What MediaPost noticed was the somewhat surprising news that right now, email is topping social media as a preferred method of marketing, despite a trend toward creating marketing moments that establish deeper connections between consumer and company – or can go viral, creating that elusive 15 minutes of fame.
Admittedly, experts say, social media does that well, but it is not without its flaws.
“Social media was designed to create relationships … Social media platforms are not for selling. Rather, they are for encouraging people to relate to you and your brand. Post images that inspire and contribute. Social media is best used as a place to ‘give,’ not a place to ‘get’ — keep that in mind when managing your brand and posting content,” said Noelle Federico, CMO of the stock photo company Dreamstime.
So while social media can help create a persona for your company – giving prospects and current consumers an idea about your history, your growth and your values – it is less geared toward sales, and sales are the lifeblood of B2Bs.
Certainly B2B businesses do need to create strong, lasting relationships with prospects that are usually born from marketing, and social media plays a role in that. Consumers will work with companies they trust, companies that have a proven record of excellence, companies that share their values, for life.
But because those relationships generally start with sales, B2B companies are – based on the most recent intent signals® gathered by InsightBASE – using a mix of classic and contemporary methods (video marketing came in just behind email in our most recent InsightBASE data) while mobile marketing barely cracked the top 10, and content marketing and social media failed to make the list.
The reasons are as diverse as the methods of each different marketing tactic.
Timing is everything
Email edges out the others for the most part because timing is what matters when it comes to making a sale.
Most B2B businesses have a very select target audience, an audience that in turn has a limited number of businesses with which they might work with when they need a product or a service.
On the surface, social sounds like a good way to reach them. Influencers are everywhere, and 94 percent of businesses that use them say that their celeb endorsement makes a real difference. Too many businesses are generating buzz with just a single tweet. Earlier this month, the fast food restaurant Wendy’s, which shut down a troll in a single Tweet when they sent a Tweet questioned the company’s never-frozen burgers, to which Wendy’s PR team essentially explained the different between refrigeration versus freezer, embarrassing the troll so effectively that the critical Tweet was removed. And infamously, Oreo Cookies took advantage of a Super Bowl blackout a few years back with its “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” Tweet, a moment of brilliance that was one of the most successful moments in the evening’s marketing. Not only has it now become iconic, it was marketing Oreo didn’t have to pay for in a market where most paid millions.
But those most influenced by influencers or drop-the-mic Tweets are B2C consumers, making those particular moments more difficult for B2Bs to achieve.
That’s not to say B2Bs can’t use social media effectively. B2B companies can – and absolutely have – made impressions via social media connections. One popular social media campaign from PwC created buzz around the Academy Awards last year through the adventures of the briefcase that holds the revered ballots as it traveled from New York to Hollywood. (It’s highlighted here, in this recent True Influence blog post).
But marketers have a limited budget, and emails are still the more effective way to reach prospects with a specifically targeted message at exactly the right time.
According to the intent signals measured by InsightBASE in November, email and online video marketing didn’t just lead the pack, they dominated, and almost 80 percent of all measured signals were from the two tools.
Why is email more effective than social?
Why? Because email is able to allow marketing departments to encourage personalized interactions such as offering informational white papers geared specifically for that company, which is something social media just can’t do, unless it’s calling out a single troll.
While email might seem like a somewhat archaic way to reach potential prospects when there are so many different, technologically advanced options available, email is often the right choice for B2Bs.
Given that most of the B2B companies whose intent signals InsightBASE collects are on the cutting edge of their industries, it’s not a matter of the companies’ marketing departments lagging far behind research and development. Instead, they are relying on what works best for them and their prospects.
Email is a trusted method of communication, and while at first rub, it might seem that price might be a factor, video marketing was also at the top of the intent signal data, and targeted emails aren’t the same as mass mailings, and creating the customized content that will draw in prospects isn’t without costs.
But targeted email allows for personalization, which is truly the key to establishing long-lasting relationships with potential prospects and making not only one sale, but also future sales.
When prospects see emails addressed to them that also address their specific needs – such as a whitepaper looking at the latest trends in their industry – it immediately begins to establish that sense of trust that’s critical in long-standing business relationships.
While email may seem risky – it is the first opportunity to make an impression – it’s unlikely that even the first email you send will be the first real interaction with your prospect.
More than likely, given the specialized niches of most B2B businesses, you or your company have encountered your potential prospect, however briefly, at a conference devoted to your industry. If there was any interaction between the sales team or executives and those prospects, ideally that information was passed on to the marketing team, which now knows exactly what the prospect is looking for, why he or she might be interested in your product or service and how the company plans to use it.
When an intent signal lets you know that a potential prospect – perhaps one you met last month as a workshop – is now looking at your product or service – you are able to send an email that reaches them exactly when they begin their research. Here, you can offer information about why your product or service is the best suited to meet their needs, and that email, which may have taken weeks to compile, will be more likely to generate action than a random social media post, which are more difficult to specifically target to a single prospect, and therefore, less effective.
Social media posts do offer a chance to tell your company’s story via video, which is one way to establish an identify that gives your company a sense of familiarity that potential prospects will appreciate, but those same videos can also be part of your website experience, or included as a link for prospects to click on when they open your email.
Given that, email is a reliable, versatile marketing tool, so it’s ultimately not a revelation that it topped our list of intent signals late last year. And given the hype the other methods of marketing such as social are receiving, it explains why MediaPost recognized the importance behind the data.
But if you’re still wondering if you should believe the headlines that tell you social media is the once and future king of all marketing, here’s a look at why social’s not all that, and email is still a smart marketing option.
Five reasons why email tops social
- Email has more users. According to the Pew Research Center, about 74 percent of adults use social media, while 88 percent have at least one email account, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Because so many more people are using email, you’re more likely to reach the potential clients on your dream list by reaching out to them directly on a
- Email is busier. While it seems as though some businesses or personalities are on social media constantly, sending Tweets or posting Instagram photos of the latest trending item, email still top social media posts in terms of sheer volume. Email traffic also bests web searches, giving you a much wider audience that can still be specifically targeted.
- Emails are considered more professional. While social media is gaining a solid reputation as a viable way for a business to market itself – much of the video marketing that was barely edged out by email in intent signal counts will be seen on social media, companies still see email as a more
- Email is more likely to reach your target audience. Because many B2B businesses and their consumers are on the move, most use a mix of mobile, desktop and laptop computers to work, communicate, do internet searches and respond to email. While mobile advertising would seem like a natural fit, the marketing tool is still working out some kinks, including the use of ad blockers that can prevent even the best ads from seeing the light of day. Intent signals that reveal your prospects’ searches can bypass some blockers, but they internet and mobile marketing is still vulnerable, making stalwart email more likely to reach your intended target.
- Email is on trend, despite its age. Email is a versatile marketing tool that works in all stages of the sales funnel. Not only does email allow for introductory communication to help gauge potential prospects’ interest (did they open the email, and click through to interact with your website?), it also allows for account based marketing, another term that did not crack the top 10 but is ideally suited for email marketing because your marketing team can use email to communicate information that is created specifically for a client, and given the investment, that client is more likely to engage.
The other intent signals that made the InsightBASE top 10 – marketing automation software came in third, followed by marketing automation, location-based marketing, marketing automation tools, relationship marketing, marketing strategy, web marketing and mobile marketing – suggest that B2B marketers are interested in the latest technology, but they’ll use it to improve upon methods that clearly work best, merging the best of both worlds into one amalgam of marketing mastery.