good will creation, integrated marketing, lead generation, sales, SEO, social media

A 10-Year Look-back: Observations on Social Media Use by Businesses

Social media is no longer a new and innovative marketing tactic. So, I thought it might benefit my readers to look back at the 10+ years this tactic has been used by organizations and share what I’ve observed and learned.

Roughly 10 years ago, as a contractor, who eventually assumed permanent marketing manager and director roles at a large New England health plan, I was a big champion of social media. At that time, social media use by organizations for business purposes vs. by individuals for social purposes was starting to gain momentum, but there were still a good number of business organizations who had yet to launch a social media presence. I worked diligently to educate senior leadership in the marketing and communications department where I worked, as well as across the entire organization, about why we needed to dip our toes in the social media pool. I’m sure my reasons at the time for pushing my employer to establish a social media presence on one or several social media platforms included several, if not all, of the following:

  • by not having a social media presence, our organization looked dated and irrelevant
  • our competitors were taking advantage of this new marketing tool known as “social media” and we were missing out on the opportunities they were having to connect and communicate with our mutual target audiences: 1) direct users of our services aka members (individuals who qualified for state-funded healthcare coverage programs); 2) healthcare providers who served our members, and 3) nonprofit organizations serving our members who could refer them to us
  • other than employee time to create and share posts, social media was “free” and could help us make the most of our marketing budget
  • through the sharing of thought-provoking and informational posts, my employer could establish itself as a subject matter expert
  • we could drive traffic to our website via posts that contained links to various website content
  • we could create goodwill with other organizations by sharing their posts
  • we could speak to our members and prospective members via one of their preferred vehicles of communications; therefore, not only could we market ourselves using social media, we could keep our members informed

I eventually got buy-in to launch a social media presence for my employer and how we used the platforms and which platforms we used evolved during my time at the health plan. And, five years post my departure, I’m sure the health plan’s use of social media to promote itself, create goodwill, and communicate with its members, providers and the community continues to evolve.

Based on my approximately 10 years’ experience overseeing the social media presence of corporate employers, clients, and my own organization, Results Communications and Research, here’s what I’ve learned about social media use by businesses to create awareness and generate leads and sales. I call out these last two objectives, because ultimately those are the biggest desired end results of organizations who develop and implement a social media strategy.

