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social media

Watching some of the new ventures getting funded over the last several months, there’s an interesting trend that’s turning user-generated content into real value for companies and their customers.

One example is Driveway Software, which develops applications that insurance companies offer to their customers.  The apps track driving behavior, and enable the insurer to offer discounts based on good driving habits.  In the healthcare sector, companies like AFrame Digital and Lark are creating devices and apps that enable doctors, care-givers, and individuals to track patient health and provide better, more personalized care.  FlixMaster collects information about how we watch interactive on-line videos so that media companies and advertisers can create more engaging content.

While the content in these instances is “user-generated,” all the work is being done within machine-to-machine interfaces. User devices or apps collect information and communicate with data collection and analytics engines to produce both individual and aggregated intelligence. That intelligence enables companies to offer new and unique products and services.

For each company that collects and uses customer-generated data intelligently, there are scores who collect data but never use it.  That’s not only a waste, but also an unjustified risk – keeping customer information without carefully managing it can have legal ramifications and expose the company to liability.

Bottom Line:   There are countless ways to collect data about your customers.  Before you start, decide exactly why you’re collecting it, how you’ll manage it, and what intelligence and action the data will drive.

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In a recent study of B2B demand generation practices conducted by Software Advice, social media was among the most popular marketing channels, and a top spending priority for next year, despite receiving low marks for both quality and volume of leads it generates. Social media was the 3rd worse in terms of quantity of leads it produced, and in the bottom half in terms of lead quality.

Maybe the reason that almost 90% of the survey’s 155 respondents use social media is the low cost. Non-ad social media was voted the cheapest of 14 marketing channels by study respondents. It’s easy to increase spend on something that is perceived as nearly free. Over half of companies plan to increase budget for social media marketing next year.

Of course, social media isn’t about leads at all.  It’s about creating conversations, engagement, and buzz rather than immediate sales.  But be cautious about whom you target.  1World Online recently reported that 70% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence

What channels generate good leads?

According to the Software Advice study, in-house email marketing was among the top 5 channels for lead quantity and quality. The only other channel to be voted among the top 5 in both categories was trade shows and events, though it was also the most expensive.

Other channels that generated high lead quantity were 3rd party lead originators, search engine ads, and SEO. For Lead Quality, SEO was second after email. Also good for lead quality were telemarketing and 3rd party webinars.

The best offers and content

The study reports that live demos with reps provided the best combination of high lead quantity (ranked 2nd) and quality (ranked 1st). Free trials, according to Software Advice, generated the highest lead quantity, and were 3rd in terms of lead quality. Despite the high rankings, free trials were among the three least-used offers.

Complete study results are available here.

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Great discussion last night at the SVAMA event about how B2B marketers can leverage social media to generate leads.  Check out the summary by Kirsty Scott of SD Design.

A few points I thought were esp. interesting, insightful, or controversial.

1. Create LOTS of interesting, relevant content.  But how, given limited resources?  The panelists suggested:

  • One person can generate a lot of content and a lot of buzz – it doesn’t take an army
  • You don’t have to be a professional writer. Just get your ideas across.
  • Give your community a forum for creating content. WD40 fan club is a great example of community-generated content.

2. “The internet is a great medium for experimentation,” Mike Linton.

  • Its easy to try out different tactics, different language, and different social media hubs.  You quickly can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t.
  • Its easy to overcome resistance inside your company by suggesting, “Let’s just run it as a test.”

3. The community is there. Deal with it.

  • If your company thinks its not “doing social media,” its wrong. Users, customers, and probably employees are talking about you, whether you’re there or not.  Best to join the conversation than to be ignorant. (Sounds like parenting advice!)
  • Communities take on a life of their own. Don’t expect to control or even guide the conversation.  Instead find an employee most like your audience and ask them to participate in the dialogue.
  • Develop a thick skin.  Even within communities you create, someone will find something negative to say, and chance are, it will get disseminated.  Don’t be taken by surprise, and don’t panic.

4. Lead Gen is a process, not an event.

  • Include calls to action – SUBTLE ones – in your content.
  • Give people the opportunity to “self identify” as interested though their actions and responses to many different forms of interactions (Blogs, tweets, webinars, emails, facebook fan clubs, LinkedIn group participation, etc.)
  • Track participation and score interest level based on those interactions.  It takes time and experimentation to find the most promising patterns.

5. Traditional PR is in trouble, and reporting is dead (or at least, in the re-animation ward).

  • If everyone if writing about the latest events, for free, what’s a reporter left to do?
  • PR’s traditional emphasis on providing access to reporters and providing reporters with story no longer provides the value it once did.

Were you there?  Tell us about other great insights from the evening.

Do you agree or are these suggestions off the mark?  Share your B2B Lead Gen experiences via Social Media.

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Social media and B2B lead generation

by Lilia Shirman on October 19, 2009

in Sales 2.0,Sales Tips

Later this week I’ll be moderating Silicon Valley American Marketing Association’s event on Social Media for B2B Lead Generation. The keynote speaker and panel are as well-informed a group on this topic as you’re likely to find: David Meerman Scott,  author of New Rules of Marketing and PR, Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot and author of Inbound Marketing, Mike Linton, former CMO at eBay and before that at Best Buy, and Zack Urlocker from MySQL (now Sun Microsystems).

What would you ask this group about using Social Media to drive a sales pipeline?  Here are some of the questions I’ll have for them:

  1. How do you move from conversation to lead generation within social networking environments, and without angering the people you’ve engaged?
  2. How does a company select the social media hubs that are most important to their business and their audiences?
  3. What constitutes a “qualified lead” in the social media context?
  4. How do you estimate the resources required to create a presence in social mediums?
  5. What can B2B companies learn from BtoC practices?
  6. What’s your advice for the change agents who are advocating greater investment in social media by their companies?
  7. How should resource-strapped start-ups allocate the time and resources for social media?
  8. What are the top three do’s and dont’s for using social media to feed a sales pipeline?

Your turn!  What would you ask?  I’ll post some of the answers to your questions here after the event.

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Start Conversations, Not Messages

by Lilia Shirman on February 13, 2009

in Customer relationships

Everywhere you look, its web 2.0, and even 3.0 with the central theme being interactive communication, user engagement, and the democratization of content.  But are we really interacting, or just blasting messages into the ether? Christopher Carfi’s recent post highlights a gem of a quote –  Leave it to the Amish to distill the essence of the shortcomings of much modern communication.

With so many channels for communication, it seems customers should be more engaged than ever.  Are yours?   If not, or if not enough, take a look at how much time you (and your marketing organization as a whole) spend on outbound marketing and messages, and how much on creating and participating in conversations with customers.

Your customers are participating in social networking and contributing to social media.  MyBlogLog, a site that attempts to consolidate data across multiple communities, lists 55 social media services. LinkedIn, Twitter, Technorati, Digg, Plaxo, a sea of blogging platforms…  And new ones pop up almost daily.

The good news is that there really isn’t hope or reason to maintain ubiquitous presence.  Instead, find out which ones your customers frequent, and design a process for participating in those.

Even better news: You don’t need to jump on every social media and networking tool in order to have conversations. You can make traditional marketing methods more interactive too.  Next time: Some ideas of how to do that.

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