcast, they could be extended, shared, and saved for all to learn from later.

Create Efficiencies in Project Management

Any major project conducted was stored within an internal project management and knowledge management solution called ProjectLink.  All documents and images were posted there along with managing the change/revision process.  These project environments were huge, messy, and primarily acted as a glorified shared folder.  You had to dive into files to truly understand the project and there was no conversational stream to provide insight or background on why something was decided upon.

Setting up a project group using social media could alleviate workflow, sharing, and archiving problems by containing project management.  Instead of using email and IM, forums and micro-blogging could provide the communication streams.  Content could still be stored, but it would also have notes and comments attached for review and reference of other team members or other marketers.  A big benefit is that it could also provide a platform to share assets and content across marketing projects and groups to re-use and re-purpose allowing for reduction of duplicative work.

Efficient Workflow with Other Organizations

Marketing was a pretty silo’d organization.  While there was a significant amount of conversation with sales and product management, the reality is that in the end, marketing would go off and do their work.  Even in the hand-off process at the lead management stage, the CRM system controlled the process and created a wall of sorts between marketing and sales.

Opening up the door between marketing and key stake holders in other organizations is what social media is made for.  As marketing might share amongst themselves in a social network, they could invite others to their groups or set up new groups to facilitate relationships.  In the sales process, key accounts could be manages through a joint relationship between marketing and sales through asset and content sharing and communication support.  Hooked in with conversations that marketing is having with customers would add significant value to closing business with social media.

Efficient and Effective Marketing Operations

Marketing needs to consider how social media from an internal perspective can help them be effective and efficient internally.  Today, too many forms of communication, and silos within the organization drag down ROI. Implementing social media capabilities will spread knowledge, drive operational efficiency, and break down walls between marketing and other organizations.

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B2B Social Media – Has Marketing Effectiveness and Efficiency Improved?

How much effort do you need to put into social media before it pays off in B2B? The answer probably has to do with what you expect from social media in the first place. The problem I see for B2B social media marketing is that instead of 1) increasing marketing effectiveness by facilitating sales and deepening customer relationships 2) making marketing more efficient by streamlining process and resources, it may be doing just the opposite.

Marketing Effectiveness

In it’s ability to facilitate sales and deepen the customer relationship, time and again, marketers and sales are unable to translate awareness and conversation trends in social media to sales. In addition, I wonder if connection trends, comment ratios, and sharing ratios are really anything but another way to track existing customer relationships. I’ve narrowed down marketing effectiveness metrics to four (4) key themes. In each case, I’m looking for improvements due to social media.

  • Improve win/loss ratio – Sales may ultimately be responsible for this metric, but marketing is responsible for lead nurturing which contributes to it. The reality is that the awareness marketing that is happening in social media may not be doing anything but providing another outlet for the same content. Tactics such as white paper promotion and communication of offers may appear to increase leads, but views and registrations may ultimately be with the same people already existing within the customer database. In the end, is the social media marketing tactic really changing customer perception during the sales process to make them choose you’re solution more often? I’m not sure it does.
  • Shorten sales cycle – I pose that the sales cycle may actually be lengthening in social media marketing rather than shrinking. Social media appears to be focused more on awareness building than lead generation. This effort is at the beginning stages of the marketing funnel. In fact, because of the conversational nature of social media, it takes longer to convert a ‘getting to know you’ dialogue to a ‘let’s do business’ dialogue. So, instead of coordinating marketing efforts with sales engagement and the decision process, social media is acting more as a fishing net.
  • Increase sales – Due to an increased sales cycle, you may be losing time to help close a deal. Solely focusing on lead nurturing vs. lead conversion can have the affect of creating a state of purgatory for potential customers. Social media, in theory, should help expand your footprint within your customer base by improving customer relationships. However, all social media marketing is doing today is proving a facelift to existing customer forums, white-paper libraries, and transitioning web content to blog content.
  • Reduce churn – There is much buzz around Twitter’s ability to manage customer expectations and improve customer support. Thus, this translates to reducing customer defection. The issue here is that this isn’t happening in the marketing organization. This is a function of customer service. Where marketing fails is that customers are focused on their business, not yours. Conversations in social media marketing today are still more focused on ‘look at me Mr. Customer’. All the customer wants is for you to look at them. It is an effort for customers to utilize and participate in social networks and gather information in social media. There are still too many places the customer has to go to interact. We make it difficult to solidify relationships by managing multiple properties and outlets to connect.