  • Organizations should never put all of their marketing & communications $$ and efforts into their social media basket. Regardless of an organization’s nature and the nature of the products and services offered, some members of one or all of an organization’s target audiences may not be active on social media; therefore, you need to leave some $$ and time to reach those individuals who aren’t fans or users of social media via another form of communication that may be preferred by them, such as e-mail marketing, search engine advertising, or print advertising.
  • Even if it’s limited, organizations should maintain a social media presence to establish and maintain relevancy. Organizations don’t want potential clients or existing customers to make the assumption you won’t be up-to-speed on other issues because you’re viewed as “behind-the-times” by not having a social media presence.
  • More is not always more. Sure there’s a large # of social media networks/platforms out there: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and others. That doesn’t mean your organization should have a presence on all of them. It’s hard to maintain a strong, effective presence on one or several platforms if you dilute your social media energies too much across too large a range of social media networks.
  • Each platform has distinct audiences, benefits and limitations. Here’s our observations on the platforms we’ve used most to promote our own organization as well as others’:
    • LinkedIn – because it was built for business and professional networking purposes, each & every organization should have a profile page on LinkedIn; a lot of really great conversations happen on LinkedIn via post comments and LinkedIn’s messaging capability
    • Twitter — as with LinkedIn, this is where we see business conversations happening most, regardless of the nature of an organization, but particularly when it comes to business-to-business conversations and services
    • Facebook and Instagram – based on our experience, business Facebook and Instagram profiles work best for organizations offering business-to-consumer services or products vs. business-to-business services or products. A restaurant or hair salon may benefit from having a business Facebook or Instagram page, but a business offering services to another business, like insurance, likely won’t benefit as much. And, if you’re not an organization who wants to or can regularly take and post new photos, you shouldn’t bother with an Instagram account since Instagram is all about serving up a steady stream of interesting photos
    • Pinterest – consumer goods companies, such as food or other retailers will benefit from having a presence here, but there don’t seem to be any applications for organizations offering services. As with Instagram, if you’re going to maintain an effective presence on Pinterest, you need to be able to constantly take and post new photos or graphic images
    • YouTube – organizations need to think of YouTube as a search engine — since the YouTube search tool receives the second largest search volume after Google. Regardless of its nature, any organization should benefit from establishing a channel and sharing videos here
    • Google My Business – while some may not view this as a social media network/platform, I believe each and every organization should have such a profile, keep it current and regularly post to it, the way you would any other social media platform. This will greatly improve your SEO — where you fall in search engine results listings for search terms relevant to your products and services
  • In isolation, social media profiles and posts don’t often directly lead to sales or generate leads. In general, social media strategy and tactics need to be supported by other marketing tactics as part of a much larger, integrated marketing plan. We highlighted this in red to really call out the danger associated with believing that a social media presence will directly promote sales and leads, or suffice as a stand-alone marketing activity to create awareness of your organization and its products and services. In rare instances, social media posts may generate sales and leads, but those are the exceptions. For example, these types of social media behavior may generate a lead or a sale
    • Posts that promote sales or special offers for whatever consumer goods are currently most popular or the “it” thing
    • Posts that promote upcoming events, such as concerts by popular performers
    • Commenting on another organization’s or professional’s post, particularly on LinkedIn or Twitter
  • Organizations should use Google Analytics to determine where to put their social media $$ and energies. I always suggest giving equal attention — in the form of posting your own content and sharing, liking and commenting on others’ — to two or three social media platforms that make sense for your organization (for several months), based on what I shared about about the platforms’ benefits and limitations. Then, use Google Analytics to determine which of these social media platforms are referring the most traffic to your site. That will help inform where you’ll likely want to put most of your social media energies going forward.
  • Businesses shouldn’t “go dark” on certain social media platforms without acknowledging it or explaining why. Whenever I’m preparing for a meeting with a prospective client, I check out all their digital/online marketing activities, including their social media presence. I’m always surprised by the number of organizations that have social media icons on their websites that link to profiles on social media platforms that they don’t maintain, e.g., haven’t posted to in the last 3 to 6 months or longer. If you don’t have the capacity to maintain an effective social media presence on a particular platform, i.e., can’t post at least weekly to the platform, consider the following:
    • removing the social media icon link to the platform, in question, until you can give the social media network the attention it deserves
    •  posting to the “neglected” social media platform that you won’t be posting to the platform in the foreseeable future, but that you hope your followers will join you on x,y,z platform instead and include a link to your presence(s) there (assumes you are more effectively maintaining a presence on one or several other platforms)
  • If you’re going to put time & energy into social media, be sure to capitalize on it. Be sure to put social media icons on each page of your website that link to the various social media platforms on which you have a presence. Also, place such icon links in e-mail signatures, and e-newletters. I’ve seen so many organizations neglect to do the aforementioned, and therefore, miss out the opportunity to build stronger bonds and share additional information with customers and prospective clients.

To summarize our observations, in general, social media shouldn’t be used in isolation by organizations to generate leads and sales. It should be one tactic that is part of a much bigger integrated marketing plan. Organizations should maintain a social media presence to be seen as relevant and to create goodwill with customers, prospective customers, and organizations who might be good business referral sources, but it isn’t necessary to have a presence on each and every social media platform. If you’re going to have a presence on a certain form of social media, be sure to post, comment, like, share, etc. regularly, and don’t just “go dark.” Use Google Analytics data to determine which forms of social media drive the most traffic to your website and focus your energies there, and make sure your website and e-communications share links to and promote your social media presence.

Need help creating or evaluating your social media strategy? Contact us to learn about our social media “audit” and strategy development and “voice” services.

 

 

 

lead generation, sales, Uncategorized, website

Two Tools To Identify What Businesses Are Visiting Your Website

If your organization is offering business-to-business (B2B) services, you’d be thrilled to know what businesses are visiting your website, even though you likely believe that there’s no way of obtaining such data. But, particularly if you are an organization that serves larger businesses — think ones with 100+ employees — there’s ways to get at that data, and we think you’ll likely benefit from using both of the two distinct tools discussed in this blog post. And, the great news is that your organization is likely already using one of these tools on a regular basis!

GOOGLE ANALYTICS:

It’s a digital marketing best practice and no-brainer to have your website linked to a Google Analytics account. That way, you can take advantage of all the rich website visitor demographics and behavior data tracked there, including data related to which businesses are visiting your website. If you don’t have a Google Analytics account set up, you can set one up for free and it only takes about 15 minutes (if you need help, e-mail us).

