Digital Marketing: What is at stake for B2B companies?

A friend of mine is working in the marketing department of a medium sized B2B industrial company. The latter has just over 300 employees and operates on a large network of distributors throughout the world. The business is quite flourishing. But things can change. In fact, things are changing very fast today. My friend believes he should board on the digital marketing wave, to increase his company’s visibility on the web: in other words, he wants to develop a strategic presence on social networks. The problem is that he is not really familiar with all the digital concepts. So, he turned to me and asked me for advice.

This lead to a long reflection with him about what digital marketing really is and especially what the benefits can be for him and his business. It is important to understand digital before rushing into it prematurely. Finally, I quickly described to him the different steps that are essential to the success of his “digital marketing” project.

Digital Marketing and B2B: the two make a pair!

Digital marketing is first a matter of trend. To be competitive and innovative it is necessary to stay in the race, and therefore follow the flow.

B2B marketing budgets are shifting to digital and social. Overall, B2B marketing budgets are expected to increase, on average, by about 5% in the coming year. But spending on digital marketing programs is projected to rise three times as fast, and over the next five years, the share of budget dollars dedicated to social media marketing will more than double.”

But digital marketing goes well beyond a simple trend. It has real advantages in B2B.

Digital Marketing advantages

What are the advantages of digital marketing in B2B

Multi-channel: By using multiple channels, digital marketing offers many opportunities (complementary to traditional marketing) and allows users / companies to act at all levels of the purchasing process

Cost-efficiency: Digital marketing is less costly than “traditional” marketing; indeed …Even stalwart traditional marketers know that they cannot compete the Internet’s potential to reach thousands with just a single post”. Printing and shipment costs are not taken into account in digital, this is the advantage of CPC (you pay only when click). Read more

B2B sales: The downfall

In this article, we discuss how different sectors such as banking and accounting were affected by the growth of digital transformation. We emphasise  the impact digital transformation has on sales. The B2B sale sector was considered to some extent protected from the transformation wave. But it somehow appears to be hit by this phenomenon too, in a big way. Actually, there are two sides to this story that are debatable. 

B2B sales impacted by digital transformation and Big Data

On the one hand, B2B sales is said to be resilient, since it is based on one-to-one contact and individual salesmanship. 10 years ago, famous author and researcher Bernard Cova told me that a B2B brand appears to be less important than a B2C brand. He believed then that the contact with the salesperson at the time of the purchase was a definite advantage, as opposed to B2C. What he meant by that is that it doesn’t matter if your brand changes or even disappears, as long as there’s someone to explain it to customers. In a way, what Bernard said is true. In fact, a small consulting firm like ours, is able to gain the trust of big accounts. It’s simply true because of our capabilities to explain and deliver services to clients in earnest, based on our expertise.

Ironically, buyers dislike salespeople, but they love to buy from them

Nevertheless, all that Bernard Cova told me 10 years ago is no longer entirely true anymore today. B2B sales is changing completely, in all types of markets (lower-end, mid-tier and high-end markets). Ironically, buyers dislike salespeople, but they love to buy from them.

B2B sale
B2B sales caught in a downward spiral

Read more

Intuit: the social media manager who found his job with social media

Intuit is a company offering business financial solutions for small businesses. It has been awarded great distinctions including the great place to work award by Fortune. This presentation was delivered by Björn Ühss, global social media manager at Intuit at the useful social media conference which took place in London last week. It was about the changing landscape and mindset of Social Media:

image

[Björn Ühss, in the background, behind Amber Hayward, became Social Media manager after targetting his future employer via LinkedIn adds]

“One of the things that changed is that social media reached the C-suite and it’s more and more of a priority. At Intuit it is coming from the CEO, it’s a business decision” Björn Ühss said. “It’s not a marketing decision and it concerns everyone in the company” he added.

According to Ühss, Edelman ranked Intuit quite high in the hierarchy of companies using social media too. “Starbucks has issued numbers whereby 38% of their fans are more likely to visit the stores when they have seen a branded message” Björn Ühss went on. “Social Media has now reached considerable scales. Besides, Facebook has now become a giant and is on a buying spree like former high tech giants were a few years ago”.

The presenters stressed that the recent IBM CEO 2012 study predicted that in five years’ time, CEOs will be hired not only on their credentials but on their ability to manage their e-reputation and that of their company.

Björn Ühss gave us his check-list on how he got social media implemented at Intuit:

  1. How social is your CEO? lead by example
  2. is your culture ready?
  3. who are your social media supporters?
  4. where are your customers?
  5. what data can you use?

Intuit has also managed to make social media work for sales with £99 sale add campaigns (“despite what people say” both presenters emphasised).

