Many organizations rely on social media to create awareness and branding, but few have cracked the code on how to effectively use it for lead generation. Combining and triangulating on customer purchase patterns, forum discussions, and social media feeds can help in predicting future purchases and accelerate existing sales opportunities. Here's how to glean insights from your existing social media properties—both internal (sponsored and owned forums) and external (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)—to generate quality leads.
Understanding customer needs and engaging with them at the right time with the appropriate content is core to any marketing or sales effort. Traditionally, organizations relied on intra firewall data such as transaction history of customers, demographic/"firmo-graphic" and call logs to predict customer needs and engage with them based on their business potential.
Traditionally targeting has always been a one-way conversation from the brand to the consumer. Targeting primarily consists of collection of data from outside like marketing partners or inside like customers transactions or other functions like customer service and using the data to reach out to the targets with appropriate messaging and media. Traditional targeting focused on the linear purchase funnel model and tried to influence the consumers accordingly. Traditional targeting looks something like Fig. 1 in the mediaplayer to the right.
Relying only on this approach has many limitations such as:
- Decisions are made based on historical data: Business will not know if the customer has churned out, until it is time for the next purchase cycle.
- Limited knowledge of customer profile: Knowledge about customers is limited to the point of sale data and sample surveys, therefore marketing and sales communications cannot be customized based on customer profile beyond a certain point.
- No knowledge about customer behavior: The traditional sources give little or no insight into customer behavior or changing customer behavior that can be leveraged for micro targeting/customized targeting.
- Limited interaction with customers: With traditional tools, there is limited opportunity to engage and influence one's customers.
With the advent of Social Media and other emerging technologies, consumer purchase funnel has evolved from being linear to a complex web of interconnected activities. Consumers are spending lot more time evaluating and researching the products through web, social media and technical forums. Today, they are more informed and are empowered to influence others. Changes in the mental model are leading to brand consideration being made even before the consumer enters a store. (See Fig. 2 in the mediaplayer to the right).
Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) is the period of time where a consumer searches for information online and is exposed to various sources before arriving at the store. During this period the consumer acquires deep knowledge of product features, competitor pricing comparisons, and upcoming product releases. Similarly, they are empowered to share product experience with a much wider circle of family and friends and general audience once they experience the product. Infinite Moment of Truth (IMOT) is the period when a consumer can share and evangelize her product/brand experience with the world. With the rise of savvy and informed consumers, the need for companies to better understand both their needs and behaviors is crucial.
The rapid growth of social media channels, web browsing, along with the advancements in analytics capabilities has enabled marketers to have social data at their fingertips. Combining traditional CRM with social media gives rise to social CRM. This is not a mere technology or platform but represents the way the organizations think about consumers. Usually organizations spend on social media to create brand awareness, but only a few have cracked the code on how to effectively use it as a tool to generate "social insights," which can be used to generate leads. The best part about "social insights" is that organizations can leverage from their existing social media properties—both internal (sponsored and owned forums) and external communities (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) to generate quality leads. (See Fig. 3 in the mediaplayer to the right).
Combining and triangulating on customer purchase patterns, forum discussions and social media feeds can help in predicting future purchases and in accelerating existing sales opportunities. Social CRM takes traditional CRM one step further by allowing data exchange in real time. With stiff competition in every market, focus has shifted to the customer experience. The sales and marketing pitch has been replaced by customer engagement and the goal is to improve relationships through more meaningful and personal interactions.
Social media continues to evolve as a powerful networking medium, generating huge amount of data about behavioral information such as products/brand preferences and profile information including marital status, age, and common hang out locations, etc. The combination of the two with traditional data sources provides unparalleled opportunity for corporations to know their customers and target audience. However, due to high noise to signal ratio, organizations are still trying to figure out on how to tap into these networks. Deciphering this form of data requires capabilities to handle big and unstructured data.
The mix of the above mentioned sources varies depending on the business and customer segment. Social targeting enables both sales and marketing to generate a higher ROI, because now all the communication is based on a 360-degree view of the customer. This richer knowledge about the customers enables organizations to:
- Improvement in customer engagement and retention—opt between soft sales and hard sales
- Impact topline through Cross sell and upsell opportunities
- Identify latent customer needs
The "How" of Social Targeting and 3 Benefits
In order to execute social targeting, different profiles of customers need to be combined to create a 360-degree view of the customer.
