Is Marketing Automation A New Marketing ElDorado?

$-smallJudging by the numbers delivered in this Salesforce Slideshare presentation, I would tend to say “yes”. Judging by the response I’m getting from my clients, I’d say “definitely yes”. There is this realisation by companies that nurturing visitors, leads and clients can lead to something.

Marketing Automation adoption on the rise

As a matter of fact, I would call that plain marketing, not marketing automation. It seems that marketing has strayed too much in the past 20 years and that we are discovering, at last, that delivering the right message at the right time to the right people is more effective than drowning them in useless information they don’t want to read.

This, in actual fact, is what we witnessed on this side of the channel when we looked at the results we were getting from marketing automation: while email opening rates fell sharply to less than 6%, we were able to make them take off back to previous levels (at 18%, i.e. 6 times more) with the proper use of profiling and behavioural targeting.

Who needed proof of that? Now, I can believe that marketing automation adoption will be on the rise in the next 3 years.

Hitachi: making social media work for B2B

Sharon Crost is Global Online Marketing and Social Media Manager at Hitachi Data Systems and she delivered what I believe is one of the most inspiring presentations on March 27 at Blogwell in San Francisco and it’s no surprise to me ( who already made a presentation at an earlier edition of Blogwell in Atlanta a couple of years ago) that B2B is one of the major targets for social media. Here is why, in 5 questions, asked by Sharon to the riveted Blogwell audience.

HDS products (left) are not sexy” was Sharon’s introduction to her pitch at Blogwell. It doesn’t seem very intuitive that social media could work out for products like that. Yet, it proved very rewarding for the storage and data recovery company. In just five questions, Sharon proved her case very compellingly. Here is my account of her punchy presentation.

Question 1: is social media a good investment?

Although many of the people in the room anticipated the answer to that question to be a “yes”, Sharon explained that they “were not so sure at first sight because it’ wasn’t an obvious thing”. So they “needed to test it out” she went on. Being a B2B company, they didn’t have much of a presence at first and even with a very small budget, which was used very effectively they managed to get some very good results.

They started with a test of a quiz campaign in which they tried to get people to engage on social media. The prize was a Hitachi LCD HD TV set. This campaign drew people to their social site to answer the quiz. Another campaign was the “globe campaign” and you had to spin the globe and click on the tweets, the whitepapers etc. A third one was entitled “a quest for scalability”…

Sharon concluded that first chapter by saying that “the first lesson is to think about what is socially sharable about your brand and this may not necessarily be your products!”.

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

Q2: if people aren’t in the target market, should you discourage them?

Her answer was neither yes or no this time. “In fact you have to be nice to everyone (you never know), but you have to treat them nicely but differently”. For people in our targets we let them win a “storage assessment” she added; those who won TV sets were kept happy but they weren’t forcibly part of HDS’ audience.

The current campaign is a storage mapping tool. People can still engage to win an iPad “but they aren’t the target audience” Sharon added. Target customers or prospective customers are also given a chance to opt-in for free information.

Q3: can you do that on a shoestring?

Sharon’s answer is a resounding Yes! (and all voted for that answer in the room). Earned is the most important part, but “paid” comes to amplify the message.

Q4 which one works best? Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook?

The answer to that question is very counter-intuitive and it must be pointed out that it might very well work differently depending on the brand or mostly, where it’s based. The very footprint of Facebook in the US is making it unavoidable. And therefore, HDS found out that it was indeed Facebook which worked best for “with a small amount of money [they] could see the ROI for each channels and Facebook proved the more rewarding” je concluded.

Q5: what is the most obvious benefit for B2B?

There isn’t one answer to that question Sharon said, and she listed a number of benefits including

  • cheaper marketing
  • community of influencers
  • re-engage participants
  • better conversion results

The results for Hitachi Data Systems were tremendous and way above the initial goals. For whitepapers only, 9,000 of them were read said Sharon, a tremendous result when you think that most B2B companies will pay – not always wisely –  big money for doing this.

5 recommendations

Sharing issued her recommendations to B2B users:

  1. test, go out there and find out what social engagement means to you;
  2. segment your audience (target and non target audience). All you have to do is give them the option and let them choose what role they want to play ;
  3. you don’t need a large budget but be sure to amplify the impact of your campaigns;
  4. performance metrics are important (think Dashboard);
  5. social interactions must be nurtured, have fun and play games.

