CMOs are slated to spend nearly 12 percent of company revenue on marketing technologies in 2018. That’s great news, but a bigger question looms: is that money being put to good use? Does that 12 percent in revenue go towards boosting the company’s bottom line? The answer to that question: it depends.
It depends, mostly, on if marketers are allocating funds for tactics that really, truly work. What works? Turns out, real human engagement works best. Personalization, for example, delivers five to eight times the return on investment on marketing spend and can lift sales by 10 percent or more, according to a recent McKinsey study. But personalization, in a digital-driven age, is hard to scale without becoming — at some level — impersonal.
The question, then, is what solutions can marketers use to make one-to-one communications work at scale without making visitors feel like numbers in the database?
To answer this question, and a few others, we asked Harvard Business Review Analytic Services to study how marketers are balancing the need for human engagement with digital scale and which solutions provide better ROI for their efforts. The results are surprising. Some of the most common channels, such as social media and email, also offer great ROI — so long as they’re executed well. Here are a few avenues to consider:
Email is a standard channel for engagement in both the business-to-consumer and the business-to-business realms. Emails today are sliced, segmented, personalized, delivered and seldom read. That because, more often than not, companies simply blast emails to thousands or hundreds of consumers to celebrate a product, not driving engagement.
But emails are great opportunities for engagement and ROI if used well. According to Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, B2B organizations need to slow down and build a foundation of trust, often through phone calls, with prospects before emailing them more details. Once trust is established, companies can then make detailed profiles on a prospect and use predictive analytics to guide and personalize messages. As always, marketers must ensure the language they use is personable and clear for readers.
Webinars are powerful tools that drive engagement, hold attention for upwards of an hour and can be used in almost any situation. They’re potent tools driving real, measurable results and marketers are taking notice. According to the HBR study, 44 percent of marketers say they plan to increase their investments in webinars. It makes sense: webinars reach anywhere from hundreds to thousands of customers with real human interactions through Q&A chats, social media and more. It should be no surprise, then, that 50 percent of business leaders turn to webinars for access to business content, with 40 percent saying the format is useful for consuming business content.
When it comes to driving engagement, webinars are one of the most effective channels. But how can they be used better? Simple. Webinars offer organizations the opportunity to quickly build campaigns addressing a specific audience, craft on-demand content hubs to buttress those campaigns and develop a webinar series targeted for technical audiences and more. The versatility of webinars, ranging anywhere from short demos to streaming live in-person keynotes augmented with chat, empower organizations to create engaging digital experiences.
Finally, there’s social media. Social media is ubiquitous, compelling and engaging — if used right. But social media can also alienate prospects. It’s no surprise, then, that many B2B marketing executives are still uneasy about their companies using the channel.
But there are a few ways organizations can get more out of their social efforts. IBM Cloud, for example, divides its social messages into earned and paid social. Earned lets the company know which messages resonate with different customers at different stages of the buying cycle. After tracking and collecting data, IBM uses the most impactful posts in paid social campaigns to reach broader audiences and drive engagement where it counts.