MAD Perspectives Blog

B2B Marketing Budgets - Show Me the Money!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

OK.  We're almost one month into the new year.  How's it going for you?  Have you been buried in snow?  Awash in floods?  Bemoaning the loss of budget dollars and resources to pursue effective marketing and communication strategies?  I've been looking at the plethora of data provided by marketing firms such as Marketing Sherpa and Marketing Profs related to B2B marketing budgets for 2011.  Just in case you have not seen their reports or presentations, I'm going to share some highlights.

The good news is - marketing dollars are on the upswing.  Of course, this is an increase after 2 or more years of dramatic cuts, so we're not really back to normal.  But then, what is normal?  The past few years have seen a marked shift from offline marketing to online marketing.  The question is, where is the money being spent and how effective are the different marketing strategies.  The key metric for ALL B2B marketers is Lead Generation. 


Offline marketing activities such as executive breakfasts, PR, tradeshows and insides sales/telemarketing are still big parts of the budget, yet their effectiveness is shifting.  Inside sales is considered one of the most effective strategies for improving the number and quality of leads, yet companies continue to limit the budgets allocated to this valuable effort. At the same time PR budget may be stagnant, but these agencies are increasingly asked to expand their capabilities to include social media.

This leads us to the discussion of online marketing.  This segment is seeing budget increases for 2011.  The key areas for investment are corporate website, search, webinars and social media.  Despite many statements in the past year that social media and Facebook in particular, will displace the need for a corporate website, B2B companies place their website as the fulcrum of their overall online marketing strategy.   This is a smart decision by B2Bs.  Their websites are the validation of themselves as a meaningful, differentiated, competitive business.  Optimizing the website for search, ease of use, availability of relevant content and interactive discussion requires ongoing investment and a cohesive strategy.

Note the topics related to the corporate website.
  
     - Search - this is more than keyword analysis.  This is development of content and web pages that will improve organic search on Google (where 93% of B2B buyers start their research).  This is also social search.  How, when and where are B2B buyers seeking recommendations about the solutions they need.  Are they on LinkedIn?  Twitter?  What terminology do they use to search?

     - Content - There is simply not enough that can be said about creating and delivering the right content at the right time to the right audience.  while the corporate website can become a repository for piles of information, it is important that prospective buyers can find the content they need easily and quickly.  

    - Social Media - Social platforms enable a company to increase their reach.  They allow companies to become more personal.  They also allow companies to understand their customers better.  It is about more than just listening to what their customers are saying.  It's about engaging, resolving, promoting, inciting and inspiring.

    - Webinars - This is the MOST effective online tactic as reported by Marketing Profs.  This is also one of the leading areas for increased online marketing investment.  This technology has become more sophisticated (incorporating social chat, polling and survey capabilities) and more affordable, enabling even the smallest B2B company to inform and educate its target audience.  Bottom line (as I've mentioned repeatedly), video is memorable.

The challenge is to balance your marketing budget across the most effective marketing channels.  Sometimes the less effective channels consume an inordinate amount of budget.  Understanding your customers and where they will be physically or virtually may help justify shifts in budget allocation.  Understanding how your customers are talking about your company will help you develop a content marketing strategy that leverages online and offline channels.  Check out both Marketing Profs and Marketing Sherpa (yes, I'm a member of both groups) to see their 2011 projections and the details that I allude to here.  The online marketing landscape continues to shift and evolve.  Will 2011 be the year for B2B breakthroughs via social media?

What's your perspective?



Influence B2B Buying Decisions with Social Media

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What actions do you take to encourage your customers to make a purchase?

The goal for any company is to drive revenue, manage expenses and earn profits.  Companies employ a variety of strategies to encourage customers to purchase their products or services.  These strategies increasingly incorporate different types of digitial media, from online advertising, SEM and SEO to social media, from online video to video conferencing.  Use of any of these customer centric efforts is to motivate customer action.  The ultimate desired action is for the customer to make a purchase, however, there are many other actions that may lead to that purchase.

