Showing the ROI in Social Media. What I learned at the Marketing Profs B2B Conference

Dedicating the time to attend a conference on the opposite coast creates the expectation that I’d receive a lot of value in exchange. I thought long and hard about which conference to attend this year, looking at both the content, speakers and thinking about what I’d be able to learn and then apply in the work I do every day. My company expects the same: I need to show the ROI of attending. I was not disappointed.

It was tough to choose between the Social Media ROI training day versus Lead Generation because both are critical to our company – and I’d say most companies today.  But as many people struggle to define the ROI of the social media – because you don’t see the direct leads or instant data – it’s more long term. And that’s where I went. Christina “CK” Kerley knocked it out of the park. Had I only gone to that one day of training, I’d have considered the conference a huge success. I saw, through powerful examples of many different sized businesses exactly how to measure ROI.

But the big a-ha for me was mobile. I must confess to having not even considered the potential let alone importance of mobile.   But that there are currently 4.6 Billion mobile subscriptions and that mobile will overtake PCs for accessing the Web within three years according to Gartner research was a wake up call. While fairly tech savvy, I must confess to not yet owning an iPhone, Droid or Blackberry – however, that’ll change soon.

A few of the Case studies demonstrating tangible ROI:

  • Kinaxis – since launching their private community in July 2009, they’ve doubled traffic and number of leads. In fact 75% of their community members are prospects. What a great way to build credibility, awareness and trust – not to mention stay top of mind when it’s time to buy. Social Media now makes up 90% of their marketing plan.
  • Expert Laser ServicesEveryone at one time or another has wanted to throw their printer out the window. They created a contest to do just that: offering awards for the most innovative way to destroy your printer – that’s now become an annual event and they’ve increased their inbound links, web traffic and gained significant PR exposure.
  • Equation Research – using crowdsourcing through blogs and Twitter to develop a survey that demonstrates their core expertise. Result? 200% increase in web traffic and a 400-prospect database.
  • Caturano & Company – Here’s an accounting firm that used a Linkedin Group to bring New England CFOs together for Q and A. After 6 months, their company ranked on the first page of Google for over 20 targeted terms, traffic to their site doubled and they receive 15 to 20 leads from the web each month. This translated into $650K of new business for an ROI of over 2000%.

Social Media is a big SEO opportunity – frequently updated content is a good thing in Google’s eyes and companies that create communities, lively blogs and engagement rank better than those who rarely update their content.

The other big opportunity for B2Bs is the ability to repurpose content in several different forms. Taking those white papers and creating a series of blog posts, a podcast, videos on You Tube, and presentations on SlideShare enhances your ability to reach more people the way THEY want to be reached. And most B2B companies have a lot of content they can reuse – much more so than consumer companies.

But Mobile was really the big takeaway from this. From the importance to how you can integrate it into your marketing. From the basics of creating a mobile friendly website to optimizing your content for access with a 100-word summary connected to the full article available on your website. After all, who wants to read 5,000 words on a mobile phone? Think short, helpful videos, SMS alerts and even the use of foursquare to enhance your connection with prospects and customers. Key is to connect your mobile efforts with your other programs and always remember that because mobile is so personal – you MUST get permission before sending anything. Who will take kindly to spam on their phone? Mobile is where I’ll be spending significant time going forward.

Social Media isreally another tool in the marketer’s toolbox. You have to think differently about it – it’s not a bullhorn for spouting messages, but a way to build relationships. And that’s why it’s perfect for B2B companies. They’re all about relationships. It still requires a strategy and you need to use traditional marketing techniques to let people know where to connect with you. And while the tools are often free or cost very little, it takes time. A LOT of time. And that’s not free. So be smart about it. Know what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to feed your efforts to keep it going.

