A Guide to B2B Social Media Marketing

Ever since Social Media became the most popular medium since the Big Bang (not the TV show, the actual Big Bang) B2B marketers have been struggling to “leverage” this medium. But it is early days yet, and there are no hard-and-fast rules – somewhat similar to the Wild West in the 1800’s. The industry has learned some lessons, however, and they can be applied successfully by B2B marketers, even as we all work together to improve. (Advertising on Social Media sites is a different subject altogether, and relates much more to “traditional” digital media advertising than it does to Social Media. We will focus here on participation in Social Media conversations, rather than banner or text advertisements.)

The very first lesson is the most important:

1. Social Media is all about people connecting with other people, not companies marketing to people. Think of it this way: any social medium (including LinkedIn) is designed to operate as a virtual networking forum, where people can talk to other people in as private or public a manner as they choose. It is not a place for companies to pretend to be people (the US Supreme Court notwithstanding) and insert themselves in these conversations. Everything else flows from this understanding.

2. Social Media is, however, an opportunity to put a human face on the company, and to connect in a more direct (but not necessarily overly personal) way with the people that you already work with, or are trying to reach at the companies with which your company wants to do business. So the information being shared via these channels should be interesting to these people, and relevant enough that they will not only read/watch/listen, but also share with their contacts and network. In the B2B world, this specifically precludes advertising.

3. Social Media marketing is about branding and awareness, not about lead generation or sales. It is most useful as a channel to share interesting information related to customer challenges, problems, or opportunities, but not about your company’s products or solutions. This is an ideal channel to develop thought leadership, and to become known as industry experts. The result may be more website visits, and other potentially measurable direct activity, but not necessarily short-term lead generation. Be patient.

4. Social Media marketing for the B2B channel requires consistent and sustained engagement. Without a regular frequency of communication, and without developing a networked conversation, this medium does not produce any positive marketing benefits for B2B companies. That means that posts should be made on a regular basis (the exact frequency is not as important, depending on the company, the industry and other factors, but whatever the frequency, make sure the channel is used consistently.)

5. Focus on interesting and relevant content. This aspect of Social Media Marketing has proven to be the most challenging for B2B marketers – generating (or finding) a sufficient volume of interesting content that will be useful to their network (and their network’s network.) While some B2B marketers use social media channels to share personal updates, humorous stories, or viral videos, this has not proven to be an effective technique. What information will your contacts find interesting and useful to them, and will leave them with a positive emotional association with you (e.g. appreciation or respect) for having shared it with them?

6. Use the various Social Media channels differently. Facebook is used and understood differently from LinkedIn, and Twitter has a completely different use model as well. Most B2B marketers don’t find Facebook to be effective. If you do choose to use Facebook, when sharing updates on a company Facebook page, make sure that they are framed in context with the kinds of feeds that people expect when using Facebook (perhaps articles focused on personal and professional growth, or interesting statistics about different people’s experiences working in a variety of cities around the country.) When reading their LinkedIn feeds, people are generally more in “worker” mode, so articles or quick facts about trends in their industries, or innovative solutions to industry problems are more relevant and appreciated. Twitter is used much more as a quick scan resource, so anything that has time-sensitive context to it (such as information about an event, or a speaker at an event, or an announcement by a leader in the industry) is most relevant and appreciated. YouTube and Instagram may offer excellent opportunities for sharing interesting visual content, in the right context. Blogs are an opportunity to discuss industry topics in a much more thoughtful and deep manner, and can be a forum to expand on your company’s take on a particular technology, market, or industry trend. People reading blogs appreciate learning about business or technical subjects in more detail than they may find in a short headline or a news article.

7. Find the “Goldilocks Zone” for how much, and how frequently to post to Social Media. Posting too infrequently results in not enough attention being paid to the company’s (or person’s) Social Media presence. Posting too frequently often results in people ignoring (or blocking) the posts. Finding the frequency that is not too few, and not too many, but “just right” for your company and your network, is a matter of trial and error. Pay attention to the stats on how often people share content, or how many views you get whenever you vary frequency, and this will allow you to see what is most effective overall as you have changed over time.

8. Keep it tasteful. There is a line between “professional” and “personal” content, and it is all too easy to move from tasteful posts to making people cringe. In B2B Social Media marketing avoid controversial subjects, such as politics, religion, or other sensitive topics that can cause the viral nature of social media to spiral your brand out of control. No matter your personal values or moral stance on any issue (or that of your company) entering these kinds of debates on Social Media never works for B2B companies.

