Two Major Building Blocks for Social Media Success in B2B Demand Generation

January 25, 2012

There’s no doubt that social media is an important part of any B2B marketer’s job. However, we need to be more cognizant about the prerequisites of a great social strategy. Social strategy is NOT defined by the social channels you choose for engaging  your audience. More importantly, it’s about ensuring your content strategy is stellar and aligned with buyer needs.

To build a successful B2B social media strategy, there are two major building blocks that all organizations must adopt:

1.      Think like a publisher

2.      Be a thought leader

In a recent Forrester survey, senior analyst Kim Celestre points to some misalignment between where marketers are spending the most time and money, and where tech buyers are spending the most time.

The chart below provides a great proof point. Many marketers are focusing their attention on high visibility social channels like Facebook and Twitter. Buyers are using other social networks, such as user forums and communities. In an interview with B2B magazine, Celestre shares:

Marketers need to understand customer social behaviors. We found that 86% of business technology buyers use social media during work. Business technology buyers are very social in how they interact with peers and go to online sources to get information. So knowing that and diving deeper to get an understanding of customer preferences will help the technology marketer start getting really strategic.

Chris Koch, Associate Vice President of Research and Thought Leadership for ITSMA (IT Services Marketing Association) summarizes the requirements for successful organizations:

For social media to get anywhere in B2B, companies must undergo a culture change in which they become as good at creating ideas as they are at creating products and services and at servicing customers.

In his latest blog post, Seven Prerequisites for Social Media Success—That Have Nothing to Do with Social Media Koch provides some compelling qualitative and quantitative data that supports the role of these two building blocks. Of his seven prerequisites, three in particular resonated with me:

1.      Social media participants contribute very little to conversations. Research from the Online Community Research Network shows that fewer than 10% of people in online communities ever say anything. And fewer than 2% take a leadership role in starting conversations. Therefore, if you want compelling and relevant content – it’s critical to have a content leader or practice who can think like a publisher and develop a strong editorial calendar.

 2.      ITSMA research shows that 66% of buyers seek information themselves rather than waiting to hear from providers. They seek that information through search. 79% of C-level executives do at least three searches per day. They are more likely to encounter your content through search than through the social media channels themselves. Again, this points back to the importance of content being well-targeted and relevant—and therefore easily found when doing a search.

3.      The business case doesn’t exist for social media, but it does for thought leadership. When [ITSMA] asked buyers last year how important good ideas are to the buying decision, 58% of executive-level buyers (people buying more than $500,000 worth of IT services) said that they are important or critical for making it onto the short list of providers. Buyers were then asked: If a provider brings you a good idea, would you be more likely to buy from them? 30% said yes. And, of that 30%, 54% said they’d consider sole sourcing the project. Social media are great for developing those ideas and for making them available to many more people. But first you have to have an engine for creating the ideas.

The bottom line: Organizations (and B2B marketers) need to focus on content, thought leadership and engaging B2B tech buyers in channels where they go to consume information. Marketing can help by understanding the buyers and the  thought leadership topics relevant to those buyers. Additionally, they can drive the editorial calendar and help orchestrate content development to delivery upon content requirements.

Market well!

Related links:

Roadmap to Buyer-Centric Marketing in B2B

Seven Prerequisites for Social Media Success—That Have Nothing to Do with Social Media

2011 Social Technographics® For Business Technology Buyers


Should B2B Marketers Embrace Gamification?

July 20, 2011

gamification

Score! How and why to gamify your B2B demand generation strategy (it’s not just because everybody’s doing it).

As a B2B marketer, you’ve likely heard the term “gamification” more than once in the past several months.

Or, if you attended SXSW in March 2011, you probably heard it 5,000 times. And gamification is making the big-business news, too: Recently, on the Forbes AdVoice blog, Tim Clark@SAP mused, “It was Ben Franklin who once said ‘in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.’ If Ben were alive today, I wonder if he’d modify his now-legendary quote to include gamification.”

So what is gamification, and how does it apply to B2B marketing?

Gamification Defined:

Forrester’s defines gamification as: The insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior. 

Now, how does it relate to our B2B world?

“Gamification describes the broad trend of employing game mechanics to non-game environments such as innovation, marketing, training, employee performance, health and social change,” said Brian Burke, an analyst at Gartner. “Enterprise architects, CIOs and IT planners must be aware of, and lead, the business trend of gamification, educate their business counterparts and collaborate in the evaluation of opportunities within the organization.”

Does Gamification Make Sense for B2B Marketers?

