Signs of Summer: Judging What Is Real in Marketing

ECHOs are the global contest where data, insights and intelligence create disruption and surpass business objectives. I want to judge a contest where recognition puts a smile on both the faces of the CMO and the CFO. I want to uncover the validation that clients — and prospective clients — look for in their agency partners.

Last week, I filled out my judging application for this year’s International ECHO Awards. I hope I get picked. (Sorry, the deadline for applying to be an ECHO Award judge was May 5. But, hey, while the judging application deadline has passed, there’s still up to a month to enter that brilliant campaign of yours.)

I have to confess … I’ve never been to Cannes for the ad festival, but I’ve always felt like the focus of winning a Cannes Lion is blow-my-mind creative – and results, well – they’re second fiddle. In recent years, it’s left me wondering if the most buzzed-about entries – how many were ever real campaigns at all? So Cannes is wonderful for showing off creative chops on a glamorous, global stage — call it, right-brain creativity unleashed! Come someday, I’ll splurge and go.

But what if there was a peer-judged contest of “wow” factor creative, but also where strategy and results in the field are equally “wow.” Oh, that’s the Data & Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards. Cannes Lion entries — with substance — should ECHO apply! Fake ads and concepts shouldn’t.

ECHOs are the global contest where data, insights and intelligence create disruption and surpass business objectives. I want to judge a contest where recognition puts a smile on both the faces of the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Financial Officer. I want to uncover the validation that clients – and prospective clients – look for in their agency partners.

How to impress me:

  • A campaign that can beat the control – and establish a new one.
  • To apply new MarTech, platforms and channels in ways that measure – and delight the customer.
  • Where élan lives in breakthrough creative – and data-inspired strategy, too. Intelligence, unleashed.
  • And where marketers, who answer to return on investment … this is where they get to show off their chops.

Yes, that’s a tall order for an ECHO-winning entry … but it’s the reward I’ve enjoyed just being a judge. I get to witness in one competition courageous clients and campaigns from around the world — and here at home — that seek to redefine today’s marketing and set tomorrow’s benchmarks with actual work. There’s some duds in the mix. But those that earned their ECHO trophy surely teach the rest of us.

That’s why I enjoy the judging experience best. It’s a direct window on marketing undergoing transformation. One more thing to love about summer, when the ECHOs are judged each year. Mark your calendar, the ECHOs will be presented on October 8 in New Orleans, during DMA’s &Then17 experience. I’m hopeful Target Marketing readers can show me then how they’re transforming marketing, too.

Don’t Get Lost in a Maze of Metrics

There’s a lot of data out there. More than any one marketer needs at any one time. The new frontier in using big data in multichannel marketing is learning what data you need. And that starts with clearly defined marketing objectives. The proliferation of data has caused many marketers to get caught up in minutiae that are not relevant to their objectives. With all the data that’s available, it takes discipline to focus only on the metrics that are relevant. Too often the most important metrics like cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value are overlooked while we’re looking at things like email bounce rates and time on site, which certainly have their place, but should be viewed in the context of how they can be leveraged to improve lifetime value.

There’s a lot of data out there. More than any one marketer needs at any one time.

The new frontier in using big data in multichannel marketing is learning what data you need. And that starts with clearly defined marketing objectives.

The proliferation of data has caused many marketers to get caught up in minutiae that are not relevant to their objectives. With all the data that’s available, it takes discipline to focus only on the metrics that are relevant. Too often the most important metrics, like cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value, are overlooked while we’re looking at things like email bounce rates and time on site. Those are metrics which certainly have their place, but should be viewed in the context of how they can be leveraged to improve lifetime value.

How Many Metrics Do You Need?
Every semester, more than one student in my “Advertising Research” class asks:

How many questions do we need to have in our quantitative questionnaire?

My answer is always the same, and always initially perplexing to them:

As many as you need.

The ensuing discussion is a lesson in the importance of setting clear objectives:

What are you trying to find out? Write down what you need to learn from your survey, and develop questions that will get you that information. Once you’ve done that, count the number of questions you have. That’s how many you need.

That lesson applies to marketing measurement, as well. With all the metrics that our marketing analytics platforms can provide, it’s easy to get buried in a landslide of statistics that don’t really relate to your business objectives. If your objective is lead generation at a landing page, why measure time on site? (Of course if you find that the abandonment rate on the data capture page is high, then look at time on site. You may be asking for too much information.)

