Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Questioning the Prominence of B2B Search

Have business-to-business marketers assigned too much stock in search?

Admittedly, I realize that questioning the value of prominent placement on Google, Bing or Yahoo search results may produce snickers of disbelief. Scholars of search will point to the flush of AdWords cash in Google's coffers, as well as the near CSI-like dissection of the key words and tags to enhance organic search engine optimization.

For many companies with diverse and fragmented customer bases there is no mistaking the importance of Web search to drive prospect interest.

However, the value proposition of search sharply declines for purveyors of high-end solutions for corporate and government buyers. That's because the vendor community knows exactly who their prospective customers are, and the importance of proactive outreach and relationship building in the sales process.

Moreover, there has been a sustained shift in entry to the Web from search engines to social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This is why Google has tagged Facebook as a significant competitive threat.

A good friend and long-standing client pointed me to a BtoB Magazine article about a recent survey entitled "The Impact of Social Media on Search." The nearly 500 marketers queried reported their most important goals for social media marketing as the following:

-Building brand awareness (81%)
-Increasing traffic to a Web site (77%)
-Generating leads (67%)
-Providing deeper engagement with customers (66%)
-Improving search results (57%)

This clearly supports my contention about search for enterprise solutions vendors. It's important, yet not as high on the priority list as many believe.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Rocky Road for Today's CMO

Life sure isn't easy for today's chief marketing officer (CMO).

Let's start with customer expectations. According to a new report from Accenture entitled "Onward and Up: How Marketers Are Refocusing the Front Office for Growth," surveyed CMOs have grown increasingly frustrated with the rapidly escalating demands customers have for product quality, value and customer service.

Then there's the requirement on CMOs to deliver greater impact across the organization with flat and, in some instances, declining resources. Eight out of ten marketers queried by Accenture expect little, no or a decrease in budget.

Accenture managing director Dave Rich told Brandweek magazine:

"Marketers must meet today's challenges with laser-focused precision that is guided by insights from robust customer analytics capabilities that inform decisions about who they should target through what channels and with which messages. Investing in these capabilities will enable marketers to move to a much more focused approach that will increase effectiveness, support more streamlined programs and free up cash that can be reinvested smartly to help fuel growth."

I'm not sure what that exactly means, yet it definitely sounds challenging.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Managing the 3Cs of Social Participation

In a professional environment, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the three "Cs" of social media engagement -- contacts, content and connections.

There are blogs to read. Tweets to follow. LinkedIn updates to evaluate. Trends, chats and discussions to monitor. And, of course, you still have to find time to perform the responsibilities of your job.

Dawn Foster recently penned an excellent post for WebWorkerDaily that presents a series of best practices she employs to manage this information overload.

Personally, I rely on a number of Web 2.0 tools to help bring structure to the social chaos. For instance, I've been a long time user of Google Reader and Social Mention.

This weekend I spent a few hours exploring a couple of other applications that I'm now trying out:

1. NutShellMail from Constant Contact consolidates the updates from your social networks and delivers them to your Email inbox in a single message.

2. Lazyfeed helps you monitor channels of content on the Web by topic to identify content to blog about, tweet, share with others, etc.

3. Sprouter is an online community of entrepreneurs organized by topic, event and activity.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Sad (But True) Social Media Parody

Most consultants are quite adept at two things: 1) identifying a problem (or opportunity) as so daunting that the appropriate remedy demands a consultant; and 2) defining their work product in such complex industry jargon that the client is left uncomfortably convinced they've received good return for the money.

This consultant double-talk is prevalent across the full array of pushers of hourly services -- from accountants, lawyers and business process experts to human resource advisors, branding gurus and public relations professionals. They speak of value in their guidance with limited, if any, tie to the true drivers of success in business -- sales, profits and valuation.

It was with much enthusiasm that Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) embarked three years ago on a shift in its focus from public relations to social media marketing. We have been able to align our service offerings with benchmarks that clients can more accurately measure.

There remains value from the increased awareness, visibility and credibility that is the natural outcome of social participation. Yet, the true test of our performance resides in how we've helped a client more quickly identify sales opportunities and/or speed them through the pipeline.

You'd think all social media consultants would trumpet the sales orientation of their work. sure hasn't played out that way. In fact, most still cling to the nebulous creation of community and conversation as their holy grail.

This week I came across a Web site that parodies social media consultant talk. Take a look and hit the refresh button on your browser a couple of times.

This site would be more entertaining if it weren't such an accurate depiction of the cons who sport social media consultant on their business card.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Getting Narrow with Social

Cultivating a broad, engaged and far reaching community of relationships through online channels is an important credibility mark for any social participant.

Facebook friends...LinkedIn connections...Twitter followers and their readers and their comments...these measurements help quantify influence and provide a consistent methodology for the ROI evaluation process.

Yet, community and influence should be viewed merely as an unintended outcome of social media participation. For a social media marketing campaign to truly deliver a high-value and meaningful return it must be aligned with and accountable to the drivers of corporate success -- lead generation, cultivation of prospect relationships and deal capture.

For the better part of three years I have referred to this tactical application of social media as micro-targeting. The engaged community provides an umbrella of credibility that allows a company to more quickly and successfully connect with and influence a set of carefully selected stakeholders.

A meeting last week with an insightful prospective client has me rethinking my social terminology. She compared the use of social media for sales micro-targeting to her company's account-based marketing methodology called narowcasting.

What do you think? Micro-targeting or narrowcasting - which term is the more attractive designation?

In the meantime, here are three current examples of how Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) is helping its clients get narrow through social media:

1. A soon to launch social campaign for a management consultancy will seek to identify sales opportunities in a specific US geography that has experienced a recent in-flow of prospective buyers.

2. Through a well defined content strategy, an enterprise software company will focus much of its social media program on cultivating more intimate relationships with a handful of executive level decision-makers.

3. An information security provider successfully recruited the chief security officer of a major global brand to serve as a guest blogger for their well read and respected social media portal. Our client has yet to provide services to this brand, yet social has served as the platform to initiate discussions.