For most business to business (B2B) sales people and people running smaller businesses it can be hard to justify the time for social media, never mind taking time to calculate the financial benefit or Return on Investment (ROI) of that time.
However, in order to move beyond casual and personal use of online networks and into active Social Media Marketing, Lead generation through Social Media and Social Selling it’s really important to plan and monitor your time and results. This allows you to learn and to improve results over time, and to compare one lead generation activity with another to see which works best, for the effort or cost.
Here are three simple outcomes and some strategies to illustrate how you can monitor your online business network activity and track results when using professional networks, and how results can be improved over time.
1. Followers on Business Networks
This measure includes anyone who follows you, from whatever source, for whatever reason. On many networks, such as Twitter, you have no say in who follows you, so don’t get hung up about quality at this level. This number will include customers and business partners, colleagues, recommenders and influencers, competitors and so on. It will also include people who are outside of your ideal customer profile, market, sector, geography etc. Some of these people may want to read your content, and inevitably some who want to ‘sell’ to you. Trying to manage quality at this level has a low return, so do that in the second and third levels.
The main goal at this level is ‘are we reaching a growing number of contacts?’
As an example, are you increasing the number of followers you have on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ for personal and company pages? It helps if these are relatively unique followers, rather than people following you on all your channels. Having a primary social media channel is a way to reduce the duplication, of effort, content, and followers .
Strategies to accelerate this growth are many, including creating and promoting valuable shareable content, associating with relevant #hashtags, including relevant keywords in your status updates, and so on. Having a large following is great, but don’t be deluded into thinking they are a high value return on your investment of time just yet.
2. Marketing qualified contacts – MQC
These are followers who you can identify as people who meet your broad criteria as potential customers. They are people who work for businesses or organisations in the sectors, geography and size that you target, and the people are in the right function and at the right level. level. This is relatively easy to check on LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook, where people are readily identifiable. It’s not as easy on Twitter since account names and profiles are not as easy to determine.
In this category you’re looking for the profile and maybe the behaviour. At this stage don’t be too concerned about whether they have a business need for what you offer right now. This is essentially a relationship nurture phase for these people.
Strategies to increase the number of followers in this category are to actively seek out companies and people who meet the profiles of your target customer, through social media, and invite them to connect, and also to create and promote targeted content based on clear pain-points and give it wide circulation.
To monitor achievements, it’s worth checking periodically to see whether any people in your target companies have chosen to follow you, or you can check all new followers, if that’s a manageable number. LinkedIn provides some useful tools, such as identities of people who have looked at your profile. Assigning people to lists or groups in LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Twitter is one way to segment key contacts from ‘the rest’.
In addition, when you regularly post updates that highlight value-rich content and links to your website landing pages you can track how many clicks and registrations you get, through your social media software (say Hootsuite), link shortener (ie. Bit.ly), website (ie. Google Analytics) or your email marketing app or system, to help calculate social media ROI.
3. Sales Qualified Opportunities – SQO
These are followers or people who you’ve connected to through social media search who have a problem that you can solve, and they are prepared to invest time and take action to research it, which indicates that they probably have some budget to pay for a solution.
A clear example is if someone puts a request out through social media asking for recommendations for a business that does what you do, or for a product or service that you offer, and you are ‘listening’ and can respond.
Maybe one of your contacts provides an online referral for you, to someone they know or see who’s looking for what you do.
The key here is that the contact passes your sales lead criteria. Your qualification criteria might be MAN (money authority, need) or BANT (budget, authority, need, timescale) or SCOTSMAN for high value sales (Solution, Competition, Originality, Timescale, Size, Money, Authority, Need). When you get qualified leads directly or indirectly though Social Media the return on investment (ROI) for your time goes up considerably.
In practice it is rare for sales ready leads for considered purchases to come purely through Social Media. More likely that there will be some additional contact (perhaps through social media follow-up, or more likely via email or phone) to verify the need, budget, timescale and decision-maker authority. However, talking to ONE interested person is far more productive than making 20 phone calls to try to strike it lucky via cold calling.
Techniques to help you monitor Social Media ROI.
Some systems such as LinkedIn or Google Analytics may provide enough trend information to help you assess the return on investment of your time, through trend charts.
If you have multiple professional networks to track then a simple spreadsheet with key metrics recorded monthly or weekly will provide a good starting point. Track progress over 6 periods, ie. 6 months or 6 weeks and see what you can derive from the results.
Or if you want to make progress now, identify your objectives for sales ready leads, marketing qualified contacts and followers, add a specific time-frame, then plan out how you will achieve it ( task by task, week by week), and then work the plan consistently.
If you use a CRM or other structured system to manage Sales there is likely to be a way to record the source of each lead. If you’re not already doing so it’s worth identifying how easily you could start doing this, and then record the lead source for each contact (MQC) and Opportunity (SQO).
Identifying and tracking appropriate Key Performance Indicators will help you assess how to allocate your time and resources for the future.