I hosted a webinar yesterday for our partner OnPath. The guest panelists were Tim Washer (@timwasher) and Deborah Strickland (@deborahs) of Cisco. 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?
Sidebar: If GoToWebinar is listening, you folks really need to work on your conference call technology. The webinar started 7 minutes late because of major issues and tech support never get to us until after we had resolved the matter. That said, a big shout-out to all of those who patiently waited for the webinar to start. We didn't lose a single audience member! Thanks!
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.
Of course, I'm just hitting the high notes. The actual webinar is worthy of a quick listen. The questions submitted by the audience were powerful and the answers were honest.
Thanks to @onpath for the opportunity to host.
If you want to hear it yourself, you can find the recorded version here.
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
What's interesting about these numbers is how MarketingSherpa chose to interpret them: "the majority of B2B organizations perceive this as either a very effective or a somewhat effective tactic.". Personally, I see the glass half-empty on this one. That is, that the majority of B2B organizations perceive this as somewhat effective or not effective at all. And, it should be noted, my "majority" is bigger than MarketingSherpa's "majority" when you add up the numbers. So, that tells you that the experience of most marketers is somewhat still out on the impact of social media. Of course, many pro-social-media pundits will simply claim that these organizations aren't effectively using social media, nor do they have the expertise or resources to implement it properly; and they would be right in most cases. That said, it's just another affirmation that social media, like any marketing tactic, must be implemented intelligently.
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
So my takeaway here is that companies engage what requires the least amount of effort, such as Facebook and Twitter. Everyone can do a small little update here and there. That's not too time consuming. However, blogging does take more time and effort, as does content creation and SEO. Influencer relations can take an especially long time, as you need to develop a relationship over time; that will only happen if you have something valuable to say or great content to contribute. MarketingSherpa actually has another chart that details the perceived level of effort required for each of these initiatives, which fundamentally documents our noted assumptions.
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
So what's my takeaway from this? Organizations are not optimally using social media. While Twitter and Facebook are good, and often fun, they are not ranking well enough on achieving corporate objectives relative to the investment required. On the other hand, blogging, SEO, influencer relations, and content creation is more successful at achieving those goals.
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.
We've all been there; the end of the quarter/year push to close business. It's done at all costs. We have to hit our numbers. The shareholders / investors / owners / management team committed that we would. And, often, we succeed at hitting those targets. It's exciting and exhausting and reason to celebrate. We go home and sleep the sleep of the contented. Until the next day. When we go back to work. And we look at the quota for the next month / quarter / year, and we realize that our sales pipeline is thin. We don't have enough new business sales leads to make our numbers. And then we panic.
Alright, already. It doesn't need to be this way. We can fix this dilemma. And it won't even be that hard, if you don't mind putting in a little bit of work, and you approach the problem strategically. Why strategically? Because usually, in our panic, we react to the problem in a method that's not optimal. Can you relate to the sales directive to start making as many calls as possible? We call everyone that's in our CRM system. We don't necessarily have anything new to say but we're dialing for dollars. At the same time, Marketing starts pumping out press releases about nothing in particular. I think you know how this story goes; the sales calls have low connection rates, and the voice mails we leave are rarely returned, and the CRM data quality is poor resulting in 1 out of 2 calls being answered by "Jim doesn't work here anymore", and the press release doesn't generate a single expression of interest (except for other vendors calling to congratulate you and ask if you need their services). Can you relate? Clearly this approach is not very strategic.
Let's break the cycle and do this right. After all, it's a new year. It's time for new approaches.
Follow these simple steps and you'll soon be sunning yourself at the President's Club rewards trip because of your sales accomplishments.
- Clean your data: make a concerted effort to have everyone involved physically call all of your contacts in your CRM system and simply review the contact information for accuracy. While you're there, ask them if anyone else should also be included. Ask them if email is their preferred method of communication or would they also like to be engaged via Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. Send them something to thank them for their time, such as a white paper or a Starbucks card. They'll remember you because of it. If you don't have the time or resources then outsource this job. This is the most critical thing you can do to increase your success in lead generation. By cleaning your data, you not only start talking to the right people, you also ensure your email bounce rate is relatively low. Nothing raises flags with the spam reporting services like high bounce rates. If they decide you're spamming, none of your corporate communications will get through. That's bad. Generally speaking, if you don't do this step, don't bother doing the rest of the steps. It's that critical.
- Grow your opt-in lists: Stop buying, or renting, lists. Instead, grow your own. Every person in the organization should ask a prospect or customer to opt-in to corporate communications whenever they talk with them; whether it be someone in Sales, or Marketing, or Support, or Management. No exceptions. Run events, such as webinars, with marquee partners and leverage their opt-in lists to grow your own. Partners are a great source of new contacts which you may not normally have access, or exposure, to. The conversion rate for opted-in recipients is significantly higher. Similarly, the likelihood of these recipients pressing the "spam" button on emails you send is substantially smaller then purchased, or rented, lists.
