There have been times when finding high-level b2b discussions at the Direct Marketing Association's annual conference and expo has been an iffy proposition, but 2012 wasn't one of those times. For the second consecutive year, BtoB sponsored a multisession “conference within a conference” at the event over three days focused exclusively on b2b marketing tactics.
B2b topics at the Las Vegas event last month included social media analytics and selling, content marketing, infographics and Big Data. One powerful message delivered to b2b marketers was that social media is not a panacea for all marketing needs.
“The paradox is that social is not a very trusted source of information,” said Jonathan Block, VP-practice director, technology at consultancy SiriusDecisions. Block spoke at a session titled “What's the Value of Social Analytics?”
“The problem is the signal-to-noise ratio, figuring out whose opinion you should trust and who's influencing the buyer,” he said.
As a result, Block said, social media is most valuable to b2b marketers and their potential customers in the later stages of the purchasing funnel, when prospects consult their peers about vendors and product options.
“Marketers want to know attribution, the impact of the cold-to-close process,” Block said. “We typically see organizations with a 30% lift in response rates when using social properly.”
The rage for infographics as a key content marketing element was detailed by Ryan Skinner, account director at agency Velocity Partners, Bellevue, Wash., in the session “Infographics: Angles of Attack.”
“There are two types of infographics: link bait and marketing,” Skinner said. “Link bait is for awareness and buzz, and to get a viral effect. Marketing infographics are to inspire some action.
“An infographic can't do both, in my opinion,” he said. “Optimize for one choice. If you do that, your success will be judged by the criteria you set, either awareness or action.”
Skinner recommended a marketing commitment to infographic excellence in order to be effective.
“Very few infographics get a tremendous amount of views, and the rest don't get much at all,” he said. “Infographics that are "just OK' don't do significantly better than ones that are terrible. If you're going to do this thing, do it in a way that's consistently great.”
Despite a B-to-B Symposium focus on digital marketing, direct mail was given a thorough going-over by Kevin Lofgren, CEO of direct-mail marketing company Farstar Inc. Lofgren hosted a mythbusters session to explode a number of marketing misconceptions around the venerable channel.
“One myth is that it's impossible to reach senior-level executives,” Lofgren said. “Not so: Hand-addressed direct mail pieces with an element of intrigue can have a greater than 70% response rate in getting people to a microsite. Also, despite preconceptions, mass marketing can indeed be personal. It comes down to good storytelling, where more personal conversations continue online.”
Lofgren urged marketers to keep their direct mail pieces simple and to always integrate them with digital. That's where extended, more personalized information can be presented, he said.
“The only purpose of a mail piece is to get the recipient to go to a microsite and tell them a story there in a relevant way,” he said. “And when the message exists on the website, you can always change it—unlike on the original printed piece. If something isn't working, you can change the online content quickly while the mail piece is live.”