Q&A

is there an internal program at Hitachi Data Systems ?
There is an internal social media ambassador network. HDS wants to show its people they are encouraged to retweet, share the information and be twitter/Facebook champions. and they can also win an iPad. Sister Hitachi companies provide the freebies.

Japan
It’s not easy because they don’t have the same culture in Japan (it’s “closed versus open kimono” she said). They don’t want to respond to any tweets. A big struggle took place but they were able to show them the purpose and they eventually were retweeted but “you had to show them first that you respected their culture” Sharon concluded.

metrics
Hitachi Data Systems have a major social media dashboard which they publish twice a year and they use it to show stakeholders what major benefits and issues are at hand and how many clicks are generated for instance (like 9,000 on whitepapers and how much you’d have to pay for such clicks)

Trey Pennington About Web Intelligence and Social Media Monitoring

Here is a link to a video of our friend Trey Pennington whom I interviewed a few weeks ago regarding the importance of social media monitoring and web intelligence. Trey also delivers first hand information on the status of the International market for such services, in the US and the UK:

Trey Pennington is not your average Web expert, he is one of the most connected persons in the World (11th most connected person on Facebook) and that certainly made him aware of what Web influence means and how to use it. Trey is – apart from being a renowned social media consultant – working on behalf of Synthesio, a French independent software vendor specialised in sentiment analysis and web intelligence, in order to help them develop their business in the US and the UK.

Read on, on the Orange Business Services LIVE blog

Don’t be prejudiced: b2b is the future of social media!

Time and time again, I have heard people say that b2c is better suited to social media than b2b. As a matter of fact, I am not at all sure about that. The fact that there are fewer b2b brands jumping on the bandwagon is probably more due to the maturity of that sector than the fact that the medium is not adapted to b2b.

Indeed, if one wants social media to have an impact, one needs to foster collaboration and create communities, which is generally done through 3 main things: passion, mutual help and common benefit. These 3 common ingredients of collaboration and social media are in fact very commonplace in the b2b arena; communities are often smaller, more specialised, but also very focused on their abilities to deliver and

illustration & maps by Mongabay.com

always ready to debate on technical points, points of view etc.

Besides, business to business is far less exposed than consumer marketing. In the recent Nestlé example, in which the Swiss firm has not quite been able to appraise the situation and deliver appropriate responses, online fighting with Greenpeace and other activists on social network is an unfair battle for b2c brands. The leeway that brands have in such cases to defend themselves is not very significant – and the case made by Greenpeace is a bit overwhelming too (see maps on the right hand side, courtesy of mongabay.com). Indeed, Nestlé uses Palm oil, which is both an issue from an ecological and dietary point of view, granted; but all mass producers of foodstuffs use palm oil because it’s cheaper and plentiful (now we know why). When activists target a company like this one, the result can be terrible, even though I am not at all certain that Facebook will have the best of Nestlé, the effect on brand equity is still very bad at the very least. At the end of the day, the Swiss manufacturer has yielded to pressure, but instead of turning this into a customer benefit, it’s more a matter of acknowledging their “mistake” and trying to catch up with the criticisms.

As far as b2b is concerned, there is less resentment, clients are more prone to negotiate than complain online, and they also know that when complaints are voiced too crudely online, it’s not always good for your own – and your company’s – reputation either. Besides, in b2b it is also easier for clients to make their points directly to sales and/or marketing. I have heard example in the United States of software vendors (I cannot quote brands) having problems with former employees who avenged themselves by becoming trolls (that is to say online detractors on forums ands social media), but in general the b2b environment is more straight-laced and more likely to trigger responsible discussions.

One may argue that you might get fewer comments on b2b social media and blogs in particular (at Orange Business Services we got 1,500 in 2009 only, so it’s not too bad in fact) but when we get some they are a lot better and more interesting than most of the comments that you get in b2c. Most of the time, they are passionate discussions about in-depth subjects, including complex points of views and explanations. How complex can you get on a consumer product? Usually, it doesn’t get very far or it gets round in circle. In b2b, co-creation and co-innovation is already old-hat, so why not use the Internet to pursue the discussion online?

