Kevin Miller, EVP of marketing and sales for SalesFusion, a marketing software provider, speaks with Erica Morris about social media, b-to-b strategy, and trends for 2010.
PRWeek: SalesFusion just launched SocialFusion360, a product designed to support business-to-business (B2B) social media marketing. How important is social media in b-to-b strategy?
Kevin Miller: While social media marketing is a valuable outlet that costs little to nothing to implement, the benefits can be far reaching. We know that the social network relationships business professionals foster in groups like LinkedIn carry a lot of weight. The individuals seeking advice in these vertically-specific groups are asking questions about products, solutions, and strategies, and often trust other group members more than they trust your company's marketing collateral and sales presentations.
A subgroup in LinkedIn is virtually a giant melting pot of product ideas and opinions. Having advocates in these groups speaking favorably of your products/services can pay huge dividends. I myself have seen and actively participated in building an inbound lead generation program almost exclusively on one such network.
As companies who sell in a b-to-b environment are faced with constrained budgets and less overall resources dedicated to lead generation, I believe the importance of social media marketing relative to a company's overall strategy will continue to increase.
PRWeek: With b-to-b marketing, how do you best serve the interests of two different parties?
Miller: Like most marketing mediums, social media includes both inbound and outbound activity. There is inbound activity generated, for example, from people finding your blogs and then linking to your site. Social technologies, therefore, can drive inbound traffic and improve SEO. Outbound activity can be a little trickier. When you have employees and partners posting content that specifically directs readers to a site or a page to download, a white paper for example, you must be very cautious about the content. Poorly represented posts in social sites have proven to do much more harm than good.
PRWeek: What challenges are presented in creating a service for measuring and monitoring?
Miller: The great peril of social media marketing, I think, is spending a lot of time and human capital on the effort while having little or no visibility into the financial impact of these activities. We've solved a great deal of this problem with the nature of the analytics on the application.
The next biggest challenge companies face, and where the real danger lies, is controlling outbound content distribution by employees in social media sites. Aside from the logistical nightmare of having a sales force of 40 people all posting company events and content in 100 social media outlets, think about analytics and brand control. It becomes a major, major issue. Beyond that, think of an employee posting company content on his or her Facebook account, and in that account they have personal content that you would not want linked to your company.
SalesFusion is working on a next generation platform to control outbound social content. It's called Social Pages and helps companies manage the content going out the door from non-marketing personnel.
PRWeek: What changes have you seen in the Web analytics field in the last few years?
Miller: The single biggest shift in Web analytics has been the movement from focusing on site/page performance to tracking individual and company behavior. Smart b-to-b marketers view the Web site as a logical extension of their sales/marketing efforts and as such, want to track activity on the site, much like how CRM tracks a salesperson's daily activity.
Web visitor tracking has emerged in b-to-b marketing as one of the single most important sources of leads. The next iteration of Web visitor tracking, I think, will take the information that's been gathered and use it to drive campaigns.
PRWeek: Have you noticed any marketing trends as we begin 2010?
Miller: There is a very clear movement in b-to-b marketing taking place right now. Companies are beginning to migrate away from static e-mail blasting as a standalone marketing channel and are transforming the way they communicate with the medium. Nurture marketing, drip marketing, and trigger-based marketing are most definitely on the minds of most b-to-b marketers. These types of campaigns are often completely automated up-front and run in the background as a continuous lead processing machine. This is where marketers want to go in 2010. Social media will continue to grow, but e-mail is still king. And as it adapts to the b-to-b lead lifecycle, it will become even more important.