Lead generation and social marketing key for marketers, says Forrester

Forrester has published a detailed research report comparing the marketing approaches of over 200 organizations across a wide variety of industries including software, electronics, media, publishing and professional services (e.g. marketing, agencies, business consulting, etc.).

There were five key recommendations from Forrester in the report, which dug into the marketing approaches of organizations with between 50 and 2500 employees. These recommendations were:

  • Take lead generation as seriously as lead management – There was a significant opportunity for marketers to contribute to their business by focusing on “top of the funnel” lead generation activities. In most cases, conversion rates on leads were within expected norms, so focusing on getting more leads into the pipeline could significantly “move the needle” according to Forrester.
  • Get serious about social marketing – The Forrester quote on this one was spot on: “Social is not just an abstract and immeasurable buzz-generating tool. It’s an integral part of the lead-to-revenue management process – an engagement strategy that can have a measurable impact on lead generation.”
  • Get online and start using digital marketing techniques – The chart below shows that SMBs, in particular, keep going back to the well with “what they know” with respect to marketing approaches. Unfortunately, these approaches don’t scale. Digital is critical and organizations that want to survive need to get moving.
  • Use marketing automation to complement your CRM – Get leads, nurture them, ruthlessly qualify the leads and get them to sales. Process leads to success.
  • Don’t reactively cut the marketing budget in a down economy – The companies that outperform their peers continue to invest, and sometimes even double-down, during recessionary times.

One final bit of interest from the report was the set of tactics that organizations in the study were using to acquire new customers, as alluded to in the point above. All of the top tactics being employed by the marketers in this study were inherently not scalable, as they relied heavily on face-to-face channels.

marketing_techniques_customer_acquisition

What’s working in your organization for lead generation and customer acquisition?

You can download the report from the report sponsor Act-on.

Why word of mouth matters

There are many aspects to the marketing mix, with “paid, owned and earned” being the three key pillars as illustrated by Jeremiah Owyang and the team at Altimeter Group. Which of these is the most trusted? Earned media – or word-of-mouth – wins by a wide margin in general and with women in particular. Not only is it the most trusted, but word-of-mouth also can drive measurable ROI.

viral
Photos by 30 Lines

But how does one “create” word-of-mouth by design, rather than by accident? (We’ve all heard the apocryphal stories of the CMO who instructs his team to “make a viral video,” right?) Research by the brothers Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick found that things that were passed along via word-of-mouth had particular traits in common. These traits are:

• Simple: Easy to remember, easy to share
• Unexpected: Something out of the ordinary or surprising
• Concrete: Visual, visceral and tangible
• Credible: From a trusted source
• Emotional: Taps into human emotion
• Stories: Stories, rather than tomes

(You can get a one-pager of this model from the Heath brothers here.)

Why do people share?

The fact that people *do* share is itself an area worthy of conversation. Why bother? With all of the other demands on our time, why bother to post to Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or a blog? Research from the New York Times indicates that the key reasons are:

• To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
• To define ourselves to others
• To grow and nourish our relationships
• Self-fulfilment
• To get the word out about causes and brands

So what about you? Why do you share online, or with friends around the water cooler?

“Better targeting” is not the panacea to customer loyalty

Trending worldwide on Twitter right now: “Two ways to fix customer loyalty programs.”

The lede:

Consumers aren’t as loyal to loyalty programs as they used to be.

Since 2008, the number of consumers who feel that such initiatives don’t offer any real value jumped by 50%,according to a study by Forrester Research. The same study also found that almost one-third of consumers say that loyalty programs don’t influence their purchase — that’s up from 22% in 2008.

Why the dissatisfaction? Let’s call it the Groupon factor. Since 2008, there have been a flood of daily dealmerchants, like Groupon and LivingSocial, that have filled customers inboxes with irrelevant offers. (Groupon itself has recently employed a Pandora-like “thumbs up, thumbs down” rating system to tackle this problem, which is best illustrated by the example of middle-aged men getting offers for bikini waxes.)”

The answers they propose are crap, however. The answer is not “better targeting” of customers. The answer is not “mobile payments.”

The answer is making the customer a full participant in the process. Start here.

The Relationship Funnel

 

In many marketing organizations, the steps in the interaction between an organization and its customers have traditionally followed a predictable sequence, starting with “awareness” and culminating in some form of “action” on the part of the customer. It usually looks something like this:

  • Unaware: The customer does not know of the company and/or its offerings
  • Awareness: The customer has become aware of the company/offering
  • Consideration: The customer is considering the company as a potential solution to one of the customer’s current needs
  • Intent: The customer intends to purchase from the company
  • Action: The customer acts on the intention, and makes a purchase from the company

(Note the “action” might not always be a purchase, per se, but may be some other point-in-time interaction with the company, such as attending an event or downloading a whitepaper.)

There are a wide variety of situations where the model above accurately represents the sequence of events leading up to an individual transaction, from the company’s point of view. While the model above is well-understood and relevant in the transactional world, a social and relationship-driven world requires a complementary way of thinking.