Absolutely! Interactive and B2B marketers can use game mechanics to motivate action and drive engagement with prospects, customers, channel partners, sales… just about any audience, really. The key to making it more than just a fun attention-getter is, as always, to clarify the actions and metrics you expect to result from gameplay.

The essential game dynamic works like this:

  • It begins with motivation—the incentives that will trigger people’s interest in playing the game.
  • The motivations drive actions that are fulfilled by rewards.
  • The rewards give players a sense of achievement that reinforce the initial motivations.
  • Repeat!

If at this point you’re thinking, “B2B marketers have been integrating gamification into marketing programs for years,” I agree—this is not our first rodeo! The best developer contests and games put on by companies like IBM, Oracle, Intel and Cisco feature all of the most powerful game mechanics like challenge, peer recognition, social status, reward and community.

However, there’s been some new smart thinking (and plenty of buzz) about how to best apply game theory to marketing. One of the most cogent gamification analyses comes from Seth Priebatsch, a thought-leader and Chief Ninja at gaming platform start-up SCVNGR. His SxSW 2011 keynote on how “the game layer” is building influence (and driving action) among audiences is worth your time to watch:

How Do I Start Thinking About Gamification for B2B Marketing?

As with any B2B marketing activity, you need to put the buyer and their business needs at the forefront of your mind. R “Ray” Wang, Principal Analyst and CEO of Constellation Research, offers plenty of useful perspective and direction in “Trends: 5 Engagement Factors For Gamification And The Enterprise.” Start with his simple tips on how businesses can apply game mechanics and dynamics to improve engagement and participation:

  1. Intrigue. Content and story line often represent the consumer tech side. The enterprise needs to develop relevant content to keep users engage.  Content could include help topics, related information, user generated comments, etc.
  2. Reward. Both non-monetary and monetary incentives can be deployed. Rewards should match level of difficulty so users gain a sense of accomplishment.  Non-monetary rewards could include exclusive information, access, or recognition.
  3. Status. Leaderboards codify status in gamification. Leader boards reward status and provide a recognition mechanism as well as a way to tier users.  A robust analytics platform must align with the objectives of gamification and support reward systems.
  4. Community. Social is a key part of gamification. Users want to connect, share, and reach out to other “players”.  Expect integration back to mobile and social platforms.
  5. Challenge. Users must earn a sense of accomplishment to remain engaged. Gamification in the enterprise should tie back to the achievement of levels with increasing difficulty. Challenges will tie back to reward and intrigue over time.

Now, time to work on your game plan!

Related Links

R “Ray” Wang, Principal Analyst and CEO of Constellation Research

Trends: 5 Engagement Factors For Gamification And The Enterprise

Death, Taxes and Video Games by Tim Clarke@SAP

 


5 Steps to Building a Rock-Solid Content Roadmap for B2B Demand Generation

May 12, 2011

Approaching Petra

Here are 5 critical steps that should be taken to ensure content is at the heart of your demand generation efforts.

1. Assign Ownership.

Assigning accountability within an organization for content strategy and development PLUS the budgets to support these items is a critical first step. I’ve seen the role/title of Content Strategist emerging over the past few years, and we’ve had one within our organization for 5+ years.

Ideally, this person needs to be senior and have a seat at the planning table (and again…budget). Along with that comes the need to provide measurement around content alignment to buyer and content usage, effectiveness and efficacy.

2. Define Audience Segments.

Define audience segments with two primary criteria: WHO and HOW.

  • Who: individual, industry, region, company type/size and key behavioral findings
  • How: what is their typical buying process, and what is their role/needs at each stage in this buyer’s journey

3. Identify Information Needs and Preferences

Once you know the “who” and “how,” ask these questions at each stage in the buyer’s journey:

  • What questions does that buyer need answered at each step in the journey? This may range from “why should I change” at the early stages to “why should I trust your company” at the later stages.
  • What sources should be considered: peer information, vendor information, analyst insights, trade publications, etc.?
  • What delivery formats are best suited for conveying this information and connecting with this audience based on the objectives (e.g. whitepapers, peer referrals, case studies, etc.)?

4. Audit and Map Content.

Review and map each available content asset based on:

  • Quality
  • Relevance
  • Value
  • Influence

A piece of this audit/mapping process should also include an evaluation of which content should be gated or not.

5. Fill Content Gaps.

Gaps will be easy to see following the audit and mapping processes. Start by focusing on meeting the information needs of one audience segment in a pilot fashion (that is, don’t try to bite off too much).

Keep in mind that you will likely be able to adapt content from elsewhere in your arsenal—for instance, you might transform a webcast into a series of blog topics or 5 tip sheets.

