More than six-in-10 business-to-business buyers listen to colleagues on social media before making a business purchase. Right now, some may be talking about you.
We call this Social Listening.
Social listening programs:
- Increase sales by identifying issues most important to potential buyers and creating strategies to reach them, not only through social marketing but through all marketing channels
- Retain dissatisfied customers, identify problems while there is still time to solve them
- Identify competitors’ dissatisfied customers, “low hanging fruit,” and strategies to reach them
- Identify unmet needs to develop new products and services; it’s not unusual to read a post asking, “Does anyone know a company that…”
- Identify emotional “hot buttons"
About 60 percent of B2B purchase decisions are motivated to some degree by personal emotional motivations (security, trust, ambition, etc.), sometimes higher even than company considerations.
- Give you a head start on identifying and exploiting industry trends; customers and potential customers talk to each other about what they’re seeing and experiencing before they speak with anyone else
- Helps make your social media campaigns more successful by identifying content buyers find interesting, useful and educational, setting your company apart from competitors
There are many other benefits of social listening through Social Listening+ (SL+), from Integrated Marketing Services. Perhaps, few are more important than generating real-time intelligence from actual current and potential clients so you can make real-time decisions.
What is Social Listening?
Social listening is a proactive process of tapping into conversations on social media platforms and forums to determine what customers are saying about your company, products and brand, almost equally important, your competitors.
SL+ uses key words and phrases, company and product names, industry sectors, services and other indicators to seek out social media conversations about your company, your industry and your competitors. More than just verbatim comments, you receive a market analysis showing trends, strengths and weakness; also, a real-time warning of any specific problems or issues.
Social Listening vs. Social Monitoring
Some marketers confuse social listening with social monitoring. There’s not just a difference in wording.
As the name implies, social monitoring is reviewing social conversations and then replying to specific posts. Social monitoring is a common practice for such companies as shops, hotels and restaurants to answer specific complaints and comments made by customers.
But social monitoring is reactive, it is designed to respond to comments.
Social listening is proactive. Comments are aggregated and analyzed to create new strategies, and identify potential clients to increase sales and market share.
- Social monitoring gives you snapshots
- Social listening gives you a complete picture
It’s the difference between hearing and listening.
Through SL+, urgent issues are also red-flagged and immediately forwarded to clients to help ensure a problem doesn’t become a crisis.
Social Media Has Revolutionized B2B Buying
More than six-in-10 B2B buyers say their purchasing decisions are directly affected by comments they see on social media, both positively and negatively. They read reviews from peers, pay attention to others’ experiences, and then make decisions such as which vendors to consider, and which to reject.
This is particularly true in the “weeding out” phase, when purchasers decide which suppliers to consider.
Positive comments on social media can bring customers to you, even as you go after them.
Knowing what customers are saying is vital. Companies have reported up to 200 percent return on investment from their social listening programs.
Social Listening Success Stories
Staying Ahead of Competitors
Social listening among medical purchasing agents, doctors, hospital personnel and insurance payers allowed a global manufacturer of medical devices to identify customers’ unmet needs. The analysis was used as an important part of its new product development program.
This information allowed the company to develop more useful, innovative products, as well as better forecast industry trends. This is particularly important in the health care industry where technology is profoundly affecting patient care and costs.
Overcoming Opposition; Winning Product Approval
A social listening campaign conducted by Integrated Marketing Services helped an international pharmaceutical company overcome fierce opposition from an advocacy group and win U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a new drug. Analyzing comments and conversations on social media platforms tipped us to the group’s strategy, its expert witnesses and what their arguments would be.
Integrated Marketing Services was then able to identify expert, pro-client witnesses, handle media relations and train clients (including mock “ambush” interviews with our clients) to effectively deal with reporters’ questions.
Social listening will help your business grow and help buyers succeed.
The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll start collecting the information that helps grow your bottom line.
We took the same approach when I was involved in starting USA Today. Why tell a story in 1,000 words when you can tell it in 500? This helped differentiate USA Today from other newspapers, and readership took off.
An economy of words is dramatically more important in creating digital content now that marketers have only a few seconds to get their messages to buyers, business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C); that is, unless you’re selling to a goldfish.
It has been estimated goldfish have an average attention span of nine seconds, according to research by Microsoft. Humans lose focus after about eight seconds.
I’ll bet attention spans are even shorter among busy executives, those who generally make the decisions whether to buy your products and services—procurement officers, brand managers, department heads, marketing directors, and many others.