9. Coordinate your messaging on Social Media with all of your other channels. You have online and offline marketing programs; these all serve as touch points for your B2B brand – your Social Media touch points must offer a consistent brand experience with these other channels. Even though you should not be overtly promoting your products or solutions on Social Media, the way that your network (and their networks) will view you and the company is impacted by the style and content of your Social Media presence.

10. Invite participation and dialogue. Blogs are especially powerful as a means to solicit opinions, experiences, and ideas from people that normally may not be part of the discussion, but are influencers or buyers nonetheless. The success of your B2B marketing strategy can be measured not just in terms of numbers of followers or connections or shares, but also in terms of engagement. The more active your dialogue is, the more diverse the range of opinions, the more interesting the discussion, the better your brand will be viewed. (A good example can be seen here.)

The most effective B2B Social Media marketers:

  • Focus on LinkedIn, Blogs, and Twitter;
  • Dedicate at least 10 hours per week to maintain and update Social Media content and pages;
  • Generate high levels of engagement through thought-leadership and industry-focused content;
  • Stay far away from talking about the company’s products.

What has (or has not) worked for your B2B Social Media marketing?

button (3)

Posted in CEO Corner | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Have We Learned About Mobile Apps So Far?

Everyone agrees that we are in the early days of the “mobile revolution.” To quote Winston Churchill, who, on November 9, 1942, said “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

What have we learned so far?

  1. Mobile Apps are a uniquely effective way to engage employees and customers;
  2. Mobile Apps are not a very effective tool for engaging prospects - getting someone to download an app before they purchase is extremely difficult;
  3. Mobile Apps work well when they create a recurring engagement dialogue – maintaining a communication beyond the initial use;
  4. Mobile Apps work best when they are part of an ecosystem of engagement – that is, “mobile only” is usually not a good strategy;
  5. Mobile Apps take between 4 and 8 months to build, on average;
  6. Mobile Apps cost an average of $250,000 to build;

Let’s look at some of these lessons in a little more detail:

WHO? – Mobile Apps are great for helping to provide useful information to people who are already engaged with the company and products. Customers use these apps to continue to broaden their knowledge of the company’s solutions, and to obtain consistent information about value propositions and even some technical features and functions. Employees use these apps for the same reasons. Apps are generally not effective for lead generation.

WHAT? – Mobile Apps are excellent at providing information about products and solutions that quickly answer questions about which products solve which customer problems, or what a company’s solutions can do to help address a specific customer challenge. They are not the best venue for lengthy, detailed, technical information that requires a great deal of depth or volume of information.

HOW? – Mobile Apps work best when they are entirely interactive, – that is, the user decides how to navigate through the information, what sections to look at, in which order, and to whatever degree of detail is relevant to them. They are most effective when this interactivity combines visual cues (such as images, or animations)together with pithy, succinct text content (short bullet items, or phrases, but not long sentences or paragraphs.) Long videos are not effective inside mobile apps, and neither are pre-sequenced presentations.


WHEN? – Mobile Apps are most effective when they are updated frequently with new information and, sometimes, even new functionality. The level of engagementwith mobile apps increases dramatically if they are kept up to date on a regular basis, and when these updates do NOT require a trip to the App Store – the information in the app can be updated automatically (e.g. via a cloud update) without the user having to re-install an app.

WHERE? – Everywhere – not just on mobile devices. That is the answer to the question of how to get apps to be used by everyone in the target audience demographic. We all know that BYOD is becoming the most common trend in mobile app proliferation, but did you know that many of these applications need to be accessed by people on their laptops too? And, in order to get prospects to use apps, they need to be available online via a web browser, not just as a native app. That way, the prospect doesn’t have to download anything in order to receive the benefits of the information and the interactivity in the app. The apps that are available across platforms (tablets, smartphones, laptops, desktops, browsers, iOS, Android, Kindle) are the ones that have the highest levels of sustained engagement.

The value that an effectively developed, distributed, and maintained app can provide to a company is manifold – helping customers to understand the breadth and depth of a company’s solutions, and their applicability to the customers’ specific problems; helping sales and marketing people to articulate and demonstrate the company’s unique differentiated value; helping employees to understand the unique value that the company delivers in all product areas and vertical markets.

Companies are already realizing unheard of returns-on-investment in these kinds of cross-platform apps, by shortening sales cycles, increasing conversion ratios, and reducing sales and marketing expenses.

And yes, we’ve only just begun….

