Archive for the ‘Online Communities’ Category

Online Community Lead Identification Part 3 – Corporate Community

Michael Thomas, CRMA President, and I created a generic community lead identification activities list as a continuation of  our series on leveraging corporate online communities for lead generation. This list is the baseline set of community activities that can be used to build a lead scoring system within a corporate community. It is unrealistic to assume that you will automatically be able to filter browsers from shoppers with this model, but the goal is to build a scoring foundation from which you can add company-specific indicators to identify interest.

This post will not address the actual mechanism of lead scoring in this post, but rather discuss the actual activities within a community that you could score to for lead identification.

The Top 10 Corporate Online Community Activities for Lead Identification

  1. Frequency of Tags from All Activities – the ability to aggregate all the tags from the pages viewed and assign scores based upon the frequency of tags = greater number of tags from content “hits” which indicates interest.
  2. Joined Groups – weighted score based upon # of groups with specific groups scored differently
  3. Content Posts – weighted score based upon frequency and which group posted
  4. Connections – weighted score based role of connection; employees (ie product manager higher than customer service, finance, etc) versus other customers
  5. Referrals – invite a friend submittals; higher score if same domain as referrer
  6. Profile Completeness
  7. # of connections – shows community activity and interest
  8. Visits per month – shows community activity and interest
  9. Time on site in last visit
  10. Forwards content to friend / email address

Your goal in leveraging these activities within a community is to identify interest beyond the cursory. You are looking to leverage implicit behaviors beyond the stated, explicit information the user provides in their profile. Market research has long identified that people will say one thing when asked directly, but will do something different when observed. “Yes, I would pay $10 for this”, but then never pick up the item when observed.

The goal of a lead identification system is to separate browsers from shoppers. The best systems eliminate false positives and false negatives. A false positive is a unqualified lead that sales has to follow up on, but in reality has no chance of closing. A false negative is a missed sales opportunity because the buyer was never approached and went somewhere else to satisfy their needs. You never knew they were really looking until it was too late.

The purpose of embedding a corporate online community into your corporate website is to create more interactions on the site. Marketers are always looking to convert a higher percentage of the web visitors that come to your website.  If you can engage more, keep them coming back, and help them qualify themselves; then your website has been significantly enhanced with an online community. Now, if you can do that and leverage the interactions and user generated content to drive better search optimization, even better.

Part 1 – https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/online-community-lead-scoring-part-1/

Part 2 – https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/community-lead-identification-part-2-linkedin-example/

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Online Community Lead Identification – Part 2 Linkedin Example

As a continuation of the the post on online community lead identification https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/online-community-lead-scoring-part-1/  that Michael Thomas, CRMA President & CRM guru for social media plattform provider www.neighborhoodamerica.com, we decided to build a case example around an online community lead identification example that people could relate.

The question we asked of ourselves was “How could you identify in Linkedin that someone was looking for a job without their explicit use of key words like; available, looking, seeking, etc” A lot of recruiters are using Linkedin for passive candidate identification. In short, if you could use behaviors in Linkedin to identify the difference in passive candidates between those who were quietly looking versus those who were not, you could potentially save a recruiter a great deal of wasted activities & cut down on the unnecessary contacts. If you could build a lead scoring system that aggregated the activities so as to identify the “interest” of the candidate, you could leverage those behaviors to identify potential “leads”.

Identified Behaviors for Recruiting Lead Identification in Linkedin

1. Updated Recommendations in last 30 days – Higher score for greater number

2. Frequency of Use – Patterns of use change dramatically

3. Changed Last Position Description or put end date on last job

4. Changed Profile Description

5. Changed Email Address

6. Added a large number of new connection invites

7. Accessed the jobs listing page

8. joined a group(s) – more points for larger numbers

9. Began to post questions or answers in groups

10. Other Employees at the same company score high on activities

None of these in isolation represent that a person is now seeking a position, but taken in aggregate begin to show a pattern of behavior that could be scored. Part 3 will outline our thoughts as to a corporate community & how to perform sales lead idenitifcation leveraging social media tools in an corporate online community.

Updated with Part 3: https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/online-community-lead-identification-part-3-corporate-community/

Re: Will Corporate Websites Become Irrelevant?

Alexa Ellis asks the question in a post in iMarketing 2.0 on Techlinks http://www.techlinks.net/component/content/article/43-community-voices/122444 and I thought I would weigh-in….

I believe the future will see a greater importance to the corporate website, but the twist is that it will become a corporate online community include social media components, ability to port identities from Linkedin, Facebook, Google, etc, and will become the collaboration center for the organization.

