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Selling Social Media to the C-Suite

Even the most curmudgeonly CEO has to acknowledge the massive and still-growing popularity of social media sites, which include countless platforms for online discussions, reviews, content-sharing and social networking. The number of active social media users is staggering. Facebook’s Second Quarter 2013 Operational Highlights reports that, as of June 2013, the site had 1.15 billion monthly active users. To put that 1.15 billion number in perspective, consider that Facebook had just topped 50 million users in October 2007.

Businesses can’t afford to ignore the numbers. It’s not simply lucrative to reach out to customers and clients via social media anymore. It’s essential.

Getting Them to Listen

The most significant challenge marketers face is convincing the C-suite to both listen to and develop a relationship with the millions of potential customers who share, like, post, comment, pin and tweet on a daily basis – and that doing so will have a positive, measurable impact on their company’s bottom line. Before spending several thousands of dollars on the research, designing, writing, editing and posting of a potential “featured post of the day” on Tumblr, any responsible CEO is going to demand an explanation of how that spending will impact the business’ gross profit.

So what exactly do executives need to see from marketers before committing the time and money needed to develop a social media strategy?

The Tangible and Not-So-Tangible

Marketers need to provide CEOs with ROI data that shows a correlation between a company’s social media initiatives and end of the quarter “revenue-driving conversions,” more commonly known as “sales.” However, the business benefits of social media include many intangibles that arguably help to build customer demand and drive sales of products and services.

In the realm of the tangible, social media can connect a company to new customers, provide data to help measure a brand’s market share and introduce new revenue streams. Notwithstanding the aforementioned several thousand dollar-priced Tumblr “featured post of the day” and the continued efforts by Facebook to monetize its site, social media remains one of the most cost-effective means of brand marketing.

The benefit of using social media to build brand loyalty and manage a company’s reputation is harder to quantify. However, a growing number of high-profile, financially successful CEOs – including Virgin’s Richard Branson and ING DIRECT’s Peter Aceto – are utilizing outlets like Twitter and Facebook to create and participate in online conversations (both positive and negative) about their respective brands.

“Your customers are already talking about you online,” writes Vanessa Fox in Marketing in the Age of Google. “The best thing you can do is participate.”

And speaking of Google, those millions of potential customers sharing on Facebook or organizing their pins on Pinterest are using social media in combination with search engines to determine where to purchase products and services. A company’s marketing plan should include strategic efforts to secure highly-ranked search results, and a four-star review on Yelp or a lively conversation among customers on a company’s blog can help increase their profile and reputation.

Selling Social Media

CEOs become less skeptical of the potential for social media when marketers are able to explain, in terms of ROI, how both the tangible and not-so-tangible factors will increase customer demand for their company’s products and services. Marketers can “sell” social media to the C-suite if they understand a company’s business goals. CEOs in turn must understand that, unlike numbers provided by a CFO or legal advice from a lawyer, the benefits of social media are not-so-tangible, but no less crucial, for the success of a 21st century business.

 

Winning the Communication Media Lottery

The technology website visitors use to access marketing messages is constantly changing with the addition of devices like smartphones and tablets, smaller laptops, networked televisions and giant dual-monitor displays. Content developers no longer inherently know which format their end users will be viewing, and it can be tricky to make sure nobody gets left out in the cold – technologically speaking.

Accessibility across Platforms

We’ve all probably visited a webpage or two (or hundreds) on a smartphone, tablet or other device. And it never fails that there is always that one site during an average day of viewing that makes it impossible to navigate due to tiny or unresponsive buttons, content spread over too many pages or other common irritations that wouldn’t be a problem if the page was viewed on a regular computer screen. If the annoyance is great enough, we give up and leave the page altogether – and it doesn’t take much to get us to abandon that ship and hop on the next one. No matter how interesting or relevant the message, if it’s formatted so that it’s too difficult to read or time consuming to get to, you’ve lost them.

Recent estimates show between 10-25% of all Internet usage takes place on mobile devices, and this number is sure to continue increasing in the future. These users certainly can’t be ignored. Responsive website design that automatically scales itself for optimal viewing on any size screen is one no-brainer method of making sure your message remains accessible across platforms without having to build multiple versions of the site.

How to Communicate

It’s important to take into account how your target audience will be viewing information and craft everything accordingly. For example, those who use texting as a primary means of communication will probably prefer short, to the point, bite-size servings of text that can be viewed with minimal clicking around. The shorter the attention span of the reader, the shorter the message needs to be.