From the Associated Press:
- Attention spans have declined by 50 percent over the past 10 years
- 90 percent of adults watch a product video for 19 seconds or less; again, it’s a safe bet viewing is even lower among B2B target audiences
- 17 percent of page views last fewer than four seconds
It’s almost a certainty reaching your target audiences digitally will become more difficult; but, it’s also almost a certainty developing effective digital marketing content will be more important to your success.
More than six-in-10 corporate buyers say their purchasing decisions are significantly determined by content they see on social media, a significant increase over the past five years.
This is particularly true in the “weeding out” phase, when buyers decide which suppliers to consider.
Digital users can access, in seconds, information from almost every part of the world, including online product reviews, references and customer experiences, on which more than 60 percent of B2B buyers base their purchasing decisions.
Here are some suggestions used successfully by Integrated Marketing Services to engage buyers in your messages before they move on.
Don’t waste your first eight seconds.
As stated above, that’s about all you have to make an impression.
The most common way to waste this time, talk about your company and products. Nobody cares!
Buyers want to know, “What’s in it for me? How is this going to help me or my company.” Tell them immediately before they move on, or they will.
When I was national editor of Gannett, CEO and USA Today founder Al Neuharth gave me a plaque that read “Why should I give damn?” The idea: tell people why a story is important to them personally, and they’ll read the entire thing. And they did.
At Integrated Marketing Services we have seen thousands of digital content posts that began, “Introducing a new technology (or approach)…”
Again, buyers don’t care and aren’t impressed. Would you promote an old technology?
Don’t waste your next 22 seconds.
Even if you hold a viewer’s attention for the first eight seconds, you probably still only have 22 seconds left.
Research shows that 30 seconds is the average maximum time a digital user will stick around.
Build on the first eight seconds by focusing on tangible benefits products or services provide, and not on the product itself or its features.
Content should be short, simple and active and not passive. Some marketers think they need to be cute. Cute doesn’t matter. Convey a direct promise of something important to users.
Remember, buyers are people, too.
Buyers’ personal emotions play a key role in up to 60 percent of B2B purchase decisions, according to a wide variety of research.
Conveying trust, security, ambition, aspirations, gratification, and others goes a long way in determining if people read your content. Appealing to these personal emotions also goes a long way in driving sales.
(“Nobody ever got fired by buying IBM,” was a common saying when IBM dominated the electronics market. It represented security.)
Create “stopping power.”
Many digital marketing campaigns start with emails. Most are just a waste of money because they don’t stop users scanning their screens.
Here, for example, are just a few email subject lines I received in one day:
- “Introduce you to...”
- “You would be interested in...”
- “Explore all we have to offer...”
- “A lot has happened since...”
- “Introducing our new technology...”
No stopping power here. No compelling promise of value. No hint of personal or corporate benefits.
Unlike consumer marketing, the goal of B2B marketing content is to generate interest and credibility, as opposed to direct sales, although that occasionally happens.
Your goal is to get on the screen and “make the cut”.
Keep your content short, simple, to the point and focused on customer goals (personal and corporate), priorities, needs and concerns. There’s time to focus on one or two key points; get right to them.
That is, unless you’re marketing to goldfish.
Sears, in my opinion, failed to understand that younger consumers wanted trendier merchandise. It became viewed as stodgy and old fashioned. Sears also added unrelated businesses to its stores: insurance, optical, and others. It also sold off two of its most trusted brands—Kenmore and Craftsman. Customers became confused by Sears’ merchandising strategies and went elsewhere.
There are lots of reasons given why such iconic brands as Sears, Lord & Taylor and JCPenney, all more than 100-years old, have hit the skids and are closing stores.
Online competition is, of course, one reason. However, a fundamental cause: each lost its most important asset—its brand.
Whether Business-to-Consumer (B2C) or Business-to-Business (B2B), brand differentiates a company from competitors. Brand is how a company wants to be seen. It’s also how customers view them.
Could QVC, the popular home shopping network, be next? I think, maybe.
In just hours, thousands of shoppers may buy just one item. Then, thousands of others may buy another.
I have always marveled at the marketing savvy of QVC. Take, for example, clothing. QVC promised viewers well-known brands and designers at prices average consumers could afford. Hosts and brand reps keep viewers up on trends. Shoppers can see an item from every angle, and how clothing looks on different body types.
Such famous clothing designers, as Isaac Mizrachi, Dennis Basso and Bob Mackie would explain to viewers how to style their clothing, help them imagine where and when to wear them, creating an experience with top designers previously rarely available to everyday consumers.