 

button (2)

 

 

Posted in CEO Corner | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

By the Numbers: A Simple Guide To Analytics

datablog

Big Data. It’s the new thing. Alright, it’s not so new. But it’s the thing. Even “small data” would seem to be useful. So why are most data not used, even if they are collected?

Have you ever heard about how important it is to put measurement systems in place, and then seen how much time and money is spent implementing data analytics systems, only to find later that people are just not using them? The most common reasons include:

  • Too much raw data – people are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data;
  • Lots of useless data, mixed in with some potentially useful data;
  • Lack of clarity on what the data mean, and what to do about it.

Here are some basic definitions that can really help in making data and analytics useful:

  1. Data (which is the plural of datum) – just raw numbers;
  2. Information – data that has been sorted and organized;
  3. Analytics – trends and comparisons that can be drawn from the information;
  4. Insights – actionable conclusions based on an understanding of what the analytics tell us.

There are several reasons we want to use data, information, and analytics. First, we need to know:

  • what happened? Then, we need to understand
  • why did it happen? Then we need to draw conclusions, such as
  • was this good or bad? Finally, we need to know
  • what can and should we do about it?

Because, in this digital age, we can get overwhelmed by data overload so easily, it is better to start small by asking the above questions in very simple terms. Begin by picking a few key variables, then put the following plan in place:

  1. Instrument your environment (put the tools in place to measure the key variables that you want to track);
  2. Collect the data for a period of time (whatever period gives you enough data to make a reasonable series of analyses and decisions);
  3. Format the data into information that normal people can read (you don’t want to require a Ph.D. in statistics in order to make sense of the information);
  4. Analyze the information for that period (create some graphs, look at the trends, see what the basic information yields);
  5. Develop conclusions (try to understand why the trends look that way, or how come the number of users on mobile devices is lower than you expected, etc. – these are the insights that are the ultimate purpose of having the data in the first place);
  6. Develop a plan of action (create a series of steps that you can take to modify what you are doing so that you can achieve the results you want);
  7. Implement these changes, then go back to step 2 and run the experiment again.

Once we have used this process to create a continuous improvement cycle, we can further develop our analytical skills to predict performance in the future. But that is a topic for another day…..

Posted in CEO Corner | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ABCs of content marketing and why it matters to brands

mobile-marketer Byline by Dana Drissel, published by Mobile Marketer.

So many people today have a preconceived idea of what content marketing is, but do any of us really know?

Content marketing is creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent information that attracts and retains customers. It is that simple.The primary focus is to build relationships and equip buyers with the knowledge to make smarter decisions, and is not intended to hard sell them.Customers need to know how products or services can add value to their business and drive profitability, which is where the importance of content marketing comes into play. Once defined properly, people need to understand all other factors associated with content marketing in order to use it appropriately.

Who is using content marketing?
According to the Content Marketing Institute, nine out of 10 business-to-business marketers are using content marketing regardless of their company size or industry, while only 77 percent of business-to-consumer marketers are using it. Eighty-percent of those B2B marketers have a defined content marketing strategy in place, but only 35 percent document it. Sixty percent report that they plan to increase their spending on content marketing over the next 12 months, of which they currently spend about a quarter of their marketing budget.

Where, within the marketing strategy, is it most successful?
Did you know that 77 percent of companies list in-person events as their primary tactic for distributing content marketing? Interactive 3D product storytelling applications on touch screens and mobile devices allow customers to create their own buyers journey within a trade show booth, navigating how products operate together in a variety of real-world scenarios to solve their problems. Marketers can better tell their product or solution story in a branded user environment by incorporating consistent marketing messages within these interactive digital experiences via relevant notes and sales materials.

Based on the Content Marketing Institute’s latest survey, social media still lead the way with 92 percent of individuals surveyed leveraging it as part of their content marketing strategy, while 83 percent use enewsletters and 81 percent use articles on their Web sites. Within that social media statistic, 63 percent of participants rated LinkedIn as the most effective social media platform for publishing content marketing.

Why are marketers investing in new content marketing?
Traditional marketing is becoming less powerful, interesting, accessible and useful to companies and prospects. Traditional static marketing content such as videos, collateral and presentations fails to truly engage the customer and prevents them from being an active participant in the buying cycle. Customers want to choose specific topics and information that pertain to their business challenges and, most importantly, drive that experience.