Marketing Efficiency

There is a real hidden cost to utilizing social media for B2B marketing. It is the cost to do business. Due to the number of ways you can connect to customers, it requires a significant amount of effort to cover and manage all the properties. While you can write a single blog and push it out across multiple communities, the lack of diversity in conversations may hurt more than help. Each community probably has a different DNA. One message is not going to be relevant for all. Thus, you have to produce more content across more topics to be effective.

Another aspect of inefficiency is the art of the conversation. For social media to work, it requires a de-centralized communication web to interact with customers. Sales already has this in place as it is what they do every day. Marketing is smaller and has less resources. This puts pressure on the organization to have personalized attention to carry on a conversation. Marketing needs the ability to respond to comments, participate in groups in a conversational manner, and organize discussions and groups around a multitude of topics that customers are interested in. If you go to forums today, there are few that have real conversations happening. Mostly you see blogging and promotional content being posted. This is because it takes a huge amount of bandwidth to truly be interactive with your customers.

Lastly, there is inefficiency to how marketing manages relationships across multiple social media platforms. Again, the number of venues creates chaos in the ability to recognize a single customer. Efforts are duplicative and can create problems in a cohesive conversation and message. Marketing technology needs to be streamlined to better manage relationships.

What’s Next?

As social media marketing has been the buzz and huge shifts are being made to transition and leverage its potential, B2B marketing organizations need to be mindful of what their business charter is and how they meet their goals through effectiveness and efficiency. Social media is just part of the mix, and as with any marketing effort, you don’t want to put all your efforts into one tactic. If not properly monitored against key business benchmarks it can quickly de-focus your marketing efforts and lead to poor performance.

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Training IS a Best Practice – Not Just a Component

Staying abreast of best practices isn’t enough.  You also need to know how to implement the fundamentals.  

A report by AIIM/IBM on business process management (BPM) took a look at issues experienced by organizations implementing BPM.  Top of the list: underestimating the process and organizational issues (45%); lack of staff knowledge and training (41%), excessive scope creep (29%).  And, this in not confined to BPM.  The take-away, what you don’t know will hurt you.

Many organizations may consider training a high priority.  However, management and employees rarely have the time or understand how to get the proper training.  Simply reading trade books and articles or attending event seminars and college courses is not enough.  Management and employees need hands-on and micro-seminars that focus on building the analytic skills and innovation techniques that bridge the gap between high level ideas and take it to practice.  High-level content needs to be tailored to the company’s issues and environment.

In the three issues listed above, training is core to the pain felt in underestimating process and organization issues, and scope creep.  Pain is felt because most learning is being done on the job after business requirements and requests come in.  Instead, project leaders and subject matter experts need to educate themselves on process, tools and the implementation scenarios within their environment to focus on the right inquiries during the business analysis phase prior to project launch.  

Training is also necessary for successful implementation.   In many cases, training is an afterthought of the project and inadequate.   Change in processes or the implementation of new tools can be difficult for end-users and can take 6 month of more for people to be proficient and effective.  Comprehensive training along with appropriate documentation and reference tools will make the transition faster and smoother helping you realize improvement and ROI sooner.

How to Leverage Training

Analysis Proficiency:  People should understand scenario based analysis and how to use tools, data, and inquiry techniques to align best practices to internal business environments.  Examine processes and pain-points with possible next steps accounting for various methods that fit your business, goals, and capabilities.

Right-sourcing:  Training resources need to be tailored to closing gaps between generic concepts and internal practice.  Micro-seminars and peer-reviews focusing on specifics within like organizations with similar problems will help develop and refine road-maps.

Future-casting:  Once abreast of new practices and solutions that align to your business, start training.  You’ll most likely have an idea of business requirements and hurdles that lead you to finding value in a concept.  Get smart before you begin the project.

Hire an Expert:  If you are truly re-engineering, have an expert(s) on the project to represent the business and technical aspects to be the go-to for in project training.  They can help with scenarios, alignment, analysis, and solution decisions that streamline a project and position for success.

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Social Media: Back to Spreadsheets

It’s a dirty word right now – spreadsheets.  IT departments want to remove our dependence on spreadsheets and convert us over to a secure, controlled, shared, and robust analytic environment.  I would love that!  But, I have a problem, social media.

I’m managing more properties and content that is outside the realm of my corporate environment but I still have to report back and show how it is doing.  The only way I can do this is by using several analytic tools across multiple properties.  I grab the stats I need and punch that into a spreadsheet.  Then, I go to my web analytics reports, grab those stats, and consolidate them with my social media data on my spreadsheet. After that, I consolidate my lead metrics with my internet metrics for a 360° view of my marketing efforts.