So where do you go to access business visitor data? Once you’ve signed into your Google Analytics account, access “Audience” from the left-hand menu bar, then “Overview”, and then scroll down the Overview page to the “System” section, and click on the “Service Provider” link. This will call up a list such as the one below Google Analytics generated for our own website.

ISP listing from Google Analytics.png

The service providers referenced are also known as ISPs or “Internet Service Providers.” Wikipedia does a great job of explaining the roles of ISPs and who can operate one: “An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet. Internet service providers may be organized in various forms, such as commercial, community-ownednon-profit, or otherwise privately owned.”

When organizations are large enough, such as colleges or universities, they often create their own ISP to meet their internet needs — so voila, searching through your full report of ISPs for the names of businesses that aren’t your standard ISPs (AT & T, Comcast, Verizon, local electric companies, etc.) providing internet services to consumers or smaller businesses — might give you a bunch of new leads to add to your sales pipeline.

If you check this Service Provider/ISP list regularly, you’ll be discovering on a timely basis which large organizations have been visiting your site, and can reach out to them while they are still a “warm” or “hot” lead, and therefore, likely still in research and procurement mode for the particular services you offer.

LEAD FORENSICS:  

Similar tools to Lead Forensics may exist, but since we’ve held phone and e-mail discussions with Lead Forensics, and believe their tool and customer service to be good, we will speak to their capabilities related to tracking which businesses visit your website. Their solution allows you to add tracking code to your website that ultimately will allow you to learn the names of business organizations associated with individual device IP addresses that visit your website. In keeping with GRPR data privacy guidelines, no business organizations should be attempting to capture and share the full IP address of an individual/individual’s device who visits their website, but the code that Lead Forensics will provide you with, when you sign up for their services, does not track or reveal a distinct individual’s IP address. Instead, it provides the name of the business and the office location associated with that IP address.

In sum, by using a tool like Lead Forensics, you’ll have access to a new source of business leads — organizations who have demonstrated at least some level of interest in your services. You can follow up with them in whatever fashion feels most comfortable — whether it be calling that business organization’s office and saying that someone at their organization had expressed interest in learning more about your services, or saying that you are able to track what business organizations visit your website and you saw that someone from their organization had visited your site. Hopefully, whomever you phone chat or e-chat with at a particular prospective client organization will be willing to connect you with the right individual with whom you should discuss your services.

Let us know how we can help you take advantage of the two lead-generating tools discussed above. We can’t wait to hear if and how you used them to grow both your sales pipeline and actual sales.

 

Making Connections, Making Connections and Introductions, marketing consultant, online advertising, Passion, sales

The Perks of Networking

While I’ve done contract marketing and market research work in the past — during times when I was looking for a permanent position in my field — it’s been about six months now that I’ve devoted my energies full-time to making consulting work my permanent employment.

Trying to get a consulting practice started is not for the weak of heart, particularly a marketing consulting practice.  Part of the reason for this is many organizations I approach about the expertise I can offer already have a marketing agency or consultant in place.  If they are an organization that’s been around for any length of time, marketing is essential to their well-being and it’s likely they’ve already solicited outside help to optimize marketing efforts. In fact, many have long-term contracts in place with marketing agencies that can’t be easily severed.  And, I’m also finding the newer, start-up businesses are difficult to identify and many use family members or friends to help them out on a pro bono or low-rate basis while in start-up mode.

Bottom line of all the above is that, in order for me, or any business offering consulting or other services to make a successful go at it, we have to be skilled at networking. It’s imperative that we use our connections or the connections of our connections to get our feet in the door.  Being more of a strategic behind-the-scenes person, that’s a challenge for me, but I’m rising to the occasion and I’m glad my business is causing me to grow this skill for a couple of reasons.

First, as a marketeer, even if I didn’t need to be out there trying to make sales and there was a sales team in place whose work I supported with marketing materials and activities, it’s very beneficial to understand the challenges, roadblocks, questions, concerns, etc. that a sales team faces on a daily basis. Secondly, the need to network is causing me to reconnect with individuals with whom I worked closely and had strong friendships with at different points in my career.

