Social Selling May Be Wasting Time

Helping buyers buy is where the action is. The goal of the modern B2B seller is to get into conversations earlier — help buyers get ready to buy, consult with clients, become a trusted source of knowledge, support the decision-making process with expert guidance. So why is facilitating buying conversations not a part of your “social selling” program?

content marketingThe goal of the modern B2B seller is to get into conversations earlier — help buyers get ready to buy, consult with clients, become a trusted source of knowledge, support the decision-making process with expert guidance. So why is facilitating buying conversations not a part of your “social selling” program?

Why is starting qualified discussions with customers superseded by sharing valuable content, creating a personal brand and sharing insights on LinkedIn?

Does ‘Social Selling’ Exist?

I put quotes around “social selling” because it does not exist. When honestly examined, there is nothing new involved … outside of the online context. Listening, engaging, sharing insights: None of these concepts are new to sales.

In fact, they are characteristics of “old school” sales excellence.

Social selling is a term invented to sell (oddly) marketing concepts. The thrust of social selling is encouraging sellers (hunters) to behave like marketers (farmers).

Post, share, comment, repeat. If that sounds a lot like marketing it is!

Is farming effective at generating new client conversations? Is pushing content, liking, sharing, commenting effective at keeping sellers emotionally confident, mentally tough?

Is Social Selling Weakening Your Hunters?

Social selling isn’t truly representative of anything new … and de-values vitally important practices. Specifically, prospecting. Hunting.

Worse, I’m seeing social selling increasing frustration of otherwise challenged sellers. I’m seeing it have negative impact on motivation and focus. Social selling programs also reward relatively ineffective behavior patterns. LinkedIn itself rewards activity and encourages gamification of it Social Selling Index.

This can be poisonous to rep productivity.

How Social Selling May Be Wasting Your Reps’ Time

Driving interest on social requires different skills as compared to driving interaction, says Mark McInnes of Sydney-based Sales ITV. Most of what reps engage in these days on social wastes time.

Creating a client interested in you, your products or service is difficult compared to creating interaction with them. McInnes lays out a compelling argument against traditional social selling training:

  1. It’s much easier to drive interaction.
  2. Interaction is rewarded with dopamine blasts from your brain, fueling a desire for more of the same activity. Lots of likes or views make you feel good. (Just like the lights of a slot machine do)
  3. The quality of your sellers’ network needs to reflect the desires of your business objectives; most sellers’ network simply doesn’t.

“What exactly are you going to do with these 142 Likes, 53 Comments and no doubt 3000+ views? Nothing. Because they are absolutely worthless,” says McInnes, who boldly proclaims this is interaction, not interest.

Here’s the danger: Sellers see these view counts, “as positive reinforcement of their ‘social selling’ activity. As they inevitably look to drive more views through content, they stray away from the main message, more towards focusing on the level of interactions,” says McInnes.

Thus, “with each post, they strive for more views, more likes, all in an attempt to validate (justify) the time they’ve wasted on social. No wonder so many of senior managers seem to be ‘allergic’ to social selling programs.”

Tune in next week as I share the one tactic social selling training programs don’t teach, to provide further food for thought about social selling.

5 Mobile Marketing Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2015

I don’t have to tell you that we are living in a mobile-first world that continues to drive brands to explore new ways to engage consumers. This ever-changing mobile landscape requires marketers to determine the best ways to connect with their mobile consumers with interactions that will resonate across varying screen sizes.

I don’t have to tell you that we are living in a mobile-first world that continues to drive brands to explore new ways to engage consumers. This ever-changing mobile landscape requires marketers to determine the best ways to connect with their mobile consumers with interactions that will resonate across varying screen sizes. Below you will find a handful of trends that brands should consider as they continue to evolve their mobile strategies:

1. The ROI for Mobile Marketing and Advertising Is No Longer a Guessing Game
Every second of the day mobile devices create copious amounts of actionable data for marketers. This data include call detail records, Short Message Service (SMS) data, and geo-location data. The volume of mobile data and the speed at which it is created continues to increase as the global population increases, as mobile device penetration rates rise, and as the consumer usage rate for social media grows.

