Top 10 List of Social Marketing Practices to Avoid in 2012

Copyright 2011 Cisco Systems: Reproduced with Permission.

Everywhere you look, folks offer B2B marketers social media marketing advice. (In fact, I’m guilty of that!)

But how about a few lessons on what NOT to do?

Petra Neiger leads the Center of Social Media Excellence at Cisco Systems. I met her through the SVESMC and, this past week, she joined me for a panel that I moderated on Forecast 2012: The Challenges and Opportunities with Social Business

During our talk, she mentioned this clever, tongue-in-cheek blog post that she wrote recently with another Cisco colleague about those special practices guaranteed to give any marketer nightmares. 

I think the graphic is a scream, so with her permission, I include it here.  (Hint: You can turn each of these nightmares into a best practice by doing the opposite…)

From a mainstream B2B marketer’s perspective, here are five more “worst practices” that I’d like to add to Cisco’s list:

1) Switch to social media from traditional online and physical media because, well, social is “free”!  Did you ever count up the hours people spend (and waste) on this medium? Or what kind of effort it takes to keep a blog interesting?  Or a Twitter handle active? Still think it’s cheap?

2) Start a Facebook fan page and wonder why only your employees like it.  Lesson: Facebook is a social networking site, not a substitute for a Web destination. Search engines don’t pick up the content you put there as readily as they do Web pages. And if you don’t do anything social, like offer promotions, coupons, contests, games, funny/ironic observations, controversy, etc., few will notice.

3) Use Twitter to promote business services that require assessments and have long sales cycles. (https://twitter.com/XeroxMPS)  After about 20 tweets, what can you really say that’s interesting and specific enough to garner a following?

4) Encourage your sales and service people to get involved in social media.  Lesson: except for LinkedIn, this idea stands a snowball’s chance in Hades on so many levels.  (Customer support is another matter, however.)

5) However, do let your sales executives blog.  Especially when clients might find the posts just a little bit insulting. See: Why does everyone hate us?   And the winner is….  So things are looking better or aren’t they  (Enough said.)

Here’s hoping your social media marketing plans continue to shape up well for 2012. Remember: True success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration — so keep experimenting with your social marketing, but keep the client in mind as you do.

Driving Growth in B2B Companies? Try This Playbook

December is a popular month to spend planning for the next year or reviewing current progress.  I find it is also a good month to reconnect with your corporate strategy and ask “what can marketing do to help create more predictable, profitable, and sustainable growth for my company?” Recently, I read The B2B Executive Playbook, written by my friend Sean Geehan of the Geehan Group. I think it offers a succinct summary of the factors that most affect the B2B business’s ability to thrive, with a unique perspective on one — why it’s important to focus on your current clients as a way to grow revenue. 

I first met Sean in 2009 at the Customer Reference Forum. We stayed in touch through my transition to Xerox and he invited me to speak at his Executive Summit on Business Transformation in February. He asked me to review an early draft of his book and sent me a final copy. (This is all the open disclosure stuff, folks.) I have heard him speak several times on the topic of this book.

The B2B Executive Playbook consolidates principles that apply specifically to companies that sell highly-considered products or services through a direct salesforce to other businesses. Some of the ideas here resemble others we have seen, but are good reminders. The “B2B relationship continuum” in chapter 2, for example, reminds me of research that my former director, Laurie Orlov, wrote on The Three Archetypes of IT. The “Market-Aligned Three-Circle Venn” in chapter 5 calls to mind Jim Collin’s hedgehog concept” popularized in Good to Great.

What Sean does really well, however, is put these concepts in the context of a vitally important B2B best practice — that of engaging with your customers to collaborate on your company’s strategy directions, refer you to other decision makers, advocate for you as a trusted supplier, and do more business with you.  A lot more. 

Case in point: HCL, a professional services firm located in Noida, India.  Paraphrasing the book, HCL lacked a systematic way to interact with key decision makers from their customers prior to 2008. HCL’s Americas President Shami Khorana decided to target their “top 80″ clients  in a formal program to exchange ideas and gain their collective feedback. And to demonstrate a sincere interest in keeping their business. Khorana credits this program, in part, with HCL’s rise from $1.4B in 2007 to over $3B in 2010, with an annual growth rate of more than 20% — even through the economic downturn of 2008/09.