But the most interesting thing maybe is that Björn Ühss himself found his job with the help of social media. He posted adds targeting Intuit executives until they thought to themselves “we’ve got to hire that guy” Intuit’s Amber Hayward, social media marketing manager concluded.

SAP: convincing the CFO that B2B social media can be a benefit

$-largeLast week I had the chance to bump into Sarah Goodall from SAP; I was very pleased to see her at the usefulsocialmedia conference in London one year after being acquainted with her at a marketing conference in London. Sarah is one of our best social media practitioners in the B2B world and I was lucky enough to sneak out of the B2C session and switch rooms to listen to her. Her presentation was about how to convince your CFO about the benefit of social media. Not an easy task, but Sarah knows how to circumvent the issue; here is how:

Sarah Goodall looks after social media for EMEA and she presented on June 26th at the usefulsocialmedia conference in London. “How can social media generate value? I haven’t got all the answers!” Sarah said as an introduction, but she has a few clues which she wanted to share with us.

sarahgoodall

Sarah has worked for small and large companies and knows “how to make things work on a tight budget”. SAP sells software and services to businesses; it is forty years old and it comes from “a traditional marketing background” Sarah said, and moving into social business “is a true cultural shift”. Hence, social media “came as a shock” to SAP according to her and “it helped [them] turnaround the sales cycle” Sarah went on. What it means is that there has been more emphasis on posting content on where customers are getting it rather than push that content over to them. Therefore, the transition is to inbound Marketing “even though we are not there yet” Sarah said, very honestly. “Outbound still represents twice the budget which is spent on inbound marketing” she added.

How to attribute social influence to revenue?

At the very heart of the business, there is the owned SAP community, using Jive internally and an external community with customers. On top of that, there are channels which aren’t owned by SAP such as LinkedIn, Slideshare, Facebook, Twitter etc. The SAP community network is fairly known outside of SAP, and is 3 million big nowadays. “A lot of bloggers are contributing in this community, most of them aren’t part of SAP by the way” Sarah added.

On external platforms, SAP have enough fans to fill in football stadiums several times “but this is still not sufficient for CFOs!” she said. Hard facts are required, more arguments needed. So what will it take to drive the point home? “What the CFO is interested in is the impact on customer value, and the bottom line and it’s tough, I’m not going to lie” Sarah said.

secret sauce

So here are a few of Sarah’s secret recipes for getting CFOs to buy in to social media:

  • Potential cost of R&D saved: if you use the comments and the voting and offset that against the money saved on R&D, this is tremendous. There is also a cost of loyalty and there are savings which can be made.
  • Social commerce: this is a little more tricky because “the SAP sales process doesn’t quite work like that” Sarah said. SAP tried to embed links in LinkedIn and experimented on how Facebook posts can lead to a registration. “It’s not enough to generate revenue” she said “it’s not an exact science but it’s enough to uncover value”. There are also chance engagements, they don’t happen very often, but when a potential customer has been turned into a customer later then it is a great achievement.
  • Social intelligence: “this is a little bit more woolly” Sarah said but you can try and get insights from social media, and it can be shown that click-through-rates can be influenced through social media.
  • Social insight: social media is also useful in order to measure brand health. SAP is monitoring what users are saying about  SAP and their competitors. “There aren’t any numbers but it is useful” Sarah said.
  • Sapphirenow: this is the biggest business conference which is organised by SAP. In Orlando, 15% of twitter handles of delegates were identified, and 25% followed the @sapphirenow Twitter handle. “This is still early stage Sarah said but it is very useful to tie to something related to business and prove it’s useful” Sarah said.
  • Social efficiency: social media saves a lot of money on support and reduces significantly the amount of inbound calls SAP is getting for support. SAP mentors are SAP’s brand advocates and “this is media which can’t be paid for” meaning that it is invaluable. SAP also launched a #suithugger hashtag which brought amazing results.

the right metrics

As a conclusion, Sarah said that “you would have to “communicate the right metrics to the right audience. Don’t show clicks and followers to CEOs! Show how social media is impacting productivity. You can’t really talk of the ‘ROI of Facebook’” Sarah warned.

Pearls of wisdom … does anyone have anything to add to this? I don’t.

10 Major Trends In Corporate Social Media Management (2/2)

http://oran.ge/10smtrends

This is part 2 of a two-part piece dedicated to the major trends in coroporate social media management, which will serve as a basis for my presentation in Bucharest at the ronewmedia digital conference due to take place on May 16th, 2012. I will use my 5 years of practice in that field at Orange and dwell on some of the major trends impacting Social Media and its management in large corporations. My presentation will highlight these trends which will be illustrated with real life examples taken from the field.

