Entries Tagged as 'Social Media'

B2B Marketing Strategies for Small Companies: An Interview with Dianna Huff

This is one of a series of occasional interviews with top practitioners on topics of interest to business-to-business lead generation, marketing and new business development professionals.

Dianna Huff

My guest today is Dianna Huff of DH Communications. Dianna helps businesses with their B2B marketing communications content strategy and implementation.

Dianna, what are some of the marketing mistakes you see smaller companies making with regard to B2B marketing communications strategy, and what should smart marketers do instead?

Mac, that’s a good question. I see companies frequently making these two common mistakes:

First, not having a strategy. For example, someone from a small company will call to say, “We want to send out an e-newsletter,” but the marketer or business owner hasn’t thought through the purpose of the newsletter (except for the generic “We want to send people to our website”). Usually the person doesn’t know what the newsletter content will or should be, the publishing frequency, whether or not he or she wants to use segmented lists, etc., etc.

Smart marketers will sit down and plan out strategy based on a stated objective, whether it’s to increase sales, bring in more leads, better nurture the leads they have, lower their costs (i.e., move from a print newsletter to an e-newsletter), gain more industry exposure, market an e-book, etc., and then plan out the tactics for implementing the strategy from start to finish based on the objective.

Second, strategy doesn’t match the objective. By this, I mean that a marketer or business owner will have a stated objective – i.e., “We want more leads” – and the strategy for getting those leads might be something like writing articles for trade publications or developing a blog. Writing articles and developing a blog are both good marketing tactics for accomplishing such objectives as branding and awareness, but I wouldn’t use them to get leads in the door.

As you know, Mac, smart marketers use other methods, both online and off, to generate leads. For example, marketers would be better off using an integrated campaign that includes e-mail, direct mail and pay-per-click advertising to make offers (white papers, reports, e-books) specifically designed to generate leads.

I know you focus a lot on improving your clients’ websites. Dianna, what are the most common mistakes that small businesses are making with their websites, and what should they be doing better?

The biggest mistake small businesses make is to think of their websites as their “online brochures.” A website and a brochure are two completely different animals.

The other mistake I see is that many small businesses (and large ones too) have absolutely no clue about website marketing and search engine optimization. So they’ll spend a boatload of money to make their site look good graphically, then wonder why they still have no visitors.

To be successful online, companies must develop a strategy for getting traffic to their websites. For example, the site, or rather each of its pages, must be optimized in order to get found by the search engines.

Dianna, what do you think B2B marketers at small companies should be doing differently than their peers at big companies?

Actually, small companies usually already do things differently than their peers at large companies: because they are small, they can implement new ideas quickly. That’s one reason why savvy small-business marketers have flocked to SEO, social media, blogs, etc. It can take a large company months to make a decision on something as simple as optimizing a site, starting a blog or opening a Twitter account.

Small businesses do and should use this “nimbleness” to their advantage – and use the latest online marketing tools to build an Internet presence that rivals that of the “big boys.” As the HubSpot founders say in their book, Inbound Marketing, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” For example, prospects often think that my company is larger than it is, due to my strong presence on the Internet.

I noticed on Twitter that you said your #1-read blog post is the one about marketing communications job descriptions. Dianna, why do you think so many people are interested in that topic?

I think people are reading my marcom job description post because they’re looking for a job and/or they need to write a job description. The post is near the top of the search results in Google for “marcom job description” – that tells you the power of SEO and blogs – which is probably why I’m getting so much traffic to it.

My understanding is that you think marcom professionals – and those who hire them – focus too much on managing projects and copywriting. Please tell me more about that.

As you know, Mac, lots has been written about the negative consequences of the “disconnect” between marketing and sales. In fact, I still remember that wonderful cats and dogs presentation on the subject of integrating marketing and sales you gave at a conference last year.

In my opinion, the marketing/sales disconnect starts with the marcom job description. Just last week I was shown a marcom job description – and again, the company wanted someone who could write well and manage multiple projects. The job description did not address the most important fact: that marketing’s job is to help sales do their job – i.e., get results!

A marcom professional should know how to communicate well, of course, but this person needs to understand a whole other set of skills – as you and others pointed out in your follow-up post to my post.

So, until a company’s leaders start demanding more from its marketing communications practitioners, this disconnect will continue to exist and marketing and sales will continue to fight like cats and dogs.

You mentioned that more companies are asking you about social media marketing. What is your perspective on social media, Dianna? Is it something B2B marketers need to pay attention to?

Social media is definately something B2B marketers need to pay attention to. Why? Because as a Fortune 500 client said to me recently, “Although most of our customers are 50-year-old white men, it won’t be that way forever. Younger people are moving up the ranks – and they are social media savvy.”

Dianna, do you have any last thoughts on the subject of small company B2B marketing you want to share with our readers?

