I will keep it short and simple. 2023 is upon us and as advertisers, we need to plan for the next year. Most of the time we don’t do it from scratch, we have learned ways and templates to do it. I thought I’d share mine with you in the hope it helps anyone or I get feedback from you. This is the first time I try this.
What do you need to do? Download the document below and use it at your peril.
This fragile, volatile metric makes promises it cannot keep: the social media user engages with your brand and has positive interactions that can actually turn into brand awareness and equity, an acquisition and brand loyalty. The two words that comprise it mix emotion with math and, therefore, it seems it encompasses both worlds. Reactions/interactions are divided by reach. Simple enough, no?
I think not. Especially for industries where the immediate emotion does not lead to a connection with the brand or a direct sale. Emotion is SO easy to trigger sometimes, SO easy to light up like a fire in a pile of hay. Unlike fire, though, it is SO easy to extinguish. Instead of water, you just let time do the trick.Because unless you constantly feed the emotion, feed the reaction with more and more content, it will die off. Just like fire without oxygen.
Unfortunately, some people and execs only stop at the ego boost. It’s so easy to not go beyond this metric that promises a lot but delivers less and less in this digital environment. It can be a good starting point, yes, provided you are willing to always fuel that fire and can build the behind the scene infrastructure that can not only demonstrate its value to the marketing team and the financial leadership for businesses whose life cycle is longer than, say, a couple of days/minutes.
I’ve had rants on why I don’t trust this metric for B2B businesses for a couple of years so I thought I’d write down the reasons why and what I’d replace it with. Provide the solution along with the problem, right? Come for the rant, stay for the solution, maybe? Let’s go.
Engagement rate: Why It’s Not A Valuable (Read Actionable) Metric for B2B Brands
1: Hard to pull across channels, makes it difficult to have a streamlined definition.
It’s he same with engagement. LinkedIn tracks engagement in a different way than Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.
Of course, you can create an engagement-calculated metric and try to leverage it across platforms. I dare you to try that with a company that is not digital savvy whose execs will ask you why the engagement numbers don’t add up to the likes on the update on the page.
2: Not consistent through time. Spoiler alert: bots/fake accounts
Anecdote time: you look at engagements throughout time and divide it by reach to get to that golden formula. Easy, right? But what if you had to pull that exact same data 3 months later and, low and behold, you got different numbers?
At a closer look, you’d probably see that on specific pieces of content the engagements were…negative. Been there, done that. Fake accounts, the horror! Don’t trust me? Then trust Statista data on Facebook
In the first quarter of 2022, Facebook took action on 1.6 billion fake accounts.
3: Raises one big challenge: how do you translate it into business value? Something that C-level execs can understand and relate to?
So your content got you a 70% engagement rate like some ad agencies might have you believe (despite all common sense and industry reports). Looks good on a slide, but can you bring it to the CFO who approves budgets? He might not understand why you need more budget next year unless you translate that engagement rate into brand equity. Can you? If yes, please show me how you do that trick.
What To Replace Engagement Rate With For B2B Brands
Version 1:Brand Usefulness, but keep it simple. Make your content useful and track ONLY that.
I propose you track that: how many shares/sends/reposts/saves/landing page clicks did you get on the content? Keep it organic for a week and then include it in an ongoing paid campaign – check 2). If you have a smaller paid budget, but can produce a lot of valuable content, make it a point to only include those pieces of content that performed above benchmarks (I hope you know your brand’s benchmarks!). For the ones that did not, reshape and recycle, there is no shame in it as long as you craft it from a different angle or give it another format – turn videos into infographics/reels/LinkedIn articles or documents. Your creativity and/or resources are the limit!
Definition: Usefulness=shares+sends+reposts+saves+landing page clicks (feel free to add/edit this to showcase an interaction you translate as this person found our content valuable
Why: drives earned media, and if the content is crafted well, it positions your brand as an opinion leader in its field. Not to mentions, it is highly actionable – you WILL create all of your content with that one purpose – to become useful.
How to communicate it: as the reply to the question how useful are we to our customers?
Version 2. Brand recall/brand lift.
Youtube does it. LinkedIn does it. Facebook does it. I believe even Twitter does it. (Not sure about Tiktok, but, common, let’s be 100% honest, are you ready for all of that for a B2B brand? )
Craft your brand study well and do it across channels. Build those sweet retargeting audiences from these audiences and then use them in MoFu campaigns (Middle of the Funnel, yes, another acronym, but at least this one sounds funny, right?). Measure if retargeting increases the MQLs, SQLs and pipeline. Calculate it in $$$. That you can bring to your CFO and he will take you to the bank (or increase your Pcard limit so you can scale it!)
Definition: Brand lift is the measurement of how your marketing message uplifts your audience’s recognition of your brand.
How to communicate it: as one answer to the double jointed question how recognizable are our brand values and what business value does that bring?
3. Economic value
It’s just math, but it’s not for the ones faint of heart. My least favorite option, but in case of stubborn management, you can try to forge it.
You take the magic or the emotion out of the picture 100% and just focus on the numbers. You get yourself all the historical data and try to assign $$$ value to specific interactions. Use a regressional model, doomed to be fickle in the face of social platforms and economic changes. But, hey, we are doing our best to provide value, to answer that pesky question of why should anyone care (the answer is revenue, always!).
Definition: you are on your own on this one. It depends A LOT on whether you sell your products online or not if your execs can get on board with such convoluted math if you do figure out a way to assign value to micro-interactions and what those truly are. And you find a way to communicate all of this data in a streamlined automated dashboard that anyone can get in the first 5 minutes of glancing at it.
My Favourite Pick, Brand Usefulness. Why?
You can understand it and I dare to suggest most people could get it. Right?
It helps build your brand in a relevant manner to both your potential customer and yourself.
It takes time and creativity and a true passion for valuable content. Not braggy, not gimmicky, one that has some utility in one’s life. And it takes courage and support from leadership as you WILL have to fend off all the stakeholders that claim that people on social are just dying to Learn More about them having a booth at an event in some other corner of the world they definitely cannot travel to in 2 hours.
If done right, you can also layer in this step from Brand Uplift to help take it to your CFO and CCO and all the Os that care about $$$:
Build those sweet retargeting audiences from promoting this highly useful content to prospect audiences (or cold) and use them in MoFu campaigns to calculate how much more $$$ you generate by retargeting these already engaged audiences that your brand brought value to compared to targeting cold audiences.
Are you still with me? 1,658 words later the rant is over. Thank you for your time, I hope some of this helps you or inspires you to write your own. If you want to exchange ideas or tell me where I am wrong, let’s grab a lemonade together! On me! Just reach out at email@example.com with the Subject line: Oana, want my lemonade! or, if you’re based in Romania, call me at 0799347308.
Is there one? A perfect everlasting marketing mix? I am afraid not. And also happy. Because that is why we, marketers, still have a job: we continue to test, test, and test in search of the most appropriate marketing mix, the one that drives better ROMI.
Audiences’ behavior change – platforms they are active on, motivations, messages they react to in the current context (the pandemic taught us as much!).
Marketing channels change, too. For example, right now influencer marketing in Russia changed dramatically because influencers lost access to the platforms they had built audiences on. I know these seem dramatic examples, but they are real. They are around us.
What I believe you can work with is a work frame to determine the most appropriate marketing mix for your own brand. Below are some of the steps I would take:
1) Goals: what are our short-term goals? How about the long-term goals?
You might need to get 100 leads in the next 3 months for your business/department to stay alive. You might also need your brand to be top of mind and increase Share of Voice to 20% because you know there is one competitor that is claiming they are providing the same quality product/services you do. Each of these goals will guide your marketing mix in a different manner.
2)Brand communication background: learn from what the brand or its competitors are doing. Do an audit and a competitor review to learn from history.
3)Resources and deadlines: you need an understanding of what resources are available and the time constrictions. Here are a couple of questions you might ask yourself:
What people do you have working on your team? What are their strengths/weaknesses?
What is the available budget and target ROMI? If you have a smaller budget, that might instruct your marketing mix more than what industry case studies tell you it is best practice.