Social profiles of customers are obtained with the help of easily accessible APIs and other third-party sources. Demographic and other attributes from customer database are triangulated with social profiles from various social platforms using identity-matching algorithms. Once this connection is made, online and offline activity of customers needs to be monitored to provide actionable insights. Widely available text mining tools can be used to monitor social activity based on rules and keywords. Web analytics and business intelligence tools provide activity profiles from internal websites. With all the data, complex language processing and machine learning techniques are required to decipher the activity on social networks.
Some organizations have succeeded in automating the entire process of triangulation and generating leads on a near real time basis and are reaping huge benefits by acting upon them. Benefits such as:
1. Improvement in customer engagement and retention
Social CRM opens up new opportunities to improve the engagement. Social profile of the customer enables organizations to personalize content, messaging and services.
Cisco tracked online visitors to its website and realized they did not have proper targeted content for the visitor segment to which the maximum accounts belonged. Modification in marketing content on the website saw steep rise in visitor to customer conversion.
Consumer companies engage with their community members by sharing photos, asking questions and simultaneously educating them about new products. Views for the new product information result in some part of the social media traffic being driven to E-commerce websites resulting in subsequent purchases.
Levi's started an initiative where shoppers logging into Levi's site by using their Facebook credentials were informed on which Levi's products their friends had liked, with "See It" and "Buy It" buttons next to each product picture. If none of the friends had liked any of the products, likes by strangers appeared, prompting visitors to be the first among their friends to like a product.
2. Impact to topline and bottom-line
Sales can be improved by extracting insights from social media data to cross sell and upsell to existing customers. Customers can be influenced to repurchase by providing incentives and offers based on social profile and activity.
EBay uses online behavior data about products viewed in the past and suggests similar or related products for cross selling and up selling. It also gives offers and discounts on category of products previously purchased.
IBM creates blogs, white papers on specific industries and requires visitors to register to access this content. In addition, they provide users an option for news feeds. This helps the companies to identify the opportunities to cross-sell and upsell, and also gain information about the visitor's profile.
Additional revenue can be generated by network effect. Companies can influence customers to become advocates of a brand; incentives can be defined for the most influential customers.
In B-to-B, a sales representative is often assigned to a set of business customers for generating sales. But these reps find it difficult to prioritize their efforts and often go by hunch, leading to reduced ROI. By tracking social behavior of potential customers on relevant (internal and external) social media platforms, measurement of customer intent using traditional propensity models can be augmented. This can help sales prioritize their efforts and increase the ROI.
3. Identify latent needs
Listening to conversations on social media space can help identify latent demand. For example, a simple mention by an employee that "our office is getting overcrowded" is a hint the that there may be a need to shift office premises, which should ring alarm bells among property consultants to start engaging with the right set of folks.
Dell used its Ideastorm community to identify gaps and therefore find opportunities in the laptop market by crowd sourcing ideas that could help in product improvement and/or development.
Insurance business players are actively listening to customer to identify potential demand. For example, mention of keywords such as "going on a honeymoon" or "looking for a new house" all indicate a need of an insurance product in future, some of which the customers may not be thinking on an immediate basis.
Taking Social Targeting to the Next Level
Willingness from organizations to share data across firewalls has opened up new opportunities. This has been further facilitated by the presence of decision sciences and analytics companies, crowd sourcing platforms and other organizations that realize that they are sitting on a pile of data, which can be monetized. For example, Google analytics provides benchmarks on how many visits should be expected to a website of a specific genre. Imagine receiving an offer in real time from an apparel retailer when you check in at a mall on a social network.
The combined use of social media, inter-firewall data and traditional CRM databases can take targeting to the next level. When social media is integrated properly within multiple layers of organizational data (and not only with CRM data) with inter-firewall data, it enables fluid conversation between the brand and the customer. This conversation fosters greater transparency and helps build trust between the organization and the consumer. This is also a paradigm shift from 360-degree view of consumer to a consumer centric view.