Marketing ROI in B-to-B: Why Is It So Hard, and What Can We Do About It?

The other day, I had the pleasure of discussing the challenges of marketing ROI with Jim Obermayer, CEO and executive director of the Sales Lead Management Association, on his Internet radio show. Our conversation got me thinking: Why is the Holy Grail of marketing ROI so tough to achieve in business markets? And what can we do about it?

The other day, I had the pleasure of discussing the challenges of marketing ROI with Jim Obermayer, CEO and executive director of the Sales Lead Management Association, on his Internet radio show. Our conversation got me thinking: Why is the Holy Grail of marketing ROI so tough to achieve in business markets? And what can we do about it?

The “why” part is pretty clear: Business buying cycles tend to be long, and involve multiple parties at either end. Marketers produce campaigns to generate an inquiry, and then qualify that interest with a series of outbound communications, and finally pass the qualified lead to a sales rep for follow up. From that point, it can take more than a year to close, and involve a slew of people on the customer side, from purchasing agents, to technical specifiers, to decision-makers.

The sales process is also complex, involving not only the face-to-face account rep, but sales engineers, inside sales people, and others who help get all the buyers’ questions answered, negotiate the terms, deliver, install and trouble-shoot the product, and whatever else needs to be done to satisfy the customer’s needs.

So, consider the difficulty of establishing the numbers that go into an ROI calculation in this kind of situation. Just to put a definition behind the concept: ROI, meaning return on investment, subtracts the marketing expense from the revenue generated, and then divides by the expense, resulting in a percentage that shows how much net return was produced by the investment.

But in this lengthy, multi-party, multi-touch selling situation, the “investment” part can be pretty tough to get at. Frankly, it’s a bit of a cost accounting nightmare, assigning an expense number to each sales and marketing touch that resulted in a particular closed deal. This brings up issues of variable versus fixed costs, marketing touch attribution—the list goes on and on.

Worse, the “return” part presents its own challenges. First problem is connecting a particular lead to a particular piece of revenue, which means carefully tracking a lead over its multi-month process toward closure.

Further, if a third-party distributor or agent is working the lead, it’s very likely that revenue results reporting is not part of the deal. With good reason: The distributor considers the relationship with the end-customer as his, and none of the manufacturer’s business. So the marketer who generated the lead often has no visibility into the associated revenue. Even if the deal was closed by a house rep, you’re looking at the endless squabble between sales and marketing about who gets the credit.

You can’t blame B-to-B marketers for throwing up their hands and relying on interim metrics like response rate and cost per lead. Especially when marketing staffers come and go, and may not even be in the job when the lead generated a while ago finally converts to a sale.

This is why I was so pleased at the arrival of the new book by Debbie Qaqish, The Rise of the Revenue Marketer, where she urges marketers to raise consciousness of their role in driving revenue results. “The revenue marketer uses the language of business,” she says. Examples of the metrics she recommends for revenue marketers include funnel velocity, sales conversion rates, pipeline revenue and campaign ROI.

My conclusions from this investigation:

  • Begin with a deep conversation with your finance counterparts to get at the best way for marketing to serve your company’s financial interests, like:
    • The right approach to assigning sales and marketing expense.
    • Whether to calculate returns based on net sales or on gross margin.
    • Decide which expenses are fixed and which are variable.
    • How to attribute the contribution of sales and marketing touches across the sales cycle.
    • Setting the ROI “hurdle rate” needed to support your company’s profitability goals.
  • Figure out where to get the revenue and expense data—not everything will be in your CRM system. Your finance counterparts should be help you source the data you need.
    • If a distribution channel party is a roadblock to revenue visibility, conduct a “did you buy” survey into accounts to which qualified leads were passed.
    • If the account-based revenue is captured internally, try supplementing your CRM system with data match-back to connect campaigns to sales, circumventing the arduous process of following a lead along its complex conversion process.
  • Set clear objectives for each marketing expenditure, so you know how to declare ROI success when you see it.
  • Get inspiration from The Rise of the Revenue Marketer, Debbie Qaqish’s innovative thinking on the role of marketing in B-to-B.
  • Get an education from Jim Lenskold’s 2003 classic, Marketing ROI: The Path to Campaign, Customer and Corporate Profitability.
  • If to many obstacles are in the way, fall back and rely on “activity-based” metrics like cost per inquiry and cost per qualified lead, which tend to be pretty easy to calculate, being mostly within the purview of marketing.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