The corporate website will become the web interface for managing a relationship with the company as an employee, partner, prospect, or customer. There will be the ability to have both public forums for marketing and private areas for internal collaboration and customer interaction.

The technology to support such a corporate online community exists today. The expectation is that as the technology will become more ubiquitous; the price for integrating social media component platforms will become more affordable. As the big social media sites become more open, more organizations will take advantage of the ease in allowing customers to share logins from these sites to their own corporate communities.

The challenge for marketing is that the traditional role of broadcast messaging will morph into a more fluid, multi-directional relationship. This will require a whole new approach to marketing and a rethinking of the idea of a corporate website.

Online Community Lead Identification – Part 1

A few weeks ago, Michael Thomas ( President of the CRMA & CRM guru at the social media platform company,  www.neighborhoodamerica.com )and I were collaborating on a topic that is of great interest to a lot of Sales and Marketers…

How do you create actionable information from an online community? This is relavent as more companies are integrating online communities into the corporate websites. The challenge that I am hearing repeatedly is “how do you identify leads in your community so that you can get them into your CRM system to begin the sales pursuit?”

In short, how would use the interactions within a community to identify interest that you could then qualify through activity scoring? There are several fine lines that are involved…

1. Difference between servicing a potential buyer and turing off someone who is just “looking”

2. Online communities are supposed to be educational and not for hard sales

Both are valid concerns and I think can be addressed. Online communities, if done correctly, are not about the hard sell, but about creating a thought leadership and evangelism center for your company. Potential buyers know that when they visit your website, you are providing the information to assist them in buying. Potential buyers also do not want the hard sell. Online communities can provide the education AND the engagement if done correctly. We all want to please our customers and have them appreciative of our service. I think it largely is based upon expectations. We all appreciate when Amazon provides a recommendation that we like. We all wish the recommendation engines were smarter.

If you host a branded community on your website, there is a different expectation versus an unbranded, open industry community. Most of us are willing provide our contact information in exchange for whitepaper or webinar access. A vendor provides access to their community with the understanding that, if you look interested, they will approach you to guage interest, but won’t harrass you. If they could do a better job of determining when you were interested and serving up content to assisy you in making a better buying decision, would you mind?

The next several posts will outline the basics of online community lead scoring. I will also outline a community example that we are all familiar with: Linkedin.

I will also ask Michael to weigh-in from his blog: www.crm2.blogspot.com

Part 2 – https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/community-lead-identification-part-2-linkedin-example/

Part 3 – https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/online-community-lead-identification-part-3-corporate-community/

You Can’t Have a Relationship with a System

A fundamental flaw with CRM and the reason that CRM has never reached the level of value that it was touted to provide is that you cannot have a relationship with a system.

CRM does have its place, though. Fundamentally, organizations need to manage the “data” side of customer relationships. Having a centralized place to manage the transactional data is one of the key foundations for the growth and scale of business. CRM systems along with data warehousing systems and others provide a fundamental foudation for providing clear information about running the business.

The challenge is that the systems are business-centric & not customer-centric. We design and build our business systems to run our business, but we don’t necessarily put the customer in the middle. In many larger organizations, with lots of products, markets, segments, etc.; the customer is left to cobble together their own customer experience.

I like the concept of “customer experience management” a great deal. My work in social media is a definitely parallel to the pioneering work done to bring the business closer to the customer. I also like what the folks in email marketing are doing to become multi-channel communications platforms. At the end of the day, the closer you can come to meeting the individual customers needs throughout the customer lifecycle, the better. Even better, integrating the customer touchpoints into a cohesive single point of contact.

To me the analogy to golf works. Most companies, by definition, provide mediocre customer experience. Analogous to landing in the rough. The companies that work on trying to improve customer experience through automation are getting the ball in the fairway. The companies that can figure out how to get their employees, partners, customers, and prospects to interact in a more organic way, putting the customer experience at the heart of the customer lifecycle have a better chance to get it on the green.

The best companies that are getting closer to the pin leverage business intelligence, multi-channel communications platforms, online communities, semantic technologies, and Web 2.0 technologies in conjunction with their current infrastuctures to bring a better customer experience to the table. If you can put a more usable front end to the half-dozen to the Enterprise Content Management systems that are common in a larger organization, you could really assist the organization to bridge across the multiple departments that touch a customer, as an example.

