Is it worth it? The ROI of Social Media

MarketingSherpa - May 2010 (

The age old question – Is it worth it?  This question gets asked of all marketing program, each quarter, each year.  All companies do it – an annual budget plan.   Everyone wants to know which activities have earned a positive return on their investment (ROI).  Of course they do – you don’t want to continue throwing money into something that isn’t delivering results.

Social media is one of the newer additions to the marketing arsenal.  And as such, the jury is still out on the overal ROI of social media activities.  However, in a recent study conducted by MarketingSherpa (May 2010) perceptions of social media are trending positively when it comes to budget allocation.

Almost half of the respondents (mostly mid-large sized companies) viewed social media as a promising tactic and are planning to moderately increase budget allocation – good news!   A full 7% can measure a positive ROI resulting in a significant increase in spending – great news!  So when all is said and done, less than 1/3 are still questioning the value of social media – even better news for those of you looking for budget.

Normally, when there is a new technology or new approach to marketing, it takes the the money folks a long time to warm to the idea of actually spending money on something they believe is “unproven”.  However in these economic times, when a little money spent on social media can go a long way, it appears that those same money folks have finally come to grips with the fact that this stuff does work. Especially now that we have some measurable results to report.

Like other marketing activities, social media will only be effective and deliver the required results, when part of an overall strategy.  As I have often written in this blog, all good marketing starts with understanding your objectives.  What do you want to accomplish with social media?  What role does it play in your marketing mix?  How will you measure that success?  If you don’t have a target to shoot for – how do you know if you’ve hit the bulls-eye.

The next, and probably most important thing to understand, when investing in social media is your audience.  What type of social media do they use?  Where to they hang out? Who do they read?  Who do they go to for recommendations? Armed with this information you can develop an effective social media strategy and target the appropriate platforms.  You don’t want to put all your focus on LinkedIn, if you audience is really into FaceBook.

Now you are set up for success. You know what you want to accomplish, who you are targeting and which platforms are a god strategic fit.  Now it’s time to engage and get going.  social media is, well, inherently social.  A good presence is defined (according to me) as active, timely and authentic.  I can see that real people are behind the presence of the company – there is a name to go with the brand.  I see posts, updates and information on a regular basis and it is relevant to what is going on in the industry, my business, and the world. Plus, what is coming through has a voice, tone and intention that “feels” real (not like the PR agency is writing all the Tweets, or posting on the FanPage).

With you newly found social media busget, make sure to take sometime and think about what you want to accomplish, and how you’re going to measure it so that come next years busdget cycle you are armed with an ROI that will earn you a budget increase – probably the best news of all.

There is still time

red clockIt’s November. Usually at this time of the year, a lot of businesses have already given up on meeting goals or projections, and those who have hit their numbers are ready to enjoy some well earned “down time”.  Not so fast…

There are still two full months left – that’s 57 days.  Many people think it is too late to start a new campaign.  Not true.  They figure ramp-up time would take too long.  Also, not true.  Plus, they think it’s too hard to get their message through all the holiday hoopla.  Wrong again.

Let’s just break it down.  With 8 weeks left, here is an example of a marketing campaign that you can put to work right away.

Week 1 – Research: What’s going on in your industry?  What’s the “hot topic”?  What are people worried about?  Be specific and get details.  This is the key to a great campaign – focusing on what your audience cares about.  Figure out how your company, products or services can address their concerns.  Create some messages that tie directly to this issue.

Week 2 – PR: Target the top 5-10 trade publications in your industry.  Find the contact info for their editors (usually on their webpage or check out the articles they’ve written and Google them).  These folks are always looking for real news over the holidays.  That’s exactly what you’re going to give them.  Based on the research you did last week, you are going to email all of the editors at these top publications with your story idea.  Keep it short, on point and make sure you explain how it is relevant to their audience.  Remember this is a news piece featuring you, not a promotional piece pushing your stuff.

Week 3 – Content: Based on the story ideas you came up with for the media, build a few deliverables you can use in all your marketing.  Create a video and post it to YouTube. Keep it under 3 minutes, watch the lighting and background, and make it about your customers.  Host a webcast where you present information and take online questions.  Again, short is good. A 30-minute webcast with Q&A is a great way to respect people’s time and give them great info.  With the content of your webcast, you can create a white paper.  Turn it into a .pdf and you have a valuable resource to share.

