Majority of respondents in a Gallup survey said that social media had no influence at all on purchasing decisions!

Really good article in last week’s WSJ. Exactly what we’ve been talking about for years. Here’s a snippet but for the full thing I encourage you to go to:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/companies-alter-social-media-strategies-1403499658?mod=e2fb

Note the line “A majority of respondents in a Gallup survey said that social media had no influence at all on purchasing decisions”.

Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype

Companies Refine Strategies to Stress Quality Over Quantity of Fans

WSJ - Just Being SocialIn May 2013, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. bought ads to promote its brand page on Facebook. After a few days, unhappy executives halted the campaign—but not because they weren’t gaining enough fans. Rather, they were gaining too many, too fast

“We were fearful our engagement and connection with our community was dropping” as the fan base grew, says Allison Sitch, Ritz-Carlton’s vice president of global public relations.

Today, the hotel operator has about 498,000 Facebook fans; some rivals have several times as many. Rather than try to keep pace, Ritz-Carlton spends time analyzing its social-media conversations, to see what guests like and don’t like. It also reaches out to people who have never stayed at its hotels and express concern about the cost.

Ritz-Carlton illustrates a shift in corporate social-media strategies. After years of chasing Facebook fans and Twitter followers, many companies now stress quality over quantity. They are tracking mentions of their brand, then using the information to help the business.

“Fans and follower counts are over. Now it’s about what is social doing for you and real business objectives,” says Jan Rezab, chief executive of Socialbakers AS, a social-media metrics company based in Prague.

For the full article go to:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/companies-alter-social-media-strategies-1403499658?mod=e2fb

Do today’s salespeople really have to go “wherever someone will listen to us”?

In talking with countless senior salespeople in many of the world’s largest and most successful organisations, it’s eye-opening how many say that their route into a prospect company is “ideally the CIO or CFO, maybe the Head of Dept., sometimes Line of Business director, otherwise the end-user.” In other words “wherever someone will listen to us!” There appears to be very little science or insight being applied.

I asked one a few weeks back for the level of account mapping they do – where they map out who makes the decision, who inputs to it, who uses it, etc. “Most of it is intuition” was the reply. “So do you ever have an idea of how a company will make its decision-making at the time of approaching them?” I asked. “No, but we get a better idea after a few meetings there.” In 2014 is this really the best we should settle for?

I’m spending much of my time researching a better way.

 

Some marketing depts. have outsourced their logic to Eloqua

The Buyer-side Journey, Influencer50, buyersidejourney.comI was in a prospect meeting last week, running through one of our Influencer Engagement Programs. I was surprised at their quizzical faces when I outlined the program. I thought I was talking common sense. Then they explained. They’d been told not to green-light any marketing program if they couldn’t measure its effect in Eloqua. That’s why they’d moved exclusively over to digital outreach.

Click-rates, open-rates, pass-ons, linger-rates, funnel times – these were all fine. And there didn’t need to be a link with sales, but there did have to be identifiable user actions caught in Eloqua.

But what about real market influencers – those who are one-to-one advising the buyer decision-makers, I asked? They might be doing that in physical real-world meetings, or in direct emails to each other, or across their organization’s intranet. Or there might well be an ‘approved supplier’ list to negotiate first. No, none of those would count, I was told.

I asked why they thought their intended prospects were keen to absorb their outreach digitally, why they believed that increasing click-rates correlated with their buyer’s eventual decisions. There were no answers. They cared only about how Eloqua made them look each quarter.

I ran through how they themselves had made business purchase decisions since the start of the year – items they’d bought or sanctioned for their employer – and whether their decisions could have been tracked had the supplier of that equipment used Eloqua themselves. They agreed their purchasing interest would not have been trackable. But it cut no ice.

The entire conversation was about playing the system with Eloqua. It’s not Eloqua’s fault. But the way some people are using it means they’ve lost sight of what they’re meant to be contributing to their company. That connection between Sales and Marketing is more broken than ever.

Influencer Programs: Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs (3)

This week I’ve posted about a client’s most often-cited Problems, then Opportunities, leading them to invest in their Influencer Program. This followed the premise in Nancy Bleeke’s book ‘Conversations That Sell’ book of first identifying a prospect’s POWNs – Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs. 

The Buyer-side JourneyOur own prospect and client survey asked for their own POWNs when commissioning an Influencer Program. Today I’m listing the most commonly cited Wants from such a Program. Note that a Want to a client can be more important than an actual Need! 

  • Want to apply more science and less pot-luck to your targeting
  • Want to better understand the importance of ‘new’ influencers (ie. online) with more traditional (offline) influencers
  • Want to believe in the process of selecting to whom to reach out
  • Want to understand which influencers are willing to engage and/or partner with your company

Influencer Programs: Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs (2)

Yesterday I posted about a client’s most often-cited Problems leading them to invest in their Influencer Program. This followed the premise in Nancy Bleeke’s book ‘Conversations That Sell’ book of first identifying a prospect’s POWNs – Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs. 

The Buyer-side JourneyOur own prospect and client survey asked for their own POWNs when commissioning an Influencer Program. I’m serializing these four – one each day this week. The following were the most commonly cited Opportunities. Do you agree?

