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Study: Marketers biggest social media challenges in 2015

One of the latest reports around social media tells us that measuring ROI (60%) is still the most challenging aspect for marketers when facing all their social media efforts. This is the main message from a report by Simply Measured and TrustRadius.

The findings that are based on some survey data from almost 600 social media practitioners between February and March 2015 also show that other top challenges are tying social activities to business outcomes (50%), developing a social media strategy (48%), and securing enough internal resources (40%).

Social Media Challenges Trustradius 2015

Although the main message is clear, there are some small variances between company sizes when separated int small businesses (1-50 employees), midsize companies (51-1,000 employees), and enterprises (more than 1,000 employees). While smaller companies struggle setting up and developing their own social media strategy, enterprises are trying to secure enough internal resources to master their social media efforts.

The integration of social media into the overall business is also a big way to go obviously. First of all is the alignment of social media goals with the overall business goals not fully connected. But even more challenging is the question whether all the efforts generate some business impact. Many marketers are working intensely with data and analytics to optimize their marketing strategies but the proof seems not yet been given.

Maybe this is all based on the missing tool strategy, which is also one of the major findings of the report (not surprisingly based on study makers). How to manage and measure social media activities, is often not a question of whether companies know the tools but still they are predominantly sourcing the monitoring out for example, and then wonder why data gets not interpreted properly. Also, some are not happy with their tool choice.

Social Media Metrics Trustradius 2015

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The findings are not surprising when the targets from all three company sizes is brand awareness. Still, companies should be able to better understand KPIs in the social selling process. It seems that companies and brands still have not yet understood the value of a friend, follower, LIKE, share or a comment. Furthermore, they still do not have the opportunity to link their data findings and their social media engagement back to some CRM database in order to leverage data sets around their customers. Furthermore, the missing social sales strategy combined with a clear lead processing and management is essential, and most companies do not have an answer here. Obviously, a lot of support in the social media set-up is still appreciated.

Not? Then tell us what you think…

Study: Content marketing investment on the rise

A recent study 2015 Content Marketing Survey by content marketing agency Castleford states that the amount of marketers committed to content marketing is increasing. According to their results 65% (compared to 48% one year ago) of marketers want to boost their content marketing next financial year. Their plans is to invest more in time and resources.

Even more, 97% of participants of the survey said they will increase or retain their current level of investment. And the respondents also face the support of their C-level executives. Of the responding marketers 76% replied their C-level executives viewed content marketing “quite positively” or “very positively”.

Obviously, there are also some challenges involved in content marketing creation wit time (45%) and budget (29%) being the biggest problem. Just, 3% that mentioned their C-level buy-in is their biggest challenge to content marketing will be probably persuaded over time, we think.

In terms of content marketing tactics the study shows that social media (81%) is still the favorite online marketing tactics in this field. However, the biggest growth opportunity shows video marketing and paid promotion of content for the next year. 61% are already using video marketing, (increase of 13% compared to last year). This is probably also driven by the main players Facebook and Google.

The variety of content marketing is also growing though. Almost every second marketer said that they use five or more different online marketing channels (45%).

Although Castleford director Rob Cleeve is confident with the development of content marketing, he also makes clear that marketers need to deliver results with it as well: “In my experience, content marketing is claiming an increasingly large share of overall marketing budgets, which is going to mean more pressure to show how it’s benefiting the bottom line.”

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Content marketing definitely has changed the advertising industry drastically. However, the main challenges involved are the appropriate use of data with content to drive the right story in the right context to the right user at the right time. Here we see massive problems for many marketers still in our work with customers. Post-it recently explained it nicely in a video that leverages their banner and ask many question in terms of how retargeting actually kills good content marketing in terms in the example of banner ads.

The infographic of the study carries all relevant results of the Castleford study.

Castleford-Content-Marketing-Infographic-2015

Why influencer marketing is the future of content

In many posts have we written about the relevance of influencer marketing and how it differs from the value of brand advocates. Today, many marketing organizations and brands have understood the power of influencer marketing and dedicate a significant amount of their budget to them. And there are good reason for it which we can see from one of the latest infographics in the market provided by the guys from The Shelf.

Shoppers trust in influencers and use them as their third-most-consulted consumer decision information source. Although brand and retail sites are still in the lead as an information source. Blogs already come in right after them, even ranking higher than well-trusted social networks like Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.

Years ago, we have made clear that the 3 Rs of the social consumer will be leading the decision making process in the future: ratings, reviews and recommendations. The infographic is another proof for our thesis those days. These days, influencer are more trusted than brand content where recommendations have got the biggest power with 92% of consumers trusting in those. Reviews have become the second most trusted source (70%). People also try to stay on top of thought leaderwith blog content that is consulted by 47%.