Define What You Need to Know
If you’re looking to optimize your cost per lead or maximize lead volume, you’ll need to track cost per lead by individual tactic. You’ll find an interesting approach to maximizing lead volume in a previous “Here’s What Counts” post. But if you’re looking to enroll people in a CRM program and every one of your touchpoints is essential, then you may be able to skip that level of analysis. (If that idea seems foreign to you, check out this “Here’s What Counts” post that talks about a real world scenario where it wasn’t necessary to track cost per enrollment by vehicle.)

Every end has a beginning. Measurement always starts with the objectives you set at the start of a campaign. If they are clearly defined and you focus only on those metrics that are related to the objectives, you won’t find yourself buried in data that’s not relevant to measuring your success.

B-to-B: Where Social Media Meets Direct Marketing

Business marketers have embraced social media with enthusiasm. One of the reasons social media is working so well in B-to-B, in my opinion, is that business marketers tend to wear their direct marketing hats when they strategize and plan how to apply social media to their marketing objectives. So they get a lot of measurable value from social media, and they pull it into their programs as a full-fledged member of the integrated marketing mix. In B-to-B, social media and direct marketing have-in other words-met, hit it off, and developed a long-term relationship.

Business marketers have embraced social media with enthusiasm. One of the reasons social media is working so well in B-to-B, in my opinion, is that business marketers tend to wear their direct marketing hats when they strategize and plan how to apply social media to their marketing objectives. So they get a lot of measurable value from social media, and they pull it into their programs as a full-fledged member of the integrated marketing mix. In B-to-B, social media and direct marketing have-in other words-met, hit it off, and developed a long-term relationship.

To back up and support my argument, let me offer a working definition for direct marketing: Direct marketing describes communications that are structured to motivate a response. Direct marketing communications are characterized by:

  1. Being delivered to a carefully targeted audience;
  2. Containing a motivational offer, a call to action and a response vehicle;
  3. Collecting the responses in a database;
  4. Expecting the results to deliver a measurable ROI.

By this definition, a direct marketing message can be delivered anywhere. It is truly “media neutral.” It can work in direct mail and email, but also in print, on billboards, on television and radio. And in social media.

In fact, social media represent an ideal direct marketing medium. When social media first arrived on the scene, they were widely viewed by marketers as a way to “get the word out” (which means awareness) and bring traffic to a website.

But increasingly, marketers are getting much more “DM-y” about social media. In this year’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 58 percent of marketers said they were using it to generate leads. Last year, in 2011, only 7 percent said that. A big change. Small businesses were even more likely, at 65 percent, to focus on lead generation in social media.

As marketers increasingly view social media as direct marketing media, the media owners themselves are responding, fast. Just last August, Facebook announced that it would improve the targeting options available to advertisers, including for the first time targeting variables like email address and phone number, which direct marketers have used for years. Before this, advertisers were limited to demographic selects like company size.

Also in August, Twitter announced that it will offer ad targeting by user interests or @username follower groups. This kind of targeting has been a staple of direct marketing media for decades. So I am concluding that these social media are moving in a direct marketing direction, recognizing that this way they can attract advertisers who are looking for measurable results, like a specific number of leads and a certain allowable cost per lead.

One other piece of evidence to support my case that B-to-B social media are intersecting with direct marketing, albeit a semi-humorous point: I was doing a seminar out at Facebook in Palo Alto a while back, training their ad sales marketing team on B-to-B direct marketing. While there, I learned that Facebook itself is a sizable user of direct mail, the long-time workhorse medium of direct marketing. The Facebook ad sales group uses direct mail to sell advertising to small and medium businesses. So here’s a social medium using a traditional direct marketing medium to reach their B-to-B goals. The intersection comes full circle.

What ways are you seeing social media intersect with direct marketing?

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

Five Ways to “Get Real” With B-to-B Social Media

Today, 89 percent of B-to-B marketers in the U.S. are using social media, says a study conducted by iTracks and the Business Marketing Association (BMA). In fact, B-to-B use of social media may have even eclipsed that of consumer marketers, according to another report from White Horse Productions. But the B-to-B marketers I talk to still sound confused. “What should I be doing,” they ask. “What’s really worth my time?”

