Conventional wisdom tells us that utilizing social media for B2B marketers is not a strategic initiative. The overarching opinion is that social media is for consumers and those that market directly to that audience.
Interestingly, a recent eConsultancy survey found that 67% of marketing decision makers agreed that social media is integral to their marketing mix (and only 11% disagreed).
That being said, social media marketing has had a tremendous impact on many aspects of our lives, from daily relations to our business practices. And as the lines between personal and professional lives blur, social media marketing can add to the client relationship. At the end of the day, it is still important for any marketer to be listening to the digital conversations that are taking place about a company’s brand, service and competitors. The real value, however, comes with going beyond listening to engaging with customers. There are three tactics that really underscore the need for B2B marketers to implement social media as part of their integrated marketing plan.
Responsiveness. In order to retain customer loyalty and retention, it is critical for a company to monitor and respond to customer questions.
3rd Party Validation. Social media can turn good customer service and listening into great marketing. It can also create authentic customer referrals and testimonials on your company’s behalf.
ROI. Running an efficient social media program can impact the bottom line. Seventy percent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, according to an ExactTarget report.
2014 could be the year that B2B social media will start to see its potential. With B2B social media marketing, you have to remember that the universe is smaller and success in B2B looks different. It’s also important to remember the purchasing lifecycles are much longer. Rolling out new accounting software to 20 countries is much different than purchasing a new smartphone. It means you need to build trust in the social media channels beyond the face-to-face time you have with customers.
What social media channel do you think gets the most B2B play?
Social media has become a substantial part of marketing in today’s world. Social media can provide many beneficial outcomes from a marketing standpoint, anywhere from increasing brand awareness to building key relationships needed for the success of the company. According to All Twitter, 87 percent of B2B marketers now are strategically using social media, with 85 percent using Twitter. With that being said, just because a business has a Twitter account does not ensure that it is an aid to its marketing efforts. Here are some tips to more effectively utilize Twitter and to generate more strategic Tweets.
It isn’t all about you. It is very easy to get caught up in self-promotion, but posting content other than “Me Tweets” can be wildly beneficial. Reading tweet after tweet by a handle who’s writing about themselves and nothing else doesn’t hold the interest of followers. That does not mean you need to avoid writing tweets entirely about yourself, but engaging in what others are saying helps to build and nurture relationships. Follow your followers, connect with key influencers in the industry, and engage with them. Additionally, this is a place where you can be a thought leader, starting conversations or introducing topics that get others talking. This will keep users interested in what you have to say.
Be proactive. On the other hand, one can easily form atendency towards reactive tweeting, only tweeting in response to a complaint, comment, or question from another. Don’t get me wrong, responding to others is part of the active engagement that helps build relationships. Think about it this way, how would you feel about looking at a Twitter user’s account, and seeing that he or she only responds to others, without ever posting original content? This may be rather boring, therefore you probably aren’t going to go look at that handle’s content regularly. Instead, be proactive. Be bold. Be a leader. Make others react to what you’re saying. This will bring much more attention to you than if you were solely the reactor all of the time, and will keep people wondering what you will talk about next.
Be in the know. You can tweet all day and all night, but if it is on content that no one is interested in, it won’t necessarily be helpful. This is where a bit of research can help. Search to discover what is trending, and what hot topics people are really talking about. This will help you to build content that will gain attention, and be current and in real time. Going hand in hand with knowing what’s trending is using rich and appropriate hash tags in your posts. Hash tags are meant to help broaden your reach, and help your post to be more searchable. Therefore, hash tagging something such as #ournetworkrocks won’t help much, as most people aren’t going to search that phrase. If you hash tag something more specific or relevant to what people are talking about or the content you are posting, this will increase your reach and the number of people who will see your tweet.
Tweeting smartly can greatly benefit your marketing efforts. As B2B marketers, we see the copious amounts of social media resources that we can harness. With that being said, if we don’t approach these social media platforms strategically, their impact will be minimal. So even as tweeting may seem simple and straightforward, being engaging, proactive, and putting a little legwork into research will go a long way to help to utilize Twitter to your benefit.
Many demographic filters are a waste of money for lead or list acquisition. Why? Because they concentrate on what people have filled out on a form rather than what they are doing. They are an artificial means of segmenting an audience. I spent years fulfilling, selling, and buying lead generation commitments for clients with filter guarantees on titles, country and company size. These filters are still being used by companies and they pay a lot for them; increase your filters, and you increase your cost per lead by as much as $50 per lead in some instances. There are better ways to spend that money and attract the buyers you want: creating targeted content. I’ll get to that in a moment.