Although the opportunities are there, only two out of three marketers (65%) invest in influencer marketing so far. and every second company separates their budgets for sponsored social content from other budgets (52%). Still, the amount of investment is not “nickles and dimes” anymore for brands and companies. Every fourth company already spends over $500,000 already.

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Why influencers play an important role inside your content strategy is obvious. They can explain products from various subjective and objective angles. They can play an important role in your community management when negative input needs tob e turned into positive arguments. They can have a big impact in your content production strategy in having an external view on your business and relevance in the market, and thus become your „search-engine-optimizers“. And, they will play a significant role in your sales approach if you take your time to think about it (or maybe talk to us if you don’t have an answer).

Have a look at the infographic and decide yourself if and how you would like to use influencer marketing in the future.

TheShelf-Influencer-Marketing-Infographic-2015

Hashtags: The what, how and why of success

Even some years ago, I did not really detect the value of hashtags – however it was the days when only Twitter used hashtags. Nowadays, there are still not many people able to detect the secrets and the power of hashtags in the social web world. And probably the majority of marketers still wonders if they cannot leave out the hashtags in order to make the posts more readable.

Hashtags offer a lot of benefits if you use it properly – to be searchable, to be findable, to be categorizable, to follow, to monitor as a brand, a service or a person. Hashtags are not a Twitter thing any longer: Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Google search, and various other platforms also make use of the “computer-cross” as one of our clients called it the other day in a workshop we did with them.

As (social) marketing campaigns are measured on engagements, it is fair to say that hashtags in campaigns are boosting engagement by up to 50%. Working with two hashtags seems to be the golden secret as more hashtags will kill the “boost-engine”. Still… Maybe not always though. Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags even showed the highest number of engagements. And on facebook you might also not use hashtags at all as those were most successful.

PS: If you do not know how to use hashtags, maybe check out this latest advice from Terri Seymour.

Please find the latest insights put together in an infographic by Surepayroll.

effect-hashtag-infographic-2015

Study: B2B executives believe they are not delivering on demand generation

It is a poor testimonial that B2B enterprise executives give their demand generation efforts. According to recent survey conducted by ANNUITAS, most of their campaigns aren’t meeting the goals oft he leading company heads. When just 2.8% of rsurveyed respondents say their campaigns are effective, most of us will wonder what needs tob e done to become more effective.

The study titled „Enterprise B2B Demand Generation Research Study“ focussed on marketers in the B2B enterprise space with 500+ employees and over $250 million in annual revenue.

The study shows that there is obviously a massive disconnect between what marketing departments want to deliver and how the results should look like. Measurement, metrics and KPIs seem not at all aligned with the business goals which somehow surprises bearing in mind that the industry is talking about this phenomon for quite some time now.

Still, marketing decision makers are not very much successful with their demand generation. When 60% state they don’t feel successful with their tactics and just under three percent feel very effective, it speaks a clear language.

The study comes alongside some recent survey by… which also shows that one oft he challenges ist he alignment with sales departments and their leaders. Many companies still are not clarifying what needs tob e done to deliver on demand generation efforts.

Especially when it comes to lead generation, the quality of leads is a point of unalignment. In terms of goals, the quality of leads is for 77% the most pressing goal, followed by customer cross-sell/upsell (56.6%), volume of leads (51.9%), and brand awareness (50.9%).

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The survey proves that demand generation is not meeting buyer expectations. Whether it i content marketing or the creation of buyer personas, marketers need to improve their knowledge and capabilities in demand generation in order to meet business expectations. Companies need to invest in coaching and training when they keep up with the market and have a clear demand generation strategy.

Ann_B2bSurvey_Infographic_r3_v2

Study: Millennials do B2B purchase decisions differently

Credits: Gerd Altmann  / pixelio.de

Credits: Gerd Altmann / pixelio.de

We all have heard that Millennials, those humans that are frequently connected, well-informed, tech-savvy, and always having an eye on efficiency. But do we know much about their buying habits, especially when it comes to B2B purchase decisions?

The Institute for Business Value at IBM conducted their next study on Millennial called “To buy or not to buy: How Millennials are reshaping B2B marketing”. The research was based on the opinions of 704 Millennial respondents in order to better evaluate their thoughts about
buying habits of those business decision makers oft he future. The respondents had to have at least some degree of purchases power of $10,000 or more. Then,IBM compared the responses of Millennials (1980-1993), Gen X (1965-1979) and Baby Boomers (1954-1964) to see how the strategic buying decisions vary to other generations.