It is all very time consuming and open to data entry error.

Business Intelligence is great to track internal process, but it is doing nothing to help track activities outside the corporate environment.  So, I’m stuck with spreadsheets.  Can you help?

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Business Intelligence: Decisions, Decisions

Business Intelligence is all about supporting business decision.”

How many times have you heard that?  It’s become the standard mantra.  It is so ubiquitous that I don’t think anyone questions anymore the validity of the statement.  It just is.  However, this is probably the hardest part to facilitate when building out you business intelligence practice.  Facilitating decisions is what makes BI stragetic.

Just what is the business decision? What does a business decision look like?

Elements of a Business Decision:

  • Purpose:  drive a business outcome – ex: revenue, shareholder value, profitability, market share
  • Position:  leads a company, division, department
  • Point in Time:  transition along a process or environment

A typical approach during the business analysis phase for BI is to at business decisions across a business process and where questions are asked to change behavior in that process.  Although, the difficulty with this level of granularity is that it is too deep.  These transition points are tactical.  Intelligence across this process and at these decision points is important, but you don’t get the strategic value of BI at this level.  You need to look at the outcome of the process and provide a platform that supports the decision of what to do next.  This is the unstated question.

Let’s take an example.  Sales management will always want a perspective on the pipeline and forecast.  This shows them how they are meeting their numbers quarter to quarter.  However, outside of conversion and volume, there are business decisions that sales managers need to make.  Should they adjust their territories to capture new opportunity or shore up existing business?  Are there changes needed in commissions to incent sales people along certain products and services to improve profitability or revenue?   BI can lead sales management with insights that will guide them to optimize their processes and management rather than just data.

Purpose:  market share, revenue, profit
Position:  sales
Point in Time:  aligned to quarterly pipeline and forecast

To align BI to the business decision it is important to include executives in the discussion.  Get beyond the reports they want to see and ask the question about how they manage their business.  Walk through scenarios of what they ask as changes in the market or the business arise and how information can help them make a decision.  The better able you are to see how they manage their business, the more valuable the BI practice will be to supporting the business.

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Why Business Intelligence is So Difficult

Reading the buzz on the Jim Davis’s presentation at SAS Global Executive Forum, what it made me realize is that if as an industry we can’t agree on what Business Intelligence is or Business Analytics, how are we supposed to make sense of it in implementation?

business intelligence confusionYou have analytics players, enterprise application vendors, business process consultants, and analysts all trying to sell the ‘hype’ of a better way to analyze your business and makes decisions.    SAS wants to sell their analytic solution that really pioneered data mining in businesses.  Oracle and IBM wants to push dashboard solutions that links to business processes and their enterprise applications.  Gartner that tries to tie together people, process, and technology but is really is focused on what technology to buy.  Then, you have consultants that are trying to help you implement the technology even as they document your processes.  The problem is that it’s all boiling down to the one with the best tool wins.

Enter in the ‘Business’ and now you have a problem.  All they want to know is how they can meet their business objectives.  IT is trying to sell the solution and make them understand the technology, and the business glazes over and can’t figure out what to focus on.  I’ve sat in these discussions where IT tells me, “You tell us what to do, we’ll do it.  Don’t worry about the solution.”  It is open ended.  This leads to IT unable to work towards tangible goals and results.  The business walks away frustrated, projects run from months into years, and original budgets are thrown out the window.  I liken these projects to Boston’s Big Dig.

Neil Raden provided a perfect way to get through the fluff and hype that surrounds analytics and business intelligence. See article From BI to Business Analytics, It’s All Fluff

“I don’t like the term business analytics; it doesn’t tell me anything. Frankly, I think business intelligence as a term is downright laughable, too. What does that mean? Is integrating data intelligence? Is generating reports intelligence? Maybe its informing, but isn’t intelligence something you HAVE not something you do? Does doing what we call BI lead to intelligence, or just some information? A long time ago we called this decision support, and that gets my vote.”

So here’s my take on what steps to take when and how to venture into BI and analytic solutions.

Steps:

  1. What decisions need to be made?
  2. At what point in our business and business processes are these decisions made?
  3. What information is needed at these points?
  4. How should our applications and data provide this information – triggers or visualization?

See the steps?  It starts with the business decion and ends in the technology.  So, when you begin to review vendors and solutions, make sure you have steps 1,2,3 in mind before you determine how to solve step 4.

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