Ask a few ‘bigger picture’ questions before diving into social media marketing
Many B2B executives who aren’t already ‘doing’ social media are wondering these days if they should dive into social media marketing in a big way, test the waters just a little bit, or hold off longer with a wait-and-see attitude. From a resource allocation standpoint (money, time, and people), some internal debate here is completely understandable. And the lack of crystal clear ROI conclusions regarding various social media channels in different industry verticals doesn’t help much. There’s an (over)abundance of social media cheerleaders out there, and an awful lot of ‘it really depends’ discussion going on too.
So, before hiring more in-house marketing staff or engaging a marketing agency, digital marketing guru, or other social media specialists, a little introspection and clear-eyed situation analysis could be in order.
Analyze first… then take action
For B2B executives and marketers in this situation, here are the starter questions I would recommend asking yourself and/or your team before jumping into the social media marketing waters. Many of these questions and issues aren’t specific to social media, per se, but should help to frame the discussion for what continues to be a very hot topic for just about all companies these days.
- How many B2B target prospects do we have today, including the influencers that impact their buying decisions? How many actual individuals are we seeking to reach with our messages?
- Is our direct and/or indirect salesforce effectively reaching these people on a regular basis? How has the required ‘touch frequency’ changed in the last couple of years for our market segment(s)?
- Does our target audience change regularly due to account personnel changes?
- Are our current promotional efforts (advertising, events, etc.) driving enough leads and quality engagement with good prospects? Are we generally happy with our current marketing efforts regarding lead generation and reputation enhancement?
- Are our core market segments dynamic and fast-paced? Or do we compete mostly within slow / stodgy / static segments that experience little change from year to year?
- Are our customers and prospects highly influenced by their peers? Do they actively seek the opinions of others before committing to our solution?
- Have our ideal prospects formed into digital social groups that we can reach today (e.g., LinkedIn groups, Google+ circles, Twitter lists, etc.)? If so, how active are these groups, and how much vendor interaction is taking place there?
- Are we generally recognized as a thought leader in our marketplace? Do we truly need to be one in order to continue winning deals and growing the business?
- Is our corporate culture oriented more toward open and honest dialogue (internally and externally), or more toward secrecy and tight control over all information flow?
- How has our company’s status / reputation evolved among our ideal prospects? Are we losing any RFP or large project opportunities for which we used to be easily short-listed?
- What social marketing efforts are our top competitors utilizing today, and do we have any evidence that they are getting customer traction and incremental business from these efforts?
- Does it seem like our customers are frequently better informed about our solution categories than our own sales team is? Do they often seem to know more about our competition than we do?
- Are our lead flow and proposal/quote rates increasing, decreasing, or staying about the same?
- Is our actual win rate increasing, decreasing, or staying about the same?
- How often do we close business with new accounts that come to us completely ‘out of the blue’?
- Do we have sufficient in-house skills and time for significant and sustained marketing content production (beyond producing traditional product/service collateral)?
- Do we currently utilize traditional public/media relations tactics (e.g., occasional press releases at minimum)?
- Do we have additional discretionary budget to allocate between marketing and sales initiatives?
- What trends are we seeing in our website stats over the past several months? Anything interesting in the areas of engagement, web inquiries, etc.?
- We need a good #20 here to round things out. Any suggestions?
This is a starter set of ‘discovery’ questions that should produce useful insights in general, and also in prep for further discussions, internally and/or with outside experts, regarding potential social media marketing initiatives.
Your turn… what did we miss? What did we under- or over-emphasize?