When you spend money on arbitrary filters based on forms your potential buyer filled out with someone else, you are artificially going after an audience that may or may not be in the market for your product. Let’s look at job titles. Job titles for the same position are as varied as different breeds of dogs. Let’s say you sell a Widget software solution. Just because an IT employee filled out a form and said he was a manager, doesn’t mean he’s interested in your Widget software. He might not need a Widget solution right now. He may have already purchased a Widget solution this month. Why spend the money to market to him just because he could possibly buy a Widget if he wanted to? However, if said IT manager is researching content on Widgets and is comparing product features, you had better reach him now instead of next quarter. Or as a manager, he may be assembling data for someone else to make a decision. If so, when you target that IT manager only, you are missing the decision maker. I would argue that you just excluded a potential buyer rather than targeted one.
I know, sometimes filters seem like the best way to fish in a smaller pond because you are basing your filters on the last place you caught fish. It seems reasonable to market to a target based on past purchases or stats, but there are enough ways to go after your REAL target audience. Paying for a job title, company size, or even a country filter to reach them isn’t one of them. Content however, gets you to the people who are actively looking for a product or service that you offer.
People read content because they care about it. Put another way, if they don’t care about it, they won’t read it. Content targets your potential buyers, by default. And if you focus on building your content to align with information your potential customers look for during the decision-making process, you can nurture them through the buying cycle and guide them straight to your company for consideration when they are ready to make a purchase. Investing in content is one of the first places you should spend your marketing dollars, if you need more leads for increased revenue and market share.
In my next blog post, I’ll give you the Top 10 ways that content maximizes your ROI.
Hi. My name is Kevin Fann, the new Creative Director here at McClenahan Bruer.
When I joined the team a few weeks ago, my first assignment was to give this agency’s creative department what it needed most in the short-term: a solid process for creative workflow.
I’ve worked in creative as a copywriter for six years. Before that, I was a physicist and engineer. The blend of creative “aha” and stable process, to me, seem highly compatible complementary opposites, rather than forces in opposition.
But creativity has a popular myth of not following any process.
And perhaps rightly so. Where do good ideas come from? How can you plan for them? Sometimes, you can’t. Sometimes they hit you at 3 am.
A creative process can’t plan exactly when and how an idea will form. But you can apportion time and give stability to a creative team, so their ideas can sprout. And perhaps grow.
Something in creativity craves a stable process, if only to allow for the magic moment when imagination takes control and shines new light.
Since McBru has a passion for technology and creativity, a drab spreadsheet of the creative process showing each project as a status bar progressing through proposal, concept, design, content, and production seemed a little uninspired.
Instead, we put our work in the world at large. We made each project a spaceship, traveling from Planet McBru at the center, through the atmospheric layers around it, until reaching Planet Client. Between each layer is a presentation—either internal or to the client—to show where the project stands and to receive feedback early and often.
For recurring work, like weekly blogs, videos, or quarterly newsletters, we created Planet Blog with its client moons scattered around it, as if in cyclical orbit.
Spaceships. Planet Blog. McBruniverse.
It sounds like a game, but it’s working. At a glance, anyone can see the entire creative McBruniverse, all in one place.
2. More Transparent
An important side effect of putting the workflow on the wall is that it also puts our progress in front of everyone at the agency. Having things out in the open generates more conversation and accountability—better work, in general.
We also switched from a weekly, one-hour, creatives-only status meeting to a daily, short stand-up meeting that’s open to everyone at the agency to see where projects stand.
And when there are problems, we escalate them in a manageable way in less than one day—instead of switching to panic mode or taking several days—using direct conversation rather than requests that go through automated channels (well, mostly).
To the right side of the McBruniverse sits the backlog area with yellow slips of paper. Caution. A problem posted on the backlog becomes a problem with the spaceship—and no spaceship can safely land on Planet Client with a bunch of Post-it notes dragging it down.
You never know what great idea might start with Post-it notes on a wall.
3. More New Ideas
On the left side of the McBruniverse are blue slips of paper for agile initiatives. As part of the process, we’ve set aside an entire afternoon to brainstorm, evaluate and vet those new ideas—everyone at the agency—to come up with things we can do internally and for specific clients that have not been done before, things we all say we should do, but don’t have time for in the normal bustle.