In addition, users are often switching back and forth between computers, mobile devices and televisions – or just using them simultaneously. Focusing on only one delivery medium isn’t good enough anymore. An effective marketing message should “play” along the whole spectrum of communication media.

Many companies use social media to engage new users, often offering contests, deals or incentives for those who “like” or share their pages. Maintaining a two-way conversation on platforms like Facebook and Twitter is key when engaging users. Rather than blasting sales pitch after sales pitch into the Great Beyond, try to get readers involved by asking questions and soliciting commentary instead.

Where to Go from Here

Content creation training is important when reaching out to all users, regardless of their choice of communication tool. It can be difficult to strike the right balance between professionalism and stuffiness, a casual vibe and overfamiliarity, playful snark and downright rudeness. Whoever will be serving as the voice for your organization needs to know what type of message best serves your needs, what tone is desired and how to effectively communicate in a way that engages readers. A good content marketer should be able to recognize what news, events and activities would be of interest to users, and craft a message to communicate them in a timely, relevant manner.

 

Marketing Budgets: Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck

We all want more for our money, but that doesn’t mean price is always the bottom line. While marketing strategies have a foundation in increasing sales, relationship-based approaches are bringing consumers and companies together in new and innovative ways. A successful marketing budget distributes time, money and talent across a variety of tactics — with a variety of goals — to deliver the highest overall return on investment (ROI).

Where Does the Money Go?

After the budget has been set, marketing departments funnel the funds across many different campaigns, such as brand creation, social media, Houston SEO, etc., to meet specific needs and goals. When determining where the money should go, marketing departments draw from two major strategies:

Relationship-Based Marketing

Also called customer relation marketing or customer relation management, this strategy focuses on the following:

  • Acquiring new customers
  • Retaining customers
  • Analyzing attrition data

Companies establish relationships with their customers and clients through regular, honest and knowledgeable communication. Understanding how to best start and continue conversations – particularly if social media is involved – needs to form the crux of all relationship-based marketing strategies.

Transactional Marketing

As its name suggests, transactional marketing is all about closing the deal and gaining sales, which includes the following elements:

  • Creating a product that satisfies a determined need
  • Establishing price points
  • Identifying the best distribution chains for the product
  • Building promotional campaigns around branded visuals

Typically, marketing budgets delegate funds to support both of these strategies. The sales-based goals of a transactional strategy can’t be ignored, and they also leave room for creative advertisements and other media. A great transactional strategy builds promotional campaigns that push customers to purchase the product, but also creates brand strategies that pull target customers toward the product.

While positive, branded experiences retain customers, transactional marketing doesn’t provide ongoing or long-term solutions for sustainability. The feedback loop created by relationship-based marketing can heavily influence brand and product strategies. Often, companies use the data gathered through customer surveys and direct feedback to tweak products and improve services. Additionally, participating directly with key audiences is an excellent opportunity for companies to secure quality leads and identify new markets for customer acquisition.

Making the Investment

Some companies want the best results money can buy. Others want high-quality work on a budget. Regardless of the amount being spent, the key to creating a successful marketing budget is to invest in the strategy that will ultimately yield the highest ROI. One way to guarantee such an increase is to hire a team of highly skilled professionals who can meet your marketing needs. For companies that cannot afford senior-level marketers or highly skilled team members, outsourcing might prove a more economical option.

Outsourced marketing agencies prevent you from having to learn seo jargon, etc.. and provide budgets for single, specialized services or comprehensive strategies. For example, a company with a limited budget and a short deadline may dedicate 100% of its funds to pay-per click strategies, while one with more resources will likely have a more diverse campaign spread among social media, PPC, SEO and email.

Having clear goals and a well-planned budget is an essential part of establishing a high ROI. Start by charting out your money via financial tables, pie charts, bar graphs and/or line graphs. Know where the money needs to go – such as email campaigns, print media, websites and social media, – then delegate funds accordingly. Include key variables, such as the percentage of the budget being used each month, customer acquisition and customer acquisition costs.

When it comes time to track your ROI, the charts and graphs provide a handy reference for pairing profits and other returns back to the amount of money specifically allocated to the various “buckets.” This allows you to better adjust future budgets so you spend smarter rather than spending harder.