Jewelry designers, such as Judith Ripka, create affordable jewelry using simulated stones, matching diamond necklace styles affordable only to a small group. Shown side-by-side, few people can tell the difference.
Canon and Apple offer products with value-added accessories at good prices, with the opportunity to pay over time.
Programs are educational, informative, brilliant.
Now, I’m wondering if QVC is repeating some of the brand mistakes as Sears, Lord & Taylor and JCPenney.
What’s happening at QVC
Mizrachi, Basso, Mackie and Ripka are still on QVC, but gone are such popular brands such as Oryany, Mark Zunino, Rachel Zoe, and Marc Bower (now on Evine, another shopping network).
Some of their places have been taken by well-known celebrities, showcasing their clothing lines. But they do not have the design expertise of the Mizrachis and Bassos, cannot provide the same insights to viewers, and cannot fulfill QVC’s brand promise.
QVC also continues to launch its own fashion clothing brands such as Cuddli Duds and Du Jour (along with its long-standing Denim + Company line), presenting its own designers as if they are on the same plane as Mizrachi and Mackie.
No offense, but they are not.
Confusing the QVC brand
QVC always had an ownership stake in another televised shopping channel, Home Shopping Network (HSN), and purchased it outright in 2017.
QVC and HSN marketing, promotions and brands had always been unique because they appeal to different audiences. The image, from my viewing, was that QVC served a more upscale audience than HSN. Brands sold on HSN tend to be less popular and less well known, also reflected in its promotions.
HSN’s motto: “It’s fun here”. Colors and promotions were a little louder and, in my opinion, a little less classy and more in your face. Most recently QVC hosts have adopted the word “fun” in their presentations and mention how much “fun” they are and how much “fun” it is to watch QVC, using HSN’s playbook.
Not long after its acquisition of HSN, QVC began introducing HSN brands, and HSN started marketing QVC brands. Viewers flipping from one channel to another might see the same product on each shopping network.
It also seems that QVC and HSN have now combined their marketing and promotions.
QVC buyers used to receive a simple , “Thanks for your order” after purchasing a product. HSN sent “Start getting excited…your order has shipped.” QVC buyers now receive an email with large italicized bright orange script proclaiming “Hooray. Your order is confirmed,” or, “Exciting! Your order has shipped,” very similar to HSN.
In the past, QVC programming (including its popular PM Style), were intended to reach fashionistas, with higher-end fashions. During events such as fashion week, consumers would be glued to their TVs, mobile device in hand to order items before they were sold out.
Today, PM Style still includes some well-known brands, but also items that are anything but high-end such as Quacker Factory, wearers of which are encouraged to say “Quack Quack” to other “Quackers”, they see wearing the line.
Not exactly high end. I have nothing against Quackers, but marketing them with higher-end products on fashion shows confuses viewers.
And, QVC is now including its own brands more and more in the higher end fashion shows, once reserved for higher-end fashion designers. Introducing a product from QVC’s clothing lines on a higher end fashion show is ok. When QVC starts including more than one or two of these items in the same show, that’s not. The brand promise begins to weaken, and loyal viewers lose interest.
After adding a second channel to both HSN and QVC after the HSN buyout, program planning got less interesting. Shows started mixing various items from gadgets to pajamas, to fashion to beauty items in one show. And often shows that aired on the first QVC channel also aired on the second channel.
In the words of one QVC viewer from a recent chat room, “I am hoping they stop showing the same item on both (QVC) channels at the same time. What a waste of air space.”
So limited number of designers, mixing and matching audiences and brands, and then airing shows more than once either on the same QVC channel or on an HSN channel—just plain boring.
Qurate Retail, Inc’s stock fell nearly 27 percent after the company announced a decrease in revenue across its brands (including the combined QVC and HSN. “ The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 21, 2019.
I think QVC has some work to do to find its way back.
Lois Kaufman, Ph.D., President of Integrated Marketing Services, has over 40 years experience creating brand strategies, launching products and building brands for companies, services and products.
As product and options continue to grow in virtually every industry, you can’t be everything to everyone. It’s vital to precisely identify which specific target market segments will yield the greatest return on investment.
It’s better to own three segments than be an-also ran in 10. Then you can think about expanding your marketing efforts.
Here are some things Integrated Marketing Services and our wholly-owned research company, American Opinion Research, have learned about finding the audiences with the most potential.