By committing time every week to look at new ideas and by putting a minimal amount of investment into them (often no money at all), we can try new approaches to problem solving with little risk.
Then, if these new ideas prove to be viable and profitable, we can invest a little more in them, eventually making them into “real” projects and adding them to the McBruniverse as a spaceship with the same deliverables and schedules you would assign to any project.
The Process of Mass Production: “Sunflower Seeds,” Ai Weiwei image from www.tate.org.uk
To Serve the Client Is To Know the Client
As high-tech companies working on complicated things, many of our clients use these same kinds of visual workflows, transparent accountability measures, and agile initiative and vetting processes. It grew out of kanban manufacturing systems and software development.
As communications agency to those firms, it’s important that we live in our clients’ world, not only to do work we’re proud of, but also to understand how to do it in a way that aligns our creative process with the creative process of those likeminded innovators.
It’s about walking the walk while talking the talk. And as creative director, my hope is that the McBruniverse—like the real universe—is ever expanding.
Do you use a work process like this at your company?
At your tech firm?
At your creative agency?
Have you found the energized plasma between total control and total chaos?
If you’ve managed a PR program, you understand writing a great pitch is an art that cannot be underestimated. In our current media landscape, with publications consolidating left and right, journalists are wearing multiple hats and stretched as thin as they can be. Your client may well have the most amazing product or technology ever to see the light of day, but you won’t get anyone’s attention if your pitch is mis-directed or poorly written. In order to break through the clutter and get the attention of busy influencers, your pitch must be spot on.
David Pogue, former tech writer for the New York Times who is now with Yahoo!, recently offered up a very useful PR critique on his blog. He dissected and re-wrote an actual pitch he’d received, giving valuable insight into what a tech writer wants to see in a pitch and what won’t fly.
I’ve expanded on a few of the highlights below.
1) Know your target. Do your research. Most tech writers have a specialty, so make sure you’re targeting the right journalist with your pitch. And read some of their articles, so you’re familiar with their style and the type of information they would find valuable.
2) Skip the buzzwords and clichés. This is a universal pet peeve for tech writers, or most writers for that matter. Here are some examples of Pogue’s Tech Terms to Avoid. In a pitch, using too many empty buzzwords, clichés or jargon-y phrases convolutes your message, making it hard to hone in on the important facts. If a journalist has to work too hard to make sense of what you’re trying to say, you’re wasting his or her valuable time.
3) Start with the product/technology. Journalism 101 and the good old inverted pyramid taught us to start with the most important facts and move on from there. Pogue wants to see: What’s the product? How much does it cost? What machine does it run on? Is it out yet?
4) Keep it simple, brief and smart. In order to garner interest, a pitch has to strike the perfect tone and balance. See Pogue’s re-written pitch below.
E-books are great and all, but they’re still just words on a screen. We make something more ambitious: multimedia comic books. As you read, you can tap the screen to trigger animations, play little games and even change the story line.
Our first title, “Superhamster,” is a $1 app for iPad. It’s been in the App Store’s top 20 e-book downloads for six weeks, with an average user review of 4.8 stars. If you’re interested in a review copy, say the word; we think your readers would love it.
Hopefully, these tips have served as helpful refresher.
Writers: Do you have other useful tips to share? What are your pet peeves?
People are exposed to and understand brands more now than anytime in history. In tech B2B marketing, just as in the larger consumer market, brand association is subjective and much of the personal feeling about a brand comes from experiences of dealing with the company. As the visual representation of the company, the mark—or logo—has come to embody what that company does and how they conduct themselves.
That’s a big responsibility – is your mark up to the job?
A mark tries to visually represent the core of how that company sees itself and its place in the world: The logo is its voice and vision. It is then up to the products and actions of a company to make that mark ring true, to resonate and to create the subjectiveness that people will come to associate with it and the company.
The visual language of logos has a big impact on the viewer. And if that mark or shape represents your company, it flavors or colors every interaction with your customer. A good logo cannot make up for poor customer service, in fact it may give poor service a shorthand visual symbol. But a bad logo can bring a whole load of preconceptions to customer’s feelings about a company. A sloppy, awkward or dated look makes you wonder what else is the company being sloppy, awkward or out-of-touch about.
Visually, a lot of that feeling comes from the intangible. People can’t say why a flowing script creates a friendlier impression, but it can. A harsh and angular mark may be off-putting and may give you some reservation about dealing with a company.