Much emphasis is placed by B2B companies on lead or demand generation.  The basic premise is that the larger the funnel of opportunity, the greater the number of closed deals.  However, how does a B2B company inspire action through social media?  B2C companies offer special promotions or discounts to their fans and followers.  B2B companies have not, generally, seen increased sales directly related to limited time offers or discounts.  However, they have seen increased webinar attendance, increased whitepaper downloads and website visits when using social networks to enhance the visibility of the companies' programs.

North Plains, a digital asset management vendor (see North Plains case study), participates in many DAM related LinkedIn Groups.  By promoting their educational webinars in the groups, they increased anticipated attendance at their webinars.  Increased attendance equates to increased awareness and potentially increased sales.

The goal is consider what phase of the sales cycle your audience  is in.  Are they building knowledge?  Are they assessing vendors and options?  Or, are they in the decision making phase?  Aligning your content efforts with these different phases can help drive a desired action.  TechTarget shared the following findings in 2009 as related to IT buyers interest in online content based on stage in the buying process. 



This study provides some interesting insights that can help you target your content efforts to drive the desired action.  It reinforces the need for an integrated marketing strategy that incorporates social media, streaming media, marketing collateral and whitepapers, shared across a combination of your corporate website and social outlets.  It reinforces the need for a strategy that aligns content development efforts with all phases of the buying cycle.  It reinforces the need to understand your customer's needs when creating content to drive a specific action.

Social networks are a relevant source of information.  They can help a potential customer increase his/her knowledge of your company and its products.  They can faciliate community discussions.  They can inform a potential customer on where or how to find more detailed information, but can they actually convince a cusotmer to make a purchase in the B2B space?   In my opinion, the jury is out on this topic at this time.  While there have been many reports indicating that B2B marketers have found success increasing awareness and knowledge, I have not seen clear evidence that shows Twitter or LinkedIn, much less Facebook, are driving significant sales of B2B products and solutions.  Companies such as IBM claim to have sophisticated listening tools to help them uncover leads, however that is not a sale.  Perhaps it's a matter of time.  Perhaps it is dependent of understanding key drivers influencing the buying decision and aligning that understanding with the right social networking.

How well do you know your customers?  Stay tuned for further discussion on this topic.

What's your perspective?



B2B Social Media - just more Push Marketing?

Peggy Dau - Thursday, January 13, 2011

So, it's 2011.  How are your social media efforts working out for you?   2010 was a watershed year for companies adopting social media as a part of their overall marketing strategy.  Large companies, small companies, mid-size companies - they all jumped on board and started tweeting and blogging and posting...and wondered about the benefits. 

Many social media marketing firms talk about the benefits of Pull Marketing over Push Marketing.  Just as a brief reminder, Pull Marketing is the development of content, messaging or ads directing at the end customer who will make a purchase decision.  The content is created to drive an action by the customer to inquire or purchase your product.  On the other hand, Push Marketing is the development of content, messaging or ads directed at a distribution channel or other intermediary that provides your products, with the intent to get them to promote your product on your behalf. 

social media pundits emphasize the benefit of social media marketing in giving companies an opportunity to interact DIRECTLY with their customers.  This means they can implement a greater number of pull marketing strategies.  They can interact with customers to understand their needs, provide discounts and other incentives, not available through other channels,and inpsire action by the customer.  This works reasonably well in the consumer space, but how about the B2B space? I have talked to companies who have offered free software, free iPads, free services to fans or followers, without any meaningful result. Therefore, we could state that Pull marketing does not have the same impact in the B2B space.  And,  I would argue that the implementation of social media by B2B companies is an extension of Push Marketing, rather than an increased use of Pull Marketing.   Is this a problem or is this ok?

Right now, it's probably ok.  Many B2B companies have adopted social media to increase brand awareness, to be perceived as thought leaders, or to address customer service issues.  When we look at the goals for these types of communications, measures of success are not centered around customer action (except for customer service).  To date, measures of success have been about numbers of fans or followers, but not about actual sales. Social media is yet another communication channel through which the company can educate its target market about the company culture, industry trends, product developments.  These companies may sell their products directly or through a distribution channel of some sort.  Regardless of the purchase model, they want to increase knowledge about their products.  They do want to be "top of mind" when potential buyers are defining their requirements and considering potential solutions.  Social Media provides the opportunity to increase the volume of communication.