How to Write a LinkedIn InMail (Or Any Email) That Gets Clients Talking

Are you using LinkedIn for sales prospecting and not getting enough discussion going? You’re not alone. The problem with most LinkedIn InMail templates is they don’t work. Worse, templates I see being passed around the Web actually sabotage B-to-B sellers needing to get from connection to conversation! Here is a fast, painless way to go beyond connecting to prospects—to get more sales-focused conversations going when using InMail, Group email or regular, prospecting focused email messages.

Are you using LinkedIn for sales prospecting and not getting enough discussion going? You’re not alone. The problem with most LinkedIn InMail templates is they don’t work. Worse, templates I see being passed around the Web actually sabotage B-to-B sellers needing to get from connection to conversation!

Here is a fast, painless way to go beyond connecting to prospects—to get more sales-focused conversations going when using InMail, Group email or regular, prospecting focused email messages.

Why Your Current Templates Are Underperforming
The problem with most LinkedIn InMail templates is they subconsciously communicate “me-me-me” to the recipient. Your templates may also fail to give prospects a compelling reason to talk with you after clicking “accept.”

Some email templates I’m seeing “out there online” accidentally help prospects decide to ignore the message. Ouch!

Quick Fix: Nix the “I”s
“I” this and “I” that. It’s such a turn-off when dating. It’s even more so with email.

Using a bunch of “I”s seems like an obvious no-no. Yet, you’ll find “I”s all over the place—in LinkedIn templates that struggle to (or claim to be) successful.

Be sure to:

  • Avoid starting your message with the word “I” … and …
  • when done crafting an email or LinkedIn InMail template go back and see if you can pluck “I”s out of it.

You can do this right now with your underperforming message templates.

How to Improve Your Templates
The below connection request InMail example is being passed around the Web as a “best practice,” but it’s a sure-fire way to get ignored. Watch out!

Hi _________ (first name),

As a member of the _________ (LinkedIn group) group, I wanted to introduce myself. I’m _______________(title or background) with _______________ (company) and wanted to connect with area professionals. If you are not open to connecting, please ignore this invite. Thanks!

This template is terribly self-centered. Topping-it-off, it invites the prospect to ignore us! Woah.

Being polite is a great idea. But do yourself a favor. Be polite without inviting someone to ignore you!

Let’s apply our new habit: Tallying-up the “I”s before we press send. Then, decreasing the “I”s to increase response and generate focused conversations more effectively.

Let’s rewrite the above LinkedIn InMail example as:

Hi _________ (first name),

We both participate in the ____________ group and should know each other because ____________ (insert specific, mutual benefit). How can my network of colleagues help advance your ambitions or bring you closer to goals? Thanks for considering the connection. I look forward to helping and hearing from you.

This improved version serves you better by:

  1. Emphasizing the other person by removing most of the “I”s.
  2. Giving the recipient a reason to act. You’re clearly stating “the WHY.”
  3. “Bringing to life” an appealing idea: making your LinkedIn network available to advance their agenda.
  4. Creating interest. By asking a question we compel the recipient to consider answering. By asking the question we encourage the thought, “gee, how can this person’s network serve me right now?”
  5. Being polite without inviting deletion and increasing response.

Would you like to see more effective LinkedIn InMail examples like this? Shoot me an email or get in touch in comments and I’ll be happy to share more.

Exploit What You Already Know Works
Believe it or not, your chances of clients responding increases when saying, “thanks for considering.” Because this affirms the prospect’s right to choose.

This technique is a B-to-B copywriter’s secret weapon.

It’s highly successful because it disarms the other person. You are no longer a pushy person; instead, a breath of fresh air!

Figuring out how to use LinkedIn to find clients can be a real chore. That’s why successful social sellers use a proven, effective system. Remember, keep the faith. Your success will increase. Start by removing all those “I”s, ask for a decision to be made and work at creating irresistible curiosity in your words.

