Social behaviour: The third dimension of demand generation for B2B marketersby
4th Oct 2010
Bruce Culbert looks at the two dimensions of lead scoring and the value and opportunity presented by the third dimension - social behaviour.
Today’s sophisticated B2B marketers are relentless in their pursuit of new leads and revenue sources that can be converted into closed business. The best return on investments in marketing and sales are achieved by companies that are diligent in understanding their customers’ buying cycle and work to engage, influence and convert leads from early stage inquires to closed sales in the most efficient and effective way possible. These companies use advanced lead scoring criteria that reviews and scores both online behaviour and demographic data.
The resulting 'lead score' provides concrete data on the quality of the lead and the propensity to buy at a particular point in time. I will explain these two dimensions of lead scoring in a little more detail and then focus on the value and opportunity presented by the third dimension, social behaviour, which until recently was almost impossible to consider.
The demographic variables or values are things that all marketers try to understand. This is the specific information provided by web forms, interviews, surveys, customer orders and other means where a potential prospect volunteers information about themselves or their company. Many times, this information comes from third party service providers who specialise in marketing research that assist companies in profiling potential buyers.
This data can include information such as company size, location, type of business, products and services offered and other facts about the company. Specific prospect information can also be obtained such as title, job role or function and purchasing authority. Another common source of this information is a company’s own customer database or CRM system where information about the company, personnel and purchasing history could be used to determine if current and past customers are good prospects for new offers. All this data can be considered demographic scoring criteria.
Online behavioural data is based on observing prospect behaviour. For B2B marketers, this has predominantly meant the observation of online behaviour in environments that the selling organisation controls. Things like website visits and click stream analysis, web event registration and attendance, email campaign responses, form submissions, web chats, profile updates, white paper downloads, demo requests and free trial offers are some of the common types of activity that can be tracked and utilised in scoring programs to help qualify prospect interest.
Activity outside of the organisation
However, today, most of the conversations and online activity of prospects and customers alike happen outside the physical and online presence of the company. This is what I consider the third dimension, social behaviour. This activity is completely controlled and directed by the prospect and for the most part unknown to the seller and very difficult to gain any insights into - until recently. Advances in technology and customer engagement models now allow for companies to gain new insight, feedback and direction from prospects through multiple social channels.
Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, YouTube, along with product and service review sites, industry forums and communities, and other professional and consumer social networking sites represent opportunities for companies to engage, interact and glean useful insights into customers and prospects requirements and expectations. A simple example is the prospect who comments positively about a product demo in a LinkedIn industry group. If a company were able to capture this kind of data, wouldn’t it be helpful during the sales process with that customer? I think the unanimous answer would be: 'Yes'.
Likewise, what if someone tweeted or posted on a forum that they were seeking a solution to a business problem that your company could solve? What if they were already your customer and thinking about other solutions? Would you want to know that? Would this information have an effect on your marketing and sales process? Again the answer is: 'Yes'. However, you may not be aware of this important social activity if you are not listening and participating.
So it should be easy to see that there is vast potential for gaining useful sales qualifying information from social networking efforts. This is particularly true in the UK, as Hitwise reported in May 2010 that social networks got more visits than search engines, one of the traditional online sources for B2B marketers to drive new sales leads. The tide has turned and customers are doing commercial research in peer and professional social networks as much or more than they are doing general web 'search'.
For the third dimension, social behaviour, to be useful, a company must commit to engaging in the activity of the social networks that are most appropriate for their business. Once an engagement/participation strategy is in place, then social conversations, data and activity can be captured and combined or overlaid with demographic and behavioural data, improving a company’s ability to target messages and offers through all channels and to further improve the accuracy of lead scoring.
The ultimate goal of all this data gathering is to determine where a customer is in the buy cycle, and how to best nurture their interest in a specific offer as well as to predict and measure attitudes and propensity to purchase from the company at some specific point in time. Ultimately, every company must develop an integrated customer strategy that ties all three dimensions together through marketing automation, social media and CRM, producing a revenue marketing machine for the organisation.
Marketers in the UK and elsewhere in EU can learn more about the power of Social CRM (SCRM) and its impact on marketing, sales and service by attending the first ever SCRM Summit in London hosted by Capgemini and BPT Partners on 4 and 5 November, and sponsored by Oracle, Pegasystems, Sword Ciboodle and SAS. The SCRM Summit features the research and work of Paul Greenberg, world renowned CRM analyst and author. More information and early registration opportunities can be found at www.bptpartners.com/professional.html