- Market research is the most used and most effective approach to identifying your best target audiences. Research will pinpoint the unique groups which represent the greatest sales potential. Focus on those, and you’ll be investing your marketing dollars where they will produce the best results.
- Determine what really motivates these targeted customers to make purchase decisions. Sure, productivity, cost, prior experience, referrals, product features, etc. are all major considerations. But motivations are often emotional as well as practical; security and insecurity, confidence, pride, etc. In fact, a wide variety of research has shown that emotional benefits often outweigh products or services when making a purchase decision. Again, research can identify these hot buttons.
Use this information (with your agency, if you have one) to develop precise targeted marketing messages that will motivate customers in each segment, but all under the umbrella of your overall brand positioning.
- Strategic marketing starts with choosing segments with the most immediate sales potential, then developing and conveying marketing messages that resonate with buyers. But you can’t stop here.
- Continue to prove and support your leadership in the segments you’ve chosen. Developing white papers, partnering with key opinion leaders on articles and projects, sharing industry research, media outreach, etc. all help build credibility paid advertising cannot.
In other words, aim the arrow at the bullseye.
This is particularly true for business-to-business marketing. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to acquire a new client (sometimes six to 10 times) more than keeping a current one.
We conduct customer engagement studies in all types of industries; pharmaceuticals, medical devices, education, media and many others. In virtually every industry we are able to identify “customers at risk,” (those most likely to stop using your products or services) and develop strategies to retain them. However, engagement research goes well beyond typical customer satisfaction research.
Often, the main reason customers leave has nothing to do with quality or service.
- The old cliché, “Out of sight, out of mind,” is the kiss of death for retaining customers. A frequent complaint, “They only come to see me when they want an order.”
Retention is all about engagement, and keeping in touch with your customers is key to engagement. It doesn’t have to be every day. A regular phone call, providing helpful information (white papers, issues in the news, “how to”, industry intelligence, and industry stories in the news) will help make a client believe you care.
- Remember to thank clients for their business.
Sales people sometimes do this (but just sometimes), but rarely do executives bother to contact a client and thank him or her for their business. This will set your company apart from others.
- Monitor customer experiences.
Identify customer problems before they become a crisis, and then fix the problem. You’ll find out customers stick around longer.
That black box doesn’t exist.
Most research companies use the same approaches to data collection and analysis, whether it be multiple regression, discriminant analysis, conjoint, cluster analysis, MaxDiff or another one of the variety of analytic approaches.
Clearly, analytics is at the heart of effective research. But the success of a project depends as much on what happens at the beginning of the research process, as at the end; and this is what really separates one research firm from another.
Here, based on our experience conducting hundreds of research projects, are some issues and solutions to look for to get the greatest return on your research investment and make your research more actionable:
1. The need to better understand the client’s business and industry
Understanding the goals and objectives of a research project is absolutely essential, but you can’t stop there.
If a firm conducts secondary research as part of the process it can learn more about:
- Industry concerns and opportunities
- How the client positions itself and its products/services
- How competitors position themselves and their products/services
- Corporate and product image among current and potential customers
These secondary issues can be researched online, but a growing source of this intelligence is “social listening.”
By monitoring relevant social media conversations, we can learn a lot about the industry, the client and competitors. This information; alone, helps get the research project headed in the right direction.
2. Questionnaire design: The key to successful research
Researchers often focus on the technical aspects of market research, and rightfully so.
However, when research projects don’t succeed, it’s usually because the exact questions needed to get the exact information needed to make informed decisions are not asked.
Some common issues:
- Not prioritizing the most important issues
In too many studies, questions are asked because they are “interesting.” Interesting doesn’t always mean useful. We often ask, “What exactly can you do with the results?” If there is no good answer it generally means it’s not a good question.
One way to prioritize issues is to make two lists. In one column note the top five problems, concerns, or important questions you need to answer within the next two years. Then, list very specific information needed to make each decision. Compare the priorities, selecting the most common, and you also have the questions you need to ask.
This is a simple, but effective approach.
- Avoid the smorgasbord approach to market research
It’s common for researchers to deal with client teams, members of which often have different interests and concerns, many of whom want to see those concerns included in the research project. Too often, this results in asking a little about a lot, but not in enough about on any single topic to provide the answers you need to make accurate decisions.
It’s important to begin at the very start with the most important issues, cover them in enough depth and, if questionnaire time allows, start adding other topics.
