Social Media is a major part of any B2B sales or marketing strategy that we endorse for our clients at My Lead Agency. It doesn't mean we always enjoy or embrace social media. Despite the typical verbosity of my blog posts, I don't always have a lot to say. I'm good with 2-4 character posts ("Yup", "Nope", "OK") rather than 140 characters, and blogging can sometimes be downright painful. I've got so much to do during the day that social media can sometimes be an afterthought. With that all said, is it effective for lead generation? Well, as it relates to inbound marketing, it's critical however we need to keep perspective; it's still only one tool in our bag of business development weapons. In other words, stay focused on developing a comprehensive and holistic approach to your lead generation efforts; do not get tunnel-vision and believe social media is the answer to all of your sales pipeline woes. Trust me when I say that many companies we work with have been barraged with sage advice preaching that social media will fill their coffers. With that as the inspiration for today's post, I decided to go have another look at the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report and see what the numbers say about this topic.
When asked to indicate the effectiveness of social media for their organization, the answers were as follows:
- 16% - Very effective
- 59% - Somewhat effective
- 25% - Not effective
If I drill down further on this topic, MarketingSherpa asks the question "Which of the following social media tactics does your organization currently use? Check all that apply". The answers are intriguing:
- 87% - Participating on company branded or managed social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- 64% - Microblogging on company branded or managed microblogs (Twitter, Jaiku, etc.)
- 64% - Blogging on company branded or managed blogs
- 62% - Sharing content on multimedia sites (YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, etc.)
- 59% - Using social media to improve search engine rankings (SEO)
- 41% - Social media news releases
- 33% - Blogger or online influencer relations
- 30% - Sharing email content with social media sites
- 21% - Advertising on blogs, social networks or other social media sites
Alright, let's bring this blog post home and reference the chart that really means something to those within the organization responsible for revenue: Please rate the following tactics for their level of effectiveness in achieving social media objectives (1 star is the lowest level of effectiveness, 5 stars is the highest level). For brevity, I'm going to add up the percentages for those who answered 4-stars, or 5-stars, into a single percentage, as that percentage reflects a strong perception of the tactic's effectiveness in achieving the organizations's goals for social media. For our clients, that goal is almost always lead generation.
- 44% - Blogging on company branded or managed blogs
- 40% - Using social media to improve search engine ranking (SEO)
- 34% - Blogger and online influencer relations
- 30% - Sharing content on multimedia sites (YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, etc.)
- 30% - Participating on company branded or managed social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- 24% - Microblogging on company branded or managed microblogs (Twitter, Jaiku, etc.)
- 20% - Social media news releases
- 24% - Sharing email content with social media sites
- 17% - Advertising on blogs, social networks or other social media sites
In the end, deals occur because of relationships. One party trusts another to help them resolve a pain they have. Trust is built slowly, often after repeated demonstrations that a vendor has skill, and a track record of success, such that a Buyer's objections, and fear of risk, are mitigated. The vendor becomes credible. As is often the case behind earned trust, word-of-mouth implies credibility. When a trusted advisor refers a vendor to a friend (virtual word-of-mouth), the vendor is perceived as credible and trustworthy. That's what content does for you. It puts your knowledge in a consumable format. That content is then shared among friends. If it's deemed valuable, trusted Influencers reference and endorse you. Blogs also convey personality and are a more personal way of referencing and delivering content. Content builds SEO. Content becomes a sales and a marketing tool; it's embedded in your processes with things like lead nurturing or objection handling. And all of these factors generate inbound leads which then results in measurable lead generation success.
So there you have it. My musing for the day. Sorry I went a bit long. I did admit initially to being verbose with my blogs. I'd love to hear your feedback.
I hosted a webinar yesterday for our partner OnPath. The guest panelists were Tim Washer (@timwasher) and Deborah Strickland (@deborahs) ofCisco. It was a fun 29 minute discussion (not counting Q&A) about social media and the lessons that Cisco - the 2010 B2B Twitterer of the Year - has learned. These people were really honest and transparent, and I might add, very funny. I hope we can work together again and I suggest you follow them on Twitter. With that said, the webinar attempted to tackle the following six questions in our relatively tight timeline:
- How does Cisco use social media and why?
- Does a higher volume of views, fans, followers, subscribers, translate into more sales?
- How many people does it take to manage a successful social media strategy?
- What can a small-medium size company do to get started? Do they need a plan or just jump into it?
- How do you coordinate the technology of scheduling posts, building lists, and measuring clicks with team collaboration?
- Should a company consider outsourcing these activities?
What Tim and Deborah shared can best be summarized as follows:
- Use humor to engage: whether it's in your posts, or in your content you create (videos, blogs, etc.), people react better, and engage more, with a touch of humor.
- Be transparent, be relational: don't just push your posts out there non-stop, rather you should be conversational and honest with your audience. It should be a two-way dialog but not necessarily an ongoing diatribe of your daily existence.
- Sit back and watch while you're getting started. You'll soon figure out who is worthy of watching and engaging with compared to who is simply shouting/spamming with no interest in being "social".