Most business people are not comfortable expressing vague impressions, or don’t have the visual language vocabulary to express why a mark or symbol makes them react a certain way. This is even more so when a mark is new and hasn’t yet had associations and interactions to clarify what that mark means.
Here at McBru, we’ve helped tech B2B companies with branding, rebranding and logo development for many years, and building new visual identities for clients is some of the most rewarding work we do.
Within our creative department, we talk amongst ourselves about line and tone, typography, color theory, rhythm and contrast – all of the “mechanics” that make up a symbol. However, even though clients may be aware of how a mark feels, they usually can’t express it with the same terminology that designers do. That’s where the creative magic happens. It’s really alchemy – a bit of science and a smidge of art that is mixed and stirred until it is just right. And a portion of palmistry—we read between the lines and try to determine what people will be thinking and feeling when they experience the mark.
A lot of what a new brand will come to be is what you make of it. Starting out with your best possible mark makes that easier.
In late September, Google announced the first rewrite of its search algorithm since 2000. The new algorithm, called Hummingbird, restructures the computations behind search so Google can better handle longer and more complex queries, with a focus more on trying to understand the meanings and relationships among things, rather simply matching keywords.
For B2B marketers, how does Hummingbird impact existing search engine optimization (SEO) strategies built on keywords?
First of all, it’s not as if keywords no longer have relevance for search – optimizing content for keywords is still an important strategy. Also, when Google executives announced the update, the Hummingbird algorithm had already been running the Google search engine for about a month, and no one had detected the change. If your SEO analytics are still strong, then your current strategies are still working.
However, there is one very good reason to re-optimize your SEO to take advantage of Hummingbird’s new powers: mobile voice search.
According to the New York Times, Google executives said they made changes to their search algorithm because search users are asking increasingly long and complex questions and are searching Google more often on mobile devices with voice search.
Think about how you use the search engine on your laptop versus how you talk to your mobile phone when using voice search features such as Siri. If you’re typing a query into Google search, you’re probably going to focus on keywords: “Portland French Restaurant” for instance. Search queries using voice are more likely to use natural language, and to contain references to contextual information, such as location and other data that your device may know about you. “What is the nearest French restaurant to me” is, in terms of search, conceptually much more complex than its equivalent keyword search. The new Hummingbird algorithm recognizes this and is designed to deliver mobile users better results when asking a question out loud in a natural speech pattern.
How do you optimize your SEO for longer, linguistically more natural queries, including those from voice search? The Hummingbird algorithm is still new, and optimizing for its new search process is still an evolving art, but from all evidence, it doesn’t require an entirely new SEO strategy but an expansion of the keyword strategies that came before.
Think about how people would conversationally ask for your content, using natural, everyday language, and try to understand the intent and concepts behind common queries that would return links to your content. People are increasingly not just searching for keyword matches, but something more complex, such as the answer to a question. Is there contextual information, such as location, that would further help differentiate your content to the Hummingbird search engine?
To open up your SEO to more conceptual and natural language querying, perhaps the place to start is to ask yourself this: If your content is the answer, what is the question?
What makes an agency right for your business?
What makes you a client your agency can be successful for?
The answers to both questions come down to one thing: alignment.
Four Questions Tech Marketers Should Ask Agencies It’s easy for you as a tech B2B marketer to narrow down your list of prospective agencies by asking and answering a few key questions:
Does the firm have a track record in tech B2B?
Does the firm have expertise in the marketing discipline you need help with?
Does the firm have a track record of proven success, backed by solid metrics?
Does the firm’s cost structure align with the budget resources you have available?
Four Questions Tech Marketers Should Ask Themselves Once you have winnowed the field and arrived at a small number of qualified agencies, it’s time to look for alignment. The best place to start is by looking in the mirror.
For example, ask yourself:
Are you an agile, fast-moving marketing organization or slower and more methodical?
Is your corporate culture conservative or forward thinking?
Do you believe in “fail fast” or are you risk averse?
Do you prefer to detail strategies and tactics and instruct your agency on execution, or do you look to your agency for strategic guidance and counsel in addition to execution?
Focusing solely on the first group of questions can set a relationship up for failure. Taking time to really think through the behaviors and core values that work best for your organization—then seeking those same values in your agency—can make all the difference in your agency’s performance and your final satisfaction with the effort and return.