2. Mobile Videos—the Time Is Now
During the last few years, the use of videos for marketing purposes has been steadily growing. According to eMarketer, more than one-third of all U.S.-based mobile phone users—about 29 percent of the country’s population—are expected to watch video on their mobile devices. This gives advertisers an ideal way to get in front of their target audience.

The reality is that mobile video is growing and will continue to do so. Stats show that consumers will continue to access, share and interact with video on their smartphones and tablets. The time to start developing a mobile video strategy is now.

3. Make It Personal
Effective digital strategies take a cross-channel approach that integrates the various mobile channels, such as SMS, app, Web and social. The value comes behind the scenes, as brands can learn useful information from each mobile interaction. For example, customers reveal their operating system when they download an app or open their Web browser. Smart marketers collate such data points into one centralized customer profile—an ideal asset to maximize personalization for mobile.

4. Going All In on Mobile
The importance of mobile will grow in each and every aspect of business. People use mobile devices all day long and in various contexts, allowing marketers to target them in a longer stretch of time and during different phases of the day.

All agree that the popularity of mobile devices will only grow in 2015, driven by smartphones, tablets and wearable technology requiring marketers to consider how they target and approach their mobile initiatives.

5. Hyper-localized Targeting
The proliferation of mobile devices, primarily smartphones, has created a major opportunity for marketers to deliver contextual advertisements. These mobile-specific ads target the right people at the right time. For instance, through the combination of social data and location data, stores that shoppers are near and might be interested in can send out ads offering percentage discounts or other incentives. Delivered by shops to their shoppers in real time, these ads get consumers to walk through their doors. Hyper-localized advertising has been shown to increase customer engagement and conversion rates.

People everywhere are becoming more reliant on their mobile devices to provide them with instant access to product information, deals and the opportunity to purchase in an easy, straightforward manner. These trends should inspire brands to think about how they can evolve their marketing strategies to enhance their mobile consumer engagement in 2015.

Building Customer-Centric, Trust-Based Relationships

More than a buzzword, “being human,” especially in brand-building and leveraging customer relationships, has become a buzz-phrase or buzz-concept. But, there is little that is new or trailblazing in this idea. To understand customers, the enterprise needs to think in human, emotional terms. To make the brand or company more attractive, and have more impact on customer decision-making, there must be an emphasis on creating more perceived value and more personalization. Much of this is, culturally, operationally, and from a communications perspective, what we have been describing as “inside-out advocacy” for years.

More than a buzzword, “being human,” especially in brand-building and leveraging customer relationships, has become a buzz-phrase or buzz-concept. But, there is little that is new or trailblazing in this idea. To understand customers, the enterprise needs to think in human, emotional terms. To make the brand or company more attractive, and have more impact on customer decision-making, there must be an emphasis on creating more perceived value and more personalization. Much of this is, culturally, operationally, and from a communications perspective, what we have been describing as “inside-out advocacy” for years.

Most brands and corporations get by on transactional approaches to customer relationships. These might include customer service speed, occasional price promotions, merchandising gimmicks, new product offerings, and the like. In most instances, the customers see no brand “personality” or brand-to-brand differentiation, and their experience of the brand is one-dimensional, easily capable of replacement. Moreover, the customer has no personal investment in choosing, and staying with, one brand or supplier over another.

A key opportunity for companies to become stronger and more viable to customers is creation of branded experiences. Beyond simply selling a product or service, these “experiential brands” connect with their customers. They understand that delivering on the tangible and functional elements of value are just tablestakes, and that connecting and having an emotionally based relationship with customers is the key to leveraging loyalty and advocacy behavior.