If customers are reading, comprehending and interacting with the meaningful content created, then it will elevate their experience and provide greater knowledge retention, which translates into increased usage and sales. Creating that emotional connection to a company or product will not only draw in customers, but will also keep them coming back for more. Therefore, interactive content is becoming the primary method of attracting customers because it allows them to navigate through relevant materials and explore as in-depth as they deem necessary.

When should new content marketing be developed?
In a 2014 survey, conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, marketers were presented with a list of 28 content marketing initiatives and asked to indicate which ones they were “working on now” versus “plan to begin working on in 12 months.” Marketers reported that they are working on an average of 13 initiatives now — and are planning to begin working on an average of eight new initiatives this year.

Sixty-nine percent of marketers surveyed said they wanted to “create more engaging content” while 86 percent of businesses said they were also looking for ways to repurpose this content across new platforms such as mobile devices, tablets, Web and touch screens within the next 12 months without recreating or reformatting it in any way.

How will content marketing become more engaging?
The evolution of technology will make content marketing even more engaging because it creates an added layer of interactivity and involvement. One way that marketers are targeting customers and creating this engagement is by using drip-marketing campaigns via marketing automation tools. Drip marketing is a sequence of prefabricated email messages that are sent to contacts based on what their previous actions were, as well as the customer’s needs, interests or preferences. Essentially, they are “choosing their own adventure story” by clicking on the content that will solve their business challenges.

New innovative marketing platforms take interactive product marketing content and make it available cross-platform via mobile devices, tablets, Web, laptops and touch screens. Prospects can now encounter the same information and engaging experiences everywhere, while corporations can save significant time and money by creating content once and deploying it seamlessly without recreating it or reformatting it for multiple platforms.  CONSUMERS CURRENTLY have the ability to interact with photo-realistic 3D products, view integrated marketing messages, engage with collateral, explore product options, and run virtual animations demonstrating product workflow and processes, all on mobile devices.Customers are able to freely explore marketing content applications, which creates a unique personalized user experience allowing them to navigate wherever they please.

Overall, it does not matter what business you are in, content marketing is essential.

Posted in Marketing Guru | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Buyer’s Journey: Marketing & Sales Roles

We have a great deal of research now about how B2B buyers travel through a specific process before they ultimately purchase. As sales and marketing teams adapt to this new world order, what roles should they play at each stage of this journey?

1. Recognize that it’s the a problem-solving journey – “buying” is a means to an end. The first step in solving any problem is admitting that you have one. When sales and marketing teams understand that this is not a “sales cycle” or a “sales process” or a “marketing funnel” then they have shifted their focus to the customer. The customer is only going to buy something if it helps them solve a problem – so think of their journey as a problem-solving process. Focus your time, energy, and resources on helping them solve the problem.

2. Deliver very specific content and services at each stage of the journey. Don’t send the same content or information to the buyers when they are progressing through their journey. At each stage, they need something specifically relevant and targeted to what will help them then and there. The same case study is not necessarily useful when buyers are just figuring out the scope/extent of their need and also when they are doing a vendor selection.

3. Play a different role at each stage of their journey. Marketing and selling in a complex solutions-oriented world requires that the people involved be able and willing to play the role best suited to the customers’ needs. At one point, being an industry expert is very useful (early on) and at another a facilitator of technical answers (later).

Here is a quick reference guide for marketers and sales people in working with prospects at all phases of their journey:

Posted in CEO Corner | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Check Out The New Standard In Medical Marketing At RSNA 2014

RSNA gears up for its 100th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting, where medical imaging professionals go to see the best and latest science, education, and technology.

One exhibitor to take note of is Kaon Interactive, who provides interactive sales and marketing applications to help companies expand their marketing reach, create a consistent interactive customer experience, and accelerate the sales cycle.

Visit us at booth #3677 and learn how Kaon’s solutions are CREATED ONCE and are ACCESSIBLE ANYWHERE, ANYTIME on iPads, laptops, websites, mobile devices, and Kaon’s v-OSK touch screen appliances.

Come by booth #3677 for an exclusive look at the hottest innovations in interactive marketing and receive 25% off your first 3D Product Model!

 

Posted in Sales Tools, Trade Show Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Virtual Racks Provide Endless Hardware Configurations

tmcnet  Byline by Dana Drissel, published by TMCnet.

Marketers of rack-based products have a very difficult task set before them: Differentiating a fragile, intricate piece of equipment, which often looks identical to competitor products and needs to be ‘powered on’ to effectively demonstrate.