- Identify your target audience and key messages: Stop being generic with your message. Stop spewing every possible buzz word, or pain point, in the hope that something you say will stick with the recipient and they'll want to talk further. That's simply called "spray and pray". It doesn't work. Instead, understand your audience, or audiences, and then create messaging specific to them. Essentially, you're segmenting your efforts. If you're not sure what the message is for each audience, do something crazy like asking them. It's amazing what they'll tell you. Once you know the key bullets you're going to speak to, ensure that everyone on the team only speaks to those points. No varying from the message. I love it when a sales rep, or an executive, says "I know what to say. I'm good with the clients. Just let me do my thing." The truth is that inconsistency throughout the organization kills deals.
- Create supporting and compelling content for your audience: Once you start talking to your audience, whether it's phone, email, social media, trade shows, or even just your website, you'll need something to engage them to talk further. That something is called content. It could be collateral, or white papers, or videos, or blog posts, or case studies, or even podcasts. The fact is, if you don't have content then you don't have any reason to continue the conversation. The trick to content is reusability. Take for example a webinar. If you host a webinar, you can archive it for future use. You can then turn it into a podcast. You could also record the transcript and make a paper out of it. You can highlight key quotes for promotional purposes. You can create a press release highlighting the key points. All of this content is now available to Sales and Marketing for consumption by your target audience. Work smart, not hard, when it comes to content creation. What's great about content is that you can also post it via social media, or in blogs. All of this content gets cross-referenced by the search engines. Suddenly, you're generating inbound traffic to your site from people seeking answers to their problems, and Google is the source of the introduction. God bless Google.
- Engage them in a discussion using integrated marketing campaigns: Stop making phone calls. Well, actually, don't stop. Instead, make phone calls as part of an overall, integrated, outbound campaign. Try a series of emails, with content, followed by an invite to a webinar, preceded by a phone call to encourage attendance to the webinar. Then, after the webinar, call each registrant back to thank them for their time, ask them what they liked or disliked about the webinar, and attempt to understand how this feedback applies to their situation. I can guarantee you that if the feedback was "I didn't get what I was hoping to get out of the webinar", that means they have a problem and they need help. That's the start of a Sales Opportunity. Phone calls on their own are easy to ignore but an ongoing, consistent, dialog, using multiple outbound channels, will result in trust and thought leadership. When the prospect finally has a need for your services, they'll call you first.
Alright, so while I indicated that this would be 5 easy steps, I never suggested that this blog post would be short. Thanks for reading this far. If you want, we can help you out. Give us a shout. As usual, any advice we give is free, as is our time. We love talking about this stuff. Care to connect via Twitter? Perhaps you should opt-in to our community discussion? And did I mention the great content we have on this site? Have a great day restocking those new business leads cupboards.
We've been busy here at My Lead Agency getting this site launched prior to the typical September back-to-school/work mentality kicks in, which will result in the usual rush of new business. It's nice to be working on our own site, for a change, rather than a customer's site. It certainly makes the faster decision making! However, even though it's our own site, we do suffer somewhat from the Cobbler's Kids syndrome where we are still fitting in the edits and updates in between other deliverables. I'm sure it's not unlike your daily routine; you're so busy doing the daily grind that you rarely get time to do the stuff you know you really need to do such as creating new content, working on ensuring your online presence is found by others, or better analyzing your prospect segments and building out campaigns to better target them. It's tough.
One thing that we've found entertaining is listening to what we have to say when we're shooting our videos for this site. You have to understand, we're always giving advice to our clients. That's why they engage us. However, when you sit down and create video after video after video, in a concentrated fashion, you start to hear some common advice, strategies, and themes. In fact, you question whether your own personal advice isn't perhaps a bit of a broken record. Of course, it's not; it simply is proof that the basics need to be continually followed regardless of where you are, or what you're doing, when attempting to create new leads to grow your business.
So what do we hear ourselves continually saying? Pretty much the following:
- Content is King. You need lots of it. You need to never stop making it.
- Content is multi-channel. In other words, each recipient of your content will have a preferred method of hearing it and it's up to you to ensure you've provided it in that medium. This could include video, podcasts, whitepapers, blogs, etc. People fit you into their schedule based on the medium that is the most convenient to them.
- You have to constantly be speaking to the pains people have, and then providing them solutions to their problem. Everything needs to be benefit-driven. Don't speak to the technology. Speak to the human aspect of everything we do.
- You need to segment your audience; understand where they are in the sales funnel.
- You need to create a series of campaigns, for each segment, relative to the segments pains or objections.
- You're always trying to build a relationship with your prospects and clients. That means you want a two-way conversation. It's not just about them hearing what you have to say.
- You're always trying to build trust with your prospects. You do this through sound advice and unbiased feedback.
- You want to be constantly building your thought leadership. Get others to share your content. Be active in the communities, and using the mediums (i.e. Twitter), that your community frequents.
- You want to work smart - not hard. You do this through the use of Marketing Automation and Inbound Marketing and other enabling technologies.
- You want to invest in guerrilla tactics. Don't fall back on spending lots of money and expecting large returns. You have to use patience and understand that it's going to take more impressions then you ever expected to engage your prospects. You don't get an ROI on a one-time email or direct mail.
Anyways, that's most of what we kept hearing ourselves say over and over again. If you don't watch one of our videos, or listen to a single podcast, then you'll have got the essence of what we say simply by reading this post.
Thanks for stopping by and giving this a read. Feel free to share or tweet about it. We'd be grateful. Drop back soon.