Through other case studies like HCL, the B2B Executive Playbook gives practical advice on how to build and retain key decision maker relationships at the right level of your organization, and how to maintain a select group of the key executive customers in your market who will advise you willingly and buy from you consistently.

Recognizing that B2B companies win or lose based on the strength of relationships with a relatively few, very key customers is the essential insight that B2B executives and marketers can overlook. Consider your 2012 marketing plans, for example, and ask how much you intend to spend on customer acquisition versus retention, loyalty, and advocacy. Reflect on how much time your sales representatives spend with real decision makers versus influencers or users (who can’t sign a purchase order.) 

If you are like most B2B, large enterprises, then you will find a quick read through this book will help to reorient your thinking around those customers who matter most and hold the keys to your future success.

Take a look: I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

What Did B2B Marketers Learn in 2011? – A discussion on Focus.com

Craig Rosenberg, VP and leader for the Focus Expert Network (aka @funnelholic), invited me to participate in an online discussion about what B2B marketers learned in 2011. Now that I am into my “sophomore year” at Xerox, I can’t presume to speak for all B2B marketers like I did when I was an analyst. However, I thought I would share a few personal insights about what I’ve learned working from the marketing trenches at a very large, very tenured, highly-recognized brand in the tech space.  Here are my top 5 “hard won” lessons from this year:

1) B2B marketers must give Sales any excuse to talk to clients. There are a million things to do as a B2B marketer. If you prioritize those things that create an opportunity for your account managers to check in with a client — or your sales reps to reach out to a prospect — you will do more to align marketing activity with sales outcomes and increase marketing’s value to the business. As you put together marketing programs and campaigns, always ask “where does Sales engage the customer in this process?”

2) Time spent on segmentation and targeting is invaluable. B2B marketers are learning to understand buyers better, but the lesson isn’t complete. Knowing your buyer intimately — having the ability to define a buying persona precisely– lets B2B marketers develop the content that engages buyers and put it where buyers will find it. You also have to understand who Sales considers a target, because if you develop leads that aren’t in anyone’s territory or too small to sustain your average deal size, no one will pick them up and work on them.

3) The pressure to move from lead generation to demand management will continue to increase. Sales can’t pursue every “lead” that marketing uncovers because sales need to focus on those prospects that offer the best immediate opportunity.  B2B marketers who think beyond the current event, campaign, or quarter-end will better create programs that develop demand, qualify it over time, and deliver those “ripe” opportunities to sales — within the territory and opportunity criteria that sales wants to pursue. This is the best way to scale the pipeline and put the revenue generation engine of your firm into high gear.

4) The value of marketing content must be measured in the buyer’s eye, not yours. This is a tough one for B2B marketers to learn because they believe their products and services are so special — and require such obscure, tedious description — that they find it hard to talk about much else with authority.  This past year, top marketers learned that hiring people who know how to write, who can tell a compelling story, and who can make content interesting to watch is the best way to leave the meaningless blather and inside-out perspective behind.

5) Learn how to extend the life of your content assets and events. B2B marketers focus a lot of activity around events like tradeshows, sporting events, dinner meetings, or webinars. While these events help tell your story or make executive-to-executive connections, the activity also presents many opportunities to capture an asset and use it to engage those who could not be there live. Whether it is slides, photos, video recordings, interviews, tweets, or blog posts, every event creates artifacts that smart marketers can use to help sales keep client conversations going — or to engage new prospects — while demonstrating your unique point of view, expertise, and commitment to building deeper customer relationships.

What have been your key lessons from 2011? Check out the Focus.com discussion on this topic and join in!

Successes and Shortfalls of Marketing Technology: As Shared with the Milwaukee BMA

Xerox Document Services - Example of Thought Leadership on Sustainability

From social media to sales enablement, I have found new marketing technologies are abundant, often replacing established tools in the marketing programs and operations toolbox.  In my relatively brief time here at Xerox Document Services, we’ve enjoyed the opportunity — and challenge — of adopting a variety of new technologies with a mix of successes and shortfalls.

