#SocialSuccess – An Inbound Marketing Case Study for B2B
Posted by searchbrat
This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.
There has been a lot of great discussion about the term “inbound marketing” of late and exactly what is covered by that phrase. For the purposes of this case study we are using the hubspot definition of inbound and outbound marketing. The following is a case study of how we (Salesforce.com) used inbound marketing along with social advertising and great retargeting to grow both our traffic and leads in the UK. Whether you are in B2B or B2C marketing, this case study should be relevant to you and your markets.
The new B2B Purchase Journey
The online landscape for marketers is changing at a rapid pace. People don’t buy the way they used to. There is a new purchase journey with three key elements:
Search-initiated – Most people begin their research of a new product via search engines, 78% of Internet users conduct product research online (Source Pew Internet & American Life Project, May 2010)
Social-powered – The growth of social networks has meant we can now tap into our own external networks for recommendations. Twitter’s active user base alone generates 90 million tweets per day, with 24% of adults have posted comments or reviews online about the things they buy. We now have a lot of user-generated content to review before making a purchase decision.
- Buyer controlled – People can now choose where and when to engage with your brand, plus what content they would like to consume. You have to produce marketing strategies they choose to engage with.
For B2B companies this means their sales people are being engaged a lot later on in the purchase cycle and presents marketing with an great opportunity to become an integral part of the overall sales process.
Considering the above, we decided to run a pilot project in the UK around the concept of “Get Found” (coined by Brian Halligan of Hubspot). Our aim was to get found by the people who are actively looking for help with the kinds of issues we address. We would do this by harvesting our own expertise in content that helps our prospects do their jobs better.
Since the core mediums involved in this project were search, social and content, we needed to consider how these different tactics are starting to converge and try to hit our sweet spot.
To do this we needed to answer three key questions:
- What do our prospects care about?
- How can we harvest our expertise to help?
- How can we get this content to market now?
Our Answer – “Content Rich Microsite”
When discussing microsites, a lot of people probably conjure up images of those used in new product launches (they have a very short life span) or those used to build elaborate link schemes. Our solution was to build content-rich microsite filled with the kind of content our target market would value. One critical aspect of the project was the location of the site. If you look at the salesforce.com structure, you will notice we already have a lot of great blogs sitting on http://blogs.salesforce.com/company/. Since I am interested in EMEA and in particular the UK for this project, I wanted the site to sit within our UK folder, so it would benefit from all the inbound links and social shares generated. To build our micro-site strategy, we had to address six key points:
Who would this site be for?
For me persona development is the foundation of any good inbound marketing strategy. I am a massive fan of persona development, from the usability and design of your site, to content development; they ensure you strategy stays on target. In fact one of the best link building posts I read last year involved a type of persona development. We ran an intensive persona workshop (with the help of iqcontent.com) that included people from marketing, sales and customer feedback. We came up with 5-6 profiles of users we were trying to reach.
We mapped these against different stages of the purchase cycle and segmented by company size. All of this would help us when it came to content strategy and promotion.
What would be the overarching theme that would hold all of our content together?
We used our own Radian 6 our social media monitoring tool, analytics and feedback from personas to come up with “The Social-Powered Business”.
How do we take that theme and break it down into specific topics we can generate content around?
For us, this was pretty easy; we looked at the areas of business where social media had the greatest impact (sales, customer service, collaboration and marketing). It’s also important that your topics and themes are aligned to your products (we are trying to generate leads after all).
Exactly where would this content come from and how would it be validated?
Getting people excited about the project is key. You need to have people who will help with content development, feedback and amends. We used our own collaboration tool Chatter to build an internal social network around the project that consisted of 56 people. All content development was driven through that group.
Of course we needed to source budget and a team.
How would we measure success?
This is a really important part of establishing any successful strategy. Brand awareness is never a good enough metric, traffic; leads and pipeline are what count. We built a dashboard in omniture with all key business metrics to measure our project.
The Launch – #socialsuccess
In 12 weeks we managed to develop:
- 32 pieces of content
and our #socialsuccess site was launched on January 3rd, 2012.
The following five items were important in terms of making the launch of the site a success.
1. Content Types
For launch we chose four different categories from which we could generate content:
- Created: Original content that was created from scratch. These are obviously the most resource intensive. They included things like an eBook, infographics, articles and slideshares.
- Curated: These are round-up style posts. Choosing a topic like social selling and pointing to the best resources from the web on this topic.
- Collaborative: We choose some of the best thought leaders around our topics and reached out to see if they would contribute some content.
- Legacy: One of the easiest ways companies can quickly scale their content for inbound marketing is to repurpose content they already have into different assets. For example, our Dreamforce event that runs in San Francisco has a huge amount of expert presentations that are recorded over three days and put onto Youtube. We simply took the best videos and turned them into articles.
2. Product Messaging
Remember this sort of content is not product centric. Best practice for this kind of content is to follow the 80/20 rule – 80% non product and 20% product, for launch we stuck to 90/10. Product references were used where they made sense, but only on a limited basis.
3. Promoting the site
If you build it, they probably won’t come unless you have an awesome promotion plan. Some of the things we did to promote the site were:
- Facebook/Twitter: Of course, all our best content was shared via our own Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages
- We took over the home page of our corporate site (www.salesforce.com/uk) to promote this new microsite
- Expert advocates: We collaborated with 15 experts for launch, who were kind enough to share our content with their networks.
- Email/Newsletter: We promoted the site launch to our UK email database and also created a newsletter called #socialsuccess Insider to keep connected with users who signed up via our eBook download.
- Guest Blogging: We did some guest blogging on relevant sites to promote #socialsuccess
- PR: We did some PR around some of the pieces we produced
- Employees: We galvanized our internal employees to share with their external networks
4. Outbound Marketing
We supported all our inbound marketing with great outbound tactics:
- Twitter: We ran sponsored tweets for our premium content (eBooks). We saw some really great CTR numbers for these. I highly recommend them.
- LinkedIn Banner Ads: We ran some advertising on LinkedIn targeted at our core personas developed above (linkedIn has some great targeting options like target by job title). Again, we saw a far higher CTR from these ads (those offering content) over those just advertising a product.
- Google Display Network: We are currently rolling out the same type of ads (those offering our premium content) on GDN.
Reaching out to thought leaders in your market is a great way to produce some highly valuable content. We were lucky enough to have some great experts involved in the initial content, who shared their expert advice with our audience and were kind enough to share our content with their own.
The project was launched officially on January 3rd, 2012 and we have seen some great results already. The feedback we have been getting back on our social channels around the content is great.
But we have also seen great results in terms of our business metrics (keep in mind we are in B2B):
- Traffic for January was up 80% YoY
- Traffic from social sites was up 2500 %
- We have over 6500 people signed up to our newsletter
- Our eBook has been downloaded over 10,000 times (generating 10,000 leads)
Our inbound marketing experiment has really shown us how impactful this stuff can be. We are currently working on similar sites in France, Germany and also new topics sites for EMEA.
So it’s Onwards and Upwards!!
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