This week I presented at the International Customer Reference Program Conference in Boston. It was really interesting to speak with the marketers basically in charge of harnessing the voice of customers to make an impact on their business. Attendees ranged from those who were looking to start a customer engagement program from scratch to those who sought to improve upon and evolve solidly established and successful programs they’ve already launched.
My presentation focused on exploring how to plan and packaging customer evidence in a way that capitalizes on the increasing convergence of social media, search, and content. My presentation came just a week after Google’s “Penguin” update which represented yet another hurdle for marketers attempting to impact their target audience’s online experience without investing in really great content, so my talk seemed to be even more topical than originally expected.
After I got home I began thinking a little bit about my experience and I realized something I wish would have occurred to me BEFORE my presentation: the audience was interested in influencing sales & shortening the sales cycle above all else.
That is a common theme across all marketing and especially with social media & digital. The days of putting a smile on your bosses face by reporting things like impressions, views, visits, and even clicks are behind us. Now, more than ever, marketers have to show a direct line between activity and revenue. The real kick in the butt is that my presentation was talking to that exact topic, it just wasn’t positioned as such, so I thought I’d share a couple slides and make the connection.
Impacting The Right Conversations Means Influencing The Bottom Line
The real value of social media & search in a B2B context is the ability to drive targeted engagements with the right people at the right time, driving toward a common objective: sales. This slide looks a little complex, but the concept is actually pretty simple. To impact your target audience’s online experience in a way that moves them closer to intent to purchase, and ultimately toward advocacy, you have to consider three things:
- Where they are in the customer lifecycle
- Where they are spending their time online
- What value they are looking to get out of spending time there
The challenge is that as you target different stages of the life cycle there are several variables that change:
- What motivates influencers in those channels (value exchange)
- What motivates your target audience (why they are there in the first place)
Consequently, to build a content and engagement strategy that drives dialogue in these channels that favors your brand and your objective you have to conduct some thorough research to target the following inputs:
- Influencers (by channel & motive)
- target search terms & phrases (segmented by short tail targets achieved over time and more immediate long tail phrases)
- Desired outcome (the end-action do you want to drive that will signal a move closer to purchase – free trial, download, etc.)
Common Mistakes To Avoid
If your building out a social presence and you don’t have the resources to take as thoughtful of an approach as I mention above, here are a few mistakes you can avoid that will at least get you moving in the right direction:
1.) Assume Charles (our target audience) is following us
In my original presentation I create a scenario where “Charles” is a member of our target audience. The point here is that for most B2B companies, it doesn’t make sense to sale to people that have already purchased your product because the sales cycle is so long & they probably already have what you’re selling.
2.) Focus on building followers
It’s not about the number of followers you have. It’s about the number of the RIGHT followers you have.The content you create and dialogue you drive dictates what the make up of your follower base will be.
3.) Define social too narrowly
It’s a lot sexier to talk about Facebook and Twitter, but the fact is we have to consider our target audience’s online experience as an ecosystem. You can’t just nurture one aspect of the ecosystem and expect to influence sales in a significant way. Sure you can lower cost through customer service, support etc., with a siloed social strategy, but meaningful revenue? nah.
4.) Optimize for search AND social
Social media is becoming a bigger and bigger influencer of what ranks in search and 97% of Tech B2B buyers use search engines to research before a purchase. We have to have search in mind when we begin building out our social strategy.
You can find my full presentation titled “unlocking the value of search and social for customer evidence” on Slideshare.