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B2B marketing forum: insightful social media and CRM cases from leading firms
Article Type: Conference report From: Strategy & Leadership, Volume 42, Issue 2
This years B2B Marketing Forum in Boston was a gold mine of cases – from Cisco, Pitney-Bowes, John Deere, HubSpot and Curata – on learning to effectively use social media and social Customer Relationship Management. A highlight of the Forum was the presentation by Leslie Lau of Cisco Systems who outlined the evolution of the use of social media at the company in a way that could easily be applied as the template for all B2B marketing platforms.
Cisco: the evolution of social media use
Despite their reputation as being the infrastructure “plumbers of the internet, Cisco uses social media in a very big way in their corporate marketing. With 70 different websites and 70,000 employees, this is a major operation. The company was driven to increase their use of social media by their initially disappointingly low conversion rates on cold calls from their contact center, which prompted an initiative to build relationship channels with their customer prospects.
This effort started for Cisco in 2005 – a veritable ice age ago in internet time – when they launched experimentally with Facebook and Twitter accounts to test proof of concept. By 2010 they operationalized this initiative with people, processes and communities and created a Social Media Center of Excellence to identify best practices and also to set up platforms to meet this growing area of activity. Their target is to have an integrated social media apparatus by 2015. This structure will include social engagement, in the form of peer to peer conversations in given industries, and integrated technology and platforms to serve this social media strategy.
According to Ms Lau, Cisco constantly trains its employees to be competent at using social media. This includes social advocacy, which entails allowing the social activists among them to work after hours on pet projects as social media ambassadors, a way to leverage its workforce. It employs reverse mentoring, with veteran Cisco executives being assigned younger mentors who can bring them up to speed on the latest developments in social media. Cisco uses a digital social blog, as well as games and other tools to boost customer engagement in many different ways. It also offers twelve half-hour courses for Cisco staff so that they can become certified within the company. Their course.org website offers online courses in statistics, gamification and other areas relevant to the social media world.
Innovating with big data
Social media is still about experimentation, using new approaches to know your customer and engage that customer correctly. This necessarily involves collecting social data across a wide swath of platforms. Cisco.com registration employs both Facebook and Linked In, which is rather commonplace by now, but the company also uses gamification to drive engagement by offering social rewards to Ciscos customers. In addition, Ciscos Social Data Lab leverages its social data infrastructure to distribute statistically-driven customer and competitor intelligence predictions within the company. In this context, CRM has become integral to business strategy development, not just a software tool.
Developing social intelligence
The company uses its engagement with customers to analyze the social behavior of its B2B buyers – which it has divided into seven types – to derive a scoring platform that it can then use to develop social “personas for customers. These personas are used to improve the detection of buying behavior by incorporating the contacts social interactions with existing data. These social personas include those who are: socially engaged (creators, conversationalists, and critics), socially active (joiners, collectors), or socially passive (spectators). Cisco uses these social personas to help classify a contact into levels of social participation, and to correlate social activity with intention to purchase. Cisco has discovered that there is a positive correlation between certain social personas and the intention to buy. And Cisco then personalizes the buyers experience by choosing marketing tactics that suit the customers particular profile. For example, for a socially passive prospect it will recommend that they register for a live webinar about cloud solutions, whereas for the socially active one they will engage in a “Tweetchat about cloud solutions with @Cisco Systems, Ciscos Twitter handle. A key goal is to identify action-based conversations, about 7 percent of the interactions monitored at the Customer Intelligence Center. The Center gathers insights and then auto-prioritizes based on those insights. This is a 24/7 response network with positive experiences being shared socially. Altogether, the Cisco support community now numbers 380,000 individuals, more than five times the size of its workforce.
Cisco has learned that to improve social CRM for marketing and sales requires innovation and doing business differently from the way it used to do it. This includes:
1. Social listening – collecting social data.
2. Social data – analyzing and enriching ones understanding of the customer.
3. Social personas – building scalable processes and using social intelligence.
4. Social engagement – engaging with customers in individual conversations.
Pitney Bowes: location intelligence in the B2B marketspace
In another application of the big data that now obsesses all companies, Kevin J. Kline and John Merola, two veteran employees at Pitney Bowes, presented case studies at the B2B Marketing Forum to illustrate the value of location intelligence, a concept based on the assumption that a business has a physical presence and a market area that defines its context. Physical locations can now be accurately geo-coded – designating latitude and longitude – and related very accurately to the dynamics of a particular business. Pitney Bowes developed 30 geographically-determined “cluster profiles in a new technique which can be utilized to generate a profile once the clients own data is overlaid on the original clusters. Such “location intelligence is applied in a B2B local area. One reason why this is now feasible is the ubiquity of mobile marketing, which has changed things radically – especially for the small and medium-sized business (SMB) sector.
The first case study described by Klein and Merola involved sales of B2B postage meters. This is a traditional core product for Pitney Bowes which has suffered steady declines in sales, so the deployment of sales resources and direct marketing has become critical to preserve revenue and margin growth for the company. Postage-meters-as-a-product uses direct sales heavily, which is costly. So Pitney-Bowes created clusters that are “locationally relevant. One cluster involves the so-called “silent majority of single-meter customers which presents an opportunity for market penetration because of the large numbers of such small customers. Because of their small size, they have only a low-average reset amount for the postage meter. But their acquisition value is due to the low-medium install rate and the high number of mailings per business count.
