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.

Filed under: CRM, marketing operations, Performance Management, , , , , , ,

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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Filed under: business intelligence, Performance Management, , , , , , , , , ,