On November 10, I had the honor of delivering the keynote presentation to the Milwaukee chapter of the BMA. (The BMA is an organization I shamelessly plug to all B2B marketers.) I shared a few lessons that we’ve learned rolling out social media, lead management automation, and guided selling tools in our professional services organization where sales coverage runs the gamut from geography to industry.

It was a frank recounting of the challenges and problems many marketers face with new technology adoption across a range of programs, campaigns, and operations. It was the “practical experience” view to the perspective  that Debbie Qaquish, Chief Revenue Officer of the Pedowitz Group, shared on how revenue marketers are changing the landscape of the industry through lead management automation. 

You can find the presentation on the Milwaukee BMA site, scroll to the bottom as the presentation is the last one featured on this page.  In it I talk about:

1) The state of B2B marketing and how the explosion of online tactics has made it harder for marketing to escape the execution treadmill and demonstrate its true value to the business.

2) How Xerox Document Services uses an online destination and social media to share thought leading perspectives from some of our key executives.  On this site, we talk about sustainability, change management, transforming enterprise marketing, innovation, and the future of documents.  Topics completely unrelated to copiers and printing.

3) Demand generation and lead management: how we use industry experts and clear, specific targeting to develop a perspective on key issues — like the future of the insurance industry — and share these with current clients and prospects. And how we keep the conversation going.

4) A cautionary note about guided selling and sales enablement and how the most exciting new technologies may be a bit much for your sales people to digest in one swallow.  Instead start with something they know (powerpoint slides) and give them a tool that enhances their effectiveness and professionalism when presenting in front of clients.

I also shared the following lessons with the 40 or so BMA members and guests who joined us for dinner and the evening presentation:

  • We are never finished.  Technology makes many new marketing approaches possible, but you have to keep feeding the machine.
  • Choose carefully, understand impact/risks of the new technology approaches you want to try.
  • Get inside your business financials to select metrics. If your programs and technology don’t show results in the language of business, you will fail to gain support.
  • Partner with sales, but gain senior management support. If the “big boss” doesn’t demonstrate both interest in and commitment to your implementations, then the road to success will be long and difficult.
  • Focus on audience and objectives first, the rest will follow. This is the POST principle.
  • People, process, and change management are more important than technology. Technology for technology’s sake is never a good thing.
  • Content generation is biggest success factor and hurdle. Figure out how to keep the content coming.
  • Use reporting to improve marketing, not just “prove” it.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.

If you can relate to the contents in the presentation, let me know how.  Also, join your local chapter of the BMA. It’s a wonderful organization that I know helps to improve the business marketing profession.

Three Views on Marketing Automation – Focus Experts and MAI

Unquestionably there are many ideas and theories on marketing automation and the automation industry. Today the Marketing Automation Institute sponsored a Focus roundtable discussion that examined three views of marketing automation through the eyes of an analyst, a customer and a vendor.  And I got to be the customer instead of the analyst this time!

Carlos Hidalgo, CEO of the Annuitas Group and Executive Director of the Marketing Automation Institute, asked me to join some folks I haven’t spoken with in a while — Jeff Erramouspe, President of Manticore Technologies sand David Raab, long-time marketing automation technology and market analyst — for a conversation about the marketing automation industry, where it’s heading, how companies use lead management technology, and what to do to get more value from value from automation.

You can find the full recording and Twitter stream here.

Some of the questions we tackled — well, that I tackled – include:

1) Moving from analyst to practioner, what do I see at Xerox as some of the driving factors behind the push for automation?
(A growing profusion of marketing approaches and little consensus about what really works to drive demand. Therefore, the need to measure and automate marketing to better demonstrate its impact on the business.)

2) What are some of the ways an organization can use automation to reach buyers besides using it as an email engine
(I think it’s all about finding new ways to reach buyers outside of email — syndication of content to industry and association Web sites that link back to a landing page, publishing YouTube videos, starting a Facebook fan page, developing a community destination outside of your Web site are but a few examples.)

3) Of people, process and content, which one trumps the others — or all they all equally important — when it comes to successful automation? (Depends on where you are in the adoption lifecycle. Marketers starting out talk more about technology and skills their key needs. But more mature practioners point to content development as the gating item to success.)