When building a business relationship, the sequence similarly starts with “awareness” (since one can not have a true relationship without being aware of the other party), and progresses until a “strong tie” is built between the two parties. The progression on the relationship side of the world looks something like this:

  • Unaware: The customer does not know of the company
  • Awareness: The customer has become aware of the company
  • Weak tie: The customer and company have developed a basic awareness of each other, and feel mild affinity toward each other
  • Building: Subsequent interactions mutually strengthen the relationship between the two parties
  • Strong tie: Both parties feel a strong affinity, and perhaps even a level of responsibility, toward each other

In building these relationships, we create a base from which activities can be launched. In doing so, we evolve from a campaign-based model to one that is “always on.” Visually, it looks something like the image below.

So, what’s the take-away? The key thing to note is that both types of interactions are needed in order to effectively compete. Campaigns are still needed in many cases, especially around point-in-time activities such as events and product launches. That said, having a strong set of relationship ties with customers can make those same campaigns even more effective, building upon the existing relationships to increase their reach and impact. Relationships become the base upon which campaigns become more effective.

The recent report, From Stretched to Strenghened, states that “the vast majority of [midmarket] CMOs believe there are three key imperatives that will enable them to respond to the marketing challenges in today’s complex world. They must understand and deliver value to empowered customers; create lasting relationships with those customers; and measure marketing’s contribution to the business in relevant, quantifiable terms.”

To this end, there are three things you can do today to begin to create lasting relationships with customers and expand the “base” illustrated above:

  1.  Identify your top twenty individual customers
  2. Connect with them either on a community that your organization has set up, or on public sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter
  3. Read their contributions on a daily basis (it will only take a few minutes) and join in the conversation if appropriate

By taking the three steps above, you will invariably find that you will begin to build that base of relationships that will increase the effectiveness of all of your other customer-facing activities.


Sponsored post disclosure: This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet





Prerequisites For Setting Up A Business-Driven Web 2.0 Effort

Since the beginning of the year, have been asked the following question (in various forms) time and time again: If we want to use this social media "stuff" to connect with customers, how do we get started?

At
this point, it seems that the natural inclination is to jump right in
and start prescribing technology (e.g. "well, let’s set up a WordPress
or TypePad blog and we’re done!" or "Let’s get the Haystack network up
this week!").  While the technology is an enabler, there are still the
basic questions that need to be answered in order to get things off on
the right path, and help to stack the deck in favor of success.  Today,
let’s concentrate on the fundamentals of what an organization needs to
think about before embarking on a social media activity.

Communityprereqscolor

#1) Why

Why do
this?  Why start a blog or a social network or other Web 2.0-oriented
effort?  Sometimes, the answer is simply "In order to connect."  And,
in the case of many, many blogs (and IM, and Plazes, and Twitter,
etc.), that answer is sufficient.  However, as is more often the case,
there are additional reasons to jump in:  better and more timely
feedback from customers, the ability to connect with others working on
similar problems, putting a human face on what had been historically a
sterile organization, creating a framework for communications, or, most
importantly, creating a platform for enabling better/broader/more
timely information exchange. 

The "why" is critical.  (And, as a point of note, "because we
want to explore this and get to understand it" may be the right
answer.  When that’s the case, make sure that expectations are set
accordingly.)


#2) Who

Web
2.0 is about people.  Period.  Who are the people involved?  Who will
be the primary contributors to the effort?  What are their
backgrounds?  Who are they as people?  In addition, who are the other
people who will be interacting with the environment, even if they don’t
initially contribute?  In a blog, the ratio of commenters-to-posters is
large; the ratio of readers-to-commenters is astronomical.  What’s in
it for each of those constituencies?  Does the environment support them
and provide what they need?  What value does each group derive from it?

Similarly, in a social network, there are typically a handful
of "power" users, a slightly larger group of sometimes-contributors,
and a huge group of people who may only be observing.  (Members of this
last group are commonly referred to as "lurkers.)  What’s in it for
them?

#3) Where

Online gathering places are examples of the "third place" as
defined by Oldenberg:  a "place" other than home or work, for
democracy, civil society, and social engagement.  Is what you are
putting together a destination, or a directory that sends people forth
on their journeys?  (Both are relevant.)  What does the place feel
like?  Is it open, or exclusive?  Is it part of a larger site, or a
stand-alone entity?  How will people find it?


#4) When

Is the activity that you are proposing using social media an
ongoing concern, or tied to a particular event?  Note that unless there
is a large, existing group of participants, it will oftentimes take a
few months, perhaps even a year, to achieve "critical mass."

It’s like planting a garden.

#5) How

"How"
is all about the norms of the place.  What’s the tenor of the
interaction?  Is it "strictly business," or relaxed?  Is it moderated,
or free-wheeling?  What will participants do if their contributions are
edited or deleted?  If there is a "topic," will off-topic discussions
be immediately squelched, or will the interactions be free-form, like a
lively dinner party?

Additionally, a key "how" item is thinking about how the
site’s members deal with "trolls" and spammers.  Will the be ignored?
Banned?  Given a warning?  Deleted without comment?  Sent to "time out"
for a period of time?