Most of the challenges facing the manufacturers of these products are often not immediately visible to the outside eye, but to those tasked with demonstrating and selling rack-based hardware, are all too familiar with these ongoing difficulties:
•    Lack of product inventory
•    Globally disperse multi-lingual sales teams and channel partners
•    Expensive shipping and drayage costs (tradeshows/sales meetings)
•    Difficulty showing multiple rack configurations
•    Hard to communicate product feature/benefit differentiation

Fujitsu (NewsAlert) Network Communications, Inc., has many outbound marketing efforts, including exhibiting in over 80 globally dispersed events per year. For inventory control purposes, products must be ‘rented’ for use from internal departments. These expenses add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. In a 10×10 booth, a single rack weighing approximately 700 pounds was typically brought to the show.

Internal costs for this rack were in the range of $2,000 per show, not including shipping, drayage, handling and space requirements (not to mention the risk of damages), totaling thousands more. For larger events, which might call for eight racks, internal rental costs could easily exceed $18,000 per show.

There is also the dilemma of product prototypes, which are often really too precious to be on display. Yes, the company is using the trade show to stimulate the interest of its prospects, but should they really risk the potential for loss or damage of their only working model while moving it to and from the event?

Even if the product is one of many, and it arrives at its destination intact, it must still be powered and possibly air-conditioned. Electricity costs can be exorbitant; especially when you consider cooling requirements for something like the Fujitsu rack in the example above. Just 220V (possibly five products requiring 24A each) would cost nearly $3,000 to run for only one show.

Those challenges are only the tip of the iceberg, when considering that for most direct and almost ALL indirect sales teams, accessibility to this hardware is very hard to attain due to lack of inventory. Many times only armed with collateral, generic looping videos and perhaps a sales demo kit, they are expected to differentiate the various unique benefits of their products and solutions. Showing various product configurations and network solutions without a visual is no easy feat—and PowerPoints, pictures and product fact sheets fail to truly engage the prospect.

While showcasing these servers, switches, routers and other pieces of hardware may seem like an impossible task, many innovative product marketers are turning to virtual 3D product demonstrations (which look and behave like the actual product) to show and differentiate their products anywhere, at any time. Instead of bringing physical racks to trade shows and events, virtual racks containing interactive 3D product models (which look and behave just like the actual products) allow prospects to ‘look under the hood’ to see what makes each product unique. The virtual racks allow organizations to quickly and easily demonstrate multiple rack-mounted configurations, showing how the various hardware pieces work together as a larger solution.

“It is impossible for me to take a 7- foot server rack that weighs 1000 lbs and put it on its side to show how it works. When we talk about connecting hardware systems to the racks, there is no way to show multiple options and demonstrate how the products could connect and function, unless I get on scaffolding or a ladder. With 3D product models I can launch the demonstration and show how it bolts and connects, and I can do that right on the show floor at a moment’s notice” said Tony Walker, Former VP of Marketing, Legrand Data Communications (News -Alert)

These virtual rack demonstrations not only radically change sales meetings and marketing events, but they provide one of the first interactive, captivating sales enablement tools for channel partners and VARs.

“The vivid graphics and up-to-date virtual 3D product demos have enhanced our ability to train our internal sales teams and engage future prospects in the converged space. It is also financially smarter for us because we no longer have to purchase expensive demo hardware that quickly becomes obsolete” Renae Johnson, National VP of Cisco (News Alert)Solutions at Logicalis stated.

The virtual rack is capable of showing 3D products from different manufacturers, giving resellers and OEMs the ability to customize a solution that incorporates the hardware and most relevant products for a customer’s particular needs. Attaining physical products for all global sales teams has never been logistically and economically feasible, but with interactive 3D products and virtual racks, equipment can now be in the hands of anyone and everyone who needs it.

Additionally, the digital nature of these product demonstrations makes them far more responsive and up-to-date than any other sales and marketing tool. PowerPoints, demo boxes, shells of products, and printed collateral quickly can become outdated, as soon as one product feature, function or design is modified or updated. 3D product models, and the sales crib notes that accompany them, can be updated to reflect all product changes in real time, immediately becoming available to the field to provide the most accurate information.

By enabling companies to better communicate unique product differentiators without physical hardware present, major B2B manufacturers cut costs and increase efficiency while providing a more captivating and memorable customer experience. Virtual racks are forever changing how telecom and networking and IT equipment providers demonstrate their products and solutions, by allowing endless unique configurations at all Sales and Marketing meetings.

Posted in Marketing Guru | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment