Connect Email, Social and eCRM: Lessons from MarketingProfs Forum

Resist opportunity. How’s that for some counter-intuitive advice? In the wake of too many opportunities, too much data, and so many social networks, tools and conversations, how can marketers effectively set priorities, identify the most meaningful audiences and develop the necessary content needed to participate? This idea was posed by keynote speaker and Cluetrain Manifesto co-author David Weinberger. I believe the answer has to be in accepting that none of us can successfully test everything, so we must resist the urge to try everything, and at a micro-level embrace the fact that we will never be able to track, follow or participate in every customer or industry conversation.

David spoke at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston, where hundreds of marketers gathered to discuss digital marketing strategies, tools and new ideas. A good conference always makes you think, and this was a very good conference. I am thinking. In the meantime, consider some ways you can effectively resist opportunity:

Destination and source. Select the top places where your audience hangs out, or where they were just prior to visiting your site, and focus there. Accept that conversations will happen in other places, but that you won’t be tracking them.

Tools. We discussed dozens of cool social, CRM/demand generation and content management tools at the conference. Nearly every presenter gave a list. It’s overwhelming. Start with your business strategy and then select the right tools for the job. Remember that no tool by itself will make you relevant, helpful or interesting. Which is why you don’t start with the tool, you start with “what do I want to achieve.”

Metrics. You could be tracking many things, but ultimately, you need to align your efforts with the business drivers. Select the top 2-3 metrics which really reflect the contribution of marketing to the key business measures, which are usually sales, cost savings and employee/customer participation in programs. This is actually really hard. If you select, “Increase revenue” as your goal, that may not let you narrow down your key metrics. If you select, “increase revenue from financial services companies” or “increase revenue by reducing churn” or “increase revenue by shortening the sales cycle” or “increase revenue by increasing the average order size;” then you start to see where the key metrics lie.

Many great ideas were shared throughout the conference on this theme. Here are some of the best I heard in the sessions or via Twitter (#MPB2B).

1. Get feedback to plan your content, not just after you launch it. Join LinkedIn groups on issues that matter to your customers. (via @kyleflaherty)
2. Want better SEO results from online videos? Include the transcript, especially if it is content rich. More SEO tips, specific to B2B marketers, can be found on the Proteus Marketing blog.
3. Adding calls to action to your blogs will extend the conversation and encourage people to stay on your site longer. Good actions to encourage include getting more information, downloading a guide or signing up for a webinar.
4. Look to start a community when you can bring a unique value proposition to conversation. There are an amazing number of communities that do not have a home online. Is one appropriate for your business? Also, note that communities take a long time to build, even if the rewards are higher. That may compete with the short term, quarterly goals of most marketers. Set goals appropriately.
5. Your blog and your email newsletters invite people to come to you. Think also about going to them. (Inspired by keynote speaker Mitch Joel.)
6. Why do people buy from you? Why do they refer others to your business? These are the central questions you need to answer for your business. Center your marketing strategy around those drivers.
7. Great marketing is built from intelligent, customer-centric strategy. It’s not about tools, it’s about asking “why?” Why do our customers love us? (Or why don’t they?) Why would someone go to a competitor and not us? Why do prospects respond better to one whitepaper topic than another? Why are we using Twitter? Why are our customers using email to keep in touch with us?

One of the major takeaways for me was the emphasis on marketers as publishers. Certainly, as we operate in our socially connected world, so much of what enables us to participate and engage with customers is our content. This is true for both B2B and B2C marketers. Marketing has always been about connections between real people. We lost a bit of that during the mass marketing era of the last century. The Internet now puts our brand experience in the hands of buyers, with or without us. Case in point: Who owns your home page – you, or Google? (I vote for the latter considering that most visitors’ brand experience starts on search pages.)

So our published content in all its forms – blogs, email newsletters, catalogs, comments, Twitter replies, community contributions – add up to a relationship.

How are you resisting opportunities, in order to connect where it really counts?

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