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Elsewhere, I have written on how marketers and communicators should operate in a world with numerous available traditional and digital channels. Here is a flowchart that summarizes my process:
The overall theory: Segment the target demographic and create a persona. Decide the 4 Ps. Create an overall strategy that assigns weights to each part of the Promotion Mix. Choose the messaging. Select the best online and offline channels. Produce the marketing collateral. Transmit to the audience. Measure the results.
But the problem is when online marketers often drink their own digital Kool-Aid, ignore traditional channels and exaggerate the effectiveness of modern channels. (And I’m not even taking all of the online advertising fraud in the industry into account.)
Remember Oreo’s famous Super Bowl tweet? Ritson ran all of the numbers and calculated that it was seen by less than 1 percent of Oreo’s target market. And that example is held up as “social media marketing” at its very best. In another example from Hoffman, Pepsi lost enough market share to drop to third when it moved its budget from TV to social media.
But social media consultants and agencies are always going to say that “social media is the answer,” because their livelihoods depend on it — even though Ritson notes that it is often not the answer and Hoffman says, perhaps too bluntly, that it’s part of modern marketing’s bull—-. Digital video platforms are always going to claim that “TV is dying” because their success depends on it — even though TV has never been more popular than it is today.
Few take the time to research the facts, and instead just regurgitate whatever spews forth from the digital marketing echo chamber. And most people are selling something. An advertising consultant or SEO agency is always going to say, respectively, that advertising or SEO is the solution to everything.
According to W3TECHS, Google Analytics is used by 55 percent of all websites and has a traffic analysis tool market share of 83 percent. More than half of those websites use GA as their only source of marketing data.
Google transformed the marketing industry. However, the introduction and widespread adoption of GA pushed marketers to change their focus from the strategy to the channel (this is a screenshot from an old client of mine back when I was a consultant):
Traditional marketing allocates activities based on the strategies that comprise the traditional Promotion Mix: direct marketing, advertising, personal selling, sales promotion and publicity. Google Analytics replaced those “buckets” with these entirely new ones: direct, organic search, social, referral, paid search, email and display.
However, that shift in assumption has led to poor marketing because almost any strategy can be executed over any channel — and it is strategies, not channels, that have associated best practices and deliver results.
Take “social media marketing,” a vague, useless phrase that refers to channels but not to any specific strategy:
Direct marketing campaigns (that are inaccurately called “advertising campaigns”) get direct responses from a specific set of people on social media based on their demographics and what they “like”
Advertising campaigns put paid media published by an identified sponsor in front of a mass audience on social media
Publicity campaigns gain mass exposure through earned or owned media that is spread on social media
Personal selling campaigns have salespeople contact prospects and leads over social media
Sales promotion campaigns circulate coupons, discounts and codes on social media to generate immediate sales
Each of these five things can be deemed “social media marketing” — but when a term means everything, it means nothing. The five traditional strategies have best practices, as well as times and places to use — and NOT to use — them within an overall marketing plan.
To ask “What is the ROI of social media?” makes as much sense as asking “What’s the ROI of the telephone?”
By not using and knowing the traditional terminology that the marketing industry uses for precise reasons, marketers are only hurting themselves and their own campaigns.
When one now looks at Google Analytics and sees the results, for example, in the “Social” bucket, it’s rarely clear which of these strategies and activities delivered which results. The same is true for almost all of the “buckets” that appear in online marketing analytics. The strategic activity matters more than the communications channel. The channel merely dictates the format of the marketing collateral and content that one creates within an overall strategy.
To ask “What is the ROI of social media?” makes as much sense as asking “What’s the ROI of the telephone?” Activities, not channels, generate ROI. But after Google Analytics and every other marketing platform defined “social media” and other channels as buckets, and therefore as marketing strategies, people have confused strategies and channels ever since.
The positive thing about GA is that we can know which channels tend to perform the best. The negative thing about GA is that we know less about which specific, overall strategies and activities over those channels lead the best results.
And as I wrote in my prior, much-discussed TechCrunch column that discussed how too many marketers in the tech world do not understand basic marketing terminology and practices, that overall process occurs within the strategic frameworks of the five “buckets” within the Promotion Mix (“promotion” is one of the four Ps in product marketing): direct marketing, advertising, sales promotion, personal selling and publicity.
In this lengthy tutorial on integrating traditional and online marketing on Moz, I described how each of these “buckets” has pros and cons, as well as best practices:
When marketers brainstorm campaigns, they typically ask these questions, in this order:
Who is our target audience and what are our goals?
What is the best message for that audience?
In light of our goals, which strategies within the Promotion Mix — advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion, direct selling and publicity — should we use to communicate that message?
What are the best online and/or offline channels for that strategy to reach that audience?
What marketing collateral and creatives should we create and transmit based on the answers to the prior four questions?
How can we measure the results based on which metrics are relevant to each strategy within the Promotion Mix that we will use?
The strategy, message and marketing collateral matter more than the channel.
Here’s a publicity example. Say that someone uses the various tactics that I describe in my publicity tutorial on Moz to get a New York Times reporter to write about his company. The resulting article will appear in print, on the website and on the Amazon Kindle. The article will be spread on social media and shared in online forums and news aggregators. And so on. This is why there is actually no such thing as “digital PR.” It’s just “PR.” The best publicity practices to get coverage never change, regardless of the channels over which the coverage will appear.