Week 4 – Email outreach: Armed with all your newly created content, create a series of weekly emails to go out to all your existing customers.  These folks know and love you so they are going to be interested in what you have to say, especially since it is dealing with one of their biggest issues at the moment.  Write and schedule the emails to go out on Tuesdays mornings (data shows that is one of the best times).  Post the content of the email on your blog.  Make sure that the email and the blog have a specific call to action…call me, download the white paper, watch the webcast.

Week 5 – Social Media: It wouldn’t be a marketing campaign these days without leveraging your social media networks.  Take everything you have created and push it all to your social networks (actually, you should be doing this at every stage of this process :-) ) FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter – use it all.  Be sure to tailor the info for the network.  For example, LinkedIn is more polished and professional than FaceBook, so make sure your message and tone is too.  Answer questions on LinkedIn. Join Groups on LinkedIn and FaceBook.  Follow chats in your industry on Twitter.  This is how you find new people and they find you.

Week 6 – Send Greeting Card: Yep, thats right, an old fashioned greeting card.  It can be a “thanks for your business” or maybe a “happy holiday” or even a “looking forward to 2011″ card.  The idea is to connect personally with people.  Everyone is used to getting cards this time of year. Make yours special, hand write a note, wish them the best of luck in 2011.  With all the electronic stuff we get each day, this is a nice touch and will set you apart.

Week 7 – Follow-up: At this point you should be getting responses from your videos, emails, social media, etc.  Now is the time to follow-up.  If possible do this directly, one-on-one.  This is the whole purpose of this exercise, to get prospects contacting you either via phone, email, Twitter, whatever.  Respond to FaceBook messages.  DM to all the folks who RT your message.  This is your top priority.

Week 8 – Relax: Now is the time to put your feet up and enjoy the results of your efforts.

Live at Confab2010

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Is business slow?

Are you struggling with how to attract new clients?

Do you want to generate incremental revenue?

If you are at Confab2010, or you happen to be in Reno this weekend….stop by and say HI!

I’m in Booth #6 and would love to chat with you about how you can build you brand and your business with my marketing development program THINK.PLAN.ACT.  To learn more about THINK.PLAN.ACT. or to register and receive your $650 discount, CLICK HERE and use coupon code Confab2010.

A lot of consultants are having a hard time getting business these days.  But you don’t have to be one of them.

In this 8-week teleworkshop program you learn how to clarify your objectives and structure a marketing plan to ensure you achieve those objectives.  You learn how to prioritize your marketing activities to those things that will attract clients and generate revenue.  Then you learn how to flawlessly execute your marketing campaigns.

Trying new things

light_bulbIf there is one thing I know for sure, using old marketing tactics in this “new economy” isn’t going to work.  That’s why I am taking my own advice and trying some new new strategies with my own businesses.  Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”   Amen to that!  But sometimes, people get all caught up in what I mean by “new things”. Trying new things doesn’t have to mean implementing complicated new technology, or launching really intricate online campaigns.  It just means trying something that you haven’t tried before.

I have been doing traditional types of marketing since I started my company five years ago.  My business is based mostly on referrals, so one-on-one networking is a big part of my marketing plan.  Now you may wonder why I consider networking a marketing tactic.  It’s because of the way I define marketing…getting my message to my audience so I can convince them to buy my services.  When I network, I connect with people who are potential clients (of course).  I also try and communicate my message by showing them what I can do for them – rather than telling them what I can do for them.  What I mean is, if a person I’m talking to at an event is having a particularly difficult time with an email campaign, for example, I might offer to review their copy and give them some suggestions.  I honestly want to help them be more successful and it gives me the opportunity to show them what I do.

The other major part of my marketing plan are my ongoing communications.  This takes two primary forms.  My blog (which is what you’re currently reading…so that’s working :-)  and my newsletter “Impact Marketing News” which you can subscribe to by filling out the form on the right.  I have been regularly issuing a newsletter since 2007.  I have tons of subscribers.  I routinely get email responses from each newsletter from people I haven’t heard from in a while wanting to connect for one reason or another.  The newsletter keeps my name in my prospective client’s inboxes.  It gives me a venue to share new information , articles, interviews, books, etc.

I can hear you thinking…”But you said this was about trying new things??”  You’re right.  I did say that, and I have experimented with some new tactics lately.