Social media continues to be one part of an overall marketing strategy.  The focus on a 360 degree integrated strategy is still very important.  I have mentioned before, that it is very important to tailor your story to your audience and the channel through which they hear your story.  While it is reasonable to re-purpose existing content for use through social channels, it is important to remember the origin of these channels.  They are personal.  They are meant to be interactive.  Adapt your social media marketing to reflect the culture and personality of your company.  It's ok for social media to be another push marketing channel, but think about ways to drive meaningful interaction with your customers.  Think about what will have real impact on your business?

I'll be blogging further about inspiring customer action, measurable benefits and meaningful storytelling over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!

What's your perspective?



Building Business Relationships a la Digital Media

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Business is about building relationships.  In the past these relationships were developed in buildings with offices, desks and phones.  They were fostered over lunches, dinners, holiday parties and golf outings.  We only have to watch "MAD MEN" to be reminded of that while these relationships seemed solid on the surface, they often crumbled under the pressures of other business needs.

Bottom line, business relationships are about one party fulfilling the needs and desires of the other.  The challenge is understanding those needs and desires.  In today's social business world, relationships can be initiated via various social networks.  However, the foundation for a relationship still evolves from a face to face meeting.  However, it is often maintained through the use of many digital media solutions.  These solutions include desktop video conferencing, webinars, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, newsletters and more.

I met with a client last week.  They are a small, privately held software company.  Their customers are global, yet their sales force is centralized.  You may be scratching your head wondering why.  I know I did.  However, they have found their salesforce to be more effective if they can leverage the knowledge gained from each other through discussions about their potential customers.  They fulfill their customer's desire for face to face meetings via desktop video conferencing.  They provide software demos using online tools such as GotoMeeting.  They provide product updates via email newsletters and weekly blogs.  They have leveraged the many solutions available to them to maintain their customer relationships in an efficient, cost effective manner that fulfills their customers needs.

How do we understand those needs?  We listen!  Thanks to constantly evolving social media platforms, companies have a unique opportunity to hear more than ever before.  In fact, this has become a daunting proposition for many companies.  Customers are very candid in the social stratosphere - they share the good, the great, the bad and the ugly.  However, it is critical for companies to gain social intelligence about their customers needs, goals and concerns.  They will gain competitive insight and candid feedback that can influence business process, product roadmap, market awareness and help build stronger business relationships.

By incorporating the many digital media tools available today, businesses can communicate in the manner best suited to their many audiences (c-level, marketing, purchasing, engineering, etc.).  In combining traditional business interactions with digital communication channels and social interactivity, companies will build a new kind of relationship with their customers.

What's your perspective?



Social Media at Compuware - a case study

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, November 02, 2010

As part of goal to share social media experiences at B2B companies, we are releasing a new case study this week.  Compuware has been providing software, experts and best practices to make your applications work and delivery business value for 25 years.  Compuware also embraces employee empowerment. 

Compuware's approach to integrating social media into their overall marketing strategy reflects this commitment.  Some key takeaways include:

     - Empowerment - Trust your employees.  You hired them because they possessed certain qualities which includes their ability to represent your company.

     - Collaboration - The ability to interact with fellow employees is as important as the ability to interact with business partners and customers.  Great solutions come from great conversations.

     - Culture - The culture of a company is a key element for prospective employees.  Social media allows companies to showcase all sides of their corporate culture.

Learn more about Compuware's use of social media by requesting the case study at:  http://www.madperspectives.com/contact .

What's your perspective?



Social Media at North Plains - a Case Study

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

MAD Perspectives is releasing its first B2B social media case study today.  As we've talked to and worked with clients, we've realized that there is a a lot of confusion and concern at B2B companies about how to integrate social media into their overall marketing strategy.  While social media can be leveraged for more than marketing, this is often the starting point for most companies.  Given the growth of social media consumer centric origins, the concerns of B2B companies are valid.

