Focus on Business Outcomes not on Social Media

When I speak about the potential that Social Media has to drive direct bottom line business benefits (eg Increased sales, reduced marketing spend, lower customer service costs etc) I hear that’s fine for B2C but it wont help B2B.

This has caused me to rethink my approach to selling Social Media to Business – I now focus on looking at required outcomes and working back to a Policy, Plan, Platforms (Web Presence) and Processes that will support these outcomes.

It is also interesting to hear from Marketing Mangers that business isn’t Social so what has this Social Media got to do with business, as they rush out the door to a Networking event, or to take a client to lunch or to a Conference in an exotic location!!

Rather than talk about building Facebook Brandpages, LinkedIn profiles and establishing communities it is important to focus on what the business needs and then on how to get there with the new tools and tactics available in Social Media.

The latest research from digital marketing agency White Horse highlights this in showing that while Business-to-business (B2B) companies are embracing social media, they are not yet as engaged as their business-to-consumer (B2C) brethren. This largely due to the internal barriers and beliefs that I alluded to earlier  .

While the research indicates that similar numbers of B2B and B2C marketers were not doing any social marketing at all, significant numbers of B2B companies say they had established a social media presence but had done nothing much more.

More than one-third of B2B marketers surveyed said there was little or low senior management interest in social media in their company, compared with only 9% of B2C marketers who said the same. In general whilst taking some steps in the social media space one third of corporate marketers say they need to learn more about social media to justify further investment, while this issue was a major focus for B2B respondents.

Not surprisingly 46% of B2B respondents said social media was perceived as irrelevant to their company, while only 12% of consumer focussed marketers had the same problem. As such it comes as no surprise that B2Bs also reported they still have a much greater preference for traditional marketing tactics.

Perhaps part of the problem for B2Bs in embracing Social Media is an unwillingness or lack of understanding when it comes to measurement.  34% of B2B marketers who said they were not measuring at all, at 34%,while it was just 10% of B2C.

Other studies have shown that B2B marketers are more effective at measurement because they focus on outcomes that matter to their bottom line, such as lead generation.

It is clearly in this area that major opportunities exist for B2B companies by realigning their traditional approach to marketing, sales and service to embrace Social Media. Whether you call it Social CRM, InBound Marketing or Research Based Selling it is clear that there are more effective business development and retention means available to business.

It is certainly well worth reviewing their business model to take a more client focussed approach to developing Interest, Consideration, Trial, Loyalty and Advocacy among their prospects and clients.

Given B2C companies (e.g. JetStar, Ford, Kodak) are now spending 25% – 40% of their marketing dollars on various forms of Social Media and reporting improved bottom line results there must be something in it!!

In my next post I will highlight some of the many B2B success stories.

3 Ways to Get More Leads and Sales with Social Networking and Referral Marketing

In my ongoing quest to find ways to introduce some tangible sales benefits to business by introducing Social Media I have found much be pleased about. This is because Social Media and good Salespeople have much in common.

Most good sales people already practice many of the things that Social Media relies on Listening, Relationship Management and Referrals. They also rely heavily on Word of Mouth to build reputation and business.

While Social Media goes a long way towards eliminating Cold Calling it does not totally replace real personal relationship building.

When I worked in Sales Management for Dun and Bradstreet Software (the then biggest business software company in the world)  the single biggest performance indicators used to assess our salespeople was their performance when dealing face to face with a prospect.

Once a year  a sales trainer from the US or UK would accompany every salesperson on a call and asses the key criteria – ability to build rapport, ability to listen for a problem that our products could solve, ability to position our solution and to negotiate access to the power in the organisation in return making the prospect look good.

Failure to deliver would inevitably result in termination.

Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google, in his commencement address to the graduating class of the University of Pennsylvania in May 2009, urged college graduates to step away from the virtual world and make human connections. “Turn off your computer. You’re actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around us.”

Even though we can’t replace face to face the right Social Media presence and the right approach to Social Networking can make SalesPeople highly effective.

Joanne Black, No More Cold Calling suggests 3 key areas to focus on

1.Develop a social media strategy: Like a sales plan or a marketing plan, write your social media plan. What is your goal? Who is your audience? What do you want to communicate? Leverage social media as part of your go-to-market strategy. How does your strategy link to your customer’s needs and your business priorities?

2.Establish relationships: Take the time to build your personal connections, pick up the phone and talk to people. Just because you have a name in hand, doesn’t mean you have a relationship.

