James Kelliher, Whiteoaks - Digital is leading the way

Digital comms allows lead generation to be the primary objective of any campaign.

When any new trend, business practice or engagement model emerges, a wave of 'experts' also surfaces. They invariably overstate the complexity and difficulty of understanding and leveraging the opportunities presented by something that is initially complicated and daunting to traditional practitioners.

Next, they will start explaining the multiple facets of this new world, without grasping the real purpose and value of the proposition being discussed. All too often, the customer is left unsure why they are adopting what is being proposed, but prepared to do so in order to tell stakeholders that 'we have a social media strategy'.

The reason that any organisation invests in any type of marketing comms activity is to generate sales. It's a pretty obvious statement, but one that is frequently lost in the excitement and enthusiasm of 'going digital'. The good news is that the effective understanding and use of social media channels represents one of the (if not the) most effective and measurable lead generation mechanisms ever known to businesses.

Most people in our industry argue that a tangible link between PR and sales can't and should never be established - a school of thought I've never subscribed to. But with digital comms, it is possible to not only establish this link, but to make lead generation the main objective of any campaign.

In Whiteoaks' area of specialism, b2b technology, this is achieved via a combination of social media channel exploitation; monitoring; data-mining; content creation and distribution; and participation in conversations with the aim of encouraging target audiences to take the actions that engage and qualify them as real sales leads. Once engaged and qualified, via information provided by the prospect, the intelligence is passed to the organisation's sales function to convert these prospects into revenue opportunities.

This makes digital comms a game changer for our industry. If an organisation knows its average deal size (say £250,000) and its average prospect to conversion rate (say one in five qualified lead converts), on average, five qualified leads will deliver £250,000 of revenue, ten leads will deliver £500,000, 20 will deliver £1m and so on.

Importantly, with a lead generation approach to digital comms, the start point of any conversation between the agency and client is not focused on process (features and facets), but on the likely outcomes (revenue) that will be achieved from the outputs of the campaign. Also, using rationales such as the one illustrated above focuses minds on the true return on investment that digital can achieve.

Whiteoaks is delivering campaigns that drive lead generation through social media channels. For one of our clients, a major telecoms operator targeting the large enterprise market, a recent digital campaign achieved 144 per cent of its qualified lead engagement target, while more than doubling the traffic from social media channels to is website. Analytics showed that many of the prospects we engaged were key decision-makers within top target accounts, who had not been reached via more traditional methods.

A business' lifeblood is identifying and converting high-quality leads. In a recent b2b benchmarking report, the top challenges for the chief marketing officer were identified as generating high-quality leads and marketing to a growing number of people involved in the decision-making process. These are both areas in which well constructed and implemented digital lead generation campaigns deliver results. So let's start realising the true value and potential of digital comms: sales.

Views in brief

Pinterest: the online equivalent of a teenage girl's bedroom wall or useful corporate resource?

It can be a huge web traffic driver for businesses, with the potential to post images, video and collaborative boards that allow people to share content. It is particularly powerful for targeting younger audiences, who are more visual.

How can Facebook likes be turned into pounds?

Brands striving to achieve likes on Facebook are missing the essential truth: likes do not equal brand advocacy. Organisations that create real and ongoing conversations and engagements will convert social media activity into revenue.

James Kelliher is managing director of Whiteoaks.

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