Executive social marketing bootcamp lesson #1: Answer the social phone!

In the presentation above, David Alston of Radian6 outlines the biggest worries businesses have about using social media as part of their marketing mix.

I’m sure you’ve heard most of them before – executives are worried about ROI, worried about failing, and it’s tough to measure. But the real meat of the presentation starts at slide 30: Top 10 conversations to listen for in social media. They include the complaint, the compliment, the competitor, the crowd and the influencer.

Listen to your customers (because they are talking about you) and  answer the social phone by having a conversation. Your ability to know what customers are saying about you and how they’re saying it can determine your ultimate success in social media, according to Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent.

Her best piece of advice: “The social Web is mature enough that it’s time to get off the sidelines and start responding to customers online.”

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Don’t drop the price, fatten the offer

Yes, everyone is well aware that we’re in a recession and customers everywhere are looking for a great deal. But relying on that fact alone is the wrong reason to start reducing the price of everything you sell.

Instead, during these lean times it’s best to fatten your offer, according to Judy Kirkland from Echo Point Marketing partners in a Business Management Daily post.

The problem is, she says, is that when you “only focus on price you’re vulnerable to any competitor who undercuts you by a couple dollars.”

When you “fatten your offer” with something extra, you’re giving customers an added reason to buy from you.

Don’t have the money to add anything extra to the sale? No problem. It’s easy to find “extras” in things you’re already doing for your customers.

For example, the Wyndam hotel print ads offering to make sure your favorite snacks and beverages are in your room when you arrive. Since the hotel already stocks mini bars with a variety of snacks, allowing guests to make requests requires little to no extra effort on the hotel’s part.

Or the kitchen remodeling company that offers an added concierge service to help clients clear out their cabinets. The company had been doing it for years until they started positioning the service as an added bonus for signing a contract promptly.

Whatever your product or service is, odds are you can find something “extra” to help fatten the offer.

Think about giving customers added content with their purchase, such as a white paper or tip sheet. And what about offering free customer service for the life of the product?

In what ways does your company “fatten the offer” when selling their product or service? Any ideas to share with the rest of us? Leave a comment and let us know.

Challenge #1: Proving the ROI of social media

As marketers, we’re under constant pressure to prove that our tactics are working. In order to show that what we’re doing is effective, we need numbers – cold, hard, measurable numbers to back up a high return on investment.

Unfortunately, when it comes to social media, finding those measurable numbers can be  quite challenging.

Marketers cited the “inability to measure ROI” as one of the largest barriers to adopting social media tactics by their company, according to MarketingSherpa research.

“This barrier is more of a perception than a reality because social media often requires qualitative measurement rather than the quantitative metrics that online marketers have become accustomed to,” say the Sherpas.

In order to measure ROI, you need two numbers: an investment cost and income returned. The easier you can find these two factors, the easier it is to measure your tactic and show that what you’re doing is working (or not).

MarketingSherpa’s most recent Chart of the Week reveals the social media tactics marketers find to be the most accurately measurable.

Proving the ROI of social media

Proving the ROI of social media

The top three most measurable tactics include advertising on blogs or social networks, online news release distribution and user reviews or ratings.

Instead of throwing out the bottom tactics – forums or discussion groups, blogging on a company blog, creating profiles on social networks – the Sherpas suggest factoring in more qualitative values into your perceived ROI.

“Those who don’t include qualitative factors in the planning of their social media programs may find themselves employing much less effective tactics, simply for the sake of perceived measurability, resulting in a loss of confidence in performance.”

More B2Bs taking business online

Surpassing all other business-to-business media categories, online revenue had the most impressive growth in 2008, according to a recent report by The Jordan, Edmiston Group.

In 2008, the online category increased 15.1%, a shift mainly credited to the shift in ad dollars from magazines to online channels. Magazines have been declining in revenue over the past few years, showing an 8.4% annual decline in 2008.

“Advertising dollars continued shifting from print vehicles to online outlets, as magazine net ad revenue declined,” said Richard Mead, Managing Director at Jordan, Edmiston.

Where are most B2Bs putting their money? In online display and search advertising.

Online display and search advertising account for more than 50% of total online revenue and gained more than 12% year-over-year in 2008.

They’re talking about you, like it or not

I ran across some great advice today at the B2B Marketing Blog that needed to be passed along. In today’s post, Brian Courtney delivers some wise words:

“People will be talking about your brand with or without you. You may as well take part in the conversation.”

And he warns that there’s a new type of ROI out there – the Risk Of Ignoring.

Even if you thing you’re doing it wrong, just being a part of social media is the right way to go.

Read the full B2B Marketing Blog post.

Taking direct marketing back to the future

While many marketers continue their search for the next-best, latest-and-greatest media tactic to get the word out about their product or service, others are holding their ground and staying true to traditional methods.

Direct marketing is making a comeback and now considered the “new black” in the marketing world, despite the opportunity new marketing methods like social media may bring to the table.

In a recent column at BtoB Magazine, Scott Hornstein, president of marketing, Hornstein Associates, and CMO, Wired Assets Data Corp., shares his expert insight as to why you should be putting what’s left of your budget into direct marketing.

“These are the times that try marketers’ souls. On the other hand, this is not the time to hide or be timid. It is the time to be effective, and to redeploy the majority of what’s left of your marketing budget into direct marketing for one very good reason: The strategy is, at its core, measurable and ROI-driven.”

He says there are six critical factors that will lead to direct marketing success:

  1. Integrating direct marketing into your overall media mix. Your customers don’t all hang out in the same place, so reinforce your message across a variety of media tools.
  2. Integrating a healthy dose of customer care. “Our carefully crafted brands can be blown up in three minutes of poor customer care.”
  3. Invest in database quality. The success of your marketing is only as good as your list.
  4. Account for everything, but report only key metrics. Pay attention to what matters most.
  5. Measure performance and set aggressive standards. “Each direct marketing effort should achieve at least a 10% response rate.”
  6. Measure the expense to revenue ratio. If it’s over 25% you’re spending too much, go back and fix your process.

What do you think? Should we take another look at the tried-and-true marketing methods like direct marketing because they are so measurable and ROI-driven? Are economic tough times forcing your organization to trend this way?

Please leave a comment and let us know.

B2B buying behaviors, more irrational than we thought

If you’ve ever been searching for research on business-to-business buying behaviors, it can seem like you’re stuck in a maze full of an overwhelming amount of information on consumers around each turn.

To ease our frustration, Marketo and Enquiro Research teamed up to perform some research of their own to discover exactly how businesses make complex purchases.

Yesterday, Jon Miller shared some initial findings from their research at the Marketo blog. Here are a few highlights:

Despite popular belief, business buying is not rational. B2B buyers are self-taught and use a trial-and-error process in their decision making, helping to simplify complex decisions. Instead of dealing with just one irrational decision maker, marketers must deal with an entire group of irrational decision makers, making the buying process that much more complex.

Emotions play a big role. After a purchase, a B2B buyer may not experience the full benefit of their purchase directly or may not be recognized for making the decision and making a poor decision can put that buyer’s job security at risk. Fear drives most B2B buying decisions. “B2B buying is all about minimizing fear by minimizing risk.”

So, it turns out that what we once thought was a strictly linear buying funnel is actually a buying process that may not be logical or rational at times.

Check out the full post for even more great information, including Enquiro’s advice for managing B2B buyer’s perceived risk.