It is strategies, not channels, that have associated best practices and deliver results.
Here’s a direct marketing example. Say that one writes advertising copy to generate direct-response leads. That same copy will often deliver similar results — subject to specific, individual format restrictions of each channel — across platforms, including direct mail, email, Facebook ads and Google AdWords, because human nature does not change.
There is no “digital marketing” and “traditional marketing.” There is only marketing — just ask Campbell’s, which has now consolidated all offline and online work under the CMO.
There’s something comforting about the traditional sales funnel stages for B2B salespeople and marketers. You know that if you toss a certain number of leads in at the top, you can expect a (small) percentage of deals to shake out at the bottom.
It’s just like lining up tons of online dates hoping to find ‘The One’.
I think I have some pipeline problems…
However, the good ol’ sales funnel isn’t holding up as well as it used to.
Buyers (and daters) are more empowered by choice and technology—which makes them more skeptical (and picky) than ever before. Over two-thirds of buyers wait longer to contact vendors than they did a few years ago because they’re doing more of their own research.
The reason? They’re scared to make a wrong decision. No one wants to waste time and resources, especially if it means losing their job (or getting dumped—not sure which is worse). And, in these digitally-connected days, there’s no excuse for not doing in-depth vendor research.
Let’s hope the next person you date NEVER sees your search history.
All of this means your sales funnel stages (or dating pipeline) is a minefield of potential relationship killers and exit points.
Is this seriously the best email nurture you could write? I’m done.
Read on to learn why and where your prospects are dropping out of your pipeline, and how to prevent them from straying. (Consider the dating advice a free bonus!)
Getting someone’s attention in a crowd can be tough, no matter how tight your value prop is.
Unless you’re this person:
No one can resist gold lamé. It’s a fact.
It doesn’t matter what your reps or marketing messages say; prospects don’t trust them. If buyers haven’t heard of your product or talked to someone who has used your product, they won’t feel comfortable giving you their contact info or answering a cold call.
How to get their digits: Don’t be an unknown to your prospects. This doesn’t mean plastering your logo everywhere or posting more from your corporate social media accounts.
Get some mutual friends to intervene on your behalf: your brand advocates. If you uncover these super fans, and treat them right, their genuine enthusiasm and product expertise will ease your prospects’ buyer doubt at every stage in the sales funnel.
Incentivize your advocates to make introductions to their peers—who likely have potential matches for your brand in their Rolodexes. Starting a referral program, or running a referral contest, can help you kickstart the process. The key is making sure you thank your advocates in an appropriate way for making an introduction—especially if it turns into new business.
So buyers have heard your name. Big deal. They’ve still got lots of choice, and they will string you along until they’ve made a decision.
Why is love—and B2B sales—so cruel?
While you may have potential to make the vendor shortlist, they need to know that you can deliver on your promises. And it’s going to take more than a few case studies to make that happen, especially if they want their friends’—err, I mean coworkers’—approval before they make a choice.
You need to surround your prospects (and all key decision makers) with social proof from people they trust. It’s even more powerful when it comes from channels you don’t own. A hand-picked testimonial on your website isn’t enough.
Courting your prospects: Make sure your online reputation on 3rd-party resources—like review sites, industry forums and social media—is pristine. If prospects only find negative comments—or nothing at all—in these places, they’ll suddenly become really busy, you know, because work is so hectic right now, and they just aren’t sure what they want anymore…
To present yourself as a safe bet, encourage your customer advocates to write genuine reviews when they’ve reached a certain level of expertise with your product. You can also direct them to discussion threads about your product or industry where they can showcase their knowledge.
If you position the request as a chance to boost their professional profile, they’ll be appreciative. Make sure to internally and externally recognize them for their help. Feature their comments in a newsletter, blog or a thank you tweet to keep the buzz going.
What happens when a buyer is ready to seal the deal, but can’t find a good reference to confirm your sales rep’s promises right away? They get spooked.
My mom is very objective. Plus, her raisin muffins are THE BEST!
The problem with references is prospects often demand to talk to *really* specific ones. It can take your team days to search Salesforce for a senior manager in an identical vertical at a company with a similar team size, business model, revenue level and location. Oh, and who is really happy with your product/service right now.
Sealing the deal: Most reference programs don’t help you continually (and easily) uncover new, relevant customers for your prospects to talk to. They also don’t prepare customers to be superb references. If you want to make sure you can quickly turn around reference requests, you need to do a few things:
This means setting up new systems for grooming references and making sure the process is valuable for everyone involved.
What happens after your prospects say “I do”? Usually, this is the moment sales and marketing disappear. That’s a shame, because oftentimes, a buyer’s anxiety kicks in soon after that new signing glow fades—especially if on-boarding doesn’t go smoothly.
Now, all the promises made during the buying process are left to the customer success and support teams to fulfill.
“Aaaaand half of the features in this contract aren’t out of beta…”
Retention is the most ignored stage of the sales funnel. If you aren’t actively engaging new customers from Day 1, their insecurity will grow. Then, by the time contract renewal rolls around, they’ll churn.
More importantly, these neglected customers won’t help fuel your sales funnel stages by advocating for you.
Keeping the honeymoon phase alive: Make sure you’re regularly educating your advocates and helping them build connections with your team and each other. You can do this by building an online community and hosting local meet-ups. If you give your advocates personal connections and opportunities to grow, they’ll be more inclined to stick around and become vocal champions for your brand.