  • Opportunity to discover new routes to market
  • Opportunity to reset marketing outreach approach by integrating sales influencers into the heart of it
  • Opportunity to get your salesforce on your side with marketing directly oriented to aiding the sales process
  • Opportunity to radically re-orient your traditional year-after-year marketing activities
  • Opportunity for the first time to understand who you should, and shouldn’t, be outreaching to
  • Opportunity to short-circuit the otherwise lengthy process of understanding a new market

Influencer Programs: Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs (1)

The Buyer-side JourneyOne of my favorite books of the past year – Nancy Bleeke’s ‘Conversations That Sell’ – reinforces the importance when selling of first identifying a prospect’s POWNs – Problems, Opportunities, Wants & Needs. Eight years of Influencer Program experience has led us to the following understanding of how POWNs are relevant for Influencer Identification & Engagement Programs. We’d encourage you to apply this to your own organization.

We recently conducted a small-scale survey with our clients and prospects asking them for their own POWNs when commissioning an Influencer Program. I’ll be serializing these four – one each day this week. These were the most commonly cited Problems (in most quoted order) that our prospects and clients are trying to overcome through their Influencer Programs. See if you can empathize.

Problems:

  • Hitting a ceiling with current marketing approach
  • Not hearing of RFPs until too late in the process
  • Feeling that competitors are getting better introductions & opportunities than your company are
  • Believe that there is a buyer ‘insiders’ conversation of which you’re not part
  • Feel you’re wasting part of your marketing budget on people that aren’t affecting the sales process
  • Feeling that your company is not part of the market trend-makers’ conversation
  • Need to secure a seat for your company at the top table of industry decision-makers

The first message Sales & Marketing want to convey?

salesteamI posted the other day about a large-scale U.S. client sales team meeting I attended. I asked the sales team what was the one thing they’d like their prospect to know about their company before the salesperson made their first contact. Let’s face it – that’s a core role of marketing. To prepare the ground for sales. I’d previously asked the same question of the marketing team. I’ve simplified the responses. There were approx. 50 sales responses, 25 marketing responses.

Sales Team response:

1. Our product / service can solve your problem.

2. We’re the most cost-effective solution on the market.

3. We’re easy to do business with.

Marketing Team response:

1. We’re an innovative industry-leader.

2. We offer a full range of products / solutions, whatever your size.

3. Our products / services are the highest-rated in the industry.

So the overriding sales message is “You’ll be glad you chose us.” The overriding marketing message is “We’re the biggest / best company.” There’s a gulf between them.

Are those holding down real industry jobs too busy to be tweeting?

It’s an easy conclusion to draw. We’ve just completed a study in Europe for two traditional manufacturing marketplaces. We’ve now enough experience over the years that we can make an educated guess in advance of studying a market whether it’s likely to be primarily online-, offline- or social-influenced.

Out of 100 individuals, identified by us to be the most influential, guess how many had an active Twitter account? One from which they’d tweeted in the past two or even three months. Just seven. Now even I can work that out to be just 7%. And that’s not to say they were prolific users. Or regular. Or that they’d tweeted anything meaningful in that time. But they had used it.
The correlation that was impossible to ignore was that these top 100 influencers barely featured any industry commentators – a minimal number of industry analysts, journalists or bloggers – and very few industry consultants. Now these are typically heavy Twitter users. Remove these and, in B2B terms, the use of Twitter (amongst non-marketers) falls to almost zero.
What was most interesting was the reaction of our client to this finding. It was no surprise at all. They said that the only pressure to adopt Twitter as an outreach channel came from marketing blogs, magazines, forums, etc. They’d never heard from any customer or prospect mentioning Twitter as a preferred channel.
Time and time again we see this gulf between the blind rush to use Twitter amongst marketers and the absolute apathy from would-be customers. I always feel like I’m swimming against the tide making this point. Until I talk to almost every customer.

The trouble with the ‘social selling’ argument

I was reading an interesting blog a few days ago by Matt Heinz (@HeinzMarketing) in Seattle. Hat tip to him. I didn’t totally agree with his point of view but that’s fine, he got me thinking. One of his central tenets is that would-be buyers are already active within social channels and this provides salespeople with a short-cut into those organization’s challenges / opportunities – just so long as the salespeople know where to look i.e. Hootsuite and the like. There’s plenty of logic in that. It’s the whole ‘social selling’ argument.

But I got to contrasting that approach with the findings of a recent client project in the traditional manufacturing industries. We’d used our methodology to identify the top market influencers. The majority of these individuals were buried deep inside their giant employers – these weren’t outside world-facing people but they had tremendous clout internally. Many had been with the same employer for twenty or thirty years. When at the end of our research we were checking their LinkedIn profiles we found the majority almost totally empty. A number had less than five connections and many contained perhaps just a single line on their career history. It made our team wonder why they were on LinkedIn at all.

Most likely it’s because at one stage of their life they were curious and created an entry, then thought twice about it, couldn’t see a reason to be there, and abandoned it. If they weren’t looking for a change of employer they likely saw no point in filling out their profile. Their lack of LI engagement has made no difference to the influence they wield in their industry.

As for their blogging and tweeting – well, they’d paid even less attention to that. Their online footprint was often zero. Yet they were undoubtedly influential, many had responsibility for large numbers of people and in some cases very substantial budgets. ‘Social selling’ wouldn’t reach these people, indeed it wouldn’t even know these people existed, and I can’t help thinking there are many thousands of middle-managers in traditional industries who are similarly ‘invisible’ to social selling.

Before we’re told that social selling is more immediate, more cost-effective, more engaging and whatever else, we need to bear in mind that it will only reach the minority of sales prospects. In the largest, most established industries, it may be a very tiny minority. And that’s not about to change.