Now you have a better way to get prospects so curious they cannot resist accepting your connection request and asking deeper, probing questions. Let me know how it’s working for you ok?

Lavishing: A Branding Must Do!

I was already familiar with the radically different publishing company called Twelve, and had used them as a model in some of my client work. One of the publisher’s key points of differentiation is that it purposefully publishes no more than 12 books a year. This is a contrarian approach, as most of the publishing world simply does not work that way. With over 1 million-plus books published just last year (according to Bowker’s figures), most publishers release a plethora of titles.

I was already familiar with the radically different publishing company called Twelve, and had used them as a model in some of my client work. One of the publisher’s key points of differentiation is that it purposefully publishes no more than 12 books a year.

This is a contrarian approach, as most of the publishing world simply does not work that way. With more than 1 million books published just last year (according to Bowker’s figures), most publishers release a plethora of titles. Most have their A list books/authors, B lists and C lists, and plan promotional dollars and energy accordingly. Out of all those millions of titles each year, only a few will trickle to the top of our country’s reading lists and generate worthwhile conversation, information, and entertainment. Most of the rest get lost in the shuffle until they are “remaindered” (like a funeral for a book).

But it was one verb in The New York Times description of Twelve that made me linger: “Twelve is an experimental boutique publisher dedicated to releasing far fewer books than a traditional publisher, with the implicit promise that an unusual degree of editing, publicity and marketing would be lavished on each book.” LAVISH. That really was the publishing company’s brand differentiator. The product developers (in this case publishers/editors and publicists) were lavishers.

Twelve’s mission statement declares: “Talented authors deserve attention not only from publishers, but from readers as well. To sell the book is only the beginning of our mission. To build avid audiences of readers who are enriched by these works-that is our ultimate purpose.” They go on to share 12 Things To Remember about TWELVE … here are just a half dozen:

  • Each book will enliven the national conversation.
  • Each book will be carefully edited, designed, and produced.
  • Each book will have a month-long launch in which it is the imprint’s sole focus.
  • Each book will have the potential to sell at least 50,000 copies in its lifetime.
  • Each book will be promoted well into its paperback life.
  • Each book will matter.

For Twelve, lavishing works. Its books garner rave reviews, bestseller list success, and have won almost every publishing award available.

Lavish. It’s a powerful brand action. How might having a lavishing mindset make your brand more focused? Create more relevant products? Delight more of your customers? Why not spend a few minutes creating a “Lavish List” and just see where this verb leads you!

Hashtags: #smartnewmarketingtool or #riskymarketingmove?

Call me out of touch, but I really don’t understand the fascination with hashtags. The hashtag gives Twitter the ability to collect all tweets about that topic into one collective location. That makes it easy for Twitter users to join the conversation by reading, retweeting and adding commentary. If enough people tweet and retweet about the hashtag word or group of words, it’s considered a topic that is “trending” (i.e. it’s popular).

Call me out of touch, but I really don’t understand the fascination with hashtags.

The hashtag gives Twitter the ability to collect all tweets about that topic into one collective location. That makes it easy for Twitter users to join the conversation by reading, retweeting and adding commentary. If enough people tweet and retweet about the hashtag word or group of words, it’s considered a topic that is “trending” (i.e. it’s popular).

Of course marketers have smelled an opportunity to leverage the hashtag because what could be better than having consumers talk about your brand—especially if the brands themselves sparks the conversation?

Within the last 20 years, there’s been a huge change in advertising CTA’s (Call-to-Action)—especially in television. First, many commercials ended by showing an 800 numbers, and that was quickly followed by the vanity 800 number. With the advent of the web, marketers substituted URL’s for 800 number. After it was discovered that the consumer didn’t know what to do once they landed on a website home page, the MURL was invented (www.nameofbrand/specificpage). When Facebook exploded on the scene, brands wanted you to visit and like them on their Facebook pages. But now, it seems, all of that is old school.

Many of the most recent Super Bowl commercials didn’t end with phone numbers, web addresses or any mention of Facebook. Instead, a hashtag was offered up in front of a pithy subject line as a way to get viewers engaged in a dialogue about the commercial itself (and, ultimately, the brand).

