Market Smarter

Helping Businesses Market Smarter and Create a Culture of Execution

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Social media has become a force to be reckoned with throughout the world, as can be seen from the latest protests in the Middle East, where thousands of protesters use Facebook and Twitter to organize their protests. It is also a force to be reckoned with in business. While social media may be seen as the purview of marketing and advertising, it offers benefits across an organization including customer service and operations.

Social media has scaled to the point that businesses should establish both a budget and resources to oversee this important function. It should not be thought of as a poor step-child that receives whatever is left over after other marketing dollars are allocated. Remember, if social media is used to drive product development, research, and customer service, as well as add value to other areas of the business, then it would be wise for several departments to contribute budget and resources to social media strategy and execution.

The marketing department will usually drive social media strategy, and marketers should take an active role in guiding others in the organization to learn and contribute. Ongoing learning helps everyone become better marketers and in turn, the company builds a stronger brand. The marketing department can provide education and training, share best practices, provide guidelines for use, and establish systems for closed-loop communication internally and externally, as well as create the systems for reporting and measurement.

Even the CEO should have a role in social media. CEOs of companies that were early adopters to this media have been very successful in shaping and growing their brands. Comments on a blog or Twitter are much more authentic than comments made through a press release. Content generation is another area that needs to be built into the marketing operations plan. It requires planning and development to create a library of content so it is not an afterthought after a program is launched. Who will be responsible for writing content? Will you post original content or will you pull from other sources? What types of media such as video, podcasts, webinars, and photos can be used? Use pre-established branding guidelines to guide development of the content and format.

Sales and marketing departments should use social networking to listen to the voice of the customer, as well as monitor what is being said about competitor’s products and services. It’s a valuable research tool that should be used collaboratively by sales and marketing teams to keep their pulse on the market. Several online tools for monitoring customer feedback such as YackTrack, Yelp, and Get Satisfaction are excellent services to monitor what is being said about your company, as well as competitors.

If your goal is to collect customer feedback dynamically tools like WuFoo, PollDaddy, and TwtPoll are good real-time research tools. SuggestionBox.com is another tool that facilitates the collection of ideas from customers. It encourages customers to rate their favorite ideas (externally on the site) and employees to rate ideas and suggestions internally. Employees can respond to customer ideas privately, and there is a mechanism to notify customers when their idea has been implemented. Download a widget and the service is featured on your company website.

If you have an online store, consider using RatePoint, a service with several customer service and feedback tools. Like some of the other services, customers can post a review, and if the review is negative, you can reach out to the customer to resolve the issue before a comment is made public. RatePoint verifies reviews to make sure they are legit, and in the process verifies contact information that you can use for ongoing customer communication. Communicating with and learning from your customers has never been easier—so no more excuses!

Make it easy for your customers to find you and your company in lots of different places. Place buttons for tools so it’s easy to share content on your Web site, blog, articles, and other areas where you post online content (Digg, Twitter, Delicious, RSS feeds). This will help others share and amplify your content. Include your social network profile link in your email signature and on business cards so people can easily find you.

With such tools available, businesses are now getting on the bandwagon to harness social media. Indeed, according to a study conducted by the American Marketing Association and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, social media spending will increase to 10% within the year, and to 16% by 2016.

As marketers move deeper into becoming owners of customer experience, they will begin to see the important role social media marketing play in customer engagement with brands: It facilitates real-time conversations that build closer customer relationships.

Marketers embrace social media because it can help them accomplish many goals. It can increase their understanding of how customers use and value their brand, monitor customer satisfaction, improve customer experience, and launch marketing programs and campaigns. It also helps in the area of product development. Customers are the best source for innovative new ideas, and social media gives them a channel to share suggestions to improve products and business processes.

All of these benefits explain the real value of social media. It’s not trying to figure out how to “sell more” by leveraging advertising campaigns into social media, or trying to assess ROI using traditional marketing measures. The evolution of social media will no doubt create opportunities for monetization. My point is that the opportunity and benefits social media provide are much more than that. The following “Social Media Principles,” summarize what I believe are the most important.

