Is CRM Marketing Too Old School for Social?

Social marketing purists say that I don’t get it. They claim the real value in social marketing is not measurable in the “old ways” of direct marketing. When I ask how it is measureable, I get a lot of hand-waving and mumbling about participation and brand evangelism.

I’m not so old-fashioned. I agree, social marketing is powerful and essential. I understand that all marketing is social these days, and that marketers who do no listening, analysis, or participation in social activities are soon going the way of the dinosaur.

But I still need ROI. I still need my social activities to be profitable. I need to demonstrate return on all the hours invested. I need to prove that social conversations turn into leads for my sales team or sales on my e-commerce site. I absolutely need to show my executives how all this social marketing provides meaningful return to my business.

Far from being obsolete, the direct marketing principles that drive CRM marketing remain the cornerstone of marketing success. The ability for marketing activities – on or offline, social or direct, or some combination of all – to drive behavior is always the goal. The fact that our socially-connected world now demands that “driving” behavior be more inclusive, transparent, and communal doesn’t change the fact that marketing is about education that changes behavior.

Social marketing is in good company. There are other marketing activities that are hard to measure. Public relations and sponsorships are some of them. Yet, markets do those activities anyway, and we’ve developed ROI measures that help demonstrate their power. We count clips, we track reference links, we measure how many requests we get for analyst reports that bless our solutions. I once listened with rapt attention as a marketing manager from P&G explained to me how they know exactly how many boxes of Tide are purchased as a result of their race car driver winning vs. just placing.

Should social marketing be treated in a similar fashion? No need for specific ROI if you show a lift in brand awareness or customer satisfaction. Perhaps. I think we can get further. In fact, we already use social marketing results to make smarter marketing decisions. We use simple counts to show influence and attribution. For example, your marketing automation software may be tracking how many tweets are generated on topics covered in the email newsletter that went out today. Or, you may use sentiment analysis to measure how well your advertising campaign is influencing online conversations or to determine how much to pay for certain keywords.

Yet, I still want to be able to show channel-specific ROI, as well as the overall success of a cross-channel campaign. After all, old-fashioned or not, this is how I get budgets and how I justify hiring plans. I can have all the marketplace noise I want, but if I can’t show how that noise turns into leads for my sales team, you know what will get the budget this quarter. Yep, it’ll go to the direct marketing postcard or email campaigns. Why? Because they can be measured in return on the spend. Call me crazy, or call that a “traditional CRM methodology,” but it still works.

Integrated marketing management (IMM) – what Gartner labels the new EMM, or marketing automation function – is all about measuring marketing activities and using data to improve conversions. Conversions don’t happen without education, awareness, and positive brand image. So if social is contributing to those aspects of the sales journey, then it’s definitely pulling its weight. Many marketers tell me that while they may know this in their hearts, they can’t prove it. And in business, if you can’t prove that something is working, then it won’t get funded.

I’m convinced that our intuition is correct: social marketing does influence conversions. However, until we can map that back to the CRM database and our marketing metrics, we will never know the true power of what we are doing. As any good salesperson will tell you, conversations that don’t move the prospect through the sales cycle are not worth having.

Consider a few ways to start to track your social marketing and tie it to the CRM database.

  1. Identify influential tweeters or bloggers in your database and send them offers intended to engage and motivate them to become brand ambassadors. Track the response of these people vs. the general database and test offers to come up with content strategies that can be replicated with new influencers or even high-value customers. Sophisticated sentiment analysis can also help to identify the influence of the influencers on a given message or offer.
  2. Use social activity to rank audience members as high, medium, or low value in terms of influence, and then measure the effect of offers, cadence, and frequency on each. I often find that influencers are motivated by different things. So tap into that to strengthen the relationship.
  3. Collect social monikers on intake forms in order to first identify the networks that are most important to your audience and second, to create multi-channel campaigns to those customers willing to be communicated with across channels.

Once you start to collect some data, you can quickly see how social activity and participation fits with other direct marketing. You’ll be able to balance resources across channels so that you include the right social elements with each campaign.

When you start to integrate your social activities into the CRM strategy, you force a discipline on the social team to stay on point and be supportive, and you also force yourself to give up some control to the marketplace. Both results will advance your advantage, and your ROI. That’s not old-fashioned – it’s just smart marketing.

What do you think? Is the CRM model too old-fashioned for our socially-driven world? Share below and let’s keep the debate going.

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