A Business Technology Place

eMail marketing vs social channels

My daily routine of working in the marketing department includes planning and executing communications on digital platforms. What’s not to like about this work? It’s full of experimenting with message formats, exploring new channels, researching customers, and tracking results. Good stuff.

But ultimately marketers are measured on the success of the communications they create. So it goes beyond experimenting having a little fun. The work needs to produce a return. I may create digital messages on five different platforms and feel good about it. Yet success is measured by some connection. The connection might lead to a sale, solve a complaint, answer a question, etc. No one aims to produce noise, irrelevant messages, or content that is otherwise not useful.

In recent days, my group has had more success with the older email communication channel than with newer digital platforms such as Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. The metrics we use to measure were so lopsided that I recently told my boss that eMail is our trojan horse through the corporate firewall.

What I meant by this was that my research showed limited use of some digital networks during business hours for B2B communications. While I don’t have specific numbers, I believe that many of our clients are restricted from using those digital sites due to corporate firewall and social media policies. But email is allowed. Email is a way to get through the internet usage policies and to deliver messages.

Of course the message must still be relevant. But we can get a sense of that from eMail tracking. Unlike paper based mail, we can not only track deliverability but we can see open, render, and click-through rates as well. I can’t tell you how many people read a tweet. I have to look for some other evidence such as if they respond to a message, retweet it, use a coupon code,etc.

The eMail inbox is different though. People are in the habit of reading or at least scanning the subject line of every message that is inside their email inbox. That’s not true of other digital media such as status updates on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I know at least with my own habits, that I don’t review and read every message from every contact on social sites where I have a profile. I typically see a status feed of the most current events. If I haven’t looked in a few days then most likely I never see the social message. That’s the email difference. It’s still a place where most people attempt to scan every message because they don’t want to miss those messages that are personal to them.

Melissa Campanelli of Online Marketing Strategies and Tactics summarized a Forrester study on email usage. Her summary includes points made by Forrester about email volume growth including cost and effectiveness. It all adds up to supporting evidence for companies to continue to use eMail for B2B communication.

I found the question of eMail Marketing vs social media posted on LinkedIn as well.   The points in that discussion are great:
* Email isn’t a replacement communication device but part of a larger overall strategy.
* Message content, audience, and relevancy are critical

Bottom line? Find what works. Experiment. Then make connections. What’s not to like about that kind of work? 😉

Marketing technologists are in demand

Marketing technology positions are in demand.
A recent news release from The Creative Group provides information on upcoming hiring expectations for marketing and advertising executives. While the report doesn’t use the term “marketing technology” it does offer evidence that marketing technologists are growing in demand. There is a quote in the release from Donna Farrugia, Executive Director, “Hiring managers at organizations of all sizes and in every industry seek professionals who can help develop and execute digital campaigns, and cultivate online communities.” Additionally, the report says 51 percent of marketing and advertising executives think it is difficult to find skilled creative professionals.

Jobs Help Wanted

Jobs – For the creative marketer

Is this a wake up call for traditional marketers?
Traditional marketing strategy around broadcast advertisements that use one way brand communications are becoming tougher and tougher to justify. I bet many marketers could prove through their tracking that it’s also becoming less effective. Notice in the quote from Farrugia the phrase “cultivate online communities”. Marketing and advertising agencies are looking for digital marketers that can create two way communications and connect brands with audiences in more meaningful ways. That frames one of the primary purposes of a marketing technologist; use technology to connect business with customers.

“It’s not about the ads, it’s about the marketing.”
Mitch Joel discusses the problem marketers face with ads on his blog with thoughts about just how many ads are displayed in our tech driven world today.  Facebook is developing new ways to serve ads. Google search results are filling with more ads. Media publications use ads above the fold or before the video clip.  Marketers are challenged not only to target the right audience but keeping that audience engaged in activities and conversations.

I think that maps back perfectly to the findings from The Creative Group. Today’s marketer needs to be creative and tech savvy as well. It’s not easy cultivating online communities. Two-way marketing creates dialogue and it fosters word-of-mouth marketing. This is more than advertising. This is more than brand messaging. This is part of the transforming world of marketing.

LinkedIn company pages – It’s about people

Your LinkedIn company page is a unique extension of your brand’s internet presence.
I remember when I first joined LinkedIn years ago. It was a phone book and contact list (an electronic rolodex?) But it also showed levels of connections to other people and that was unique.  Overnight I had a new way to professionally network.

It didn’t stop there. LinkedIn has continuously added features to their service over time. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, I’ll break the news to you. LinkedIn is more than a gathering place for job seekers. It’s a place for research, knowledge sharing, discussions, news, and more.

Company pages are a great example of this. This page is setup to display profile information about a company, information about products and services that are offered, as well as any open jobs. I see the company page as a place to connect your products with other digital touchpoints and more importantly with other people. That’s because it is visible to employees, prospective employees, vendors, and clients.

A simple example. As I type this article, I looked for a company name to test. There is a Uniden phone on the end table, so I searched for “Uniden Company Profile” to simulate a prospective vendor looking for information about Uniden.

The LinkedIn company profile was the number one search result

The point is that your LinkedIn profile page may be on the first page of search results for prospects, vendors, and clients that are seeking information.  In this example it was the first unpaid search result listed! That’s information from a third party web site, not the one you call your own.

Contacts for a service and a link to get in touch with them directly

Your Linkedin company page provides leads to people.