When you think about creating a Community, take note, as LaSandra Brill of Cisco Systems said, you only have one chance with your brand. Start a community without a clear plan to keep it going and make it worth people’s time, and they’ll leave, and your brand will suffer. It’s also far harder to convince people to give you a second chance. Create an editorial calendar to seed your communities and blogs with rich content. And remember that these aren’t marketing campaigns with a beginning and an end.

The conference was two days of rich B2B brain food on top off the in-depth training on Social Media ROI. I wish I could have cloned myself to attend more sessions, but alas, had to make some tough choices (a nice problem to have at a conference).

Outside of the great sessions, I was lucky to have a one-on-one with Ron Ploof to discuss ways to use Twitter, which while validating that I’m doing most of it right, I received a couple great tips including using Tweetreach to see how my Tweets spread (or not) and searching bios for keywords to find relevant Tweeps to follow and connect with.

That said, my 9 key thoughts from the conference are:

  1. Think publishing. Goal with content marketing is to become the best magazine in your industry.
  2. 20% of searches done in Google every day have never been done before. Always think about SEO and how you can be found easier. Because people are always looking. And being easy to find leads to more business.
  3. Mobile allows you to reach executives at the point they’re ready to buy – are you providing the information they need when they need it to choose you? Every executive has a mobile phone. But always remember it’s personal.
  4. Know the mobile platforms your market is using and develop for those. Need to consider iPhone, Android, Blackberry (which has more than one), Win Mobile and Nokia. And don’t forget the iPad.
  5. Email is really effective, but you need to personalize it with dynamic content. eNewsletters sent from a sales person rather than generic address increases open rate by 7% to 10%. Volvo Construction uses dynamic content  where watching a video triggers an email to download relevant case studies or articles. In one year, generated 285 sales of used equipment for $58 million. Key is to automate the interaction at the beginning – but make it personal and drive the funnel towards connecting with sales.
  6. In 1990 there were just a couple ways to reach people: print and broadcast, direct mail and phone. Today there are 31 different ways to spend a marketing budget, making our job significantly more complex.
  7. Always think about how I can measure this. But know the data you need and how to take action once you get it. Remember that not every interaction can be quantified. You need to embrace the chaos.
  8. There are over 100 social media tools available to track, measure and engage with 20 to 30 more coming out soon. It’s tough to be everywhere and always stay current. Find out the key tools you need, places to connect and focus there. You don’t have to use them all. Use to claim your brand at each. But these are just tools. Focus on your strategy and how you’ll integrate social media into your total marketing plan.
  9. If you spin it, it will be counterspun. Stock messages will get shut down. Think the new ROI – Relationships, Opportunities, Involvement.


  1. Ardath Albee says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Thanks for the recap of the conference. In regards to #6 in your takeaways list – can you tell me the 31 different ways to spend a marketing budget? Seems like there are much more than that, so I’m curious as to what was emphasized at the conference, and who compiled the list.


  2. CK says:

    Thank you for the kind words, Patrick–and I’m delighted that we had the chance to hang out throughout the conference. I was reflecting back on what a terrific bunch we had for the workshop and how much we covered… across both social media and mobile media.

    I think it’s far too easy to relegate these technologies as consumer tools; yet with B2Bs relying so heavily on relationship building and business performance they are truly the perfect fit for our business-centric audiences. And as we discussed, B2Bs are developing some incredibly creative programs to court and keep customers and with irrefutable ROI.

    All that said, even though the 2010 conference has come to an end, the conversations certainly have not. As I said over email, I’m here to bounce ideas around with anytime, and I can’t wait to hear of your continued progress as you bring your company into this most exciting marketing era!

  3. Patrick says:

    Hi Ardath – Here are the 31 ways as outlined by Joel Book of Exact Target. Certainly within each there are multiple venues/options. Let me know what you think – and what might be missing!

    Addressable Voice
    Mobile Email
    Direct Mail
    Online Display
    Paid Search
    Landing Pages
    Online Video
    Affiliate Marketing
    Social Networks
    Mobile Web
    Social Media & Ads
    Virtual Worlds

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