Our portfolio company Conversocial has done a fantastic job recently raising their profile on a limited budget. Their marketing strategy has two related strands, firstly assume a position of thought leadership centred around the founder and CEO, Josh March, and secondly generate press coverage by intelligent use of data.
For those of you that don’t know Conversocial is a cloud based service used by brands and retailers to manage and engage with their customers on social media. Customer service is the most important use case. The video below explains what they do in more detail (it’s short).
The key to being seen as a thought leader is having a clear and simple view on where the industry is going and communicating that as frequently as possible and via as many different mediums as possible. Whilst the core message should remain constant it is important to keep the communications interesting by varying the stories through which messages are communicated. You want the most important industry observers and your biggest fans to hang on your every utterance and that means doing more than just repeating the same words time and time again.
In Conversocial’s case they published a series of white papers and case studies, maintain an active blog, and are active on Twitter and Facebook. The core message to their customers is that consumers are using Facebook and Twitter to make customer service requests and that failing to respond and manage them properly can rapidly lead to dissatisfaction and loss of brand equity. Managing those customers properly requires good software, and Conversocial provides the best available (or course).
They keep things interesting by continually focusing on different aspects of social customer service. E.g. their last blog post was Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day! which discussed the importance of having a community manager (i.e. doing social customer service right), the one before was Needles in Haystacks: Trying to Identify Social Customer Service Issues Without the Right Tools which discussed the difference between social customer service and traditional customer service (and why you need a different tool for social) and the one before was an embed of an interview where Josh talks about examples of social customer service done well and about what many companies are still doing wrong and how it is hurting them.
When it comes to having a data led approach to PR Conversocial is fortunate on two counts, firstly in that the activities of companies and brands on Twitter and Facebook is in the public domain, and secondly in that the press is interested in printing stories about companies engaging in social media. The approach is simple – to analyse the activity of household names on Twitter and Facebook and report the conclusions to the press. They have so far released three reports that have provocative titles and are full of soundbites about household brands. For example the press jumped on data published in Who’s ignoring their customers? A survey of US retailers (registration required) which showed that US food retailer Safeway, which is widely regarded as a very traditional business, is much more responsive on Facebook than Wal-Mart and Kmart.
Conversocial had good success with their first two papers, however some publications said they were interested in the stories but didn’t run with them for fear that Conversocial might have biased the results. The research for the third paper was outsourced to a Professor at New York University and got picked up more widely – including in the Financial Times. Coverage in the quality press can be featured in sales and marketing materials and does a lot for the credibility of B2B companies.
As a result of all this activity monthly visits to the Conversocial website are up 150% since July. The traffic is just about all organic (there is very little PPC) so the increase can all be attributed to the activity described above. The visits are converting into customers better as well, and whilst that is mostly down to improvements in the on-site experience the education and branding work described above will have had an impact.
As well as building brand and driving traffic to the website thought leadership and data driven PR are helpful in building customer relationships over time. The tactical value of having a good reason other than sales to get back in touch with customers shouldn’t be under-estimated.
Other companies with naturally PR-able elements would do well to emulate this strategy, as many have, of course, done before. For me, the standout example of a company that did this well and got through to a $750m exit was mobile ad network Admob (a DFJ investment). Their monthly reports on the state of the mobile advertising industry became the de facto industry stats. This strategy works for all companies that are interesting enough to be written about, but it is particularly powerful for companies like Conversocial and Admob that are pioneering in their markets and need to educate their customers as well as generate publicity. Those of you who have read Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm will be familiar with the importance of educating potential customers when markets are in their early stages.