- Use services like Technorati to find cool blogs to follow, and then get active contributing.
- Look at your competitors and see what they're doing. There is a good chance that you should be following some of the same people they do.
- Create a schedule and stick to it. Consistency is critical.
- Social Media takes a lot of effort. Don't let others in your organization make the false assumption otherwise. Assume at least an hour or two per day. If you don't have the time, or the additional resources or budget, to make that commitment then consider eliminating something else from your existing marketing mix or daily obligations.
- Social Media does not necessarily result in a dramatic increase in lead generation activity. It does, however, positively impact your search engine optimization (SEO), your thought leadership, and your exposure. It's great to get a handle on what customers are saying about you or your services and products, and it absolutely allows you to respond to any concern they may have.
- There is lots of technology out there, so use it. The usual suspects like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite are good, but so are more analytical tools like Radian6 or PostRank.
- Outsourcing of social media is a challenging thing, as the vendor will never know your business like you do. That said, it can be safely done in controlled circumstances with sufficient checks and balances.
- Foremost, what I took away, was a comment that for social media to be successful, you have to have a goal. Once you start the program, always be measuring against your goals. What was very interesting was the observation that your goal may not be the same as what others in your organization believe the goals should be. That means you need to get consensus early in the process.
Thanks to @onpath for the opportunity to host.
If you want to hear it yourself, you can find the recorded version here.
Recently I attended a webinar put on by HubSpot for their value-added resellers. The intent of the event was to help resellers retain, or grow, their client engagements by using the HubSpot reporting features. In short, the lesson was to review the continually improving progress reported by HubSpot with your client. If you do this, the client will see the value the reseller provides and will continue to engage them or broaden their scope. It's excellent advice and something that most of us forget to do. Let me explain.
A customer can be someone who pays you for your services, or a customer can be an internal person or team. Whenever I was hired as CMO, or as VP of Marketing, the first thing I would do is go to the VP of Sales, and the VP of Professional Services, and the CEO, and individually say to them "You're my customer. My job is to get you what you need to be successful. What do you need?". I made sure to instruct my teams to treat the internal departments the same way. When we did that, we immediately changed the conversation from being adversarial, or competitive, to one of co-operation. That lead to establishing alignment. If the VP of Sales wanted more leads then I would ask them to define a lead. If I didn't do this, I might think my team was delivering leads but Sales might think we're delivering unqualified suspects. That's a disconnect. Hence, the customer approach lead to a defining of what the customer wants which lead to a discussion of how the deliverable is defined which ultimately leads to how it is measured. Once you have alignment on that, you're effectively left to run your own show and focus on delivering results. After all, that's all a customer wants is results. Often they only care about how you achieve them if you are not delivering them. Since I want my team to focus on executing, and not on playing customer politics, it's in my best interest to ensure alignment and successful execution of our mandate.
Why is this so critical? The 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report from MarketingSherpa asked the question "Which of the following marketing challenges are currently most pertinent to your organization?". The number one response, almost double the second highest ranked result, was "Generating high quality leads". It scored a value of 78%, which was 9% higher than the previous year. Understand, however, that this report neither defines "high quality" or "lead". Talk about a huge opportunity for a disconnect between Marketing and their customers.
So here are some questions as it relates to your lead generation activities activities:
- Do you know who your customer is?
- Do you know what they expect you to deliver?
- Do you have documented agreement and definition on that deliverable?
- Can that deliverable be measured?
- Does your customer agree with the method of measurement?
- Do you routinely report to your customer your progress against achieving that deliverable?
- Do you have regularly scheduled discussions to review, refine, and improve the progress?
- Does your customer understand your challenges and constraints? Do you understand theirs?
- Are you making an effort to over deliver, such that they see you are commited to mutual success?
Stay focused on what your customer wants and success will follow. Get alignment. Measure the results. Collaborate with your customer on how to adjust and adapt.
Every organization, at some point, outsources part of their B2B sales or marketing activities. Sometimes it's just for a specific deliverable. Other times, it's for a more sustained engagement such as lead generation,web design, inbound marketing, etc. For those of us who have been there, the selection of the vendor can rest on many variables. Are they the cheapest? Are they local? Were they referred by a peer whom I trust? Do they have the skills? Do I trust them? Can I work with them?
In my experience, it's the last two questions that are the most relevant: do I trust them, and can I work with them.
Let's be honest with one another. We're always going to want, and negotiate for, the best price and the fastest delivery. Most of us don't mind paying a small premium for good service. After all, we're all business people and we understand nothing is free. The best phrase a vendor ever shared with me was " Your options are you can have it good, fast, or cheap. Pick two!" I think that sums up nicely the tradeoffs that always come with working with vendors. That being said, most marketers are constantly having their budget, and their effectiveness, scrutinized. As a result, you want to make the right vendor selection.
With that said, let's assume you'll negotiate for a reasonable price with a reasonable delivery. If the vendor can't do that then they clearly don't want your business.