These companies are also invariably quite disciplined. Every aspect of a company’s offering—customer service, advertising, packaging, billing, products, etc.—are all thought out for consistency. They market, and create experiences, within the branded vision. IKEA might get away with selling super-expensive furniture, but it doesn’t. Starbucks might make more money selling Pepsi, but it doesn’t. Every function that delivers experience is “closed-loop,” carefully maintaining balance between customer expectations and what is actually executed.

In his 2010 book, “Marketing 3.0: From Products to Customers to the Human Spirit,” noted marketing scholar Philip Kotler recognized that the new model for organizations was to treat customers not as mere consumers, but as the complex, multi-dimensional human beings they are. Customers, in turn, have been choosing companies and products that satisfy deeper needs for participation, creativity, community and idealism.

This sea change is why, according to Kotler, the future of marketing lies in creating products, services and company cultures that inspire, include and reflect the values of target customers. It also meant that every transaction and touchpoint interaction, and the long-term relationship, needed to carry the organization’s unique stamp, a reflection of the perceived value represented to the customer.

Kotler picked up a theme that was articulated in the 2007 book, “Firms of Endearment.” Authors Jagdish N. Sheth, Rajendra S. Sisodia and David B. Wolfe called such organizations “humanistic” companies, i.e. those which seek to maximize their value to each group of stakeholders, not just to shareholders. As they state, right up front (Chapter 1, Page 4):

“What we call a humanistic company is run in such a way that its stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, business partners, society, and many investors—develop an emotional connection with it, an affectionate regard not unlike the way many people feel about their favorite sports teams. Humanistic companies—or firms of endearment (FoEs)—seek to maximize their value to society as a whole, not just to their shareholders. They are the ultimate value creators: They create emotional value, experiential value, social value, and, of course, financial value. People who interact with such companies feel safe, secure, and pleased in their dealings. They enjoy working with or for the company, buying from it, investing in it, and having it as a neighbor.”

For these authors, a truly great company is one that makes the world a better place because it exists. It’s as simple as that. In the book, they have identified about 30 companies, from multiple industries, that met their criteria. They included CarMax, BMW, Costco, Harley-Davidson, IKEA, JetBlue, Johnson & Johnson, New Balance, Patagonia, Timberland, Trader Joe’s, UPS, Wegmans and Southwest Airlines. Had the book been written a bit later, it’s likely that Zappos would have made their list, as well.

The authors compared financial performance of their selections with the 11 public companies identified by Jim Collins in “Good to Great” as superior in terms of investor return over an extended period of time. Here’s what they learned:

  • Over a 10-year horizon, their selected companies outperformed the “Good to Greatcompanies by 1,028 percent to 331 percent (a 3.1 to 1 ratio)
  • Over five years, their selected companies outperformed the “Good to Great companies by 128 percent to 77 percent (a 1.7 to 1 ratio)

Just on the basis of comparison to the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, the public companies singled out by “Firms of Endearment” returned 1,026 percent for investors during the 10 years ending June 30, 2006, compared to 122 percent for the S&P 500—more than an 8 to 1 ratio. Over 5 years, it was even higher—128 percent compared to 13 percent, about a 10 to 1 ratio. Bottom line: Being human is good for the balance sheet, as well as the stakeholders.

Exemplars of branded customer experience also understand that there is a “journey” for customers in relationships with preferred companies. It begins with awareness, how the brand is introduced, i.e. the promise. Then, promise and created expectations must at least equal—and, ideally, exceed—real-world touchpoint results (such as through service), initially and sustained over time, with a minimum of disappointment.

As noted, there is a strong recognition that customer service is especially important in the branded experience. Service is one of the few times that companies will directly interact with their customers. This interaction helps the company understand customers’ needs while, at the same time, shaping customers’ overall perception of the company and influencing both downstream communication and future purchase.

