Sean Donahue

Convincing Skeptics that Social Media Belongs in your Marketing Strategy

December 10th, 2009
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Last week, I sat in on a webinar presented by HubSpot and MarketingSherpa that discussed the importance of inbound marketing tactics for B2B lead generation. Sherpa’s research director, Stefan Tornquist, and Rick Burnes, Inbound Marketing Manager, HubSpot, shared data and real-life examples of how the combination of relevant content, social media and search engine optimization is helping marketers reach out to prospects and engage them in their nurturing funnels.

But as in many webinars, it was something from Q&A segment that really caught my ear.

One attendee asked how to get executive buy-in for a serious content development and social media marketing strategy. It seems this attendee’s boss, like some other C-level executives, isn’t convinced that content like videos, podcasts, tweets and blog posts really count as marketing — or that social networks are where marketers need to spend their time.

Here’s the advice that Stefan and Rick offered (with a bit of my own thoughts) to help explain the value of social media to C-level executives:

Tactic #1. Ask your bosses where they get their information

A simple conversation with executives can open their eyes to how much they use social media every day. Do they read blogs? Do they interact with their peers on social networks like LinkedIn?

You can point out that your team needs to create the same kind of content and features that attract them to these information sources.

Tactic #2. Show them the case studies

Most executives can relate to proven results, so provide examples of other companies that have achieved strong results from social media or inbound marketing. I’ve talked to several marketers who have numbers to demonstrate their success, such as:

– The team at Acoustics By Design, who created a company blog that now accounts for 53% of natural search visits to their site.

– The team at BreakingPoint systems, whose big push into blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other channels helped increase unique Web visitors 155%. As a result, inbound Web visitors accounted for 55% of their leads, and 75% of their marketing-influenced pipeline.

Or just look at HubSpot’s own results: Rick Burnes said his team’s SEO leads have grown 12% since July 2008, and social media leads are up 72% in that same period.

– Tactic #3. Quietly launch a pilot program to prove the concept

If you’re able to operate with a lot of freedom, Rick Burnes suggested launching a small pilot program, like a blog or social network discussion group. Testing tactics and measuring the results you achieve on this small scale can give you the data you need to lobby for a broader push.

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  1. December 10th, 2009 at 13:31 | #1

    It’s understandable that execs who are used to marketing and networking a certain way would be reluctant to take the plunge into Social Media.
    You had some great points in here Sean, hopefully people take a lot from this and begin to do some more research on what SM can do for their company.
    I just read an article the other day addressing some of the concerns sceptics might have
    http://www.gatewaybizdev.com/blog/2009/12/social-media-snake-oil-or-b2b-lead-generation-tool/

    I found it really helpful because I too was wearing of getting involved with all of this.

  2. December 10th, 2009 at 20:02 | #2

    Hello Sean and thank you for mentioning BreakingPoint in your post (and to Rick, who I’m betting brought us up on the Hubspot webinar). It is much appreciated. We have certainly been excited by our success integrating social media with good marketing strategy and vision.

    /kff

  3. December 11th, 2009 at 09:45 | #3

    In my experience interacting directly with business owners and CEOs, the best way to demonstrate the value of social media, blogging and SEO is to demonstrate how it generates and nurtures leads, and how those leads turn into sales.

    We often just help marketing people develop compelling offers and launch landing pages. Then drive some traffic to them. Once the VP sales sees how it all works together to create real demand, the CEO usually is sold pretty easily.

    So, I’d agree that designing an experiment – using the right software and analytics tools – that then generates leads is the best way to get the entire management team on board. And you’ll need it. Social media, blogging and SEO done right requires a committment of time and money, as well as being open to some things that CEOs usually think are a little risky and scary.

  4. David Levine
    December 14th, 2009 at 12:07 | #4

    My approach would be to submit a budget for social marketing, with a projected increase in revenue attributed to that. From that, I can show the ROI, and then we can all make an informed decision as to whether that return is worth the investment. The most important point is to accurately measure the impact that any marketing campaign has on sales, so you can determine whether you actually met the ROI you promised, and how much sales can be tied to that marketing campaign. Once it proves itself, then it becomes self sustaining.

  5. December 15th, 2009 at 17:58 | #5

    This is great. In particular, I love the first one, asking the boss where they get their information. 🙂 very good. Believe me, I’ve needed these pitch ideas years ago when I’ve struggled to get approval for social projects at previous comapnies I’ve worked for.

    Mike Locke
    ML Web Consulting

  6. February 14th, 2010 at 15:52 | #6

    Thanks for the stats. Will keep them on hand for convincing clients who are still very shy of social media ventures (and I still encounter a lot of those)

  7. July 14th, 2010 at 14:59 | #7

    I do not think you have to convince people about importance of social media marketing strategy anymore. But the article is great!

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