I find it interesting that during the Super Bowl this year, millions of dollars were spent on each 60-second spot, and yet several marketers risked it all by using a single CTA: a predetermined #groupofwords. I could understand if the hashtag was in addition to other CTA’s, but in most of the instances I observed, it was the standalone close on the spot.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never even bothered to look to see what topics are trending on Twitter. Maybe I’m not cool enough to care. But I’m not 100 percent confident that throwing a hashtag in front of a topic will generate a POSITIVE conversation about my brand. So why would you place your brand at risk after you’ve spent hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Creating “brand evangelists” has always been a core goal of any brand—people who support your brand, talk about it, recommend it to others and basically act as your mouthpiece by providing personal endorsements. But does doling out a hashtag topic guarantee that a positive conversation will ensue? Not in my book. #marketinghashtag

If Content Is King, Grammar Is Queen

Growing up in a household with highly disciplined parents, my grammar was always being corrected. Whether it was ending a sentence with a preposition, misplacing a modifier or splitting an infinitive, any conversation could be stopped, at any moment. Now that the marketing world has turned its sights to “content” as a key brand engagement device, I’m hopeful that the grammar police are reinforcing their troops for a ride along. Because from where I sit, brands could use a little disciplinary action. (Yep, just gave myself a smack for starting a sentence with the word “because.” Ouch.)

Growing up in a household with highly disciplined parents, my grammar was always being corrected. Whether it was ending a sentence with a preposition, misplacing a modifier or splitting an infinitive, any conversation could be stopped, at any moment, to make sure I knew the right way to restate my thought (per the English grammar guidelines found in the little book Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style”).

Yes—dinnertime conversation was often painful.

The lowlight was when my parents told me that my most recent letter home from college was fraught with grammatical errors, and they had seriously considered returning it to me, complete with red pencil corrections. Needless to say, my correspondence home dwindled.

Now that the marketing world has turned its sights to “content” as a key brand engagement device, I’m hopeful that the grammar police are reinforcing their troops for a ride along. Because from where I sit, brands could use a little disciplinary action. (Yep, just gave myself a smack for starting a sentence with the word “because.” Ouch.)

Over the years, I’ve certainly visited thousands of websites, downloaded hundreds of whitepapers and case studies, and, like you, I’ve received lots and lots of emails including sales tips and e-newsletters. I’m still amazed at the lack of grammar skill. Forget the typos—they’re just inexcusable—I mean the basics like “too” instead of “to,” or “between Joe and I” instead of “between Joe and me,” or a simple sentence like this: “If you would like to discuss Social Media with regards to your business further, please feel free to contact me.” Huh?

If you read my blog, you’ll know that I love commas. I think they help the reader pause, consider the point being made, and then continue to absorb the next point. It appears that idea is lost on many writers … or worse, the comma is misplaced. Consider the famous book title “Eats shoots and leaves” versus “Eats, shoots and leaves” or even “Eats, shoots, and leaves.” Personally I like serial commas, but it seems many brands have pushed them aside as part of their brand guidelines and chaos has erupted over the meaning of a sentence. [Editor’s note: Target Marketing adheres to AP Style, as do most publications, and the AP does not endorse serial commas. We apologize for any misunderstanding this may cause about whether to leave your bullets or dinner.]

I’m the first to tell you my personal grammar skills are still not entirely A+ (my parents are nodding), but there are so many proofreaders, grammarians or other online expert sources available (not to mention a nifty little tool in Microsoft Word called ‘Spelling & Grammar’) that there is simply no excuse for any company to be executing marketing materials that are anything less than perfect.

So before you create and publish your next ‘content’ deliverable, consider getting professional help. Here are a few of my favorite editorial review pros:

  • HyperGraphix (www.hgpublishing.com): This guy is smart, fast and CHEAP; Known for proofing tediously long documents on topics that would bore the average reader. Plus he works in two languages (Canadian and American) in case you’re publishing north of the border. He has an online tool that fixes sentences for free (you can’t beat that price), and if you subscribe to his tweets, he provides helpful tips and links to helpful articles.
  • Grammar Girl (grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/): Short, sharp, and to the point, her emails on grammar tips have become part of my morning reading ritual.
  • Bulletproof (www.bulletproofonline.com): Strong proofreading skills and your ideal “brand police” if you share your brand guidelines with them.