4)Strategy: after you replied to all the questions above, you come up with a strategy and stick with it for at least 6 months if not more if brand-building goals are involved.
For example, one scenario: You are a brand with a 20% Share of Voice in the cybersecurity industry, target audiences seem to be interested in your products & services, but they do not trust you. Your top competitor has 45% SOV and has been on the market for a very long time. You, on the other hand, have a team of 2 people working on marketing, one is a specialist in content marketing, the other in paid media.
Your approved strategy might be to invest in a brand campaign focused on building trust with the brand in the coming 6 months: increase SOV by 20% in the coming 6 months and increase NPR score by 5 ppt.
Your marketing mix might be the following:
Customer support/care: 20% of your budget. You need to hire a consultant or work with a specialist.
Content marketing: 40% of your budget. Work with your in-house specialist to create content for your top channels identified in the audit/competitor review stage. These might be: thought leadership content (brand blog & LinkedIn), cybersec publications and events, podcasts, etc
Syndication of content – 40% of your budget. The paid media specialist will work to make sure the best platforms are included in the paid media mix, in this case, it might be programmatic, social (LinkedIn & Twitter), podcast promotion
More than 12 years ago a Marketing Professor claimed business owners should look at their business as a layered cake. She did this in a late evening lecture with more than 100 hungry people.
“Advertising is just icing on the cake” she said.
She went on to explain the age old idea of Kotler’s 4Ps of marketing. She went on to say that without the first three layers – product, price, placement, no advertising campaign, no matter how creative, could guarantee ROMI.
Fast forward to today. Her words come to mind each time a stakeholder asks for an advertising campaign without them having a go to market strategy with business goals and marketing objectives. They expect the icing on the cake to be enough and replace all the other layers. But it doesn’t. All good cooks will tell you that if the first layer – the product, in our scenario, is too soft, all the layers on top of it will succomb and the heavy icing will come tumbling down on your plate because it is too heavy.
Now the analogy makes more sense than ever.
If you put all your efforts into the ad campaign, but you do not develop the product to be a good market fit, with the right pricing and and the right moment for promotion, as well as placement of your product, ads will not do anything for you. I cannot do anything for you as a social advertising professional. You as a business owner cannot blame me or the marketing channel for this.
What can you do? Work on the product, price and placement, of course. AND share all of that know-how with me. That way the icing I create can work to enhance everything that you built, not become too expensive or complicated for the layers supposed to support its weight.
Here’s a top of mind list of questions that might help some of you create your cake and eat it, too:
What is SO special about your product/solution? Why would someone buy it? Why wouldn’t they?
What are the direct & indirect competitors and what is the added value your product/solutions bring?
Where and to whom do you want to sell? Are there any specificities that you need to understand? How about your advertising team, do they understand?
Where can people buy your product? In what conditions? Online/offline? Discounts available? Partnerships?
I you only sell online. how good is your website? How is the user experience with your website? (Unfortunately, far too often websites load way too slow, do not provide much needed prodyct info, do not engage and convince them of why they should trust the brand and products)
That’s it. My quick Friday rant down memory lane. Hope it helps someone out there. It definitely helped me vent. Now, let me go eat some real cake. 🙂
For what seems to be a decade now people have been lobbying for content. Produce valuable content for your audiences, that is the key to success. At least that is what you read/hear. What they seem to forget is the marketing in content marketing.
This becomes an issue, a really big issue because:
you focus way too much on creating content and therefore you pay way too much for amazing looking content that does not deliver the desired results because you do NOT know what the desired results are. You focus way too much on deliverables and not enough on marketing strategy and ROMI
you lose klout within your organisation – what other teams care about is business results, not content shareability. Unless you can speak on how the content you as a marketer produce helps support their own KPIs, you will only be a team of one
you hire teams skilled in content production, not in content marketing. And that is an error you will pay for dearly. You and the company you work for.
Content marketing needs more than just content. It needs strategy and goals, it needs structure and analytics, it needs long term planning and execution, it needs courage and processes, workflows, and zooming in on the entire sales funnel, not just the glitzy parts that produce vanity metrics that look good on paper, but deliver 0 ROMI.