We have reached out to colleagues in different industries to understand how they have pursued their social media strategies.  The companies reflected in the case studies are not necessarily MAD Perspective clients.  They are companies are who experimenting with social tools such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and wikis.  My thanks to the subject of our first case study, North Plains Systems.

Some key learnings at North Plains include:

- "committment and intention" are critical to social media success

- promoting webinars across social platforms, particularly LinkedIn Groups, will increase webinar attendance

- a small marketing team can benefit from a cross platform tool to manage posting simultaneously to multiple social sites

To request the entire case study, please click here: http://www.madperspectives.com/contact to fill out the form and a copy of the case study will be emailed to you.

What's your perspective?



Does B2B need a new app?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Many years ago a technology industry CEO distributed a poster throughout its various corporate, sales and manufacturing offices stating something like “Technology is always changing, if you cannot keep up with the pace of change then you are in the wrong industry.”  This was before Unix, before the internet and long before social media was even a glimmer in anyone’s eye.  The technology industry IS constantly changing and at pace unimagined more than 20 years ago.

So, how do we keep up?  Social media has changed the face of communication forever and who knows what’s next.  While it is possible to imagine that IT hardware will continue to see improvements related to performance, price, environmental impact and size, it is more difficult to forsee how applications will evolve.  An articled on Wired.com recently debated the death of the web while the internet lives on.  Regardless of your point of view, the commentary regarding the implication of an app based future is intriguing

Thanks to Apple and its ubiquitous devices, there seems to be an app for everything from reading our favorite publications to comparison shopping to bouncing penguins off the wall.  Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Groupon have led or leveraged the growing social mentality to share, communicate, and interact based on interests and now location.  Whereas 20 years ago we spoke of Big Brother’ and our fear of anyone having any visibility of comings and goings, now we have left “1984” behind and voluntarily share our likes, dislikes, and destinations.

Do we need to adopt all forms of social media and start developing apps for fear of being considered a ‘neo-luddite’? The term “social media” is becoming all encompassing.  Any application that creates some sort of community experience is considered social.  A community could be moms against peanut butter or customers interested in new storage technologies or individual investors trying to navigate the financial markets.  The challenge is in how any of these tools can provide solutions that are aligned with strategic business goals.

B2B Companies are using or experimenting with social networks to:

  • - understand customer opinion -> to increase customer satisfaction, customer retention, modify product features/functionality, maintain customer loyalty
  • - invite customers to events or webinars -> to  increase customer knowledge, increase customer touch points, qualify customer interest, increase quantity of leads
  • - provide product updates ->to  increase customer knowledge, invite customer input, increase customer loyalty
  • - share industry insight -> to show thought leadership, educate customers,  improve competitive differentiation
  • - offer special discounts or deals -> to drive short term revenue, create awareness,  reward community members
  • - create communities -> to understand trends, drive discussions on select topics, recruit new employees, crowdsource to solutions to simple and/or complex challenges

As long as these activities support higher level goals for sales, innovation, operational efficiency or other needs, the investment in social media is beneficial.

With the increased focus on apps, should companies be developing apps as well as using social networks?  Perhaps apps can help companies address these same goals.  If an app can be distributed on multiple devices, does that make it social?  Personally, I don’t think so.  Being social is about interaction and community.  So, if that app enables customers to easily interact with each other in some kind of semi-private walled garden, then perhaps it is social. 

I can envision B2B apps focused on addressing frequently asked customer questions.  As a long time HP employee in my past life, I can image HP apps to troubleshoot printing problems, a SMB focused app to configure servers, or an app to easily locate your nearest value added reseller (VAR). Other companies could leverage the data associated with calls coming into their 800 numbers to develop apps that easily and quickly address frequently asked customer questions.  By using social networks to inform their constituents that these apps exist and are available for download to defined devices, these companies leverage the two hottest trends (other than cloud computing), apps and social media to enrich their customer’s experiences.