If your issue, on the other hand, is content creation, don’t leave that to your sales guy. Cough up the budget for a professional writer—one with the research skills that can thoroughly investigate the topic, identify a point of view for your brand, and write in a voice that matches your brand style. There are hundreds of excellent writers out there who are wincing as they read your materials.

So go ahead—jump on the content bandwagon—and Long live the Queen!

Attribution and the ‘Mail Moment’ in the Multichannel Mix

At its Sept. 13 meeting, the Direct Marketing Club of New York hosted an engaging panel discussion regarding the use of direct mail in a multichannel world, and the panelists included representatives from Citigroup, Gerber Life and The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks. … Hearing from two financial service brands, and an agency that services brands in several markets, packed the house. I’m not sure if it was the topic or the brands who spoke, or both, that was the draw—but the information imparted prompted lots of audience interest and questions.

At its Sept. 13 meeting, the Direct Marketing Club of New York (DMCNY) hosted an engaging panel discussion regarding the use of direct mail in a multichannel world, and the panelists included representatives from Citigroup, Gerber Life and The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks.

The representatives included Linda Gharib, senior vice president, digital marketing, for Citi’s Global Consumer Marketing & Internet division; David Rosenbluth, vice president, marketing, Gerber Life Insurance Company; and, from the agency side, panel moderator Pam Haas, who is both vice president, sales, for agency services at Harte-Hanks (and first vice president for DMCNY), and Michele Fitzpatrick, senior vice president, strategy and insight, The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks.

Hearing from two financial service brands, and an agency that services brands in several markets (tech, consumer package goods, automotive, insurance, pharma and more), packed the house. I’m not sure if it was the topic or the brands who spoke, or both, that was the draw—but the information imparted prompted lots of audience interest and questions.

First, customer acquisition—at least in the financial services area—still appears to be very dependent on mail. At Gerber, Rosenbluth said, as many as a third of new business policies are still generated by direct mail, even as the brand is “omni-channel”—digital (including web site, search, display ads, email), direct-response television, as well as direct mail. For Citi, the brand is positioned No. 2 in the nation by Target Marketing in its “Top 50 Mailers” ranking for 2012 (which is ranked by overall revenue, not mail volume), Gharib said, solidifying its importance in both acquisition and retention.

Fitzpatrick agreed, noting that in financial services, where marketing is modeled most precisely for risk and performance, direct mail remains an acquisition workhorse, particularly on new product launches. For automotive and pharma verticals, however, where as much as 80 percent of transactions are researched anonymously beforehand online, digital media is used for hand-raising, and direct mail may be then used to deliver a brochure of other information in a highly segmented way to close the deal. “Consumer preferences [for media] are situational,” Fitzpatrick said.

Who gets credit for attribution, when a multichannel communications mix produces a desired response? At Citi, Gharib said, such discussions are a “work in progress,” where the final interaction point currently gets the credit, whether that is chat, direct mail, email or some triggered communication. Adding to the multichannel attribution discussion is the mix of advertising purposes—some are pure branding messages, while others are intended to elicit a response, but both may compel or influence customer behavior in some discernible (or indiscernible) manner. Hence, there is complexity in the attribution discussion.

Yes, indeed, says Rosenbluth, where “allowances” are given for each channel in regard to the brand’s most importance metric to manage: total costs to convert a policy. Currently, “last touch” gets the attribution on response, but the policy conversion metric is the bigger-picture measurement, where everyone gets to take some credit.

Fitzpatrick pointed to recent Forrester research where “fractional attribution”—first touch, mid-touch and last-touch on the path to purchase share credit—and “engagement” is modeled, rather than response (alone). Every brand should undertake a channel impact study to determine, as best it can, the impact of incremental sales as a result of a multichannel customer experience, while also researching receiver reaction research. Clearly, direct mail, email, chat and other channels can be both or either “conversation starters” and “conversation extenders,” but analytics is the only way to know the role of the channel for any given customer.