3. Consider, in advance, which analytical approaches may be used
As stated above, there are many analytic approaches available. Considering which one(s) you may use is not only vital to questionnaire design, it helps keep focus on the prime objective throughout the research process.
4. Don’t settle for data dumps
Anyone can present numbers, and that’s what many presentations are.
Insist your presentations include specific findings, conclusions and recommendations as part of the report.
Remember, it’s not the numbers that count, but what they mean.
That’s often the result of a good customer reacquisition program. It’s generally faster, less expensive and more efficient to reacquire an old customer than develop a new one.
Here are some approaches we’ve found:
Review five years of your customer lists; determine which are the best former customers to target, those with the most potential to win back
Give preference to those with which you had a good relationship.
Don’t forget about the rest, but focus first on those which you have the best prospects of reacquiring.
You also have to ask yourself a hard question: do you want this customer back?
We all want to win as many customers as possible, but some are very difficult to work with, and can even disrupt the morale of your staff. Others demand more work than the budget justifies, sometimes, it’s just a bad fit.
Find out why they stopped buying your products or services
“Stop studies” among former customers can determine why they really quit (not what they say top-of-mind) and how to get them back. Often the reasons have nothing to do with quality and service, or even price.
Competitors may have been more persistent at staying in contact, or the customer doesn’t sense you considered it important to your company. Very often you simply haven’t differentiated yourself from competitors:
If there was a problem with your products or services, fix it, visit the former client, apologize and explain how you have corrected the problem. Ask for another opportunity.
If possible, think of something you did or shared…” What was the name of that restaurant we…” or, “I was talking to…and your name came up.” Or, simply say you haven’t worked together for a while and you want to see how to get back together.
You may have to take a few small projects or orders to start rebuilding your relationship.
Regardless, targeting former customers may be one of your best strategies for attracting new ones.
People in your state want public notices to stay in printed newspapers, not moved to government websites. Market research from American Opinion Research (AOR) proves support for keeping legal ads in print is overwhelming.
LegalStats™ research from AOR has been used in a dozens of states to sway state legislators and local lawmakers away from moving public notices from print.
LegalStats™ research shows:
- A powerful, ready-to-use presentation of results
- A free-of-charge*, presentation of results to your members, state and local officials
- A press release and materials to promote results
In addition, LegalStats™ measures the use of newspaper products in your state (daily, weekly and online), proving they have the greatest reach.
Customize your research to your specific needs
You have the option of adding other topics that, in every state, have shown:
- Consumers consult newspaper advertising most before shopping
- More than any other source, consumers make actual purchases based on newspaper advertising
Newspaper advertising provides the most “effective advertising reach” of any medium, including radio, television and direct mail
Choose the LegalStats™ program based on your needs and budget:
Number of interviews: 400 (accurate to within plus or minus 5 percentage points), 600 (+/- 4 pp), 800 (+/- 3.5 pp), 1000 (+/- 3 pp)
Interview lengths: 15 Minutes (average length of LegalStats™ research); can expand to 20 minutes and 25 minutes
AOR will design the study that best fits your needs.
*Except for out-of-pocket travel expenses
The iconic Marlboro Man marketing campaign, considered one of the most successful ever, began in 1955 to convince males that smoking filtered cigarettes was not feminine (they were first introduced as a woman’s cigarette). The ads originally used a number of different characters, but the rugged cowboy image stuck. Ironically, four men appearing in the Marlboro ads died of smoking-related causes, according to the Los Angeles Times, but not before several appeared in anti-smoking commercials.
Although there are some variations, watches in advertisements are generally set at 10:10. One reason, the hands resemble a happy face.
Although generally considered a relatively new development, dress-down Friday actually began about three generations ago as a way to boost worker morale. It really took off in the 70s, when clothing manufacturers began promoting it as a way to increase sales.
Before World War II, diamond engagement rings were relatively rare; now, they’re almost the rule. What happened? Sales took off when the De Beers® diamond cartel launched a huge campaign linking diamonds with engagements, according to the BBC. The campaign was specially aimed at women and even suggested the ring should cost two-month’s salary. Not sure if that works today.
A sweet campaign
The legend of St. Valentine has been around for more two thousand years; the tradition of giving candy is much more recent. In the mid-1800s, Richard Cadbury, of the Cadbury Candy Company, launched a large marketing campaign tying chocolate to the celebration of Valentine’s Day to help launch a new company line. Cadbury also designed the first candy box, including the elaborate boxes in which Valentine candy was sold. FYI, in Japan, women sometimes give chocolates to men.