Marketing is changing – literally. It can be difficult to keep up with all that is new, and for that reason, a small-business owner may elect to simply “opt out.” After all, he or she reasons, “My customers have found me in the past via word of mouth, so I’ll keep doing that.”

Word of mouth will continue to work, but it has become what author David Meerman Scott calls “word of mouse.” So it really pays to ensure that you know how to use the Internet to effectively market your business. You simply cannot afford to ignore it.

Dianna, thanks for sharing your expertise with our readers.

Thank you, Mac, for the opportunity.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the subject of B2B marketing for small businesses?

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Business Software Marketers: Finally a Conference Designed Just For You!

Join me and your business software marketing peers at this conference just for software marketing leaders.

business software marketing conference

Capterra: The Conference
Empowering Software Marketing Leaders

September 13-15 in Washington DC

Make the absolute most out of your marketing efforts across the board. That’s the goal of this first-ever business software marketing conference.

You’ll learn cutting-edge strategies for improving everything from your online marketing to your lead generation efforts from top industry experts (including yours truly).

Confirmed speakers include Ramon Ray, Bryan Eisenberg, Wil Reynolds, Robert Wright, David Meerman Scott, Ruth Stevens, Ashish Vij, Stephanie Miller, and Gord Hotchkiss. Learn more about them here.

Each presentation will be tailored specifically for the business software industry, and will deliver highly practical ideas designed for immediate results. Topics will include:

  • Always Be Testing: Marketing Optimization in Challenging Times
  • SEO Tools You Can Use Today To Improve Your Rankings
  • Winning Positioning Strategies For Software Category Leadership
  • Visitors Come and Visitors Go: Why Aren’t They Becoming Customers?
  • How To Motivate Action Online
  • Using The New Rules of Marketing and PR to Reach Software Buyers Directly
  • The latest tools and features in Google Analytics to help optimize your website lead pipeline
  • Successfully Measuring Email Marketing Success
  • The BuyerSphere — A Different Perspective on B2B Buying

The agenda shows my session, A Lead-Driven Approach to Increasing Business Software Sales, is scheduled for Monday, September 14th at 10:00 am.

My presentation will address proven ways to use sales leads to find more short-term sales opportunities that your sales team and channel partners can close before the end of the year.

I’ll also be facilitating a breakout session on Monday afternoon entitled, Lead Generation: A Group Idea Exchange. It will be your opportunity to swap ideas about lead generation with some of the best in the business: your business software marketing peers. This idea exchange will be an open forum where you’ll have a chance to share both your successes, and your challenges, with generating, nurturing and qualifying sales leads.

Will I see you at Capterra: The Conference?

If you are planning to attend, please be sure to take advantage of my special presenter’s discount code capcon09mm when registering. It will save you $100!

Learn more and register here.


Is social media effective for B2B lead generation?


I’m probably biased, but I believe the primary objective of business-to-business marketing is driving sales of the company’s products and services.

Of course branding and awareness are also roles that can be played effectively by B2B marketing, but from my point of view these are only supporting roles—secondary to the primary objective of helping drive sales.

In many, if not most, of the companies that sell their products or services to other companies, driving their sales with marketing is best accomplished by using one-to-many marketing communications tactics: To be found by or to proactively contact prospective customers; to deliver key messages and offers to them; to motivating these prospects to become sales leads by their responding, providing information or taking actions that identify them as representing real sales opportunities that the company’s salespeople, reps, resellers and distributors can turn into closed sales and revenue for the company.

Other B2B companies try to skip the leads-to-salespeople-to-sales process, instead encouraging prospective customers to initiate purchases themselves from print or online catalogs and/or via order forms, e-commerce sites, phone calls or purchase orders. Yet many of these same companies eventually come to the realization that not every prospective customer is ready to buy now. So they grudgingly develop programs to proactively follow up with and try to influence these longer-term prospects to move forward in their buying process and to consider the company’s products or services as they approach their purchase decision points.

What’s all this have to do with social media?

I have been working hard, for at least a couple of years now, trying to use social media to measurably move the needle in regard to generating B2B sales leads and driving B2B sales.

I’m sad to say I’m not seeing anything beyond anecdotal results, either from my own extensive social marketing efforts, or from those of my clients.

So I’ve also been searching for evidence of leads and sales from social marketing everywhere I can.

However, the only clear cases of success I have been able to find have involved the people who sell products or services to others who are practicing or interested in learning more about social marketing—preaching to the choir, so of speak.

Examples that come to mind include David Meerman Scott, speaker and author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing & Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly, and Joel Comm, the Internet entrepreneur, speaker and author of Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time.

Some new studies that start to quantify the impact of social media on generating leads and driving sales have been recently released.

A blog post I wrote a few weeks back, How does social media rank in influencing business technology purchase decisions? talks about a recent Forrester Research study that looks at social media’s influence on the business technology buyer. Unfortunately, it does little to quantify any actual leads or sales results.