And, branding the customer experience requires that the brand’s image, its personality if you will, is sustained and reinforced in communications and in every point of contact. Advanced companies map and plan this out, recognizing that experiences are actually a form of branding architecture, brought to life through excellent engineering. Companies need to focus on the touchpoints which are most influential.

Also, how much influence do your employees have on customer value perceptions and loyalty behavior through their day-to-day interactions? All employees, whether they are customer-facing or not, are the key common denominator in delivering optimized branded customer experiences. Making the experience for customers positive and attractive at each point where the company interacts with them requires an in-depth understanding of both customer needs and what the company currently does to achieve that goal, particularly through the employees. That means companies must fully comprehend, and leverage, the impact employees have on customer behavior.

So, is your company “human”? Does it understand customers and their individual journeys? Are customer experiences “human” and branded? Is communication, and are marketing efforts, micro-segmented and even personalized? Does the company create emotional, trust-based connections and relationships with customers? If the answer to these questions is “YES,” then “being human” becomes a reality, the value of which has been recognized for some time, and not merely as a buzz-concept.

Turn Your Customers Into Your Best Salespeople

Happy customers are your brand’s best salespeople. Today’s social media platforms make it easier than ever for brand advocates to share their enthusiasm with hundreds (if not thousands) of colleagues and other prospects in their online networks. The power given to consumers is real. It’s created a sort of forced collaboration between marketers and their customers — with industry bloggers, analysts and journalists chiming in too. Empower customers and your marketplace and you win. Try to control it and you may incite a mutiny.

Happy customers are your brand’s best salespeople. Today’s social media platforms make it easier than ever for brand advocates to share their enthusiasm with hundreds (if not thousands) of colleagues and other prospects in their online networks. The power given to consumers is real. It’s created a sort of forced collaboration between marketers and their customers — with industry bloggers, analysts and journalists chiming in too. Empower customers and your marketplace and you win. Try to control it and you may incite a mutiny.

Enabling satisfied customers to spread the word takes a combination of the right messaging and some careful listening to ensure you don’t lose out on valuable opportunities for positive online word-of-mouth. Empower your brand advocates by devoting attention to these four specific areas:

1. A great customer experience. Certain customers will go out of their way to praise a high-quality product, helpful customer service or even a compelling interaction with a brand. (This holds true whether they’re B-to-C or B-to-B customers.) Naturally, the first step is to offer a great product or service. Then start paying attention to who’s talking about your brand, what they’re saying and where they’re saying it. Social media listening tools will help you locate enthusiastic customers online. Make them prime targets for engagement.

Don’t wait for the active few, go after the silent majority, too. The primary reason most customers don’t share good news about brands they do business with is because they’re never asked. After every appropriate interaction — and without being creepy or becoming a nag — invite your customers to participate in product reviews, experience surveys, customer forums or just plain telephone calls as part of “executive outreach sessions.” Use the channel that the customer used, whether it’s SMS, social, email or retail.

2. Loyalty. Customers willing to share their positive experiences with your brand are well worth your time and resources. Once you’ve found these happy customers, invest in them to create a loyal following. You can’t underestimate the power of simply thanking customers for their business.

In addition, keep your database up to date and integrated with your segmentation and campaign management tools. Update customer profiles to include recognition of brand advocacy and nurture loyalty with special acknowledgments, promotions and discounts. It’s critical to keep these interactions relevant, personalized and well-timed. In other words, don’t spam. Just because you can email a brand advocate on her birthday, before holidays and whenever her favorite item is on sale doesn’t mean your messages will be welcome.

Track response rates over time so you can optimize message frequency and timing. While many of your loyal customers will be happy to receive lots of notices from you, never assume their interest. One of our retail clients recently found that a whopping 10 percent of their most loyal customers had marked their email messages as spam in the past year. When the retailer reached out to these customers via other channels to find out why, it learned that the email messages were too frequent and not specific to the interests of those customers. Don’t risk upsetting or annoying your customers to the point of complaints. Listen to the response data you have and back off when necessary.