Want to hear more?  Visit the site.  Listen to the recording. And share your views
UPDATE! — To hear the Sales’ view of marketing automation — sign up now for the November 10 Focus/MAI Roundtable.

Maturing Your Lead Generation and Marketing Automation

  Today I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with the Corporate Financial Group about maturing lead generation and lead management automation. This association of commercial banking marketing professionals offers the latest, industry-relevant insight into business-to-business marketing trends, practices and people in the financial industry.  I first met this group, spearheaded by the effervescent Pat Scanlon, over 4 years ago when I was a Forrester analyst and just starting out in the B2B marketing arena.

Pat connected with me, probably through LinkedIn, a few months ago and asked if I would be interested in speaking to the group, who was planning to meet in San Francisco this year.  When we last met in Chicago, I found CFG members to be at the cutting edge of both industry and marketing trends for large enterprise/business banking. That day we talked a lot about lead management, marketing automation, why both are important, and the four stages that B2B marketers progress through as they adopt lead management best practices. Their comments were both insightful and challenging.

So naturally I accepted Pat’s invitation to speak to this group again. We talked about the problem of lead generation in B2B marketing and the promise of automation in solving challenges like:

  • Getting alignment between marketing and sales around how you go to market
  • Market segmentation, understanding the buyer’s journey, and profiling buyer behavior.
  • How to deliver relevant, inspiring content — and how “thought leadership” helps marketers do that.
  • Integrating marketing tactics that attract and engage prospects.
  • Creating advocacy among customers — in particular through social media.
  • Enabling sales – and get credit for doing so.
  • Shifting the marketing discipline from creative to operational — from right brain to left brain.

If you would like to see a summary set of the slides I presented to this group, take a look at this link on Slideshare

Key takeaways for this group concerned where to focus their time, money and investment in lead management:

  1. Beg, borrow or buy talent in three key areas: journalist-quality writing talent, business/data analyst (who also has a segmentation specialty), and an operations techie with HTML experience.  Buying a tool is not enough – you need tech, content and analytics talent to make it work. On the content side, you can get some of this from your agency.  You need a partner in IT to help with the rest.
  2. Be prepared to build a marketing database and to perform regular data quality management. Also, you must plan to invest in a library of content that covers issues, roles and industries for the target buyers you approach.
  3. Start with a “Quick win” project that shows how marketing scales sales, but make sure your lead management efforts reward marketers and sales for using it and “doing the right thing” – these rewards provide the change management and cultural cues that signal the importance of this new way of going to market to all the players involved.

Take a look at the slides and let me know if you have any comments or questions.

BtoB Online Names Its “Top 25″ Digital Marketers

I feel a bit sheepish writing this, but I’ve had so many friends and colleagues (including the Xerox CEO!) contact me about this award that I wanted to take the opportunity to offer my thanks and share the news. 

On June 13, in its inaugural Top Digital Marketers special report, BtoB magazine recognized 25 B2B marketers doing “exceptional” interactive work. If you look through the list at the bottom, you will see my name.  BtoB explains, “The winners were selected by BtoB staff, based on criteria including strong interactive vision and strategy as part of their overall marketing efforts; innovative use of digital technologies; and proven results.”  Wow, that’s quite an honor! And one I would like to share with my team and coworkers because I am never alone in these endeavors.

Here’s how I see it: Digital marketing is an essential part of any marketing program today – it should never stand alone. As buyers take more cues from online content, community, and experts, marketers can no longer depend on “interruption marketing” — tactics that try to get in front of prospective customers regardless of the prospect’s level of interest or qualification. B2B marketers must engage with potential buyers, determine their interests, and share useful, relevant information if they want to excel online. Here’s an example of how our industry marketing team approaches digital marketing to illustrate how we translate this perspective into practice.

Earlier this year, we decided to host a webinar featuring a well-recognized vertical industry expert. For those of you who know Ellen Carney, senior analyst at Forrester Research, she is one of the bright lights among the property, casualty, annuity, and life insurance industry luminaries. (And, yes, I adored working with her while at Forrester, so there’s my bias out in the open.) Our goal was to build Xerox Service’s reputation in the insurance industry, demonstrate a thought-leading point of view, and attract prospects to our story.