One thing becomes clear, Millennials want simplicity in handling their partners. They value ease of doing business before industry expertise. Compared to Baby Boomers it shows that the later generation was more heading for fast response times from vendors than their attitude to collaborate.

However, cooperation means a lot in terms of buying-decisions for Millennials (56%) and Gen X (64%). These employees claim to make better decisions when involving more colleagues. In contrast, only 39% of Baby Boomers will ask their colleagues for buy-in or recommendations.

In days, when we are all talking about smart and big data, it also shows that Millennials make use of analytics more than their previous generation. Millennials (53%) and Gen X (63%) leverage data to make better business decisions, whereas Baby Boomersare not much keen on using data to drive better purchase value.

Furthermore, Millennials are looking for direct contact with vendors in the sales cycle. When researching for products or services, they tend to get in touch with vendor employees directly. It shows that the days oft he good old sales pitch is over for them. Millennials want authentic and personalized customer experience to establish a better trust basis for the later cooperation. Social Media, chat and instant message are essential for smart collaboration with vendors. However, they want to stay in the driver seat.

“Digital interaction is almost table stakes. The real differentiator is … experiential opportunities to work with vendors. They want a sense of, ‘What would it be like to partner with these guys? Do they have the same values?'” Carolyn Baird, Global Research Leader, IBM Institute of Business Value

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It becomes clear that companies and brands who aim to work with Millennial -by 2020 over 50% oft he global workforce- should prepare themselves for offering deep insights and analytics to speed up the business decision and buying process. What is definitely crucial is to be open for new collaboration habits and a culture of cooperation. Probably the most important insight suggested from the study is that vendor companies need to have a culture of open collaboration and easy access to all employees across the vendor organization when addressing B2B Millennial buyers.

Report: Are B2B sales and marketing people aligned?

A recent report from CallidusCloud states that B2B salespeople and marketers are in principle aligned when it comes to arguing about the value of their business. However, some small differences can be seen when it comes to comparing the quality and quantity of leads.

CallidusCloud Alignment 2015

More than half of the responding marketers (54%) find sales and marketing are somewhat aligned in their companies. The salespeople see the alignment even a bit higher with about 58%. In terms of bring fully aligned just 17% of marketers and 14% of salespeople agreed that they are heading 100% towards the same direction.

CallidusCloud Performance 2015

The salespeople are less satisfied with marketing compared to marketing with sales. From the marketers 42% confirm to be either satisfied or very satisfied with their sales counterparts. However, just 35% of salespeople are satisfied or very satisfied with marketing.

Furthermore, lead data sharing is stil a challenge according to the report. Just 37% of all responding participants stated that their lead data is fully shared between their organization’s marketing and sales teams. It shows that data is still siloed in the departments, 16% of salespeople and 12% of marketing team members find that.

CallidusCloud Lead Data 2015

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The report results are a bit surprising bearing in mind all the meeting I have attended between marketing and sales teams. Very often did sales teams blame their marketing departments not to generate the appropriate quality of leads, and marketing teams wonder why salespeople don’t engage deeper in their marketing planning. Especially, when it comes to event planning and social selling and the alignment of sales and marketing content. Would be good to get some more thoughts from our readers. Feel free to share and comment.

Social Selling 2015: The year of redefined engagement

Selling through social media has always been a challenging business. However, all brands and companies we have spoken to in 2014 wanted to turn around Social Media from a brand reputation channel into a sales opportunity touchpoint.

Obviously, many of the companies had already failed. Most of them as they were either too greedy, or just not prepared to go in a bar without expecting someone to sell them a drink – or respectively, to buy their products and services after the brands or companies have posted their first status updates. In my eyes, it is time to shift expectations and start anew. 2015 should not be your year of sales disappointment, it should become your year of redefined engagement.

All companies aim for the same goal. Customer engagement is what companies are waiting, hoping and praying for. Thus, they pump out tons of content pieces from their latest brand sponsoring activities to the best white papers and case studies they can offer until they cannot find any content piece in their PR or marketing repository that has not been shared across the globe. And by accelerating the content via Facebook, Twitter and the likes, they expect their KPIs to become real.

And then, the guys from SocialFlow conducted a study in summer last year. analyzed organic posts with almost 1.5 billion social actions, showing them 99 percent of those updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ create little to no engagement at all. Did brands use engagement the wrong way? Where their tactics bad? And if so, what were the obstacles they did not obey?

Engagement Facebook 2014

Let’s look at the following three tactical approaches. Ask yourself if you really follow the three rules of engagement.