Let’s face it, the company that provides me a better “user interface”, is easier to do business with, provides better targeted recommendations, educates me without asking for a sale, provides access to information and other buyers to assist in my decision making, is transparent in their billing and packaging, connects me to a competent customer service person, and delivers value beyond the price of the product gets my loyalty.

None of this is difficult to strategize, but if it was easy, every company would do it. The challenge is prioritizing in a limited resource environment. At the end of the day, customer experience management is not a destination, but a journey.

If Online Communties are So Great, Why Isn’t Everyone Doing Them?

Simple answer is that doing online communities correctly takes work, planning, and coordination. Here are the reasons online communities fail:

Why Isn’t Everyone Doing Online Communities

Online communities aren’t for everyone; however, each of these concerns can be overcome with a good solid approach, coordination, and a subject matter expert. There are methods for managing the workload, handling the design, developing sufficient content, driving adoption, etc.

However, if you sell pencils for a living, don’t expect to sign up a millions and millions of users. How many pencil enthusiasts can there possibly be? A more realistic model may be to leverage the distributor network to create a more targeted community that supports the distributors efforts to marketing and sell the pencils through the channel. the scope maybe smaller, investment more controlled, AND expectations less of this type of community. All of the benefits to SEO, engagment, and sales, but proportional.

Bottom line is that an organization can be very successful leveraging online communities for marketing, but there has to be a well thought out plan with reasonable expectations.

Marketer’s Dilemma

I have been following a good number of different bloggers on marketing. One of the challenges I find is that one are that I can’t seem to find really good information published out there is how to really break through the “marketing noise” on the internet. Let’s face it, there is a real problem out there for traditional marketing vehicles:

Changing Landscape of Online Lead Generation

Changing Landscape of Online Lead Generation

So, when I talk to other marketing professionals and a good number of CEOs, I get acknowledgment that there is a problem with SEO, email marketing, telemarketing, direct mail, tradeshows, webinars, etc. but I get a lot of different solutions:

A. Do more of the same

B. Cut budgets and focus on just the “free stuff”

C. Use social media “stuff” like twitter, blogs, and linkedin

D. Hire more sales people who have rolodexes

So, bottom line is that I have been asking a lot of hard questions and not getting a lot of good responses. On the other hand, there are some really good people who do get it that I will acknowledge in the next few posts.

The short answer, if you are wondering, is that the only real way to break through the “noise” is to concentrate your fire and use a multi-channel approach on the outbound that is coordinated, segmented, and integrated with your sales efforts. I will talk more about a multi-channel approach in subsequent posts.

On the in-bound side, you need to make sure that you build an online community that enables you to get your thought leadership and make sure your prospective audience can identify your differentiation. The new buyer paradigm “Google before Engagement” means that the potential buyers are doing research prior to engaging with your sales organization. If you are not found in their organic search results, the odds of hitting their buying window is small. Additionally, the likelyhood of catching their attention with outbound marketing messaging is also limited.

Online communities allow you to:

  • Galvenize your evangelism efforts
  • Coordinate your partner, employees, customers, etc to assist you in evangelizing
  • Provide a thought-leadership showcase for your differentiation and value proposition
  • Enable partners to assist in presenting a holistic solution
  • Provides a more engaging web experience for visitors to your website
  • Provides more behavioral information to identify “buyers” from “browsers”
  • Provides specific calls-to-action and credentialling for your outbound marketing vehicles
  • Provides an incredible amount of user generated content to feed/flood the search engines
  • Provide a centralized place to drive referrals and recommendations

Ok, so “I get it, but…”

There are plenty of objections, challenges, etc that I will review in the next couple of posts to assist you in understanding the role community should play in your new marketing playbook…

Bottom line is that the internet is evolving, the internet is changing marketing, changing sales, changing everything. Marketing’s role and focus within an organization must evolve to be relavent.

If done correctly, you should not only be able to keep pace in a down economy, but grow. You can’t score on defense….

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Social Media is Like Fishing

There are two types of social media; external and branded. External social media is the facebooks, twitters, linkedins, of the world. These are the deep sea fishing of marketing. You don’t own the ocean, but you drop a line or a net and you catch fish.

The other side, branded social media is like fish farming where you create a branded, online community where you transition them from private, modelling your sales process. You go from a public discussion of your offering and market space, to semi-private membership discussion forums, to private groups for managing customers on a one-to-one basis.

The best marketing plans tie both types of social media together to assist in outbound marketing communications with a specific call to action back to your website with a more interactive, thought-leadership driven online community for educating potential buyers, qualifying the sales interest, and managing the customer lifecycle.