Speakers at BtoB's Digital Edge Live event in New York last week made one thing clear: The relentless proliferation of digital clutter is making it harder for marketers to connect with their audiences. Still, they said, marketers that use the right tactics and timing will find they have more power to reach their customers and prospects than ever before. Social media and online video were two hot topics at the event. With both channels, marketers stressed the importance of making an emotional connection. "I don't know how to engage a business online; I'm reaching people," said Dustin Luther, director of engagement at Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., in a panel titled "Social Media Marketing: Winning Strategies That Drive Engagement and Demand." On the same panel, Rishi Dave, executive director of digital marketing at Dell
Inc., shared how his company is reaching customers and prospects through LinkedIn, a channel that he said is critically important to b-to-b marketers. Dell connects with customers on LinkedIn using content, he said. "High-volume, high-quality content is the game now," he said. "The more content I put out on a regular basis, the more leads I acquire." Effective strategies for reaching customers and prospects were the focus of a trio of individual presentations by leading marketers at Digital Edge Live. Barbara Basney, VP-global advertising at Xerox
Corp., discussed how content marketing is helping the company transform its brand. Michele Grieshaber, VP-demand programs at IBM Corp.
, focused on the increasingly sophisticated ways marketers can engage clients. Adrian Parker, global head of social and mobile at Intuit Inc., addressed how companies can add mobile to their marketing mix. Marketing consultant and social evangelist Gary Vaynerchuk addressed the power of social media in a keynote address that kicked off Digital Edge Live. "I love social media because it sells stuff; otherwise, it really doesn't matter in the context of business," he said. Vaynerchuk stressed that social selling often falls prey to two phenomena: the increasing difficulty of gaining attention in the social sphere and the persistent practice of overselling in what should be a subtle, conversational medium. "We're living in the noisiest world ever," he said. "If we don't apply today's massive cultural shifts to our businesses, we won't gain the attention of our customers to tell them our story and communicate our value proposition about why they should buy our stuff." Vaynerchuk stressed the need to "give, give, give—then ask" on social media as a means of gaining that attention. The theme is taken from his latest book, "Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World" (HarperBusiness, 2013). According to Vaynerchuk's boxing analogy, social self-promoters are constantly asking for business first—throwing right hooks—instead of listening to the social conversation and focusing on adding value to it. "When people know a right hook is coming, they duck—which is what customers are doing," he said. "Marketers are not doing enough jabbing and counterpunching, bringing value to their social interactions. So counterpunch, and respect the context of where you're trying to tell your story." Panelists at the "Online Video: Bringing Your Brand to Life" session discussed the power of the medium to speak with customers on an emotional level. Erich Parker, director of strategic corporate communications at DuPont, highlighted the importance of storytelling when using video. "We're not saying "Buy this bag of hybrid rice seeds, please,' " he said. "We leave that to the salespeople." Instead, the company has created a series of videos about the people whose lives are improved by DuPont products. One video, for example, is a vignette about the challenges facing a farmer in the Mekong Delta. "We've taken the indirect, nimble storytelling approach, and it's working," Parker said. While panelists noted that online video can be very costly, it doesn't have to be, said Linda McGovern, VP-marketing at USG Corp. "We do not spend a ton of money on video," she said, adding that marketers can use stock video and music to cut costs. More important than budget, McGovern said, is determining a goal. "You have to understand what you're trying to do," she said.