Given the global economy, it comes as no surprise that C-level executives are demanding more financial accountability from their marketing departments. This is not really a new “demand” but job cuts and bankruptcies have forced business leaders to reexamine (perhaps harshly) the efficiency of marketing spend. If you’re spending more than you’re making, it is time for a new plan.
This has led to a lot (and I do mean a lot) of talk about the virtues of online marketing, more specifically, Social Media. Not only does it seem like everyone is doing it but they are all six sigma black belt masters! So let me see if I can separate the wheat from the chaff and summarize what every B2B marketer needs to know about Social Media.
First, let me say that the only financial cost of Social Media is the time it takes to gain success. What most experts fail to explain is that it really is a lifestyle change. 10 to 20 hours a week is a reasonable amount of time to invest. If you think of Social Media as an intimate form of PR then it is easy to understand the time it takes to build meaningful relationships with key influencers in a given target market. You have to bring value to the conversation.
Think of the wealth of customer insight you can collect just by participating on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, not to mention industry-specific blogs.
According to the Social Media Marketing Industry Report by Michael A. Stelzner (March 2009), 81% of all marketers indicated that their Social Media efforts generated greater exposure, significantly increasing site traffic, subscribers, and opt-in lists. More than half claimed Social Media helped generate qualified sales leads with 35% claiming it actually helped close business.
In addition to participating in blogs and social networks, you can have your own. For example, Del Monte created a private community for dog lovers to serve as a virtual focus group, resulting in a new product called Snausages Breakfast Bites Bacon & Egg Dog Treats. Not only did Del Monte have immediate sales from the product launch, they had over 400 brand advocates built-in.
Another big perk of Social Media: everything is measurable. I’m not just talking about Web Analytics but rather Behavioral Metrics. There are tools and tactics for tracking what people are saying and how they are interacting with your content. In addition, every web property (blog posts, Facebook Application, Tweet Ad, etc.) can be and should be monetized. What is a visit to your web site worth? What is a blog subscriber worth? A good Social Media strategy includes estimated value for each success criterion.
Getting It Right the First Time
- Start with a plan (we can help). Ask and answer the same questions you would of traditional media. Lay out an integrated marketing strategy that defines the expected ROI for both short- and long-term goals.
- Make sure you include ways to measure effectiveness real-time (again, we can help). There are some great tools available, some are even free.
- Get social! Participate in blogs and social communities in your target market. Sponsor an event or competition, start an online interest group, write whitepapers or ebooks, create podcasts and/or videos (yes, you guessed it, we can help here too).
- Do something really different. Marketing, especially online marketing, is largely experimental by nature. For the really cool stuff — the stuff that makes ‘em go WOW and generates a lot of buzz — you have to be willing to take risks. If you wait for your competition to do it first then you’ve already missed the boat. Historically, it is during an economic downturn that you have the best chance of capturing market share (this is where we really shine).
Have you been using Social Media for your B2B Marketing?
What are your experiences with Social Media?