FUNNEL 2012Econsultancy has this month published the second edition of the Marketing Automation Buyer’s Guide, which contains an analysis of market trends, profiles of vendors and tips for marketers who want to invest in an automation platform.

Below, I’ve focused on one of the trends highlighted in the report: the integration of traditional prospect data with social data and the steps that marketing automation vendors have been taking in this area.

Contrary to popular belief, an increasing number of B2B organisations have been using social media marketing for commercial purposes. For those who still doubt that social can help B2B companies increase brand awareness and drive sales, here are two examples.

Hitachi Data Systems

As Sharon Crost, Hitachi Data Systems’ Global Online Marketing / Social Media Manager, highlighted during a presentation earlier this year, the company wasn’t sure if social media was a good marketing investment for a B2B enterprise with a conservative culture.

The company sells to C-level executives during an 18-month sales cycle, often through channel partners. Despite some reservations, they decided to test it out, using a small budget and five key steps: testing different social media channels, segmenting their audience, enabling influencers to push the campaign’s message (or as Sharon calls it, “amplification power”), using early results to test and optimise campaigns, and nurturing their audience throughout the campaigns.

Sharon revealed the details of Hitachi’s successful lead generation efforts launched in the last two years:

  • The first one, internally-named the “Quiz Campaign”, was launched on a microsite. The campaign was based on a treasure hunt that directed users to find details about a character (Ray) by navigating through Hitachi’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • As part of the “Globe Campaign”, the company created a virtual spinning globe that was geo-tagged with markers displaying customer testimonials and case studies. The stars in this interactive universe represented a collection of real-time tweets from users sharing the experiences they’ve had with Hitachi solutions.

Hitachi Globe campaign

Both social media campaigns targeted decision makers with the potential of impacting sales and decision influencers who amplify the buzz and offer guidance to the decision-makers. The results (versus goals) are summarised in the table below:

Hewlett-Packard Technology Services

The company decided to put the focus on the individual people who provide technology services and support via its “Where’s the Humanity in Your Technology” campaign. Although the initial research was conducted around its support services, HP expanded the campaign to include its entire portfolio of services.

HP created a “Meet the Experts” microsite where customers could read about experts from each of the company’s service areas and regions, with videos and detailed profiles.

To determine the pool of experts featured on the microsite, HP used an internal “Wall of Humanity” programme asking managers to nominate employees around the world. The microsite was promoted in two ways:

  • A Facebook IT Personality Quiz questioning customers / prospects about their typical workdays and various IT challenges they face in order to determine their work styles and match them to an IT personality. Customers were then driven to the microsite so they could connect with experts with similar personalities and work styles.
  • Experts Sweepstakes: users then viewed videos of selected experts and were asked to vote for those experts who were best suited to help with their most difficult IT issues. Each vote resulted in a $10 contribution, up to $100,000, to CARE, a humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty.

The social media campaign resulted in:

  • Share of voice (SOV) increased by 146% quarter over quarter.
  • LinkedIn ads had more than 4.5 million impressions in five weeks. The quiz received more than 10,000 tab views and helped increase the number of fans of the HP Enterprise Business Facebook page by 149%.
  • YouTube video views more than doubled quarter to quarter, while the “Meet the Experts” microsite had more than 60,000 page views in six weeks.
  • The sweepstakes reached their goal of 10,000 entries and $100,000 in CARE donations in nine days.

Despite the obvious rewards, a very small proportion of companies are actually incorporating social interactions into the customer funnel. According to recent research conducted by Eloqua, just 35% of UK B2B companies use social media to create demand for their product or services and even less (22%) use social media to collect data for lead generation purposes.

Econsultancy / Adobe research also revealed that in most companies social media exists as a standalone programme that isn’t coupled with CRM. In just over half (55%) of companies surveyed, social media data and CRM data are ‘completely separate’ and only 29% of respondents ‘try to join up social media and CRM data’.

However, marketing automation vendors have already recognised the opportunity of integrating their technology with social media management platforms, helping companies understand the role social interactions and engagement play in the decision-making processes.

Adam Blitzer, Co-founder and COO at Pardot (acquired by ExactTarget in October 2012), emphasises that marketing automation is about delivering a relevant, pesonalised customer experience:

Three big areas of focus are personalisation, social media, and analytics. Despite the inclusion of automation in the product name, marketing automation helps to build relationships and improve one-to-one communication. Features such as dynamic content allow marketers to use the data they’ve collected on each prospect to provide a personalised experience through their website and emails.

Many vendors have integrated their solutions with social media channels to open up more lines of communication. And, as with all new features, the bottom line is still focused on the return on investment. More robust reporting methods will continue to give marketers deeper insight into their campaigns and please the C-level.

Sylvia Jensen, Director of Marketing – EMEA at Eloqua, also believes that integration with social will be a major focus for marketing automation vendors moving forward:

A massive trend is social media, specifically integrating social media into demand generation. Social channels are crucial to the modern marketer’s mix but B2B marketers are struggling with how best to integrate social into their campaigns and how to generate real demand and revenue with social. Marketing automation vendors are addressing this need with new functionality in their platforms, for example, social sign-on. This will continue to be a focus for the market.

While inclusion of social data in individual prospect profiles that are accessed by sales people and cross-referencing it with other customer information seems quite straightforward, marketing automation platforms are highly dependent on ever-changing APIs that can significantly limit the integration.

This has been one of the main drivers of the consolidation wave we’ve witnessed this year, with leading marketing automation vendors expanding their products’ scope by acquiring independent, complementary solutions (for example, Marketo acquired Crowd Factory, a social campaign management platform, in April 2012).

We explore in more detail these trends and other market developments in our Marketing Automation Buyer’s Guide. The guide includes profiles of 21 leading vendors, as well as tips (and pitfalls to avoid) to help you find the right marketing automation platform.

FUNNEL, Econsultancy’s B2B marketing conference takes place at Emirates Stadium, 13 November 2012. FUNNEL was created to help bring together sales and marketing teams to define better ways of turning awareness into interest and interest into revenue – while tracking the entire cycle.

Find out how you can align your marketing and sales efforts at FUNNEL.