With each product/service that you list, you can also list up to three points of contact within your company. So if vendors or clients are researching a product/service and they have a question, then they will see who they can contact to get more information. It’s sounds so much more personal than saying “send an email to sales@mycompany.com”.

The company overview page also shows how your profile is connected to company based on the personal connections in your network. That’s certainly useful for prospective employees trying to identify if anyone in their network works at a company. But there are lots of other uses in creating business conversations as well. Again, it’s putting people with people.

People can choose to follow your company page. Then they have settings about how they’ll be notified on new information about your company. I think of it as a personal news digest. Each follower will choose the type of information that is relevant to them and the frequency they want to see it (unless they manually visit your page). Does our corporate internet site have this type of reach to people?

Notifications settings for a company that you follow

 

Your Linkedin company page provides leads to your other digital properties.
Within the products and services area you can provide links to product videos on YouTube, as well as links to product spec sheets, testimonials, etc.  The LinkedIn company page is setup to show a basic level of information about a given product or service. But then you can link to other touchpoints that may provide more details.

Links to other types of digital content

What I really like about using the LinkedIn platform for business interactions is that it is already an accepted and well known location for B2B activity.  People are on the site by their own choosing and may be looking for connections to live people (not a generic email address).  Try creating a little digital connection for your company. As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

What are we really learning at conferences?

Are conferences worth our time?
I spent the last two days at Digital Summit 2012 conference in the Atlanta area.  As today neared the closing session, I was reflecting on some notes I had taken and I thought “what am I really learning from all this?” Certainly it’s a question that attendees, presenters, sponsors, and booth marketers ask themselves at conferences. Was the conference worth the cost, energy, and time spent?Digital Summit 2012

The classic answers.
– It’s a chance to network and find out what others are doing in my industry.
– It’s a chance to listen to speakers talk about how they have solved problems we all face.
– It’s a chance to find leads and prospective clients.
– It’s a chance to find new ideas to help us solve problems.

Well maybe. My experience is that groups of people from the same organization tend to hang-out with each other and not network all that much. As I look around a room when speakers are talking, I see a large percentage of people checking email from work and not really listening to the speaker.  As with most everything we do in life, we get out of it what we put into it.

There are different conference formats.
If you have never attended a BarCamp you should so that you can compare different conference styles. I have twice attended Product Camp Atlanta for product managers and marketers. These conferences are less structured, often with participants voting on the topics to be discussed. Participants are encouraged to become part of the presentations in a knowledge-share and discussion format. Sales pitches are discouraged and can be “booed” by participants.

Now I’m not promoting BarCamps over the traditional trade show conferences. I’m just pointing out various styles. Whether the conference is full of vendor booths, speaker sessions, or collaborative learning groups, we still get out of it what we put into it.

Digital Summit had a few recurring themes.
If I had to summarize all of the presentations I heard at Digital Summit this year it would be: Use data to measure how people are interacting with your brand so that you can influence them take some action (purchase, share, converse).

Nothing earth shattering with that statement. It covers some the basics of marketing. But as you would expect at a digital marketing conference, there was heavy emphasis on analytics, advertising, mobile, social, and search. I found some speakers engaging and others not so much.

A few specific thoughts that I think are worth repeating include:

  • Michael Loban of InfoTrust saying that “what gets measured get’s done”. Loban talked about data existing in context. Marketers should understand the data in context and find what is actionable.
  • In a talk about mobile development Jim Zimmerman of Thuzi discussed the importance of navigation in mobile design. It should be simple and clutter free. Consumers won’t navigate burdensome sites on a mobile device.
  • Tony Haile of Chartbeat gave a unique presentation because he didn’t use any slides. He made the content of his speech engaging and relevant. One key thought from Haile was that real-time data is useless unless you setup your organization to respond quickly to events. The idea of the adaptive business is to create fast tactical responses to achieve better results. He used Toyota and the US Marines as examples of this concept.

It’s our professional game.
At the end of the day, conferences are about making connections with people in our professional game. Just like a professional athlete works to sharpen their skills, a professional knowledge worker must do the same.

I’ve coached youth athletics for almost ten years and one thing that is a must for any coach wanting to stay on top of his game, is networking with other coaches to trade knowledge. It usually involves exchanging ideas on different drills to run for certain skills.  That’s the same concept as sharing information at a conference. Fresh ideas and new insights.

So what are really learning at conferences? We’re learning to stay connected with people. We’re learning to share knowledge. We’re sharpening our skills because the next time we play our professional game we want to score more.

So let’s score more. In fact, in your professional game you can run-up the score. If you were at Digital Summit 2012 or have other thoughts on professional conferences I’d like to hear from you.

Thought readings 2

Each week I capture, mark, and comment on blog posts and news articles around the internet. This is short list of three links that I think others will find valuable for their thought lives.

  1. Aero aimed at TV cable cord cutters by Kay Bachman at Adweek announces a new service to bring cable television programming to internet connected devices. I have a dream one day to cut my cable TV cord. I just wish my family shared the same dream.
  2. Digital marketing matures beyond “best practices” by Scott Brinker at Chief Marketing Technologist. This is a thoughtful piece that discusses the maturation of landing page creation. Brinker lists a set of principles higher than any check-list that are relevant for landing page (and other marketing disciplines) creation.
  3. Study finds huge drop in corporate blogging by Helen Laggatt at Biz Report. Laddatt reports that the number of companies in the Inc. 500 that are keeping active blogs has dropped to 37%.  Producing relevant content consistently is hard work. Does the work strain big corporations or is it a matter of proving ROI? You decide.

Let me know what links you shared, tagged, or commented on this week.