Perhaps we need an app to help us keep up with all the new technologies that are emerging.  Ooops, perhaps that is the new Mashable app!

What’s your perspective?



Does Your Organizational Structure Inhibit Social Networking?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, August 17, 2010

As marketers plan their social media strategy, they usually focus on content, resources and platforms.  I rarely hear anyone discuss organizational structure.  Yet, a company’s organizational model can reveal a lot about how they will use social networking platforms.  The structure of an organization impacts processes and behaviors that will reflect company and employee comfort with the openness and interactivity of social media. 

The primary organization structures are:

Structure

Characteristics

Adoption of Social Media

Functional

-          Employees perform a specific set of tasks (i.e., marketing, engineering, sales, etc.)

-          Focus on operational efficiency and economies of scale

-          Fosters technical expertise

-          Creates silos

-          Communication across silos is difficult

-          Focus on process, hierarchy and control

-          Pursuit of social media  will require planning of  strategy, policy, clear metrics and employee training

-          Social media most likely to be pursued by marketing department only

-          Employees may not feel empowered to communicate socially  

-          Social media primarily used to reinforce outbound marketing messaging

Divisional

-          Employees organized by product or geography

-          Employees perform specific functions within the divisional structure

-          High accountability for achieving goals

-          Communication encouraged across function to achieve goals

-          Little interaction between divisions

-          Hierarchical within the division

-          Pursuit of social media  will require planning of  strategy, policy, clear metrics and employee training

-          Social media effort led by marketing with intent to include other functions

-          Strong interest in gaining external feedback

Matrix

-          Employees organized by function and product

-          Structure reinforces and broadens employee expertise

-          Reduces organizational silos

-          Requires clear communication of goals, objectives and metrics

-          Poor communication can create confusion and/or stress

-          Focus on communication will foster interest in use of social networks as extension of communication model

-          Multi-tasking employees will easily adapt

-          Requires clarity in how social media will support goals & objectives

-          Collaborative environment will easily adapt to interactive nature of social media

 

The focus here is primarily around structure and does not take into account culture or communication style, which was discussed in a previous posting.  The level of bureaucracy in a company may impact willingness to communicate effectively internally, externally or on social networks. You may want to consider the impact of social media on existing organizational structures, business processes and communication methods.  While full scale reorganization is not the goal, education and training may help management and/or employees understand how the use of social media influences the existing business model.

While organizational theory segments company structures into the simple models referenced above, it is likely that your company reflects some mix of the models noted.  Your company’s approach to social media will reflect a combination of cultural and organizational influences.  It is important to recognize the challenges they may represent when building and implementing a B2B social media strategy.

What’s your perspective?



HP, Culture Shock & Social Networks

Peggy Dau - Monday, August 09, 2010

Last week I began a discussion about the impact of corporate culture on a company’s level of comfort with social media.  While I was thinking about this week’s continuation of this discussion, the CEO of my former employer, HP, resigned due to allegations of misconduct.   This news hit the social airwaves like tsunami last Friday. I enjoyed a 24 year career of Hewlett-Packard Company, which means I was lucky enough to have learned from the founders, Bill and Dave, what it means to be open, ethical, moral and to do business with integrity.   One of the key elements of HP’s Standards of Business Conduct is to “think about how your decision or behavior would look in a press article”.  This is a good foundation for us to consider when we think about how a company’s culture and organizational model impact the company’s use of social media.

HP’s culture and what became known as the “HP Way” focused on innovation, integrity and collaboration.   This culture was a natural match for social media.  The predecessor to today’s social networks was “MBWA" or management by walking around.  In HP, this meant an ability to learn from others in your office.  Employees would mix and mingle and share experiences.  Many careers grew through discovery and learning from peers.   HP’s founders would have been cautious about protecting HP’s Intellectual Property but they would have loved the ability to crowd source innovative concepts. However, over the past decade or so, the culture at HP changed.  This was a result of both external and internal forces.