30

I’ve been working in the Boston area now for about thirty years.  Thirty years.  After studying in France my senior year and graduating from UCONN with a French degree, I attended the Katherine Gibbs’ three-month entree program. I always refer to it as a program that gave liberal arts majors the office skills they needed to get jobs. I will say attending the program served me well. After completing the program, I was able to obtain temporary office work at great organizations like Stone & Webster and Dana Farber, and soon landed permanent jobs at BayBank Harvard Trust and Fidelity Investments. After obtaining my M.B.A., mostly at night, I’ve been employed at Market Facts, Berklee College of Music, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of MA, Bay State Federal Bank, Best Doctors, Network Health, and BMC HealthNet Plan.

I list all of the above because it’s a good reminder that I’ve worked a lot of great places and made a lot of strong friendships and working relationships throughout my career — of which I should never lose sight.  I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people (since I’m a transplant from CT to MA, many of my closest friends are former co-workers). The need to network has caused me to reconnect with some of the many individuals with whom I haven’t stayed as closely in touch, but with whom I really enjoyed working. It’s been so much fun learning what former colleagues are up to, both professionally and personally.  So, I’m grateful that networking has prompted me to “catch up” with these people.  There’s nothing like tight schedules, heavy workloads, and what seem like impossible challenges for forming strong bonds.  I’m really enjoying revisiting those bonds. If you aren’t already doing so, I encourage you to reach out to former co-workers. I know you’ll benefit in a variety of ways from the experience.

brand promise, marketing consultant, Passion, sales, Target Marketing, traditional marketing

Haagen Dazs — Target Marketing at Its Best

Note: Since I wrote the piece below the video referenced has been removed from YouTube.

I loved it the first time I saw it and I don’t get tired of it. Despite all the confrontation in Haagen Dazs’ commercial for its Stracciatella gelato, I doubt there’s a woman out there who doesn’t find herself entranced by the extreme passion and romance played out in this commercial. It makes you think of the intense love of Romeo and Juliet, in Dr. Zhivago, or a Bryan Adams’ song, and that combined with the opportunity to be transported to Italy for a few minutes via the language and physical appearance of the actors, is the stuff of women’s dreams. Yes, you could argue that men yearn for great romance too, and some will be moved and prompted to take action after seeing this commercial too, but I feel comfortable in stating, firstly, that this commercial is primarily targeting women, and secondly, its emotional appeal WILL cause a rise in Stracciatella gelato sales. I know one target audience member who was prompted to buy and try some and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed in my purchase.  The gelato was as delicious as I expected to be, and I felt so luxurious just eating it.  It’s just plain creamy good. So, I’m giving Haagen Dazs double kudos — one for great target advertising and another for making sure that the product promoted in its advertising delivers!

competitive advantage, good will creation, marketing consultant, sales, traditional marketing

Why I Love the Marketing Term “Shoe Leather”

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-pair-old-fashioned-brown-shoes-isolated-image20178948

Now more than ever, I love using and hearing the term “shoe leather”.  The minute I speak it or hear it, I conjure up the image of a pair of slightly worn, lace-up brown shoes. I don’t recall exactly when I first heard the term used, but I liked it immediately because it made me think of the old way of doing business, of a time when businesspeople called upon other businesspeople and introductions were made in-person vs. LinkedIn.  “Shoe leather” makes me think of hard work, of pounding the pavement, of my father’s and my grandfather’s generation, of keeping moving and never giving up.

As a marketing professional, I often see and hear too much emphasis being placed on newer marketing tools and vehicles, and not enough emphasis being placed on what I call the “traditional” ways of doing business. While I’m sure there are those who may not agree, I do believe that there are still profitable deals being made and relationships being formed the old-fashioned way — during a cold call drop-by,  or an invite to lunch or coffee.  And, that’s a good thing.  Newer marketing vehicles such as social media play their role in connecting with certain audiences regarding certain products and services, but they’re never going to give a prospective client that warm, fuzzy, welcoming feeling of a handshake, a smile, or a lively, but friendly, debate about how the Boston Red Sox or Bruins are playing.

My father always told the story of how, as a very “green” office equipment salesperson, he persistently pursued one client.  Despite being turned away several times, my dad continued to drop by the office of the individual responsible for making furniture purchasing decisions.  The older gentleman became so impressed with my father’s tenacity that he eventually placed a very large furniture order with him and the two began a relationship and friendship that lasted many years.

So, the next time you think about e-mailing or calling a prospective client, think about invoking the “shoe leather” philosophy, and consider paying that client a visit.  You may be surprised by the benefits you’ll reap besides getting some good old-fashioned exercise.