“There’s credibility in paper,” Gharib remarked, “that helps with both the brand and its consideration.” Where email is cluttered, direct mail largely is not.

At Gerber, Rosenbluth, there really is no brand spend, all market spending is intended to produce engagement.

Fitzpatrick sees almost all “below the line” spending getting a branding blend—branding and direct marketing have come together. All the panelists agreed: it’s really about the consumer experience across channels, and having a database that enables customer recognition and a full customer view. Having tons of data is not enough—it’s having technology and processes in place for customer data integration and analytics to create smart engagement rules.

The verdict? Direct mail is and will remain a vital part of the media mix—because it’s an anchor in the consumer’s experience and brand consideration mix. As digital gets more clutter, boy that mailbox is looking pretty.

Just Answer My Question, Dammit!

If you’ve ever spent two minutes perusing a LinkedIn Discussion Group topic, you’ll already know how quickly the conversation thread can get derailed. And, if I were the one posting the question, I’d conclude that these groups are a waste of time. So how can LinkedIn help improve the value of its app, given it’s really in the hands of its users?

If you’ve ever spent two minutes perusing a LinkedIn Discussion Group topic, you’ll already know how quickly the conversation thread can get derailed. And, if I were the one posting the question, I’d conclude that these groups are a waste of time. So how can LinkedIn help improve the value of its app, given it’s really in the hands of its users?

Here’s one idea: It would be fairly easy for LinkedIn to add a drop down menu of messages that the individual posting could select from to add to their post. These messages would be set up as triggers which would pop-up in front of the individual about to post a reply, for consideration BEFORE they hit the “post” button.

Some suggested message choices might be:

  • WARNING! The original post in this discussion was over X months ago. Your commentary may be irrelevant and you may be viewed by others as “out of touch.”
  • Before posting, please read all the other posts thus far. If you’re not repeating information that’s already been supplied, and your response is relevant to the discussion, then by all means proceed with posting.
  • I am not in the market to purchase any goods or services. I was simply interested in what others think about the topic I’ve posted, so please don’t contact me directly.
  • Are you really an expert on this topic? There’s a “no amateurs” rule in effect on this post.
  • If you really think you can help me with my problem, and it’s within X days of my post, please contact me directly.
  • No smart-ass comments, please.
  • Just answer my original question. No sales pitches, no links to your book/blog/white paper/web page, I really just want to get my question answered.

If LinkedIn were to make my idea a reality, I think the number of participants in the discussion would be reduced (which is not necessarily a bad thing), and experts would be more inclined to come forward and participate in a topic.

My very wise Dad once taught me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I do try to live by that rule, and now I’ll add to it with, “If you don’t have anything relevant to say…”

How ‘Keeping Up’ With Social Media Will Sabotage Your Ability to Sell With It

What separates the leading social sellers from the aimless, follower marketers? Thinking. Sure, most of us believe we’re thinking about social media, but we’re actually just reacting to it. The sooner you stop reacting to every johnny-come-lately and defending against “the next big thing” in social media, the sooner you can start creatively applying existing strengths with the new social tool set. It’s the difference between an attitude of lack and one of abundance.

What separates the leading social sellers from the aimless, follower marketers? Thinking. Sure, most of us believe we’re thinking about social media, but we’re actually just reacting to it. The sooner you stop reacting to every johnny-come-lately and defending against “the next big thing” in social media, the sooner you can start creatively applying existing strengths with the new social tool set. It’s the difference between an attitude of lack and one of abundance.

Ignore the Deluge
“How do you keep up with all the change in social media, Jeff?”

I don’t. Keeping up with technologial change doesn’t grow my business. Adding new knowledge about Pinterest, Google+ and whatever might come next into my consciousness only inhibits success. Keeping pace with how, when and why customers are using social platforms might help grow my business and is where to focus attention.

The belief that we must keep pace with social technology arises out of a feeling, not an actual business need. Social media marketing feels very new, dangerously fast-paced, difficult to understand or define, and that’s a little scary. We’re only human, and like every new technology before it, it feels damn urgent to get involve with because … well, just because. Paradigms are changing yada-yada. Your business depends on it, right?