External forces include the internet and the rampant availability of information.  They also include the increased demands from the financial services sector for all companies to provide and meet quarterly estimates.  This kind of instant gratification will change the way any company works.  Internal forces took the shape of CEOs and managers hired to lead change (defined in many diverse ways) but who each also had personal agendas.  In all cases the “HP Way” was deemed out dated and the collaboration of old gave way to siloed, hierarchical organizations with formerly empowered employees fearful of making even the smallest mistake.  Could Mark Hurd's HP, with a culture of cost containment, hierarchical decision making and limited employee empowerment, succeed in social media?

Interestingly, the answer is yes.  Consistent with its current command and control model, HP has a well defined, publically available, blogging policy.  They even have a digital media council, which includes representatives from all business units, that sets the policy for how HP will participate in social networks.  Any employee that will represent the company on a social network must take the requisite training.  So, HP empowers its employees with guidelines of expected behavior.  Is that really empowerment? I check on various HP blogs from time to time and follow several twitter feeds.  I find them interesting but cautious.  I think that HP could use social media as more than another PR channel.  I believe this is indicative of the internal culture.  That said, HP is number 22 on the NetPropex Social Index, which measures the social network activity of the largest U.S. corporations across a variety of social platforms.  Imagine what HP's score would be if the former culture of openness and collaboration was prevalent.

As a former HP employee and current HP shareholder, I hope HP’s next CEO balances innovation and operational excellence.  I hope they remember that their 300,000+ employees are the company’s biggest asset.  I hope they empower them to connect, communicate and collaborate, using social media, with their peers both inside and outside the company to create and innovate market changing solutions.

What’s your perspective?



Company Culture and Adoption of Social Networking

Peggy Dau - Monday, August 02, 2010

You’re thinking about social media.  You’re convinced you need to have a plan to add social media to your existing marketing and/or communication strategy.  You’re thinking, well, we’ll just tiptoe into this effort, participate in a few social networks and see what happens.  There is nothing wrong with this plan, except you should think about  your corporate culture.  Of course, there are other details you also need to consider, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s focus on corporate culture.

Does your culture inhibit executive or employee adoption of social networking tools?  Do employees feel empowered to publically communicate on behalf of the company?  Do executives understand the openness of social conversations?

I’ve had comments to several of my blogs related to B2B social media, emphasizing the importance of culture.  So, I’ve done some thinking on this and refreshed my memory as to the different types of corporate cultures (it’s been a long time since those undergrad and MBA courses on organizational theory).  Culture is a combination of shared values, attitudes, assumptions, beliefs and behaviors.  Culture is grounded in the assumptions about how people interact.

A successful social media strategy is best achieved when there is a corporate culture that balances tops down direction with bottoms up initiative with external (customer) facing communication.  However, existing corporate cultures can inhibit this balance and subsequently the success of a social media strategy.  Which of these cultures best reflects your company?

Adaptive – just like it sounds, this company tries new processes, solutions, business models to see what works best.  This company is usually very externally focused and will adopt solutions that help them communicate effectively and efficiently.  This culture will easily adapt to social networks for business use.

Inert – this type of company is very internally focused and struggles to deal with new ideas.  In technology parlance, they are a laggard when it comes to adopting new technology.  This culture will be one of the last companies to adopt social networking.

Networked – this is a sociable company, but employees exhibit little company loyalty.  This company may lag a bit in adopting new ideas solely due to high employee turnover.  Once this company has decided to use social networks, employees will take advantage of it and it may foster employee retention.

Mercenary - this culture is ruthless and highly competitive.  If the new solution doesn’t fulfill the goal to win, it is not considered.  Without a strong ROI argument, this kind of company will not leverage social networks at the business level.

Fragmented – this company is a loose alliance of independent workers (i.e., law firm).  If a solution can be easily adopted by these workers and help them achieve their goals, it’s a winner, but it is unlikely that all workers will utilize the solution at the same level.

I’ll be writing more about company cultures and organizational dynamics as it relates to B2B social networks over the next few weeks.  Do these cultures resonate with you?  What kind of culture does your company exhibit? 

What’s your perspective?