Today, 89 percent of B-to-B marketers in the U.S. are using social media, says a study conducted by iTracks and the Business Marketing Association (BMA). In fact, B-to-B use of social media may have even eclipsed that of consumer marketers, according to another report from White Horse Productions. But the B-to-B marketers I talk to still sound confused. “What should I be doing,” they ask. “What’s really worth my time?”

What you want to do is get out of the hype, get real, and get results. Here’s a simple plan of attack.

First, get busy on LinkedIn. This is the no-brainer of B-to-B social media marketing. You, your company, and all your employees need to take maximum advantage of the exposure. Your LinkedIn to-do list looks like this:

  • Fill out your profile 100 percent. LinkedIn will prompt you on how to make sure every element is captured. Encourage your employees to set up their profiles, including their skills lists. Prospective customers will check out you and your staff as part of their due diligence before doing business with you—so be prepared.
  • Set up a company page, with your logo image, plus a crisp, benefit-laden company description. Invite links from your customers, suppliers and friends. Along with a Google search, this is how you will be found in the marketplace.
  • Join groups, or set up fresh groups, in your field of expertise.
  • Post regular status updates in the micro-blog area LinkedIn provides.

Then, examine your marketing objectives. Each social medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. What you want to do is get the most bang, by applying them to their best use.

Here’s a typical array of business marketing objectives a company may be pursuing. Let’s look at how social media can be applied to support what you’re trying to do.

Understand your market opportunity. In other words, market research. What customers and prospect are talking about on social media gives companies valuable insight into customer needs, issues and trends. You can set up a listening post using tools like Radian6, or simply set up an RSS feed from sources like blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Focus, Quora, YouTube and Wikipedia, so you can keep current with what’s being said in your field.

Stand out in the crowd. Social media can help you differentiate your company from your competition. If you want to be seen as a thought leader in your industry, or a trusted advisor to businesses trying to solve problems, then it’s all about content. You’ll be publishing white papers, research reports and case studies, and tweeting about them. Or publish an informative blog and promote it via Twitter and LinkedIn micro posts.

Blogging can be a powerful way to establish thought leadership, but it does represent a risk. Only start a blog if you have valuable content to present, and if you can commit to keeping it up. Editorially, the tone should be informative, not sales-y. If you don’t have good writers in house, there are plenty of freelancers available to help. Another tip: If you hesitate to take on a blog on your own, you might provide guest posts to influential blogs managed by someone else. (As you see, this is the route I took for myself—it’s great!)

Find new customers. There’s a lot of hue and cry out there about whether social media can help you find prospective customers. Of course it can. The trick in B-to-B is to turn your social media messaging into a lead generator, with the addition of three essential elements:

  • A compelling offer, such as an intriguing research report or white paper.
  • A clear call to action, like “Download now.”
  • A dedicated landing page that captures the respondent’s contact information.

We can debate the merits of gating your content for lead generation, versus making it available to all, for thought leadership. A worthy discussion. But if your objective is to launch a business relationship with a prospective buyer, than the lead generation route is the way to go. So add an offer and call to action to your blog posts and tweets.

Expand current customer value. Social media can serve as another useful “touch” in your ongoing effort to penetrate accounts and deepen your relationship with current customers. Encourage customers to follow you on Twitter, subscribe to your blog, or connect with you on LinkedIn. A smart salesperson will link to every possible contact at a current account, and post company and product news in the LinkedIn microblog a couple times a week.

Now, what about Facebook? With 845 million users worldwide, it can’t be ignored. Ask yourself whether your customers are there, and whether they want to interact with you there. According to Globalspec, 66 percent of industrial workers have Facebook accounts, but 67 percent of them say they cannot access Facebook from their office computers. Given its vast reach, at the very least set up a company page on Facebook—for employee recruitment, if nothing else.

And don’t forget YouTube, the world’s second largest search engine. Set up a channel to give exposure to your product demos, training videos and corporate videos.

So, with that, you have a reasonable attack plan for cutting through the hype and putting social media to work for you in a manageable way. Now, what have I forgotten? Do you have any good social media applications you can share with the rest of us business marketers?

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