B2B Inbound Marketing Using Social Media

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Inbound marketing using social media“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” That’s the concept of Maslow’s golden hammer. And it came to my mind as I read a recent case study of enterprise cloud computing company, Salesforce.com. I was asked by one of my peers to comment on the case study because apparently, it looked like someone had found the “secret sauce” for B2B inbound marketing using social media. Plus, when an article carries in its title, “#Social Success…” and talks of inbound marketing, I can’t help but want to read it to see what insights I might glean and be able to share on my blog.

I was disappointed to see, yet again, that for many organizations, including the one in this case study, social media seems to have taken on the role of the golden hammer. Companies use social media for anything, anywhere, all the time and tend to ignore other traditional and new marketing methods that remain at play, whether or not you intentionally include them in your overall strategy or not. And then, every lead generation and marketing success gets attributed to “#social”.

Salesforce has obvious benefits from positioning this campaign as a social success story—they have added a social component to their product/service portfolio. Now if this type of social marketing strategy was universally applicable to B2B marketers of any size and in any industry, I would have no problem with it. But the reality is, not every company has the budget and deep pockets to run such programs. This is still something only a large company like Salesforce could run—they got 15 industry experts to contribute to their campaign. How many experts can a small or medium sized business manage to involve for a similar campaign? First of all, where will a smaller company find the time to source and ask these experts to contribute? It’s just unrealistic in my opinion.

In all fairness, this case study is a good example of how an organization combines its tactics related to search, social and content to find its “sweet spot”. I found it interesting to note how Salesforce developed their content strategy, determined the persona, developed their microsite and all the pieces of content that went on it. For a large B2B marketing company, I’m happy to see they had a defined process, followed through with it and found success. Now, is it truly “social success”? I don’t agree—when you “buy” click throughs on banner ads and run “sponsored” tweets, and run ads on GDN (Google Display Network) as part of the outbound marketing tactics to support your inbound, it is really evidence of getting paid traffic. To me, social success is natural, organic, word-of-mouth and viral without having to pay to make your content shareable.

Conversion—the Missing “Gold”

The early results of the campaign (Jan-Apr) are listed in the case study as:

  • “Traffic for January was up 80% YoY” – paid traffic, mind you
  • “Traffic from social sites was up 2500 %” – good numbers, I agree
  • “We have over 6500 people signed up to our newsletter” – again, a sizeable volume
  • “Our eBook has been downloaded over 10,000 times (generating 10,000 leads)” – and so what?

The fact that someone downloads a free eBook you are offering is NOT a lead! What is the conversion rate? Perhaps it is too early to measure that yet, but it isn’t even mentioned in the process and strategy. Yes, they got the numbers in, but if the quantity does not translate into quality conversion, it would be a waste of time, effort and precious marketing dollars—something that a smaller organization simply cannot afford and hence, in my opinion, should not engage in.

At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll say that a B2B marketing company must ensure that inbound and outbound, online, social and traditional lead generation activities enable qualification of a true lead using the 5 criteria I have mentioned before. Without that, you would be hammering social media in the hope of striking gold while your tried and true methods may fall by the wayside as leads dwindle, sales drop and profits plunge.

Scary, right? Of course it is! And that is why I keep reminding my friends in the B2B world that a reality check is crucial and inevitable every once in a while in your lead generation process. Comments?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.

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