1. Engagement: Think cross-department, cross-partners and cross-employee

Companies still tend to be structured in silos. Internal politics, department thinking and career ambitions rule out what could be replaced by community engagement, employee engagement initiatives or engagement incentive plans. Still, most responsible managers don’t know or forget how networking inside the company and with all external forces like resellers, retailers and partners might might leverage selling opportunities.

Now, whether it is limited digital capabilities of employees or the HR department that is often only involved in social media in terms of setting up social media guidelines, companies should start realitzing that their social media manager is not the company’s silver bullet. HR and marketing need to align forces and work closer together: Culture, relationship building and trust creation is not only a sales business which got nicely highlighted by a study from Altimeter at the end of 2014.

Setting up processes, programs and platforms that work towards a common goal, that get updated by various minds, by different perspectives and manyfold views attracts the engagement of more customers. The formula is easy and proven: More brains can be in more conversations and generate more engagement.

2. Engagement: Learn cross-platform, from “free-meal” to „pay-for-play“

Companies and brands seem to accept that social media is not a „free-meal“ any longer by investing in consulting companies to help transforming their social media efforts into social selling enagement. Facebook is leading in driving engagement to brands according to Simply Measured’s 2014 Facebook Study which analyzed the Interbrand Top 100 Global. Photos accounting for 77% of total engagement, and link usage to around 16%.

However, brands still haven’t respected the fact that getting people to listen and read their marketing messages by posting in social media is changing dramatically. When Facebook turns the algorithm into “less promotional” this year, companies need to start redefining how they approach their customers more subtile. Even if they will be addressing them with building clusters (or circles), contacting them via the „@name“ phenomenon or hashtags. The wording needs tob e chosen carefully, and we can be sure other networks will follow that example.

Thus, the next big thing will be the shift from investing in traditional media to spending more money in platforms that leverage social networking engagement. Products like the LinkedIn Sales Navigator or individual targeting through the combination of data analytics and marketing services, will become the new sales kid in town. Where marketing and media decision makers have invested in nebulous target-group definitions, social networks can cluster target-groups by their individual interest in content, in pictures or in videos.

The only shame is that smart data (and especially media and sales data exchange) across platforms does not work yet. So, banners and sponsored posts will continue to haunt customers although they have already bought a product or service a banner promotes to them. Clever managers invest in blogger programs, in brand advocates and loyalty programs to drive up and cross-selling opportunities. Don’t just think about content!

3. Engagement: Understand cross-quality values

Just to make this clear from the beginning: A LIKE is not only a LIKE, like a Retweet, Repin or Reblog is not just a meaninglesss interaction of some lazy engagement. In many seminars, we see marketers that still center their KPIs around quantitative engagement figures while under-estimating the chances that are covered behind such „automated“ customer interactions: joy, interest, passion, emotions, etc..

Clever sales people use such quantitative engagements for profiling their customers’ habits, experiences and interests in their social CRM database or sales management systems. They value every single customer engagement as they know when to turn quantitative into qualitative engagement, and how to turn it to their favor in meetings, calls and conversations. Knowing that a client has liked a shared golf or football video can be the start of a long-term relationship and open up doors for introductions to others.

Customers will be happy if they get good content to share with their own peers and community. They appreciate the dedication (seasonal content), commitment (consistency of service) and the quality of engagement (high interactivity) that brand accounts offer to them according to a study by the Engagment Labs. Appreciation, well-understood from customers and companies, is the key to social media engagement.

Spot On!
The link between customer engagement and employee engagement was not only proven in a study by Answers Corporation lately. In many examples with customers and experts have we experienced that social media engagement is not rocket-science, however the process of setting it up plus using and finding the right technology is a challenge. Still, the rules of engagement are changing in social media, especially in social networks. Facebook is the former RSS feed, just with the difference that you can sponsor it now. Youtube is the new search engine. It’s 2015! Redefine your engagement mindset!

Study: Many executives cannot stop working in spare time

Last year’s CNBC study examined that C-level execs were more mobile than their senior counterparts in middle management. This year’s CNBC’s Mobile Elite survey -based on more than 600 online interviews across Europe, Asia and North America – shows that the usage and impact of mobile devices amongst business executives is higher than ever. Six in ten executives admitted they are still busy checking their mobile devices when its weekend time and the stock-market is closed.

Managers are even more busy consuming news during the mornings. For those vendors seeking to address the European business decision maker the weekday evening is said to be the right time to get in touch, according to the study. Obviously, many managers have more time during their weekend leisures to digest articles and information. Almost every second executive (48%) reads ‘in-depth articles’ and 38% has a close look at business profiles.