The truth is your business probably already has the answers it seeks from so-called social media experts.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing
Most social media platforms are solutions looking for problems that offer little, if any, immediate or future value to marketers. Consumer buying paradigms (their collective habits) are not actually revolutionizing, they’re just speeding up. Sure, once in a while something really useful comes along but even then it’s typically years before most of us can figure out how to apply it in ways that serve us. Why? Because we’ve lost track in keeping the main thing-customers-the main thing.

Social media has literally become the main thing! The conversation should be about how to sell stuff by innovating around customers’ problems, goals, fears or ambitions. Right? Instead, it often devolves into using social media to create conversations about the conversation. Whoops!

Social media has become “the main thing.”

Speed Up, Calm Down
The real opportunity for your business and you is to speed up and calm down. This has been the promise of every technological advance history has offered. We’re supposed to be launching, selling and distributing our products and services more efficiently to customers-and kicking our feet up a bit more. Right? Well, for some businesses, large and small, this is actually happening. Even kitchen cabinet dealers are selling with social media!

Hey, I know, the marketing world certainly didn’t ask for Facebook or Twitter. We didn’t need more ways to market our businesses. Social media just showed up at our door on a Wednesday night at 5 p.m. and invited itself over for dinner. “Hi, I’m social media. Need another dozen ways to do marketing?”

Who were we to say no? We let the well-dressed fella in. No sooner was he inside than he texted all his buddies to join in. So what did we do? We ordered take-out and outsourced to social media experts who, in fact, aren’t very expert because it’s new to them too!

Get Things in Order
In the end, we don’t think we have time to get creative in the kitchen feeding this beast, but we actually do. Therein lies the opportunity. The best “next step” you can take is to surround yourself with what you already know about customers. Find ways to leverage what you are already doing (outside of social media) that effectively creates and nurtures leads. Start using social media to give customers results in advance-a taste of success-in ways you can easily connect to the lead management process.

Next time a social media expert says something like, “You’ve got to be authentic, transparent, human and honest,” muster up the courage to say, “Well DUH, we didn’t build our businesses on a pack of fake, opaque, ogreish lies.” Now go get ’em!

A Look at Facebook’s Premium Ads

Last week Facebook officially announced its new premium ads at the fMC confab, its marketing conference. While there were several announcements, including Timeline for brand pages, the most relevant one for this column was the official launch of the social media platform’s new premium ad units.

Last week Facebook officially announced its new premium ads at the fMC confab, its marketing conference. While there were several announcements, including Timeline for brand pages, the most relevant one for this column was the official launch of the social media platform’s new premium ad units.

The new units put a brand’s page and relevant posts in front of the right audience and amplify its relevance and trust with “social context” by including an individual’s connections who also “Like” the brand. Based on internal Facebook testing, premium ads are 80 percent more likely to be remembered, drive 40 percent higher engagement and significantly increase purchase intent.

Aside from the obvious lift in performance, what makes the launch of premium ads so significant and what should marketers do to maximize this opportunity?

First and foremost, premium ads are a potential game changer. They combine the strengths of Facebook (connections, conversations and community) with the triad of marketing disciplines (paid, earned and owned media). As a result, they should be extremely popular with marketers interested in taking the conversation to potential fans. In addition, premium ads will play a role in potentially helping Facebook to maintain and grow its lead as the top U.S. display advertising company.

Premium ads are spouting a wave of new startups, which is great for the industry and economy. Forbes recently highlighted several social media players scrambling to support premium ads. While their approaches differ with various buy, build or partner strategies, activity is significant, as illustrated by the following:

For marketers interested in leveraging Facebook advertising to grow their community, the game plan is relatively straightforward: prep for a test; review and identify potential conversations to feature; and partner with a solution provider who can help you optimize the most valuable and engaging content to feature.

In addition, look to add retargeting tags into the mix. Premium ads are all about leveraging your social posts and social context to drive acquisition and encourage engagement. Adding a retargeting strategy is the perfect complement to help seal the deal and ultimately understand conversion and attribution for your efforts.

Will premium ads be a game changer and keep Facebook on top? If the emergence of new solutions together with the promise of combining paid, earned and owned media with a double-digit lift in performance is any indication, the answer is yes.