Listen. Social media is all about listening to what people are saying, hearing what is important to them, and engaging them. Listening tells you what people want to know. If you monitor what is being said, it will tell you if a need is being fulfilled or not. If not, then you have something to write about.

Learn. Social media requires an insatiable appetite for learning. If you read reports from analysts and other sources, you will learn what’s working and where people spend their time. It will also spark new ideas and give you insight and perspective. There are dozens of tools and analytics that will help you measure results and decide where to invest your efforts in the future.

Engage. “Social” means engagement. If your goal is to build a huge following of friends or followers, you have to ask: What’s the objective? What will you get in return? An auto-follow tool that gets you thousands of followers may do little to add value to your business if they never engage with you. On the other hand, another school of thought practiced by many avid Twitter-ers is to live by the law of numbers and get as many followers as possible. Who is to say who’s right? Only time will tell—in the meantime, you decide. Interact, engage, and share your expertise with others.

Transparency. Social media is incredibly transparent. What you do and say is visible to the world. Your actions have a direct reflection on your reputation, your company culture, and the quality of your relationships. Personalization and the quality of transparency is one of the most attractive features of social media. Keep in mind that digital media has a long memory—but if you are authentic and honest, you will be just fine.

Live by the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a principle to live by every day. And in the world of social media, its expected. Take a moment to comment on a blog that someone obviously invested time to research and write if it benefited you in some way. Share valuable information and content with others who would benefit from it. Thank people who open their network to you or make introductions that help you.

Give More Than You Take. Early social media pioneers could have had an attitude of scarcity, but thankfully, they didn’t. Give freely and believe that what goes around comes around. What you give, you get back in spades.

Brand Authenticity. Consistency of brand promise is important across all media platforms. In social media marketing, it is reflected in what you say in forums, the content you develop, the programs you execute, and the relationships you establish with people and businesses. Social media is a rich space to share videos, podcasts, blogs, groups, ebooks, wikis, or other tools to express and share your knowledge, creativity, and humor—whatever your gifts are.

These principles are simple, yes, but they are not always easy to execute. Some require effort and others a great deal of discipline. The early adopters of social media set up a pretty good ecosystem. As we all take a role in its evolution, let’s all do our part to keep it that way.

The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council conducts a yearly survey among its members who lead marketing across a broad variety of industries around the world. The CMO Outlook Report describes the biggest challenges and concerns of senior marketers and other executives in the organization. This report and several others published by the CMO Council (www.cmocouncil.orghttp://www.cmocouncil.org/) are an excellent barometer of the changing business climate and how marketing professionals are shifting budgets and resources to respond.

The report states that top executives continue to demand that marketers grow market share while improving operational efficiency. In response to this request, marketers say they are focused on strategic cost cutting (not budget slashing) by improving operational efficiency, increasing customer experience and insight, and working with sales to drive revenue growth. This response is positive, however it appears there is still a disconnect between what executives want and where marketing chooses to invest time and resources. Marketers are not investing enough in marketing process improvements and operational systems that provide increased collaboration and marketing automation tools. 

With so many evolving media choices, where should businesses invest their marketing budgets? What are the key trends that you need to know about that influence consumers and buyer behavior? These are only some of the questions that need to be answered.

Let’s take a look at several trends and issues that influence decisions of marketing and sales executives, as well as a few highlights that reveal where they are choosing to invest. These figures have been combined with additional industry facts to help you make decisions on a broad number of sales and marketing issues.

Key Trends Driving Marketing

• 60 percent of marketers say they will fund increases in the company’s interactive marketing budget by shifting money away from traditional marketing.

• Search marketing, online display advertising, email marketing, social media, and mobile marketing collectively will grow to nearly $55 billion by 2014.

• CMOs will focus on training and development for their existing staff to sharpen skills in digital media. Sixty-three percent say they will retrain staff versus hiring new talent or outsourcing.