Alignment of Passion and Imagination At McBru, we seek to align our passion and imagination with the passion and imagination of our clients. We love technology.
For us, the ideal clients:
- Don’t settle for average work
- Take risks
- Are relentless about improving programs and results
- Will listen to “no,” when accompanied by a thoughtful explanation
- Push us to do our best, and want us to push back in equal measure
- Think doing great work we can all be proud of is really fun.
Last week my colleague, Erica, wrote about the book “The Social Trade Show” by Traci Browne and shared some valuable information on how to drive engagement and streamline your social media efforts at an event. The book also gave some great tips on one of my passions, event planning, and creating an engaging experience for the attendee. Below are some ideas you can use to make your next event more successful.
Drive Traffic to Your Booth. The rule of thumb for attendees is quality over quantity. Engage the attendee with hands-on product demos, have an industry expert do a Q&A session in your booth, and provide content that is exclusive and only available at your booth.
Qualify Your Attendee With a Game. Create a fun game or a quiz with facts and information that is relative to the attendee. Provide prizes that give instant gratification on two fronts: winning and sharing knowledge. People love to show off with what they know!
Engage Your Audience in Person and On Social with a Q&A. Create a Q&A session on a topic your attendees would benefit from in your booth at a specific time. Arrange an in-booth TweetUp and LinkedIn event for physical attendees and virtual attendees. Broadcast the discussion on your social networks and invite real-time comments and questions.
Post Keynotes and Breakout Sessions. Post a summary of your keynotes and breakout sessions on all your social channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog, YouTube, etc.) to add credibility and value to the event and to expand your audience reach to individuals who could not physically attend.
Video Record your Breakout Sessions and Keynotes. Use the video on all your social channels to expand your audience and provide fresh information to those who could not attend. The video will also serve as a refresher for those who were in attendance.
Look for Brand Champions. Identify and corral individuals who can serve as champions for your brand. Give these brand champions first access to new products, inside scoops, and product samples and let them help you spread the word about your products organically.
As you can see, using these strategies at your next event will not only enhance your presence but will also add another layer of engagement with your target audience. Have you used any of these strategies? I would love to hear your social trade show event success stories!
As a marketing professional, what’s the most important aspect of your job? Meeting client deadlines? Delivering quality work? Hitting metrics? If you ask me, I think it’s trust. Establishing trust with your client is the lynchpin of your relationship; without this it becomes increasingly difficult to make your program work. After all, you wouldn’t take recommendations from someone you don’t trust, would you? But how does one establish trust? While there are no hard fast rules, and it is earned differently from person to person, here are a few tips that I have come across in my experience.
- Give honest counsel and feedback. It may seem easier in the short term to merely do whatever your client says, but being an order-taker earns you neither respect nor trust. While there may be a long list of why a company seeks the help of an agency, it’s likely that you made the cut because of your expertise and ability to help meet the company’s program goals, whatever they may be. If you don’t offer honest counsel, you’re not actually performing the job for which you were hired. It’s important to remember that being a yes-man is ultimately a disservice to your client. And, maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather be seen as trusted advisor than a yes-man.
- Set realistic expectations. Building on the previous point, it’s important to be real with your clients around what they can expect from your program. Setting realistic expectations from the beginning of the relationship, whether around banner ad CTR or press release coverage, keeps everyone on the same page. It’s natural to want to over-sell metrics at the beginning of the relationship, but don’t forget you’ll be held accountable to meet them. Overselling metrics at the onset of a program could come back and bite you if they’re not met.
- Show your value. It might feel a little self-promotional to constantly tell your clients how great you are, but there are ways to present your successes that may feel a little more natural. If you’ve landed a piece of coverage in the key publication in their industry, don’t be afraid to tell them this is a big win! It’s also important to educate your clients along the way. For example, if your client isn’t familiar with the publication, give him or her a brief explanation as to why this was a great placement. Chances are, your client has to report on your program to someone above them; anytime you can equip them with information and prove your program is working, the better.
- Learn continuously. One of my favorite things about marketing is that it’s always changing! However, this means it’s important to take an active role in learning and educating yourself on recent developments and trends in the industry. As B2B marketers, we also need to educate ourselves on developments in our clients’ industries.
- Listen. You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? Listening is key to developing a good working relationship with anyone, but it’s especially important for clients to know that you are hearing them and understanding their point of view.
I hope these are useful. Let us know if you have any tips that have worked for well for you!