[photo Yann Gourvennec, cc 2012 http://bit.ly/picasayann]

Trend number 6: clients want direct interaction to take place on social media 

We have been debating about social CRM for quite a while now. It has always been my view that there was no such thing as social CRM but that it had to be a means for customer relationship to add one more channel to its current toolbox. However, this is more than just an additional channel. It is a channel which forces customer relationship management departments to better handle customer requests and complaints. On social media, it is no longer possible to hide direct interaction. It is immediately visible to all. At the same time, a survey carried out by orange business services in France has shown that the requirement for customers to interact with real people is of paramount importance to these customers. I see this as a real opportunity to make “social CRM” really useful insofar as it is happening in real time and cannot be hidden or postponed and therefore thi fulfils the requirement expressed  by customers.

Trend number 7: enterprise social networks are certainly the future, but we are not there yet

The future of social media isn’t where you believe it is. The internal part of enterprise collaboration (aka enterprise social networks) is probably the line of business on which the biggest numbers will be made at least according to Gartner. There is no doubt that you will hear far less noise about the new version of SharePoint or Lotus Notes or blueKiwi than the recent takeover of instagram by Facebook (see trend number 10). However, we’re still a long way from implementing social networks inside organisations in a seamless manner. Such implementations are fraught with social issues (often, it’s employees who actually feel reluctant to use internal social networks rather than management, and the latter are sometimes unable to explain that internal social networks are here to help them and not spy on them) as well as many implementation issues. It is far from being accessory. For people like me in charge of external social networks and websites, the use of the internal social network is of paramount importance if one wants to find help and support internally. Things are moving forward but a lot remains to be done  and things are far from being perfect. As often, technology isn’t the major issue.

Trend number 8: turning one’s employees – not just community managers – into brand advocates

Working with external bloggers is nice, having community managers who have become experts in the facilitation of social media communities is not bad either, training one’s communications managers on the use of second generation web collaboration techniques and platforms is also nice (and Orange is doing this and I am actually the sponsor of this initiative), but we cannot think that we have achieved our goals until we have managed to convince most of our staff to become – if they so wish – our brand advocates. In our case, it is particularly challenging given the fact that we are 170,000 employees around the world, scattered around more than 35 countries, and 220 countries and territories if we include Orange Business Services. This is why I believe in this initiative that we are launching at this moment, which we are naming “social media champions”, the details of which are explained on our social media guidelines page online: http://orange.com/smg

Trend number 9: social media strategists will have to / must deal with the proliferation of social media platforms, due to peer pressure and self-fulfilling prophecies initiated online and/or by the Press   

This isn’t as easy as it seems. Everyday or so, a new platform is born, which creates a huge buzz on the web and puts considerable pressure on web teams within large organisations. Can we, or can we not, ignore Pinterest for instance? Depending on our line of business, positioning, or even just the number of resources that are available to us, the response to that question may vary; yet there is a strong probability that you will not be able to evade the question, for fear of being taken for a twit or a has-been, or even because of internal pressure too. Yet, with the hardening of the current crisis, we would probably have to learn how to say no… human resources and time cannot be expanded without limits even though our “champions” (see trend number eight) can help.

Trend number 10: the new bubble is coming, the signs are worrying

During the first dot com bust, between the year 1999 and 2001, there was no shortage of pundits who would tell you, a calculator in their hands, that the so-called “new economy” was real and that the gross market cap over evaluations of the period were justified. The fact of the matter is that they were right insofar as there was really something new happening for which many of the benefits are only reaped nowadays. However, there were wrong in the evaluation of certain companies, and they had even lost common sense in more than many cases. We now know what happened next. To a large extent, this is also what we are witnessing today. There is no question as to the amazing success of Facebook, even to a certain extent as a platform for advertising. I am still flabbergasted however to see the Facebook – or any of the other platforms – is not trying to make money out of the numerous brands which are now thriving on their platforms whereas in fact it would make perfect sense for an enterprise to pay for the service as it offers considerable publicity for them and helps maintain the service. A premium version of Twitter for instance, which would offer multilingual support, would be something I’d be ready to pay for because we need it. Yet, the battle has shifted to the stock market, IPOs and new Web entrepreneurs who make no money but are ready to “flip it” as  they say in the Valley. People never learn. The valuation of Facebook itself at anything between $90-$100 billion seems over the top. Even the fact that the company (even before it launched on the NASDAQ) has been able to take over Instagram (and God knows I love Instagram) for $1 billion even though it is only made of less than 10 people and hasn’t started to generate a penny worth of revenue is a worrying sign that something wrong is happening … again; naysayers would probably say that a bubble his buying another bubble … Sensible Web managers have to look after this kind of things and prepare for the future, that is to say protect themselves from current excesses as well as future excesses in any direction. Despite what people think, Web assets are developed in the long run, not with platforms which come and go; stability is of the essence.