B2B customers have become more independent buyers in the procurement process as a result of their increasing access to information, research and peer-recommendations. In fact, this modern buyer is something of an enigma to B2B vendors. Traditional lead generation efforts such as trade show and publication advertising, direct mail, email, etc. are decreasing in effectiveness. Lead generation through social marketing has received much hype yet case studies demonstrating real bottom-line impact are still few and far between. How does one capture their attention (and wallet-share) in an environment where competition has surpassed competitive vendors to include the increasing availability of information and perception driven by customers and non-customers alike?
Big Data is a popular term today that references the huge volumes of business and consumer data being collected and stored by organizations, which cannot be effectively data mined due to the limitations of commonly used software tools that capture, manage, or process the data.
While first diagnosed in the science, government, healthcare and military industries, the vast volumes of consumer data being produced through social technologies has landed this reality – and this problem – on the desks of CMOs globally.
Not only is data being produced at lighting speeds, the devices used to produce, broadcast, measure, store and share that data are on the rise, which then fuels further content generation. The cycle is creating a Big Data cyclone that organizations will continue to struggle with.
Dear Publishers and business leaders,
Your business is dying. You know it. Your readers know it. So what are you doing about it?
The belief that the Internet was the death knell of print – and maybe even cable news – was a bit of an exaggeration although your revenue statements clearly show it’s had a major impact.
I’ve seen attempts to move content online via tiered, paid subscription models, which clearly isn’t working to reverse your financial fortunes. I’m thinking you’re all sending Apple Christmas baskets to thank them for the iPad, which – for a time anyway – has enabled the sale of content via Tablet magazines. Still, adoption for paid digital magazines on tablets is a far cry from the heydays of the print publishing industry.
Every evolution of Web technologies, applications and devices has seen businesses try to leverage the platforms to fatten their bottom line. While visionary early adopters are quick to see and jump on new trends, conservative businesses eventually – maybe reluctantly – join the fray.
As devices and technologies continue to morph and evolve at a faster and faster pace, reluctantly joining in is no longer an option. The ability to ride what my friend Steve Woodruff calls “Trend Currents” will make or break businesses.
Analysts love metrics. Specifically, metrics that can be easily selected, tracked and added, which when aggregated provide the raw data resources to create benchmarks and predict how the audience may behave in the future. To analysts – at first anyway – Social Media seemed God-sent because it allowed direct access to that audience and provided immediate and unfiltered feedback. No longer did we have to run costly focus groups with representative samplings and impose those findings on the whole. We now have access to the entire community and the ability to solicit feedback from the entire group.
So why is measuring Social Media still such a debate?
We’ve all seen the statistics on the growing number of people that continue to flock to social channels to share their experiences and opinions. According to a JC Williams Study, 91% of those surveyed indicated that customer content is their primary decision criteria. In a similar study, Marketing Sherpa reports 87% trust a friend’s recommendation over a critic’s review. We all know this; what we don’t know is how to effectively quantify its value to the business.
Marketers have begun to map how Social Media influences the sales cycle, yet it’s that influence that business executives and marketers struggle with. Blogs, Social Networks, Mobile Check Ins, Product Reviews, etc. all have an impact on the sales cycle. It’s been estimated that 1 word-of-mouth conversation has the impact of 200 TV ads but there’s an evolving threat to the purchase decision beyond simple social commentary. We are now beginning to understand the importance of the nature of the engagement that consumers have with each other, the product and the brand’s employees. These relationships directly (those your customers are engaged in) and indirectly (those that are being observed by others) form an impression that has more influence over the sales cycle than user-generated content.
It’s quickly becoming the mantra of interactive strategists: lead or be led. You either lead your online community, or they will lead you. There’s no stopping the swell of communal opinion generation that has become the hallmark of our society’s online engagement.
The most die-hard critics of social media are beginning to utter: If you cant beat them, join them. But is simply joining the online community enough for a business to discover the elusive Return on Investment from social media activities? Many practitioners call this the catch 22 of the medium: overtly selling in social networks is counter-community and quickly kills your following; not selling is counter-intuitive to most business culture.
So if selling is counter-intuitive to community-building where do the leads come from? My philosophy has always been to let the leads find me! Its quite ingenious if I do say so myself! Why sell when, if done right, social media will have people lining up to ask for my service? Sound good? It is, but its not easy to achieve.
OK, Marketers. Be honest. If I were to ask you what your first thoughts are when thinking of social media marketing, what would you say? If being honest, the majority of you are thinking of social networks, social media influence or maybe social media ROI: all popular themes among my colleagues today.
If you’re extending your thoughts to other business silos, maybe you’re thinking of the Customer Service or PR departments. Maybe C-Suite bloggers.
Chances are, few if any of you are thinking about the sales department. Most marketers believe that social media marketing is about freely sharing and exchanging ideas and dialogue, building online communities and not overtly selling products.