If you’d like to discuss content strategy and planning in further detail, please feel free to connect with me directly: laureng@bnj.com.

Related links:

The Buyer’s Journey Diagram for B2B Demand Generation (and More)

Overcoming the #1 Challenge in B2B Demand Generation Content Marketing

Four Criteria for Gating Content to Aid Demand Generation


Three Hairy B2B Demand Generation Topics (and More) On Tap at SiriusDecisions 2011

May 4, 2011

Here are three of the SiriusDecisions 2011 Summit sessions I believe will deliver the most inspiring and actionable insights. 

SiriusDecisions 2011 Summit — “B-to-B Sales and Marketing: Forging a New Alliance” — begins later today. I highly recommend following the summit conversation on Twitter #sds11.

This annual summit is one of the highlights for B2B demand generation strategists, practitioners and aficionados, because it always raises and explores meaty topics about the present and future of our business. 

I always enjoy mapping my real-world experiences with their insights….and more often than not, the two have a lot in common.

The three topics/sessions I’m most looking forward to (given their controversy in our industry) include:

1. B2B Marketing Technology: Blessing, Curse or a Bit of Both?

Every day this question comes up with my B2B marketing partners—many whom are cursing the technology that was positioned as the magic bullet. While the marketing automation tools out there today are very robust, and can offer true closed-loop visibility to marketing ROI and enable true relationship marketing, they are not turnkey.

SiriusDecisions will be revealing the real story on who’s buying, what’s being purchased and the results of these purchases. Two of the key questions that will be addressed are:

  • What are the most common challenges when deploying new marketing technology
  • What benefits have B2B organizations realized from their technology implementations

My experience is that best-in-breed tools require best-in-breed strategy and process. I’m certain this will be a key conclusion from SiriusDecisons as well.

2. Building a Sound Sales Enablement Strategy

Moving prospects from “inquiry” to “sales-qualified” is simply not enough for the revenue-driven marketing organization. As marketers, we must embrace our role in enabling productivity within sales—and provide useful and effective tools to support sales’ ability to close new customers and retain/upsell current customers.

SiriusDecisions will provide their point of view on what organizations need to impact sales productivity and effectiveness, and I’m eager to hear it. From my current point of view, it requires:

  • Content aligned to buyer needs at the later stages in the sales cycle
  • Measurement of efficacy: How are leads converting from sales qualified to close?
  • Collaboration, maintaining an open dialogue with marketing about what’s working in the field and what needs modification

3. Tales from the Social Media Front

Social media as a part of the demand generation “mix” is no longer an experimental channel—it’s mainstream with savvy B2B marketers. I always enjoy seeing best practices in action (which this session will highlight) and the success experienced by the marketers who are able to strategize and execute effectively.

One of the controversial topics that will be explored is “What organizations structures facilitate—and impede—social media success?” I presume that those organizations who have struggled with their social structures and processes will either get their game together quickly, or will rapidly lose relevance with their prospects and customers.

Not incidentally, a great social media strategist (and colleague), Eric Wittlake, will be speaking on the panel at this session.

Watch this space for my review of the summit…

Scottsdale Sunrise

Wish you were here? Scottsdale, Arizona, site of the summit.

PS: See two more can’t-miss conferences now.


4 Must-Dos to Shift from Outbound to Inbound B2B Demand Generation

April 29, 2011

four trees

“According to SiriusDecisions, inbound marketing will drive more than 70% of all leads generated by 2015.”

Note from Lauren: Eric Wittlake from Digital B2B Marketing gives us his media insider point of view as my guest blogger this week.

Underlying the shift to inbound marketing is a changing environment and audience mindset, not only a changing media landscape. Today, we are inundated with advertising, email and sales calls that distract us from our real work or play. We are living in a real time world with real-time demands. We don’t have time for unwanted distraction and we cannot afford delay.

For you as a marketer, this isn’t a shift in channels, it is an insight into your audience. Your response should not be to focus on inbound channels. Instead, focus your attention on serving your audience – an audience that is starved for time and inundated with messages – across all inbound and outbound channels. To outbound marketers and advertisers, this requires some new approaches to traditional marketing activities.

Here are four changes in approach that can be applied to outbound marketing.

  • Highlight great content. Inbound is about your information being discovered. Use outbound marketing to highlight content worth discovering.
  • Provide early stage information. With few exceptions, most people reached through outbound marketing are early stage. You need to loosen the status quo, not jump straight to sealing the deal.
  • Make it sharable. Social is a key inbound marketing channel, and content that is locked up behind registration is far less likely to be shared. Always include content, freely accessible, that is worth sharing—and make it easy to share.
  • Listen. If your content is being shared or linked to, say thanks, post a comment, or otherwise engage. This is an opportunity to start a conversation and improve your inbound marketing results going forward.

