In a recent post, the folks over at Silicon Angle applied their usual insightful analysis to the results of an industry survey by marketing automation company Pardot, a survey that reports fully 42 percent of respondents (all B2B Marketers) have failed to generate any leads from their social media campaigns. At first blush, that number is pretty startling, but on reflection, it really shouldn’t be too surprising.
I’ve written previously in this space about how corporate social media initiatives are so often in the hands of people, notably PR agencies, for whom lead generation is neither a priority nor a core competency. (Put a PR agency in charge of social media, and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll generate PR, not leads.) Regardless of who’s in the driver’s seat, however, there’s absolutely no reason, no excuse, for a company’s social media efforts not to be generating leads, and lots of them.
For example, take this blog our agency designed more than a year ago for Navicure, a leading online medical claims clearinghouse. The blog generated more than 500 leads in its first 9 months alone, and this from a target audience (billing managers at small- to mid-sized medical practices) that can hardly be described as the Facebook crowd. At last report, the program was generating a 400 percent ROI based on revenue generated that could be attributed directly to, or influenced by, leads that came directly from the blog. (Navicure uses Marketo and Salesforce.com to track marketing ROI.)
Why then are so many companies failing miserably to generate measurable leads from social media? I, for one, don’t think the reasons are that complex. Here they are, in a nutshell:
1. Lead generation needs to be a stated goal of a company’s social media program. Lead generation will not happen by accident or as a byproduct of other goals like awareness, “outreach” (whatever that is) and branding. Simply put, too many companies design their social media programs with other objectives in mind and then expect leads to just happen. Good luck with that.
2. Blogs need to be designed and optimized for lead generation. I marvel at the sheer number of corporate blogs, some of them with a wealth of great content, that nonetheless make it virtually impossible to engage with that company. Ask yourself: if someone actually wanted to be a sales lead upon arriving at your blog, how would that happen? Are there multiple options to subscribe, via email, RSS, Twitter, and Facebook? Is the sidebar littered with the usual default widgets like categories and tag clouds, or are there links to downloadable material like white papers and Webinars, all gated behind landing pages? Remember: lead generation, in all its forms, relies on making it quick and easy for potential prospects to respond.
3. Calls to action need to appear in content. For some social media purists, this breaks the unwritten rule of what social media content is supposed to be and what it’s not (i.e. promotional). But if you’ve made the decision to use social media for lead generation (see #1, above) there are simple ways to make your content more responsive without it sounding like a brochure for your company. For one, link sections of text within blog posts to associated pages on your Website or to landing pages that host relevant content. Secondly, offer up additional resources (with links) at the end of the post, e.g. “For more information on this same topic, download our free white paper on [insert topic here].”
Over at Silicon Angle, Klint Finley calls customer acquisition “the big prize” in social media, surpassing other applications like customer support, branding and PR. I agree. What’s more, generating measurable leads from social media doesn’t require special technology or even a wholesale restructuring of your current initiatives. All that’s required is purpose, design, and a willingness to ask for the lead.