3 Ways Most B-to-B Marketers Get Off Track With Social Marketing

I get asked all the time, “Jeff, where do most B-to-B marketers go wrong with social media?” My response these days is becoming more focused and sharp: “They market on it rather than sell with it.”  There are three mistakes that most B-to-B marketers are making with social media marketing.

[For more of Jeff Molander’s insights on B-to-B marketing and social media, be sure to catch him on Thursday’s Multichannel Marketing for Business roundtable webinar.]

I get asked all the time, “Jeff, where do most B-to-B marketers go wrong with social media?” My response these days is becoming more focused and sharp: “They market on it rather than sell with it.”

There are three mistakes that most B-to-B marketers are making with social media marketing. They:

1. Have a very weak expectation of social media to begin with … they don’t expect it to produce leads nor sales.

2. Focus energy on finding effective ways to measure social’s effectiveness rather than finding ways to sell with it.

3. Make mistakes 1 and 2 because they’re looking to relatively inexperienced, unqualified people to decide what it is they should be doing with social media.

Expect Social Marketing to Sell
Your thoughts manifest reality. It’s a metaphysical fact whether you turn to new age gurus, the Bible or other philosophical belief system aimed at creating emotional, spiritual and financial wealth. What you think becomes reality and if you’re thinking about marketing outcomes (engagement, clicks, visitors, customer sentiment, etc.) that’s what you’ll get—by law!

Selling requires not only a change in expectation but a process mentality that generates tangible outcomes. Marketing usually involves a creative process with fungible, intangible outcomes like “good branding” that somehow results in sales. Marketing is faith-based.

If marketers could have anything they want when it comes to social media they want “better engagement” and better ways to measure it. The result is a world where B-to-B marketers continue to put today’s interactive version of branding before revenue.

Get Off of Social Media and on to a List
What if we cast aside such marketing aspirations and replaced them with dreams of creating leads? For instance, changing the goal from engagement to leads means changing what we do all day long—and how we do it. What if the goal was to get prospects OFF of social media?!

I’m noticing how B-to-B marketers who create revenue (and think about it all day long) think this way. They don’t care to spend five years wondering, “What’s the value of a Facebook fan?” only to find out that the question is as pointless as the half-baked answers self-appointed experts cook up.

Successful social sellers ask different questions like, “Can we use what we already know works to start generating leads sales with social marketing techniques?”

For these companies, the answer is, “yes, sometimes” but only when the social platform can be used in a way that moves sales prospects off of it and onto a lead nurturing program. In the end they rely more on traditional, process—driven database marketing—telemarketing, direct mail, email—and not johnny-come-lately metrics like “return on engagement.”

Believe in Yourself, Ignore the Experts
In many cases the reason why marketers are making mistakes 1 and 2 is because they fall victim to the uncertainty created by self-appointed experts.

In a moment of remarkable candor, former Apple brand evangelist, Guy Kawasaki announced his secret to social media success: Do not have any plan whatsoever for it. Because you can’t understand these oh-so-new technologies, he says the smartest way to approach them is to just do it.

You can understand Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, etc., if your context remains founded in business principles that are not revolutionizing—no matter what the experts say.

Resist the urge to hire who you know are ambitious, bright yet inexperienced, unqualified people to decide what it is they should be doing with social media (and how to do it). The truth is most social media experts have one main qualification: “I use it more than you do” and (my favorite) “I ‘get it’ because I study other companies that ‘get it'” (when “it” is largely hot air).

So if you want to avoid the three most common mistakes, expect social media to sell start learning a systematic way to make social platforms serve your business, stop trying to measure social’s effectiveness in intangible terms and trust your business instincts more than young social media experts.