3. A platform to promote. Help your brand advocates find their voice by giving them ample opportunity to share their feelings online. They’re multichannel, so think across channels too. Engage them via email, your website, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Make sure they feel welcome to talk about their positive customer experiences online.

Is your company blog comment friendly? Do you provide a timely response to mentions of your brand on Twitter? Are you using clickstream and email data to inform your personas and segmentation? Does your website provide easy access to contact information for customer service and social media accounts? Present a seamless approach across all platforms — both traditional and digital — so that your messaging is consistent and credible.

4. Pull your head out of the sand. There are dozens of examples every month of brands that tried to ignore negative social commentary or got “shamed” for suppressing negative comments on Facebook. Nestle, for example, battled with Greenpeace supporters who voiced their concerns over the company’s use of palm oil. Rather than listening and engaging with concerned consumers, Nestle created a wealth of bad PR for itself by deleting posts and snapping back at fans. Similarly, Pfizer agitated consumers by deleting Facebook posts that suggested one of its viral video campaigns may be sexist.

If you’re going to listen and respond to social data, you must accept and engage with consumers who don’t agree with your positions or didn’t have a good brand experience. Like all battles of public opinion, the trick is to empower your advocates to respond to your detractors while providing a fact-based, reasonable platform for thoughtful discussion.

Brand advocates have always played the role of valuable, cost-effective salespeople. Now their voices can be amplified even more via social media networks. With a little encouragement and support, today’s brand advocates can become a powerful sales force. Put marketing automation and integration tools to work and you’ll be able to find your satisfied customers, engage with them and delight them even more with offers and promotions that resonate and cultivate deeper brand loyalty.

The 4 Pillars of Mobile Strategy

Your brand must have a well-thought-out plan that captures data from all interactions it has with each and every customer so that every customer interaction is contextually relevant. If this element is missing from a brand’s marketing plan, it will be severely limited — customer engagement and profitability will be hampered.

I recently spoke with the team over at Merkle in order to better understand what it takes to successfully embrace mobile marketing. According to Bruce J. Hershey II, mobile marketing strategist at Merkle, brand marketers must identify where their brand stands within the mobile ecosystem before moving on to specific mobile tactics and campaigns. Bruce emphasized that in order to achieve results with mobile marketing, it’s imperative that brand marketers develop and execute against a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes mobile rather than simply focusing on mobile capabilities in isolation. Doing so will allow your brand to stay focused on its overarching marketing strategy as you weave mobile or any other digital channel into the mix.

I asked Bruce what it takes to build a mobile-enabled marketing strategy. “Without a reliable and proven framework to use as a guide, developing and successfully executing a marketing strategy that includes mobile and achieves its desired and expected results can be a difficult thing to achieve,” he replied. According to Bruce, an effective mobile-enabled marketing strategy must account for everything, literally. You must understand the following:

  • your customers, the environment they live in and what they need;
  • your brand, including its objectives, resources, technical capabilities (both with traditional and mobile marketing), experience, and commitment to marketing and mobile at every level within the organization;
  • your existing strategy to meet your brand’s goals and objectives;
  • the technology that will enable your brand to implement that strategy; and
  • the media channels (e.g., print, email, television, radio, social networks, etc.) at your disposal that can be leveraged to reach and engage consumers.

I also spoke with Chris Wayman, vice president and general manager of mobile practice at Merkle. Chris emphasized that in today’s digital age another element to a successful mobile strategy is needed, namely connecting mobile data to your customer database. A CRM strategy helps businesses derive valuable customer insights by looking at all offline and online touchpoints throughout the customer journey.

In other words, your brand must have a well-thought-out plan that captures data from all interactions it has with each and every customer so that every customer interaction is contextually relevant. Chris noted that if this element is missing from a brand’s marketing plan, it will be severely limited — customer engagement and profitability will be hampered.