Much of the "how" derives from the "who."  The types of
individuals who collectively make up the constituency of the place are
the ones who will drive the "how."  Heavy-handed moderation will make
the place constricting, yet too lax a policy will rapidly devolve the
interactions into noise.

Want to see a guide that you can use to start conversations in your organization?  A template you can use, after the jump.

Continue reading

Future Is Here, Unevenly Distributed, Etc.

“It’s all a million miles away from high-powered branding from the top down. You let go of the trappings of high office when you follow this path, and get down to the grassroots, taking the risk of having some ordinary, rambling conversations in the real world, instead of broadcasting brand mantras over mainstream media. There are no comforting stats of impacts-per-thousands spent this way, just the reality of a certain amount of grind. Of course it’s not really a grind if you happen to like talking to people.”

-Johnnie Moore, regarding Hugh (more), regarding the way it is.

Clue Implementation Unit Podcast #1

(click here to listen) (click here to subscribe to this feed)

In this, our
inaugural podcast, we introduce the Clue Unit podcast format which includes
these recurring sections.

  1. Introduction
  2. Announcements — conferences, news, etc.
  3. Focused Topical Discussion
  4. Conference Chatter — Anything goes

        

Today’s Topics:

  • The role and basis of reputation systems in online communities

  • Introduction of Joost (formerly The Venice Project), and what the beta shows about the direction of the technology and social elements of the system.
  • Issues concerning how much an organization should be able manipulate/remix submissions for projects that depend on user-generated content.
  • Continue reading

    More Human Than Human


    the human touch
    Originally uploaded by max_thinks_sees.

    “I am the jigsaw.” – R.Z.

    I have to disagree, relatively strongly, with a number of items in Dave Taylor’s post “When Is A Blog Too Personal?” Dave writes:

    “One of the great ongoing debates in the murky world of blogging is whether your weblog should be personal or professional, whether you should be revealing or private. There are, of course, many different answers and at some level the real answer is “whatever you’re comfortable with”, but I think it’s a topic worth exploration nonetheless.

    Business blogging is a different story because your goal is to convey a certain level of expertise, credibility and, yes, professionalism, and that can be counter to the idea of being too personal.

    One solution is to use the “water cooler rule”. If a topic isn’t something you’d talk about with your supervisor hanging around the water cooler or coffee station at your office, it’s probably not appropriate for your professional blog either.

    That might work pretty well for you, but I don’t think it goes far enough, because I can easily imagine chatting about the latest TV show or sporting event with colleagues and supervisors, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for my business blog.”

    I actually think the “water cooler rule” is a pretty good one. However, Dave continues:

    “I have a friend who is a professional editor and writer who is also in what she calls an “alternative relationship” where she and her husband both date other people. It works for her, but when she blogged about her relationship on her professional blog, I was shocked.

    She said that “I’d rather just ‘out’ myself and if it turns off potential clients, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to work with them anyway.” I just don’t see it that way. When you buy a burger from the local eatery, do you want to know the politics of the owner? When you get your car tuned up at the local garage, do you even care about the religious background of the mechanic?”

    Here is where we disagree, strongly. When choosing a service provider, I absolutely want to know his or her context and worldview, biases and motivations, whenever possible.

    Exhibit A: I will never get a Domino’s pizza, because I disagree strongly with founder Tom Monaghan’s politics.

    Exhibit B: I really like the Magnolia pub, in the Haight in San Francisco. Not only do they have terrific beer, but their menu tells me this about the philosophy of the owners:

    “Magnolia is proud to support sustainable agriculture as well as local farms and businesses in order to serve food that tastes better. We buy as much of our produce as possible from independent, local, organic farms based on seasonal availability. Our meat and poultry is all natural, free range, and raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. We make sure that our seafood choices are abundant and fished or farmed in sustainable ways. In general, we buy as locally and sustainably as possible and encourage you to do the same.”

    So I suppose, yes, I do want to know the politics of the owner of the burger joint. (n.b. That said, there are a whole bunch of waypoints from transactions to community.)

    We’re all jigsaw puzzles of varying interests, history, background and, yes, skills. For some, the Joe Friday, “just the facts” approach may be what they desire from their vendors. On the other hand, many of us spend at least a third (ha, right…more like two-thirds) of our days in our “professional” skins. Do we really want to be denying all of those aspects of “who we are” a majority of our lives? I think not, so Dave, I need to respectfully disagree with your post.

    Some other viewpoints on humanity and business blogging:

    From the archives:
    The Business Blogging Field Guide (HTML, or PDF)

    Emerging Trends In Marketing

    Yesterday I gave a presentation on emerging trends in marketing to a group of over 100 executives in Washington DC. Key topics covered were:

    • The Evolution of Marketing

    • How “Web 2.0″ Is Affecting Business Relationships – The Customer Is In Control
    • Marketing Tactics – Offline, Online
    • Viral Marketing Ethics and Best Practices
    • Social Networking As A Community Marketing Component

    If you’re not able to view the embedded slides above, you can also find the slide deck here.