That was the question posed just now by Eddie Choi from the SES Advisory Board & Managing Director, Frontiers Digital at SES here in Hong Kong.
During the keynote panel, Increasing ROI through B2B Lead Generation, myself, Matthias Baur, Corporate e-Business Development Director at Reed Exhibitions and Peter Zapf, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Global Sources set out to answer it with a most emphatic no!
There's been a lot of talk about whether web marketing, especially social media, holds value for B2B lead generation efforts, and the session was set up to give the assembled throng, here at the Hyatt Hotel in Kowloon, some advice on how to leverage the Internet to drive revenue and lower costs.
Peter kicked things off, saying that your Internet marketing foray should be built out using a business case. At Global Sources, they map out the cost of any web marketing channel or campaign, figure out what the potential return might be and compare the results with other channels and with their offline marketing.
If the numbers don't stack up then they won't proceed as online marketing is so accountable, there's no point in starting a campaign if there's going to be no return.
He saw organic search optimization as crucial to any B2B armoury and set out a particular process for implementation.
- Keyword research
- Establishing a current baseline for those KWS
- Identifying the page to win each KW
- Identifying and executing changes needed on and off page
- Measure results - indexing, ranking, traffic conversions and economic value
His final advice when it comes to search: "It can be a science (not an art) so measure everything!"
Matthias began with a definition of social media as, "The sum of all conversations online."
He was keen to stress that social media was, "...a little more than a hot topic." In other words, it should be seen as flash-in-the-pan as it really does hold real value for B2B marketers.
Interestingly, he said that we had to think about how we generate leads and what kind. Too many businesses jump straight into Facebook and Twitter without necessarily doing their research into where there target audience has conversations online. Peter had earlier said his company only targets over-21s on Facebook as they're unlikely to buy his product at that age, so Matthias said it's important to think about what drives your market and where they do their driving.
With search and social he said it's important to try and, "Turn questions into leads."
Speak, listen and learn from your customers - be socialable he evangelized.
He finished up by expressing how crucial it is to have a strategy and said, "the biggest danger is to forget about SEM and not realize that social media is just part of the online mix."
My presentation was centered around our B2B Social Media White Paper where we talk about how the Microsoft Advertising Community Team was born and how we connect with advertisers and marketers with social media to help, understand and gather feedback on our products and services.
I started with a story about how I once helped recruit a monk (!) and demonstrated that no matter what your niche, search and social media can pay dividends.
Then I took the audience through several B2B Social Media ROI indicators that I wrote about in depth this week on the Microsoft Advertising Blog.
- Measure growth & translate as "reach": The more your customers are listening and engaging with you, the less time they are spending with your competitors.
- Think how you're lowering costs: Don't always think about sales, but consider how much money you're saving in other areas by being social.
- Information & empowerment leads to increased spend: If your customers are educated they'll use your product more.
- Internal education leads to external evangelism: Having a clued up work-force will see benefit in them spreading the news of your company via word of mouth and on social networks because they know how to talk about you with your message.
- "Earned Media": The Windows 7 launch social media campaign generated 221M Impressions. Far cheaper than any paid media.
- Think "Social Media Marketing": Be Disciplined - by committing to social, you're committing to keep the conversation going. Don't think "social media" as in the tools. Think "social media marketing" as a discipline that pervades all your marketing channels. It's about discoverability and shareability.
- What's the Return on In-action? What are the risks if you don't engage in social? Will you left behind. Is there money left on the table? Probably.
I always learn a lot at conferences, even if I'm speaking at them, and SES Hong Kong has been a great event bringing together many marketers from all over the world to learn top tips and about the Asian digital landscape in general.
Hopefully the audience walked away from our session with the notion that B2B marketing is not only very exciting, but that there are very real returns if they play their cards right.