CMOs fail to prove a clear social media ROI

LinkedIn marketing expert delves into ways several brands are using the platform for marketing and provider her advice on improving these efforts by looking at the whole buyer journey

Recent studies show 87 per cent of B2B sales and marketing leaders are using LinkedIn and other social media platforms, but fewer than one in five can clearly prove and demonstrate social media ROI. I believe it's because the attention and efforts are on the top of the funnel instead of thinking about the complete buyer journey.

A recent article, titled “5 CMOs Who Are Turning to LinkedIn,” shows how CMOs at Xerox, Lithium, Wiley, XOJet and G2 Crowd are focused on brand awareness and brand engagement instead of buyer engagement. Below I analyse their ideas, thoughts and actions, and show you how they are focused on the top of the funnel.

Xerox: Reaching prospects with content, not engaging them

Xerox CMO, John Kennedy, says the vendor is using LinkedIn to share content with its followers. Through company page updates and sponsored updates, Xerox is supplying its audience with e-books, SlideShare presentations and blog articles that offer advice on how to work better. He stated, “Hopefully, we’ll provide useful resources that can help those who follow us perform better and, as a result, engender interest in the Xerox brand along the way.”

That's a lot of hopefuls. Hopefully, prospects will find and read Xerox’s content; hopefully, they will find it useful; and hopefully, the content they read will generate interest in the Xerox brand in the process. You see, John is using the word "hopefully" because he cannot directly tie these LinkedIn actions to sales opportunities or even revenue. And because they are just focused on reach and getting brand awareness, there is no predictive marketing.

However, when you focus on the complete funnel and pay strict attention to the next steps that prospects are taking as you build the relationship, you can put a process in place that you know will lead to revenue.

Wiley: Focusing on clickthrough rates and leads

Wiley's CMO, Clay Stobaugh, says his company is focused on sponsored updates and In-mails since they are getting amazing clickthrough rates. Wiley is getting an unusually high clickthrough rate, but it seems like the company is just focused on leads and getting people into the funnel.

Focusing just on leads causes misaligned goals with sales (leads vs. revenue) and marketing teams optimising for cost per lead rather than true business growth.

It seems like there is misalignment here. Stobaugh does not mention how many prospects who clicked through became paying customers and how this paid media opportunity is driving real business growth.

Forrester reports 99 per cent of leads don’t convert, and LinkedIn says 87 per cent of leads don’t convert. So it doesn’t matter how many clickthroughs are becoming leads if they are not moving forward. By focusing on the top of the funnel, you may get a low cost per lead, but your cost of business growth will be high (and that’s the metric that should count).

Lithium: Fill the funnel before allowing marketing automation programs to take over

Lithium CMO, Kathy Keim, understands that the volume of leads from LinkedIn updates is less than other social media platforms. She also says marketers should spend less time on volume at the top of the funnel and more on what is driving through to a qualified sales opportunity.

I totally agree with that, but I don't agree with how Lithium is driving prospects to a qualified sales opportunity. The company is letting marketing automation programs take over once they get a prospect into the funnel using updates.

But what about those leads that are resistant to sales and marketing messages and do not want to move forward without a real relationship? What about those B2B buyers who are looking for vendors that can turn their vision into a clear path to value? You can only do that if you take the time to build a real relationship instead of treating prospects like leads, which is exactly what you're doing when you let your marketing automation take over.

By just using LinkedIn for a top-of-the-funnel tool instead of using it to directly engage and interact with their prospects on a one-on-one, more personal level to help grow relationships, Lithium is missing out on opportunities. Prospects are using LinkedIn throughout the complete buying process to make their buying decision, which means you should be thinking beyond the top of the funnel.

XOJET and G2Crowd: Brand building and as an extension to their websites

XOJET CMO, Shari Jones, is currently utilising LinkedIn for two core functions: Brand building and recruitment. The company’s marketing efforts are concentrated on its company page, which is at the top of the funnel. She's failing to understand that LinkedIn is not about engaging with brands. B2B buyers on LinkedIn are looking for access to broader networks that can help them (not brands, but actual visible experts), and they want relevant context to connect with those vendors.

G2 Crowd’s CMO, Adrienne Weissman, stated the company is using its LinkedIn company page as an extension to its website. On the company page, G2 shares relevant content with followers and specific audiences.

These companies are taking the first step to building long-term value using LinkedIn. They are building a following and establishing their brand as an expert resource with the content they are sharing on their LinkedIn company page. But building long-term value that leads to ROI and revenue requires further educating your prospects via a nurturing flow and real relationship building that has prospects comfortably moving forward.

Realising the real power of LinkedIn

LinkedIn marketing is simply becoming a numbers game, and my recent LinkedIn marketing study shows this. I asked sales and marketing leaders, as well as some well-recognised, trusted social media marketing experts and firm owners: What metrics are most important to you? What are you paying attention to?

Most of the sales and marketing leaders and social media experts chose clicks, profile and platform post views, website traffic and superficial metrics like shares, comments and likes. They chose these metrics over:

  • Next-step actions beyond the click, like and comment
  • Marketing qualified and sales qualified leads
  • Revenue

That's why most of the sales and marketing leaders were mainly getting visibility and reach and not much more. The sales and marketing leaders who were regularly driving demand and creating sales opportunities (not leads but actual opportunities that went past the initial interest stage) were focused on revenue objectives. They were focused on having the right tools, content and processes to help them meet revenue objectives using LinkedIn.

Remember, you can't create a path to LinkedIn revenue and ROI if all of your focus is on how much you expanded your network, how many people you're reaching with your content and sales messages, and what your clickthrough rate is on sponsored updates. You need to think beyond the top of the funnel and focus on how you're going to use LinkedIn to move prospects through the complete buying process.

About the author: Kristina Jaramillo is a LinkedIn marketing expert and managing partner at Get LinkedIn Help, providing technology, software, professional services and consulting organisations with returns on time, engagement, leads, ROI and revenue.

This article originally appeared in CMO Council’s Marketing Magnified newsletter, May 2016.

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