So what does that leave to influence your vendor selection? Ah yes - the peer referral or the vendor location. Let's start with peer referrals. I love referrals. Most of my friends, professional and personal, understand my idiosyncracies. They appreciate that I have high expectations and that I don't always have patience. They value my single-minded focus on lead generation and measurable results. As such, when they refer me to someone, I can usually assume they believe the vendor's approach and personality will match my own. In turn, I can assume they've done work together and my peer truly has experienced great things from this vendor. My peer's very integrity rests on the results this vendor will deliver to me. I may be somewhat overstating it, but not by much. This is why word-of-mouth remains the most powerful lead generation tactic today; because we trust our peers.
But should a referral be your number one influencer in your decision making process?
Finally, the last thing to consider is location. Is the vendor local? Are they on the same time zone? Do they speak the same language? In the age we live in, telecommuting is the norm and long-distance project teams are typical. With that said, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting between client and vendor. It's one thing for me to say something to my vendor, but it's another thing for them to see my body language. It takes the relationship to the next level. It creates alignment.
So is location a prominent influencer on your vendor selection?
Alright - let me cut to the chase. I'll tell you what I've learned to be true. I've learned price is critical. I've learned integrity is paramount. I've learned referrals are a good way to short-list vendors. And I've learned to never sacrifice success to save a few bucks on my vendor.
But most of all, I've learned that my vendor selection comes down to trust and relationships. Do I trust this vendor? Can I work with this vendor? Does my gut tell me that I'll be successful with this vendor? Do I believe this vendor is earnest and engaged? Do they understand me and my requirements? Can I be brutally honest with them? And will I be okay if they are brutally honest with me?
The truth is that every sale starts and ends with trust and relationship. Look at your own sales cycles and you'll see these issues often play the largest role in why your customers choose you or your products or services. Everything else is important, but secondary.
So. Do you agree? Go ahead. Be brutally honest with me.
There comes a time in many business’ life where they will need to hire outside service providers. Whether it be computer programming, or designing a new website, business consulting, logo designs or even legal, sometimes you just need an affordable resource for your business development requirements. It can be quite difficult for new entrepreneurs to accomplish these tasks with so many expenses and when funds are tight. Not only can some service providers charge very high prices, but also equally challenging can be finding good quality people to do the job. At My Lead Agency, we put an extra emphasis on affordability for that very reason. However, sometimes you can’t even afford a nimble agency like our own.
When a customer came to us recently with a modest budget and seeking our services, our creativity was called upon. In a nutshell, their budget was too modest, if you know what I mean. We decided to work with them, free of charge, to see if we could help them achieve their goals within their constraints. That's just how we roll.
Initially, they had tried placing an ad on a few local classified websites, to merely receive horrible results. The skill level that was needed was just not there. So it came as a shining beacon of light to them when we recommended expanding the search beyond the local realm. We suggested a few different freelance websites. We started to look into them, each having their own unique ways of functioning, all with their own advantages and disadvantages.
There seemed to be two distinct types of freelance websites. The first type, like crowdspring.com or designcontest.com, let’s you list your project details and how much you are willing to pay for the work. You then send this money to the website who holds on to it. The artists will then submit their work to you. The vendors advise that you should expect to get 30 or more submissions. Obviously the more you pay, the more likely people will want to work on it. You then pick the design you like, and only then does the winning artist get paid. If it so happens that none of the work is what you want, there is no cost to you. You get all your money back.
The second type of freelance website, such as guru.com, allows you to list your project just like the others sites; however you do not put a set price, although you may give a price range you are willing to pay. You then wait for artists to respond to your project with their price tag. It is up to you to then choose which artist you would like to do your project, and only then do they start working on the project.
Based on our customer’s requirements, the guru.com website seemed more fitting. Within the first day of posting the project they received about five responses. The next day it was up to about ten responses. Not only were prices very affordable, but also our customer was also able to view many different portfolios and personal websites. The quality of these artists was outstanding; some of them even worked for major corporations like Disney, or ran their own studios. The hardest part for our customer was choosing which artist they actually liked best. When they finally decided upon one, we helped them write up a project agreement for five different pieces (including some revisions) and they started to work.
The quality was great but the process was not without issues. Minor conflict arose when things needed to be changed and the artist liked them the way they were. All of this may have been avoided if our customer and the artist had been able to talk face-to-face and get these details figured out. Eventually, our client determined the artist had become too difficult to deal with them, so the project was cut short. It was a little bit frustrating for our customer as they felt like they were back to square one again. However, all was not lost, as they were able to go back to one of the artists they had debated using, and successfully finished the project with them.
Freelance websites are excellent tools for the budget conscious person; you can easily use them for small, one-off projects. Nevertheless there are strings attached. The lack of direct communication can be a unique strain to getting a simple project accomplished. These service providers can work for simple tasks but they lack the abilities to coordinate an integrated guerrilla marketing campaign. Said another way, I wouldn’t advise using them to augment your demand generation strategies, or any inbound marketing or marketing automation projects, but I would suggest they could be an effective resource for small, budget-friendly engagements.