The second case study was of small and medium-sized businesses banking, a key retail banking growth opportunity. SMB bankers are striving to become more consultative to help their clients boost their business and to help SMBs cut their own customer acquisition cost. In this instance, Pitney Bowes helps the bankers look at how business customers align with branch trade areas. It provides a comprehensive review of the geographic and “firmographic macro-economic climate, including leading as well as lagging indicators. This gives the bankers a usable tool to enhance their own attractiveness to the SMB market.
John Deere: making B2B strategic insight actionable
Mike Blonski, President of John Deere Canada and Head of Segmentation Analytics & Insight Generation for Deere, along with Glen Drummond, Chief Innovation Officer at data analytics firm Quarry, talked about customers lost and found. Because actionability depends on the depth of insight, Deere uses an integrated-segment-insight framework that employs categories and prototypes. One example they mentioned was finding farmers who “live to farm rather than “farm to live. This involves searching for a “shadow segment, a group whose behavior is poorly predicted by the pattern which organizes the traditional segmentation framework. John Deere discovered six clusters of goals and attitudes among the category known as “small farmers. The analytic method involves integrating various personas into a storyboard. Deere finds that user experience design of this sort helps them develop actionable strategies. Actionability for closing a sale and personification in this instance go together. The segment insight framework consists of three categories:
1. Classification, which is demographic.
2. Orientation, which is behavioral.
3. Stance, which is attitudinal.
Personally, I see nothing especially different here from sophisticated segmentation strategies long in use by B2C companies, but that is not to dismiss the significance of the method for improving B2B marketing success.
Hubspot: quantifying the ROI on marketing expenditures
Mike Volpe, Chief Marketing Officer at HubSpot, which offers an inbound marketing software platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads and close customer deals, lectured on how marketers can use marketing analytics to communicate return on investment to skeptical sales forces within their own companies. With the growing pressure of the marketing function to prove its worth in todays cost-conscious business environment, whether B2B or B2C, Volpes suggestions come in handy. His example:
If an average customer gains the company $100,000 in revenue and 10 percent of leads requesting a price quote end up by closing the deal, then the lead value is $100,000×0.10=$10,000.
If, on the other hand, given the same average $100,000 revenue, only 0.8 percent of webinar leads eventuate by closing a deal, then the lead value of this lead type is $100,000×0.008=$800 (Exhibit I).
In this way, the marketers can have a metric just like the sales team measured in dollars. Volpe recommends communicating these metrics on a regular basis, such as monthly or daily, the same way the sales teams do, to protect marketings share of the budget. HubSpot is a provider of software for this type of data management.
Curata: content management for ubiquitous social media
One issue that obsesses all businesses these days, whether B2C or B2B, is that of providing and managing compelling content for their various social media channels, such as Facebook, their website(s) and Twitter. The very prevalence of booths at the B2B Forum representing CMS and content management providers attests to the current importance of digital tools in the marketing programs of all companies. One of those service providers, Curata (www.curata.com) – a content curation and online marketing solution provider based in Cambridge, MA, even handed out free memory sticks uploaded with their sales presentation about their business-grade, content-curation software which helps clients find, organize and share relevant content. I found the memory stick a very clever bit of swag given the number of firms doing similar things trying to grab my attention. B2B marketing indeed.
Curatas message is that it is necessary to blend “creation and curation in a perfectly balanced content diet. The two complementary halves of content marketing are creation and curation. They described the creation function of developing original content as taking on the role of a chef. Each “unique recipe and preparation is a direct expression of a companys signature philosophy and style. Curation, in contrast, is collecting, filtering, organizing and editorializing other peoples content. This curation side of things encompasses a variety of roles: that of editor (described as the “food critic, in the ongoing metaphor employed by Curata) because of filtering available content and selecting the best pieces, ranking them for relevance and quality, organizing and categorizing information to make it easier to understand. That of journalist (who Curata calls a “foodie) because of sharing enthusiasm for a particular topic, researching and reporting, showing all sides of a story, integrating opinion, and that of analyst (in Curatas metaphor, the “head chef) for setting the standards, explaining the rules, and providing insights from a broad perspective.
Curata cautions against wanting to use only 100-percent-original content, emphasizing that adding curated content to the “menu saves the marketer from burn out and provides the social media channels with a much more “balanced diet. All I can say in conclusion is “bon appétit! and do not get indigestion from all the information available on the web.
Kenneth Alan Grossberg
Professor of Marketing & Strategy and Director of the Waseda Marketing Forum, Waseda University, Tokyo (email@example.com).
1. Leslie Lau, Global Social Media Manager, Cisco Systems, “Social CRM for the B2B Enterprise.
2. Kevin J. Klein, Vice President – Pitney Bowes Enterprise Solution Principal and John Merola, Fellow, Mathematical Sciences – Pitney Bowes Strategic Technology & Innovation Center, “Location Intelligence and the Next Big Opportunity in B2B Marketing.
3. Mike Blonski – President, John Deere Canada and Glen Drummond – Chief Innovation Officer, Quarry, and “Beyond Stereotypes – John Deeres Approach to Personifying Customer Insight.
4. How to Feed the Content Beast (without getting eaten alive) © 2013 by Curata, Inc.