Such discussions and comments enable one to improve one’s products (it happened to us 4 times in 2009), and it can even help us improve our knowledge when an Internet reader remarks on one of our articles, corrects our mistakes and helps us improve our points of view and visions. A little counter intuitively, I would even venture to say that b2b is the future of social media, because it is b2b brands which can actually most benefit from the use of these tools. We established the proof of this with our @orangebusiness twitter account by placing our brand in the top 10 French brands on Twitter, right behind worldwide renowned brands like Louis Vuitton or Yves Saint Laurent (source:  [Fr]01 informatique, May 2010) and even above Air France. Yet, being popular on the web with a brand like Air France is a lot easier when you think about it, the competition should even be unfair. No, it is unfair; but such is the passion triggered by what we did collectively that we are on the verge of building what is the nirvana of social marketing: a community (Air France already has one, it was created by one of their fans but it’s hard to admit that you have to relinquish the responsibility for your brand even though this is the right thing to do when a community already exists).

http://twitter.com/orangebusiness is the 6th French brand on Twitter (source: 01 informatique May 2010, April numbers)

Lastly, it is difficult for a b2b firm to do traditional advertising and namely TV commercials. Often, budgets are tight and TV commercials require vast amounts of money while delivering sometimes variable results. Into the bargain, most b2b players are reluctant to spread the word about niche products on popular TVs networks. Social media, on the contrary, proves an efficient and economical way to market b2b products: in other words, Nestlé less needs Facebook than we need Twitter (mark my word, I didn’t write does not need Facebook).

B2b is really well suited to social media even though this is not what you will find on the headlines because its subjects are more technical and — if taken at face value — less pertinent for consumers. But at the end of the day, this is also what keeps trolls at bay!

And this is also why a lot of b2b marketing budgets are dormant due to the lack of new ideas whereas so much can be done.

note : the illustrations and pictures are from Microsoft clipart gallery

(overcoming the) barriers to successful enterprise social media implementation

Futurity media‘s Stewart Baines has posted a few interesting questions on his blog. My answers are long-winded, but I think there are rightfully so. This is a difficult subject, and writing short yet sensible answers would be a challenge (anyway, I’m renowned for not writing short answers so I might as well admit it point blank); hence my posting them on this blog and not in the comment section of his post, for readability’s sake.

note on transparency: Futirity media is a company that I do business with

Response to Stewart Baines on how to overcome barriers to successful enterprise social media implementation

Dear Stewart,  thanks for posting this. In essence, it shows that you do understand the collaborative economy and your question — in itself — proves most of your other points wrong without having to go any further. Yet, I will add my 2 cents to all your points:

1. Can enterprises truly engage in social media without becoming “antisocial” organisations (argues Benjamin Ellis). Is this true? Is the profit motive inconsistent with sharing (which is intangible)?

This, in my mind, is a red herring. The motive for entrepreneurship — very seldom — is only profit. First and foremost, profit is a given (if you don’t do any, you are bound to go under), but it’s not the sole motivation for entrepreneurship; apperances can be deceptive. Examples abound: startup owners who relinquish a better pay or even don’t get any pay at all for several years (I have seen many not get any salary for up to 3 years). Cooperatives and mutuals (even though there has been a tendency to demutualise in Britain since 1996), not to mention socially motivated entrepreneurs like Godin in northern France in the late 19th century (many other examples exist, even today) or the Max Havelaar people and other fairtrade evangelists, as well as environmentally-driven entrepreneurs, and so on and so forth. I am not saying these people don’t want to make money. What I am arguing is the fact that their motivation isn’t money or profit or becoming grossly affluent, it’s more subtle than that. Secondly, a gift-based economy is the fuel for building communities, but not every company should go for community marketing. If what you do for a living is selling £10 oil-cloths on street markets, I am not sure your business should start a blog or a community website. In fact, I’m pretty certain it shouldn’t. Thirdly, giving away doesn’t mean that you have to give everything away. Fourthly, disclosure means openness. After all, we are marketeers and we have to be honest about it. Changing the way we do marketing (i.e. moving into neo-marketing) doesn’t mean we become philanthropists (or maybe, like the ragged-trousered philanthropists, our education means that we are part of that system anyway and cannot get away from it). Let’s be open about it. This is permission marketing, yet this is marketing. After all, people also need to buy things don’t they?

2. Should enterprise social media stay under the radar (with small projects) until you have an ROI and then roll-out extensively?

Social media projects are often started as grassroots projects and those are the best ones. ROI is another red herring. Do you mean that all projects that get implemented have an ROI?! Then what about corporate e-mail? Do you think this is a productivity tool? I don’t. Yet, this is a necessary evil, and yet few table the issue – barring a few exceptions – and mention we should get rid of corporate e-mail. Yet, I believe that social media has an ROI and I keep demonstrating it. But we are building the models as we go along. This is called innovation Stewart. When things get invented and you ask yourself the question “what could I do with this?” vs. “why would I need to do that?”