In Sept I attended a very high end conference called “Demo”.  This is the conference where start-ups get 6 minutes to pitch their businesses to venture capital-types.  It is a great launch platform and very well attended and covered by the high-tech media.  I haven’t attended the event before, but have always heard about it since one of my target groups is high-tech start-ups.  I figured it I want to be where my customers are, then I should go to this event.  The visibility was fantastic.  I met 20+ CEOs of these start-ups; had coffee with several of them afterward and scheduled follow-up calls with a few more.  I didn’t expect to sign a deal during the conference; far from it.

The objective of this exercise was to to meet new prospects and expand my existing network.  From that perspective it worked really well.  Do I expect it to turn into active projects over the next 6 months….you betcha.  You know why?  Because I will continue to network with these folks and send them my newsletter, connect with the on FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc.  By mixing my new stuff with my tried and true stuff I’ll develop relationships that will translate into new business.

I’ve invested in another event as well – Confab2010.  Confab is an event hosted by the Institute of Management Consultants. It is basically a conference for consultants by consultants.  Since consultants are another group of my prospective customers, this seemed like an interesting venue.  This time rather than attending the event, I actually sponsored a booth.  I will be showcasing my marketing development program called THINK.PLAN.ACT.  It is designed specifically for consultants to help them build their brands and their businesses.  Again, I’m trying to get in front of a new group of prospects using tactics I’ve never tried before.  I know the program works as I’ve had success with it.  So I’m trying a new tactic to get the message out to a new groups of prospects.  Then I will follow-up using (you guessed it) my blog, newsletter, social media, etc.

Some of this might seem basic – but that’s really my point.  Trying new things doesn’t have to be complicated or costly.  Just think of a few things you’ve been meaning to do and start doing them.  So far, I’ve been really pleased with the new additions to my marketing plan.  I’m sure you will be to.

Tradeshows Will Never Die

The following is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Marketing by Laura Lowell.

A lot of marketers think tradeshows are dead.  Yet, seventy-two percent of US manufacturers plan to invest in Tradeshows/Events, according to MarketingSherpa’s Business Technology Benchmark Guide 2006.9 Now that almost everything can be done online or virtually, it is easy to assume that the tried and true industry tradeshows are less important.

Not true, according to Tradeshow Week’s annual report of consumer show statistics, which measured an increase of almost 16 percent in
2006. That means that 16 percent more consumers attended shows like the well-known Consumer Electronics Show as well as niche shows like Design Automation Conference, Wizard World, and SuperZoo (I didn’t make that one up, I swear). These shows are still very product focused. Potential customers can see, touch, hear and even taste the products they are interested in.

You can’t get that kind of experience online or in a virtual tradeshow. Yep—virtual tradeshows are a concept being tested by several online companies. For example, eComXpo is a virtual tradeshow for interactive, online marketers. The show is completely virtual; which makes sense since their entire industry is focused on virtual experiences. For more traditional industries, the idea might not fly.

Like other marketing tactics, Tradeshows need to be part of your overall plan. You need to know what you’re trying to accomplish by participating in the show—what is the objective? If you’re trying to increase awareness and generate leads then Tradeshows are a great vehicle. If you’re trying to convert leads to sales then Tradeshows are not the best choice.

A popular trend these days is to structure “events within an event.”  These events are more about building relationships with customers, suppliers and partners (sound familiar?). Many companies are using the tradeshow venue to meet with customers and to do in-person product demonstrations, simulations or other experiential activities that you just can’t do online.

Smaller vertical trade events and niche conferences are becoming more popular because they tend to produce more qualified leads—25 percent more according to a MarketingSherpa study. In general or broad-based events, the qualified lead ratio was 27.6 percent whereas the vertical events had a qualified lead ratio of 40.7 percent.10 Pretty good uplift, I’d say.

Another benefit to participating in vertical events is the relative ease with which you can engage in multiple aspects of the show. In fact, you can almost “own” these shows if you want to. Marketing Transformation Services (MTS) is a boutique consulting firm specializing in marketing resource management (MRM) strategy and implementation. The principal, Beth Weesner, is very well-known in MRM circles because of how she leveraged a semi-annual vertical event—the Henry Stewart Marketing Operations Management Symposium. Ms. Weesner gave the keynote address and hosted a panel discussion.
Several of her clients were featured speakers. She hosted an invitation- only cocktail reception for existing and potential clients. Pre and post-event marketing was negotiated with the event managers to build on success of the event. The leads generated from these events fill the MTS pipeline and keep the name visible between events.

Tradeshows and events are still a credible and viable element in any marketing mix. Whether they are small vertical trade events, in-house user groups or general business conferences, they are here to stay.