I didn't start my career in marketing. In fact, my first desire to understand marketing was because I had a sizable sales goal. My position required me to reach a national audience with little to no brand recognition — or marketing budget. So in 1998, I experimented with the new world of email marketing and focused my efforts on permission marketing.
Fast-forward to 2006, when I led the marketing effort for a record-keeping firm in Portland, Ore. At that time, the social media sphere was just getting off the ground. Most of the training around social shouted, "Join the conversation!" Little attention was paid to return on investment or how social could serve sales.
I've been away from the intersection of sales and ROI for more than a decade, coaching advisers at LPL Financial or doing executing branding, marketing and digital for financial firms through my own company. But I've held firm to my belief that the purpose of marketing is to sweep the path for sales. I also believe social media is not a silver bullet but a component of an overall marketing plan.
Recently I've made a move to be the embedded chief marketing officer for Sheridan Road Financial, a 401(k) advisory firm. Once again, I get to walk my talk with regard to permission marketing (in which a prospect explicitly agrees in advance to receive marketing information). As I step into my role and begin to plan our marketing, digital and social strategies, I'd like to share my process and thoughts around how to get started — and some important considerations.
Get clear about where we're going.
What are our social media goals? Social media is such an expansive arena that identifying a goal may be difficult. In my case, I plan to focus on three major areas: brand awareness, public relations and lead generation. These goals will drive where, when and how we opt to participate.
As an example, brand awareness for 401(k) plan participants might happen via Facebook; public relations may be navigated via Twitter.
What is our digital footprint?
Where are we now? What does our digital footprint look like? And not just the company's digital presence, but the whole team's. Is it consistent? Professional? Human? What is our voice? Does it need to shift?
What about website traffic?
From my initial review of our Google Analytics, I see that we have a high bounce rate — more than 40%. (Bouncing is when someone lands on your site and then immediately clicks off.)
(More: Meet the Social Media Adviser)
This is concerning. I want this to be down in the 10% to 20% range. I'll be tweaking our home page messaging, layout and load time to drive this down. In addition, I'll be adding valuable content in a variety of formats to increase how long folks stick around on our site.
How will social dovetail with all sales and marketing efforts?
Social media is not a silver bullet. Instead, it is a component of a broader marketing approach. All marketing budgets are limited. How can I use the free world of digital and social to extend our existing efforts and broaden our digital footprint?
As an example, we hosted an event in Nashville, Tenn., recently. As a follow-up, we're digitally touching attendees and no-shows with email thank-you notes, LinkedIn connection requests and webinars.
Initially, I see an opportunity to create a social media SWAT team within Sheridan Road — a group of three to five of us who will continue to collaborate on how to best accomplish this. (Think photographers, onsite reporters, etc.)
What will be our success criteria?
Beginning with the end in mind is the essential piece of an effective plan. And with all types of marketing, it will take some time to learn the landscape and make an impact.
In the past, many firms simply focused on the quantity of followers or connections. These days, that doesn't make sense — it is not a popularity contest. I plan to measure quality:
• Quality of leads generated: How can I build out our email list? How can I sweep the path for sales?
• Quality of web activities: How sticky can I make our website? (Reduce the bounce rate, as an example.)
• Quality of interactions: How can I improve our webinar attendance?
• Quality of press: How might I garner more press coverage of our events and activities?
• Quality of presence: How can I have more of our thought leaders featured as contributors or speakers for important industry publications and events?
My intention is to continue to share my journey with you. Hopefully, we'll all learn and discover along the way.
Sheri Fitts is chief marketing officer with Sheridan Road Financial. She was most recently the founder and president of ShoeFitts Marketing, an interactive and branding agency focused on the retirement industry.