Social Media and ROI: Strange Bedfellows, or a Match Made in Heaven?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock during the past few years, you’ve noticed that social media has become the new norm in our lives, both personal and professional. For businesses large and small, what was initially a curiosity has rapidly emerged as a highly effective tool for interacting with their customers and prospects. … As interest and investment in social media continue to grow, it’s inevitable that corporate stakeholders and bean counters across corporate America will begin to clamor for marketers to demonstrate ROI …

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past few years, you’ve noticed that Social Media has become the new norm in our lives, both personal and professional. For businesses large and small, what was initially a curiosity has rapidly emerged as a highly effective tool for interacting with their customers and prospects. In fact, according to Emil Protalinski in an article on ZDNet.com, a whopping 68 percent of small businesses say they use Facebook as their main marketing tool. Wow!

As interest and investment in social media continue to grow, it’s inevitable that corporate stakeholders and bean counters across corporate America will begin to clamor for marketers to demonstrate ROI for their firm’s social media activities. And believe me, Social Media spending will most certainly continue to grow. According to an article on CMOSurvey.com, in the next five years, marketers can expect to spend 19.5 percent of their budgets on social media, which is almost three times more than the current level. That’s a lot of shekels. This year alone, in fact, marketers are already spending 10.8 percent of their budgets on it.

With increased budgets will undoubtedly come increased scrutiny. But as is the case with most things, the devil is in the details, and measuring social media success is much easier said than done. Unlike most marketing activities, you see, which can be traced back to number of leads generated, customers acquired or sales made, Social Media KPIs are anything but clear cut.

Think about it for a moment. How much is a Facebook “Like” worth, anyway? How much would you pay to get a new follower or to be mentioned on Twitter? How much does each LinkedIn connection contribute to your company’s bottom line? Given this environment, it’s not a big surprise that there are some who simply shrug their shoulders and say that trying to pin ROI to Social Media is a complete waste of time. I don’t necessarily belong to that school of thought, but I do think that Social Media is an entirely new beast that needs to be viewed in a manner distinct from other places marketers spend their money.

Fact is, social media is not simply another advertising channel with a specific budget that can be attributed to a specific group of sales or other traditional marketing KPIs. This is because social media can be used by a firm for many different activities by different departments, many of which are not exactly under marketing’s purview or control.

For the customer service team, using Social CRM technologies and listening platforms, Social Media is an incredible tool that can be used to listen to and engage with customers on the Web, supplementing their phone bank and other customer service activities. For the sales team, Social Media presents yet another source of red-hot leads to be contacted—prospects that have expressed interest in their firm’s products or services and can be followed up on in real time. For marketers, social media may play a role in the department’s content marketing strategy, enabling them to disseminate awesome content to a large base of customers and prospects at minimal cost. And for a PR department, social media represents a unique way to broadcast company press and news releases to the press and public in a continuous feedback loop.

But as a direct marketer by trade, I must admit that I have a difficult time accepting that any activity run by the marketing department can avoid the inevitable ROI discussion. Sure, most ROI calculations I’ve seen in run-of-the-mill PowerPoints are 50 percent math 50 percent BS … I should know because I’ve made quite a few of them in my day! But that being said, I do think we’ll eventually get there. And I’m not alone: A recent study published by Mediabistro demonstrated that 64 percent of executives believe that social marketing will eventually produce a legitimate return on investment for their firms.

In many ways, this lack of clarity is a result of Social Media still being in its infancy to a large extent, and regarding ROI we’ve still got a ways to go. So what do I think the answer will ultimately be? I’m not completely sure, but let me leave you with this.

Because Social Media is being used by different departments with different budgets for different things, when evaluating social media a firm needs to grasp a firm understanding of how Social Media is being used within the organization. For each department, success will need to be measured and tracked differently based on performance metrics that are relevant to stakeholders in each of those departments. Sales teams, for example, should use metrics relevant to salespeople, such as number of leads generated, conversion rate on those leads and so on. Customer service departments, not surprisingly, operate on entirely different systems and, therefore, need to evaluate Social Media according to an entirely differ set of KPIs. Ultimately, each department’s success measurements for social media need to be based on their specific goals and metrics.

Okay, I’m out of space so I’ll leave it there for now. Have you tried to work out KPIs or perform ROI calculations for your Social Media program? If so, I’d love to see what you’ve come up with, so let me know in your comments.

—Rio