In that field, LinkedIn has achieved the number one position in Europe as a ‘useful business and recruitment tool’ (59%) with the highest scores for the ‘respected brand’ (64%). However, Facebook is also under the top-performers as a ‚useful marketing tool’ among Europe’s Business Elite. In Europe Twitter scores highest European executives for ‘use for both work & leisure’ (55%) increasing from 32% in 2013.

TV and tablets are moving more and more together in terms of business impact and parallel screen usage for decision-makers: 80% of US executives stated they were watching TV while using their tablet. Europe is with 71% and Asia with 70% behind the US results. Still, 56% of global executives use their mobile device as a direct result of watching TV.

Their predominant reaction after watching TV content is…
– Web browsing for products or services (69%)
– Purchasing products, stocks or shares (55%)
– Responding to advertising (42%).

“An ongoing trend where work life and private life is bleeding into one another“, thinks Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Cass Business School London, Andre Spencer.

Spot On!
Not surprisingly, business executives are massively using their mobiles and second screens. The more business turns international the more “global business environments work on a 24/7 basis”, thinks Spencer. Staying in touch is possible and needs to be done the more people are engaged in being on the road. The work-life balance gets challenged when organizations are increasingly expecting their top executives to be online and working.

CNBC Mobile Elite Study 2014

The virtual office – Good reasons why your business may start here.

Share Word on Round Button - GenerosityIn days of Facebook, AirBnB, Tumblr & others, when new business models and start-ups spread all over the world, some marketing freelancers might think about the option to appear big. Or shall I say for some interim period of establishing a business, these people might want to look bigger than some decision-makers might imagine? Whatever their driver might be. When starting a business, marketing consultants have got the challenge to look professional all over their brand. An address in the right context location seemed to be a must-have. It’s all about the brand, right? However today, the overarching value of a new business brand might have changed. What was a shiny office address in the middle of town in the year 2000, isn’t important any more (and maybe never was). There are new and probably better options that virtual offices can offer.

Thinking back around millenium days, when we launched a start-up with some good business partners, the venture capitalists would have loved the option of a virtual business. The resons were obvious: The business model puts a foot on the “valid business reasons'” groud instantly. Operationals can start immediately. Being first to market, cannot be taken away from you. “Land and expand” is the option. All set. In 2000 this sounded like a dream for founders and their investors. Our company’s rental costs were the biggest liability we had those days (also when we bought the business and sold some years later). We couldn’t just leave and sign off our contracts. The landlord was clever enough to keep us in our rooms for at least six more months. The virtual office is much more flexible and usually offering shorter termination periods.

Talking about liabilities, you might also think about getting a secretary? Another cost topic. Virtual offices have got their own secretaries who will look after your business. Calls, postage, or even emails if you may want to leave it to them: all sorted out by them. Whether it is PR requests, marketing topics, sales inquieries or any other service related business, the virtual assistant is giving clients and business contacts what they are asking for (if you brief them properly). No overhead business. No extraordinary employee costs. If it is your own staff, you have to find replacement for them on days of illness or family issues. In virtual offices, the service is available 24/7/365. These days, you do not necessarily have to pay for health treatment if someone is ill. And speaking frankly, this harms your business in the start-up business three-fold: cost-wise, additional workload and underpaid founders doing processes and projects they should not be looking after in the start-up period.

Later, when I started some other consulting business, I used a virtual office place to start the business. The benefits were quite interesting then:
a) Pay-per-stay. When I was in London for business, my virtual office would have been fantastic. Why do you always have to commute around London and waste expense budgets, when from time to time you can just have gotten people to commute to you?
b) Pay-per-use. When clients came to visit, I did one phone call to the virtual office desk and paid for hourly use. That was really handy. Do I need to “own” (and pay) a meeting-room that is unused for 35 out of 40 hours a week?
c) Pay-per-need. When I needed a desk, I paid for a shared desk. If I wanted to stay at home, I just told the office desk the day before. Do I need to rent a place where “my” desk stands and is waiting for me too many days in a month? Traveling is the key to starting a good business. Meet as many people as you think is necessary.
d) Pay-per-inspiration. When I needed business exchange, new innovative approaches or even looked for some new networking opportunities, there were people from many industries to talk to at the coffee lounge in the virtual office. On a good talk, I paid for the coffee. No cheaper way to get consulting. And: Who goes a floor down in his office, just to meet someone as they are tenants like you are in order to speak about business?

Spot On!
There are valid business reasons to use a virtual office company when you start a business. When the business grows and you have got paperwork to store, you might think about using a bigger version of the virtual office components and features. Still, the reason for renting an office in days of cloud computing, bigger WIFI access and coffee bars in virtual offices is becoming smaller and smaller. And even, if your business grows, there are many ways to leverage the virtual office s long as you act in start-up mode.