3. How do you identify social media champions in an organisation, how do you motivate them (without financial rewards)?

As far as I am concerned, mostly from the outside in. Social media champions are bound to be found in LinkedIn, Yammer, and their own blogs, and not the Corporate Intranet. As to rewards; I tried to set up an internal competition once and my idea was to thank and reward our bloggers for their contributions. It ended up in a feud, with some of the lesser contributors being disgruntled and our most frequent contributors criticising the prizes they got. Instead I decided not to replicate this experiment and give up the idea of rewarding bloggers other than thanking them for their contributions publicly and publicising their efforts across the company.

4. How do you get those with the most knowledge to share their knowledge when they are increasingly working to time sheets with minimum no. of billable hours? Surely those with “knowledge capital” are disinclined to convert this into “social capital”

What’s the point in becoming a leader of opinion? (real, not self-proclaimed) Champions who understand the things at stake don’t even ask the question for very long. Those who do ask the question over and over again never get to do anything. After a while though, it’s a good thing that social media work be recognised within the official remit of knowledge workers. After all, consultants are required to publish aren’t they? Why shouldn’t they publish on their company blog for the benefit of their clients as opposed to publishing on an obscure professional review read by peers who grant each other brownie points too easily. Clients and ecosystems are umpteen times more important than that!

5. If you can’t demonstrate ROI, will participating in social media ever be written into a job description?

I am not certain that there will be such a thing as Heads/VPs of Social Media within 5 years from now. It might make more sense to instill digital in all the other departments (press and public relations, advertising, etc). I understand that we have a long way to go however. I also suspect that social media trailblazers are merely showing the way forward, and once everyone has been evangelised and trained, they will move on to another job. After all, they are innovators, so they will focus on other things, one social media has moved into the mainstream. Please refer to that Buzz report article by Paul Dunay on the subject.

I believe things will evolve into 2 possible directions: firstly, either social media moves into the press and public relations, as is already the case with most US companies at the moment, which are part of SMBC. Secondly, social media could stay with the Web team, as is the case with us at Orange Business Services, as long as the team works cross organisationally in order to instill 360° spirit into all other marcoms initiatives (events, press relations, public relations, business intelligence, CRM, advertising etc). And I take it for certain that before 2015, the old-style corporate website will attract less than 20% of visits and that other sources (blogs, forums, community platforms, websites, web TV, web radio etc.) will gather over 80% of visits and 100% of conversations. To come back to your question, I don’t think there will be a VP of social media. But I may be wrong.

6. What happens to social networks in the enterprise, when you remove the champions (e.g. they move jobs) – do the networks collapse? (I’ve seen some evidence to suggest this does happen with immature networks.)

My whole job is to ascertain that this Social Media initiative does not end up being that of a few prominent players, let alone mine. It has to be part of a company process or otherwise it’ll disappear.

7. How do you measure the value of enterprise social media in terms of marketing/PR terms, particulalry in B2B space? My point is that traditional B2B marketing was all about segmentation based on job title, location etc. Social media is so scattergun, and your audience typically doesn’t fit the segmented target audience (i.e you can hire an agency like Futurity to be your social media mouthpiece but what are you getting back for that, in terms of increased sales, or raised profile in your target audience.

This will be the primary focus of people like me in 2010. Tools exist, but dashboards will need to be built: Klout.com will give you an idea about how influential you are on twitter, blogs and company websites generate comments and discussions, Webleads tracker will let you identify your leadership and your most valuable content sections (even in real time), and even let you do lead generation (to an extent) by letting you know who is interested in what. Lead generation is something I do a lot of. But, as I use social media to attract people and generate interest, social media is only the spark in that process. Actual lead generation actually happens elsewhere, through resources like knowledge centres and newsletters. What social media does is turn yourself into an affiliate without having to spend £150 on each e-mail captured on a 3rd party website, but you won’t capture them on the social media platforms, you can’t do that. As a conclusion, there is a link between lead generation and social media, but I wouldn’t use social media as the primary source for lead generation. This is a subtle difference, but an important one at that because social media was not invented for companies to do business. Permission marketing is of the essence, even more so than on a traditional web platforms. Most marketeers are still struggling with that.

As a conclusion I would also say that I will be keynoting at Likeminds next week. We’ll have another chance to debate that subject in Exeter.