Michael Stelzner, best known as the author of Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged, recently released his report on the results of a survey on social media marketing that he’s using as bait for the Social Media Success Summit he’s producing in May. Although "Generated qualified leads" and "Helped me close business" were listed as benefits seen by the users of social media, they were near the bottom of the list of eight choices, and no information was given about actual numbers of leads, sales or ROI. I think it is interesting to note that most of those who said social media helped them generate leads and close business have been active in social networking for years and/or are investing more than 16 hours a week in it. By the way, some of the results in Stelzner’s report may be biased, considering that only social media was used to promote survey participation, starting with a tweet on Twitter that got retweeted by others and was seen by Twitterers’ networks on other social media including Facebook and LinkedIn.

Regarding social media’s impact on B2B sales, last night I read a briefing from B2B sales guru Dave Stein’s company, ES Research Group, called Do The New Social Media Enable B2B Selling? about a survey they recently conducted. It reported that a large majority of the nearly 400 B2B sales professionals who participated in the survey said they are using LinkedIn and approximately a third of them said it has helped them win sales sometimes or often. Not bad! However, only a small number of them reported using any other social media, and only a small percentage of those users reported that those media helped them win sales.

Marketers, please keep in mind that these LinkedIn users are B2B sales professionals, leveraging it to make one-to-one sales contacts—not marketers trying to use LinkedIn as a one-to-many lead-generation tactic. Again, so far, I haven’t found any B2B marketers who have been able to share concrete numbers regarding leads and sales from their marketing via social media on LinkedIn or anywhere else.

A side note: To learn more about how the B2B sales industry is leveraging social media, software and the Internet, consider attending Sales 2.0 in Boston on May 21.

My quest for quantitative proof that social media is an effective tactic for generating B2B leads and sales continues.

I remember a mentor of mine once saying, "Mac, don’t confuse activity with productivity." I think that thought applies to social media. Sure it’s getting a lot of activity, but is it really productive at meeting what I believe should be the primary objectives of B2B marketing—driving leads and sales?

I’m hopeful that at least a few—among the thousands of B2B marketers who have jumped on board the social media bandwagon—will soon be able to prove, through quantitative data rather than one or two anecdotes, that their social media marketing programs are helping drive more leads and sales for their companies.

In the meantime, I’m going to consider marketing through social media to be a tactic more appropriate for branding and awareness, and think of LinkedIn as an effective sales tool for B2B salespeople rather than B2B marketers.

But when my primary objectives are generating leads and driving sales—more difficult than ever in today’s challenging business environment—I’ll skip social media and instead use some of the many other B2B marketing tactics that already are proven to be productive.

Marketers: What measurable results are you gettting from using social media to generate B2B leads and sales?

If you have any quantitative data that shows the effectiveness of social media as a tactic for generating B2B leads and driving B2B sales, please tell us more about it.


How does social media rank in influencing business technology purchase decisions?

B2B Marketing and Social MediaAccording to a new study from Forrester Research, technology decision-makers actively participate in social media as it relates to their job.

However, the same research puts social media pretty far down the list of sources of information impacting purchase decision making process.

I’ve personally been searching for quantitative evidence of social media’s impact on B2B leads and sales results. So the following statement in Forrester’s press release about its new study caught my attention: “…social media has yet to effectively influence a large part of the technology buying process.

My friend, Dianna Huff, suggested I check out Laura Ramos’ blog to see what she had to say about it. (Laura is vice president and principal analyst in Forrester’s technology marketing research team.)

A link in Laura’s blog led to a slide presentation addressing the study which included a survey of 1,217 technology decision makers at companies in North America and Europe with 100 or more employees.

Slide #20 addressed the survey question, “Which of the following sources of information impact your decision making process?” The answers were:

  • Peers and colleagues – 84%
  • Vendor, industry and trade Web sites – 69%
  • Your direct vendor salesperson – 69%
  • Technology or business magazines – 66%
  • Consultants, VARs and SIs – 65%
  • Industry trade shows or conferences (in person) – 59%
  • Forums, online communities and social networks – 45%
  • Industry analyst firms – 45%
  • E-mail or electronic newsletters – 41%
  • Web events or virtual trade shows – 40%
  • Interactive media: podcasts, video, online demos – 30%
  • Blogs – 24%

A story in eWeek about this research said, “…while business buyers may be using social networks and other tools in their enterprise and personal lives, Web 2.0 social technology isn’t affecting their decisions when it comes to purchasing business solutions.

Do you agree with eWeek’s conclusion? Please share your thoughts.

Need help with B2B lead generation, marketing and sales?
For more information, please call Mac McIntosh at +1-401-294-7730, send him email at or visit www.sales-lead-experts.com