Online Marketing Summit focuses on social, search, content

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Social media, search and content marketing were among the hot topics at the Online Marketing Summit 2012, which drew almost 2,000 marketers last week in San Diego. The opening keynote session, “Big Brands and Their Digital Marketing Plans,” featured a panel of digital marketers from General Motors Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., SAP and Crispin Sheridan, senior director-search marketing at SAP, said that last year the company opened a digital lab to implement a more rigorous testing process for digital content. “Instead of letting the content owners and Web developers do the testing, we put a team together to make testing a competency in the company. We test all those things that make the most difference,” he said. SAP uses software from DataXu, as well as its own software, to tag digital activity and perform deep analyses of the different digital channels used in marketing campaigns as users interact with them. Paul Vallez, director of worldwide search at HP, echoed the importance of testing digital marketing programs. “We always have about 10 tests running at any time,” he said. “Last year, we built a methodology that puts multiple versions of content on a page so we can test new features and functionality.” Vallez said HP is also using search methodologies to identify relevant content. “One thing marketers don't do enough of is use search marketing to find out what content works,” he said. “When creative resonates with customers, we use it on the website.” Lauren Vaccarello, director of search, display and social advertising at, said one priority for the software company is to automate the routing of social media messages to the right people in the company. “We want to find the best person to respond—whether that's in customer service, product development, etc.—and make sure the right people respond to social media messages,” she said. “We are trying to automate that as much as possible.” Also during the panel, Charlotte Blank, social media manager at GM, said the carmaker is using social media to connect with its customers and turn them into brand ambassadors. “We want to keep the customer at the center of everything,” she said. “One big goal is to use social media with car owners and turn them into advocates.” Other sessions during the conference focused on specific strategies for social media, search, email marketing and website development. In a session called “Ignite the Pipeline,” Lauren Goldstein, VP-strategy at Babcock & Jenkins, shared a case study of how the digital agency worked with software company Nuance Communications to build an integrated campaign to drive revenue and close deals. Babcock & Jenkins helped Nuance create an account-based approach to identify the most promising accounts to target. “Instead of trying to focus on tens of thousands of customers, focus on 500 or 600 customers that represent 80% of your business,” she said. Goldstein explained a five-point plan for building an integrated program to drive leads. First, sales and marketing must agree on key accounts and identify the right prospects at those companies—in Nuance's case, it was 209 companies and 685 contacts. Next, a pilot program must be defined, with integrated marketing materials reaching prospects at all the touch points in the chain. Third, marketers must engage with customers and prospects. Nuance used online ads, direct mail, email, social media and a customized microsite to do this. Within eight months of launching, Nuance had generated $5.3 million in sales, with an ROI of 19-to-1 against its initial investment, Goldstein said. The final steps are standardizing and scaling the program to other campaigns. Nuance is now rolling out this program to an additional 270 companies and expanding into other geographic areas. In a session titled “A Social Strategy for and Around Your Customers,” Todd Wilms, senior director-social media audience marketing at SAP, talked about some of the challenges and strategies around using social media for marketing. “Customer expectations have changed,” Wilms said. “Customers want, on demand, to have a say in how they interact with you as a company. We need to change and adapt our thinking and acknowledge this shift.” For example, instead of pushing out news about products, marketers need to answer questions on Twitter and engage on Facebook pages in ways that are meaningful and relevant to customers, he said. Wilms said another problem marketers face is changing the corporate culture to accommodate social. “Social moves really fast, and companies move at a glacial pace,” he said. Pointing to SAP's 53,000-employee base, he said, “It's like pulling a glacier to get them to move.” One key strategy for marketing is getting an executive sponsor who supports social media and is willing to make a case for it with senior management. Wilms said his executive sponsor is Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP. “Our CMO blogs every week,” he said. “He loves social—he gets it.” Another strategy to start to change the corporate culture is to select a few groups that are interested in social media, such as customer support, and start finding ways to use social in those groups, Wilms said. At SAP, the company started an internal ambassador program by finding staff with Twitter handles and drawing on those employees to engage with customers. “You have to create a program around what people want, and think one person at a time,” Wilms said.
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