We are increasingly immune to or even distrustful of marketing. It is time to stop making your outbound marketing look like, well, marketing. Start applying an inbound mindset and use outbound marketing to deliver valuable information to a larger audience and amplifying your inbound marketing activity.

About the Author

Eric Wittlake is the Sr. Media Director at Babcock & Jenkins where he works with B2B clients on media and integrated marketing programs. You can connect with Eric on Twitter at @wittlake or on his Digital B2B Marketing blog.


Jay Baer Interview, Part 3: The Realistic Social Media Cost and Commitment for B2B Demand Generation

April 22, 2011


Jay Baer Interview, Part 3 from LaurenOnDemand on Vimeo.

Jay Baer sums up the true cost of social media—and the commitment it takes to get results.

In the last part of our interview, Jay Baer spelled out the true cost (and worth) of social media for B2B companies. The short story is: nothing is really “free” and results take time—but it’s worth it.

Watch Part Three of our interview now or skim the highlights below.

LOD: All of this social media we’ve talked about…it’s fast and easy right? [Laughs.] What’s the best advice we can give to our B2B clients to help them embark on social media with a realistic context?

JB: It’s not inexpensive; it’s just different expensive. You’re trading production dollars or media dollars for labor dollars.

Social take a long time. You’re winning hearts and minds one at a time. It takes a long time for the benefits to show themselves. You don’t just do social media for a quarter or a year; you’re going to be doing some form of social forever.

LOD: It’s persistent, it’s not a campaign.

JB: There’s no expiration date on social media.

LOD: Any final tips for B2B marketers?

JB: At its core, social media is more important for B2B than it is for B2C. You have fewer customers, so the opinions of each of them are magnified in their importance.

Also, B2B is typically highly researched, so the opinions of existing customers matter a lot; and the B2B purchase cycles are influenced at a very high level by search. And search and social are like the Lone Ranger and Tonto!

Many thanks to Jay for his time and his insights!

Related Links:

The Now Revolution

Convince & Convert—Jay Baer’s blog

Jay Baer Interview, Part One: Three Social Media Must-Do’s for B2B Demand Generation

Jay Baer Interview, Part Two: “Let’s Video the Making of a White Paper” for B2B Demand Generation


Jay Baer Interview, Part 2: “Let’s Video the Making of a White Paper” for B2B Demand Generation

April 22, 2011


Jay Baer Interview, Part 2 from LaurenOnDemand on Vimeo.

Jay Baer explains how to succeed with content marketing in B2B—and who’s doing it right.

In the second part of our interview about how to succeed with social media in B2B, noted author and blogger Jay Baer had plenty to say about best practices for B2B content marketing. Perhaps the most surprising opinion I heard from him is that nobody’s doing everything right—yet.

Watch Part Two of our interview now or skim the highlights below.

LOD: What is the best way to get the most out of your content?

JB: I think understanding to what end you’re creating the content is the first thing. For whom are you making that content? And most importantly, what do you want them to do after that content is consumed? Mapping content to questions in the buyer’s cycle and to desired calls to action is essential, otherwise it just becomes this cops and robbers/Three Stooges routine.

LOD: We’ve definitely gotten a lot of requests like “We need 5 videos and 2 whitepapers.” Great, but what are we trying to do? How do we move people through that buyer’s journey?

JB: Let’s make a video of how you make a white paper. Right? Synergy.

LOD: Who’s doing a good job in B2B? Who should we look to for best practices?

JB: You know, I wouldn’t say there’s anybody who is the B2B case study, but there are a lot of places that are do it kind of well, right?

IBM does the culture side really well and the content creation; they have 100,000 internal bloggers at IBM. Social is a part of everybody’s job there. It’s really a mature approach.

HubSpot, the inbound marketing software guys, are just MASTERS of content creation and content optimization. Every day is a webinar, every day is a blog post, every day is a eBook, I mean it’s just mind-boggling the amount of content they create every day…and their lead generation is insane as a result.

And then you’ve got companies that are doing really well with the community side of it: ExactTarget with their 360 community, SAP’s community network…people are actually activating customers instead of just collecting them. That’s obviously a smart way to go to get your customers to not only interact with the company, but with one another.


Coming up in Part Three:
“What’s the best advice we can give to our B2B clients to help them embark on social media with a realistic context?

The Now Revolution

Convince & Convert—Jay Baer’s blog

Jay Baer Interview, Part One: Three Social Media Must-Do’s for B2B Demand Generation


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