Merkle has developed a framework to help organizations build out their mobile plan. The framework steps through a process that helps organizations build out their plan along four key pillars:

  1. mobile audit and strategic road map;
  2. media integration of mobile tactics;
  3. mobile marketing tactics; and
  4. customer database integration.

By leveraging these four pillars and a proven approach to developing mobile-enabled marketing strategies, Merkle has found that its clients are able to properly integrate mobile marketing into their digital marketing plan, produce impressive list growth results, reduce uncertainty in the development and execution phases of their marketing plans, and generate predictable results for long-term, sustainable company success.

To learn more about what it takes to develop a mobile-enabled marketing strategy, join us for the following webinar on May 25: How Mobile Coupons Drive Revenue and Build a Mobile Database for Men’s Wearhouse’s K&G Superstore.

Craig Greenfield’s Redefining Performance Marketing: Holding Performance Marketing Campaigns Accountable

Facebook recently passed Google to become the most visited website in the U.S., according to Hitwise. This achievement from the social networking giant reminds marketers not only of the growing importance of social media, and Facebook in particular, but of choosing the right approach and success measurement plan.

Facebook recently passed Google as the most visited website in the U.S., according to Hitwise. This achievement from the social networking giant reminds marketers not only of the growing importance of social media, and Facebook in particular, but of choosing the right approach and success measurement plan.

Performance media offers marketers several solid choices to connect with target audiences, but marketers should clearly define campaign goals up front to ensure they choose the right campaign tactics and success measurement scheme. With concrete goals in place, marketers can consider incorporating fan pages, ads and applications into their campaigns and create plans to observe and measure engagement, conversions, connections and opinions (ECCO) to quantify success.

Facebook pages
Facebook pages offer free, simple ways to update people about promotions, events, new products and more. Marketers should select a memorable Facebook vanity URL for their pages, and promote them on their brands’ native sites, blogs and other promotional materials since consumers need to opt in or click the “Like” button on the page to engage with the brand.

Search engines rank social site pages high for branded searches, and marketers can use them to own more of the search engine results page since search engines only display two results from marketers’ native sites.

Applications
Applications foster viral sharing, encourage brand interaction and generate leads through “tell your friends” and “add to profile” buttons. Papa John’s, for example, uses sweepstakes apps to capture names and email addresses while staying top of mind with consumers. Tools exist to track user interaction with applications.

Social ads
Performance media ads are text- and image-based ads that appear in the right sidebars of Facebook users’ profile pages. Marketers trigger these cost-per-click or cost-per-impression ads based on user attributes like gender, geography, age and interests. These powerful microtargeting capabilities enable marketers to effectively target only the most suitable of Facebook’s more than 400 million users.

ECCO success tracking

A performance marketing campaign’s success hinges on whether, and to what extent, it achieved its goals. ECCO offers a concrete approach to measuring and quantifying success. It can be adapted to a specific campaign’s goals and tactics to establish clearly defined success metrics and milestones, but the approach always incorporates some combination of engagement, conversion, connection and opinion measurement. These terms are explained in more detail in the following list:

  • Engagement. What immediate reaction or interaction was created? Often measures clickthroughs, rollovers, interaction rates, video streams, time spent with ads, games played, etc.
  • Conversions. Following engagement, what actions did the campaign spur? Commonly consists of sales/orders, leads/emails, downloads, sweeps entries and other post-click activity.
  • Connections. How well did the campaign reach its target? What impressions were left? Measures reach, frequency, cross-site duplication, impressions delivered, site visits and more.
  • Opinions. How was the campaign perceived? What reactions were elicited? Can include brand studies, polls/surveys, ad recall, brand awareness, purchase intent, among other things.

Marketers and their partners must assign the right values and indicators to each ECCO element, but the framework provides an adaptable approach that can support a wide range of performance media campaigns and other social media programs. Whether just getting started or devising the next in a long line of effective performance marketing campaigns, marketers can lean on ECCO to hold Facebook campaigns accountable.