To do this, we wanted to produce fresh, interesting content that we could repurpose in different ways to drive traffic and interest. Now, to be honest, Forrester is not the cheapest resource with which to partner on this, so we wanted to make sure that the Webinar lived beyond its broadcast date. Here are a few highlights detailing where we focused our effort:

1) Relevance. We learned Ellen planned to publish a new report (not yet available on Forrester’s site) about the key trends shaping the future of the insurance industry. To associate ourselves subtly with what we expected to be ground-breaking research, we introduced Ellen to Gary Cole, who heads up our customer communications line of business for the insurance industry. Ellen liked Gary’s perspectives and decided to interview him to help provide background for her report.

2) Podcasts/audio files generate content — quickly.  We didn’t want to spend a lot of time writing, reviewing, and rewriting new content. Leading up to the webinar, we asked Ellen to talk to Gary about her findings. With Forrester’s consent (and — full disclosure — hired advice) we recorded and published three separate snippets of a Q&A conversation between the two of them, and featured each podcast in a separate blog post.  You can find them here:

Insurance 2020Insuring Against a Hole-In-One and Other Calamities, Going Green, Big Brother Evolves into a Risk Manager, and National Dog Bite Prevention Week: CA Tops National Liability List. We started promoting the Webinar in the fourth and fifth post in this series; we didn’t lead with it.  We tried to use catchy, off-beat topics to grab attention. We also tried to steer away from Xerox-centric language — this had to be about the industry, not us.

3) Highly targeted contact list.  This is probably the most important part. We market and sell managed print services contracts valued at multiple millions of dollars and spanning 5 years or more. There is a rather short list of companies that would be interested in this type of outsourced service. Knowing existing customer profiles, we crafted a list of specific accounts from which we generated a refined list of over 5000 contacts using internal databases and external sources.  To B2C folks, this may not sound like many, but for us, this was significant. While we welcome anyone interested in the future of the insurance industry to attend, we wanted to make sure that key folks at companies — like Allstate, the Hartford, New York Life, Prudential, State Farm, Travelers, USAA, and others — had the opportunity to hear from Xerox about Ellen’s new research.

4)  Industry-specific landing page. Nothing fancy, but we wanted one destination to focus our blog and outreach efforts toward that would also serve to tell interested parties a bit more about what we have to offer.  This way we could focus the Webinar content on what is interesting to clients and minimize the sales pitch from Xerox. It was also vital to record the event (again with Forrester’s paid permission) and make it available as a resource to those who couldn’t attend live.

5) A personal touch. We reached out to friends, fans and followers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We answered every email inquiry promptly. We sent personal emails to people we knew in the industry and promised to minimize the promotional content. We sent a reminder 30 minutes before the broadcast so that registrants didn’t have to dig through their email to find the links. We crafted separate thank-you notes for attendees and “sorry we missed you” messages for those who couldn’t make it. We made the replay available to everyone and encouraged them to share.

As a result, this Webinar enjoyed an 80% attendance rate against registrations. I don’t know about you, but — while at Forrester — I was thrilled to get 30% or more of the registrants to attend Webinars. 50% attendance is exceptional and 80% is out of this world! Also, this was the second highest attended industry-specific Webinar my team conducted so far. (So, for those cynics out there, 80% does not mean 4 out of only 5 individuals attended. We had many more than that participate.) We also generated three “leads” prior to the event — people interested in knowing more — as well as many requests wanting to see if the event would be recorded so they could access it on-demand.

What’s next? Measurement and tracking. We will enter attendee information into our database and track influence the influence of this Webinar and digital content against new opportunities and pipeline.  We will extract key questions, quotes, and other tidbits from the Webinar and use those content chunks to promote the replay. We will create customizable emails — featuring content elements and key talking points from Ellen’s research — for our sales people to use to follow up directly, and personally, with clients using our Business Builder tool. And we will do more – but I can’t give away all my secrets!

While the BtoB award is so appreciated, I hope in sharing this, you can get a glimpse into some of the activity that creates fundamental, straight-forward digital marketing. And I also hope to remain worthy of the recognition. Thank you again BtoB!

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