• Salespeople spend approximately 40 percent of their time preparing customer-facing deliverables while leveraging less than 50 percent of the materials created by marketing.

• Marketers say they want to improve operations and analytics; however, only 9 percent of marketers say that they plan to create a deeper relationship with their IT department.

• Customer experience and customer loyalty are critical to business success, yet only 17 percent of marketers oversee customer service and support responsibility.

• Around the world, marketers estimate that 55 percent of their entire marketing expenditures failed to deliver results.

If you would like to participate in the current CMO Council survey, qualifying members can access it on the CMO Council website at www.cmocouncil.org.

The information age we are in is characterized by multiple communications media working parallel with one another. This means that the news broadcast on television may also be read in the newspaper, heard on the radio, and seen on different outlets on the Internet. With more media options to consider, it is essential to  integrate marketing communications using multiple media channels to reach your customers.

Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is the application of multiple integrated communications media to reach customers. Marketing tactics like direct marketing, Internet marketing, social media, telemarketing, and sales promotions are optimized when they are aligned to create a seamless progression of marketing communication and touch points to customers. Consumers don’t think about a brand as a marketing program or campaign. Ongoing, integrated marketing creates consistent branding, positioning, and messaging across all marketing communication and media to produce more impact and recall. But the burning question is, “Where will you reach potential buyers?”

In the past, it was much easier to select marketing channels and predict consumer behavior than it is today. Here are just a few of the issues that make marketing much more difficult than is was in recent years:

•     Consumer trust and confidence in organizations and institutions has declined significantly. Consumers turn to each other—sometimes even complete strangers—for advice and recommendations when making a purchase.

•     Digital experiences and customer engagement are the biggest factors influencing consumer purchases and recommendations to others.

•     The numbers of digital media choices grow and change every day, making it very difficult for marketers to learn while executing. Marketers must respond by retooling skills and ROI measures.

•     Consumers of news and entertainment like the personalization and immediacy of digital media. A whopping 84 percent of consumers now say they rely on the Internet for news or information, 73 percent visit social networking sites on a regular basis, and 76 percent regularly watch video sites like Hulu and YouTube.

This presents a huge challenge to marketers. One of the biggest concerns is making good decisions about where to invest marketing funds. The growing use of digital media is driving marketers to invest in communication tactics that are more targeted and measureable. Advertising must reach consumers where they spend the most time, and it is increasingly away from television, newspapers, and other traditional media channels that were relied on for many years to reach the masses.

 

 

Marketers are not hesitating to invest in social media. Over 73 percent of chief marketing officers say they will increase budgets for social media solutions. Forrester predicts social media will have the steepest growth over any other media channel. Investments will grow at 34 percent CAGR over the next five years and are estimated to reach $3 billion by 2014.

What do businesses hope to gain from social media investments? According to the “Social Media Marketing Industry Report,” the number-one benefit of social media is generating exposure for a business. The top three benefits for social media ranked in priority are 1) increasing exposure for my business (81 percent); 2) increasing traffic/subscribers (61 percent); and 3) building new business partnerships (56 percent).

This was followed closely by an increase in search engine rankings (52 percent) and generating qualified leads (48 percent). The all important question of “Did it help you close business?” was cited as a benefit by 35 percent of respondents.

It’s interesting to note there appears to be a direct relationship between the amount of time spent weekly on social media and the amount of experience a person has with it. Ten percent of experienced marketers average a whopping 20 hours or more per week, and this same group also claims to close more business than light users. If you can’t devote that kind of time to social media, you will be relieved to know that marketers spending six or more hours per week claim “exceptionally positive results.”

It’s also useful to look at what hinders adoption of social media. Company culture influences a company’s social media usage. Most large companies govern communications with a very tight leash, and this extends to social media. Some marketers participate in social media under the radar and others follow protocol which tends to get caught up in corporate governance and legal teams. Risk tolerance and fear are a few of the key issues slowing adoption of social media.

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