3.Communicate useful information: Social sites are not for selling. They are for establishing connections, identifying ways to collaborate, and providing value. What tips can you provide? Link to other sites you strongly recommend. Get recognized as the expert and build your web presence. Be a resource.

Great advice that can help Salespeople take Social Media’s value well beyond Conversations, Fans, Blogs, PR, Consumer Driven Feedback, etc   to deliver real tangibles to the bottom line ….  cost-effective sales results!!

Retailers join Social Networks to sell… but people join to Socialise

Not surprisingly the latest research proves the importance of the right web presence especially if you want to sell direct online.

A recent (March 2010) study from the e-tailing group and PowerReviews found that half of Internet users research online before buying. Most said doing their own research online saved them time and made them more confident about their purchases.

While retailers’ sites played an important role in the research process, the respondents felt the most important factor influencing their decision was customer reviews. So if the site lacked user-generated reviews nearly half (49%) of respondents would look elsewhere.

But while the customers want user generated review – 71% said so in the survey, the retailers in an earlier e-tailing survey of Web based merchants were showed them heading to Facebook in droves rather than focus on user generated reviews.

They want Fans not feedback.

The “2010 Social Shopping Study” found that only  25% said  Facebook fan pages influenced their purchasing decision.

Maybe Facebook is becoming too cluttered and too Yellow Pages like….  or maybe its just that people don’t join Social Networks to buy. They want to use Social Media and Retailer sites that allow conversations…

Community and Social Media Tools US Online Retailers Employ or Plan to Employ*, Q1 2010 (% of respondents)

80% of retailers surveyed  publish on Twitter, but only 17% of respondents to the “2010 Social Shopping Study” said Twitter had a significant effect on their buying decisions. Overall, that survey found social networking sites were the place shoppers were least likely to do research (6%).

Similarly, sharing tools were the capability rated important by the fewest shoppers (20%), but they were merchants’ top choice in social strategies.

Social Media Strategies Considered Valuable* Among US Online Retailers, 2009 & 2010 (% of respondents)

So clearly while Brands join Social Networks to sell…..  people don’t join to buy.  But they do want to be able to converse with other consumers who have reviewed or used products they are considering.

A retailer needs to look at the total web presence and not just focus on one aspect because everyone does.

They need to be open to listening to the customers and then sharing that listening with their prospects on their site and in places where their consumers go for information … not socialising!!

A Brand Page on Facebook is a must but don’t expect it to result in sales!!

Social Media for Business 101- from Converstion to Contract

Quite often I am involved in discussions and debates about why business will or wont adopt Social Media. Generally these arise because Social media is generally talked about in non hard edge business terms and the focus is on the warm and fuzzy.  People (inc me) talk about numbers and stats, communities ans conversations when business wants to know about customers and sales.

There is an old business adage – Nothing Happens until Someone Sells Something!!

So when I read stories about why business should be using social media I generally draw on my past experience in sales and managing sales to teams to analyse what will turn business on about Social Media.

The first thing that comes to mind is the need for some cultural change and some organisational change for Social Media to thrive in business.  Marketing, PR, Customer Service and Sales need to take down the walls and work as one team to leverage Social Media for real business benefits. Having done that they can focus on getting from conversation to contract.

Recently I sparked a great discussion around this topic on Twitter by asking why would business adopt Social Media if it didn’t deliver direct bottom line benefits ….

My question was –  If businesses join Social Networks to sell ….. but nobody ever joins to buy…. why should business bother.

It was a very useful exercise and unearthed many opinions and in the end I think there was some consensus ti the views I presented. Combining the feedback with our experience in working with a variety of clients … and my direct experience in sales and marketing with companies small and large, local and multinational I have come up with some basics for business:

Tell genuine stories to build awareness & credibility and engage buyers in conversation with a focus on making sales and develop long-term loyalty,that’s what business should reasonably expect from Social Media not warm and fuzzy PR and shout out advertising.

A Social Media Campaign must deliver

Awareness/Perception/Credibility

+ Consideration and genuine interest

+ Willingness to try and buy

+ Loyalty and ongoing alignment

+ Advocacy and “ownership”

Some basic rules

Be What You Say …..  and ….   Say What You Be

Talk about the benefits you bring to people   Not about how good your organisation is

Have others tell your story for you

At the end of the day Social Media is old-fashioned business it’s about building Sales by Listening, Building Credibility, Solving Problems and Word of Mouth Marketing.