The 5 Essential Traits Of A Specialist B2B Social Media Agency

This post is for you if you are responsible for delivering the big numbers in a B2B-focused company. Yes, you -the sales leaders, the marketing heads, and everyone who feels the pressure of carrying a sales target, either directly or indirectly.

Chances are that if pay heed to the data, you would almost certainly have altered your marketing mix over the last few years to add more content, more social channels, and more of everything digital. It’s also possible that after starting down this B2B Social Media path, you may have wondered if you have the people or the time, or the strategic depth to be able to do all this on your own. At times like this, you may start considering engaging a social media agency –that’s where this post may come in handy. This is my attempt to outline the 5 defining characteristics of a B2B specialist agency. This could help you determine if the agency pitching to you has serious B2B chops or not!

  1. Understanding of the sales process: A true B2B specialist agency must have a deep understanding of just how the B2B Sales process is different. These agencies know that this is more complex, involves more decision makers, takes much longer, and is driven by logic more than by emotion. Such a complex sales process demands a more complex content and social strategy. Can your agency under consideration convey how the strategy will change to address the nuances of the different decision makers and the various sales stages?
  2. Focus on business outcomes: Branding is important, no doubt about that, but the B2B specialist agency will almost certainly focus the conversation on delivering some other, more tangible business outcomes. They will talk about numbers, they will showcase the reports they generate, they will explain at length what they measure and how those measures are relevant to the specific business objectives you are driving for. They may surprise you by their interpretation of some traditional metrics. For eg., they may well claim that reach/impressions are more important than the number of fans or followers. They may focus more on the clicks going back to the website than on the number of “likes” and so on.
  3. Channel focus: Most in the B2B game now agree that LinkedIn is the most important channel, with Twitter to follow, and your agency would know that too. The real expertise lies beneath the surface. What experience do they have of working with LinkedIn groups? What stories do they have to tell of the impact their clients got from Linkedin groups? On Twitter, beyond RTs, what is their plan for engaging with Influencers? B2B Influencers are acknowledged experts in their space and it takes skill to build and nurture a relationship with them that is based on mutual trust and respect. Does your agency give a sense of knowing how to do that?
  4. Expertise in “professional” content: B2B content is just different. This is professional content consumed by professionals. The focus is on being informative, showing thought leadership, and projecting expertise. Different objectives demand different types of content written differently. No doubt the content has to be readable but in many ways the depth of the content is even more important than the language. Can the agency point to their work that is available online? I submit that samples have relevance only if they have made an impact in the real-world.
  5. The right evidence: The proof of the pudding is in the eating and that’s where references or testimonials come in. Most agencies can provide references on request but to my mind, not all references or testimonials are equal. Does your agency have references they can share from companies similar to yours? Again, like content samples, I submit that the best testimonials are those that are in the public domain. Do the clients of your agency under consideration care enough about them to say so to the whole world?

This is a new space with potentially vast opportunity and a number of agencies are making their play there. But being a specialist B2B social media agency is hard. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea and so choosing the right agency could make or break your own B2B Sales effort. I hope this post will help you make that choice. Or you could make it easy on yourself and just call Midas Touch Consultants.

Our Experience of Hosting the First of its Kind B2B Sales and Marketing Event and Making It Super Successful

As a B2B specialist social media agency, we get many opportunities to interact with several business owners and marketers to discuss about how the dynamics of sales are changing, what is the impact of social media and content marketing on that, how are companies adapting to the new ways of selling, and so on. During our conversations, we realized that while there is lack of understanding in this area and a lot of curiosity about it, there is no common platform where people can come together, discuss, and learn from each other.

At Midas Touch, we had been contemplating creating such platform since a long time and finally we decided to take the first step towards it by organizing the first of its kind event. The event was titledWhy B2B Sales Must Harness the Power of ‘Digital Marketing’ to Go International” and we decided to have it on 24th Nov, 2017.

The Speakers and The Program

We knew that the key highlight of any event is the panel of speakers. We decided that the speakers have to be the industry experts who have “been there done that”. The people who have seen the revolution themselves and have adapted it. The people who truly “understand” B2B sales and marketing from their own experiences. We also wanted the attendees to not only understand the concept but also leave with some practical key takeaways which they can start implementing immediately. The whole program was then defined keeping in mind these objectives.

We are very thankful to Vishwas Mahajan and Ashutosh Parasnis, who came and presented their views at this event, outlined the evolution, the changing face of B2B marketing, and the importance of strong strategy and flawless execution.

Next was a panel discussion moderated by Sanjeev with Shivesh, Avani, and Ashutosh Saitwal as the panellists. The panellists very honestly shared their experiences – not only the success stories but also their failures and the lessons learned from those. Filled with lots of examples and practical tips, the panel discussion gave extremely good insights into the B2B sales and marketing process. Our sincere thanks to all these experts.

#PuneB2BSocial Panel Discussion

The best part of the program was that all the sessions were very interactive – the audience not only asked questions but also shared their experiences. Lot of attendees also learned where they are failing and what could be the reasons.

The Ecosystem Support

#PuneB2BSocial-Ecosystem Partners
We approached various associations and bodies for their support for this event. TiE Pune, Pune Open Coffee Club, HeadStart Pune, Indo American Chamber of Commerce, Software Exporters Association of Pune, Pune Digital Marketers, and GLOW – Global Organization for Women – all of these were our ecosystem partners who helped us in spreading the word about the event. After all, when you are creating such unique platform, you need all the support from the existing associations and bodies.

The Social Buzz

As a social media agency, we have a strong belief in the power of social media. After the event was conceptualized and announced, we had one month till the date of the event. The social platforms started buzzing with the hashtag #PuneB2BSocial – we started talking about the event, the speakers, what to expect, some interesting insights into how B2B marketing is changing, etc. Registrations started coming in through this buzz and before we knew it, we had a full house!

We prepared a list of potential attendees who we thought will benefit from this event and reached out to them through one-on-one messages on LinkedIn.

We created an event on Facebook and specifically invited people to join in.

Our learning – Twitter worked extremely well in driving traffic to the event page. Facebook helped in creating the awareness and LinkedIn helped in reaching out to specific individually on a one-on-one basis.

During the event, we covered the event live on Twitter through live tweets and photos and Facebook through Live videos. The attendees also shared their views by joining in the conversations and within the first two hours of the start of the event, it was trending on top on Twitter.PuneB2BSocial Twitter Trending

The Team with the Midas TouchTeam Midas Touch

The Midas Touch team worked really hard to ensure that the event was successful – right from managing the registration counter, handling the venue arrangements, managing the Q & A rounds, and most importantly, covering the event live on social platforms – the team did it all! Kudos to everyone!

PuneB2BSocial - Midas Touch Team

The Result

A full house. An extremely interactive audience. Loads of learning. Event hashtag trending on Twitter for over 6 hours. And most importantly, a validation of our belief that a common platform for B2B sales and marketing was needed and we have been able to establish that. We aim to host more such events in the future. Hope to see those who missed it this time!

15 Essential Stats that Prove B2B Sales Has Changed

B2B sales has changed

Today’s competitive business landscape is in a state of constant flux. The increasing adoption of technology and the rise of the digital enterprise are fueling the change in how B2B businesses are selling to one another. With customers becoming more demanding and wanting greater customizations and personalization, B2B sales is becoming a veritable minefield where the old monkey has to learn new tricks to survive. Today’s buyers might not have changed the criteria for making their business purchases, they however, have become more relaxed and adept at making business decisions based on a mix of interaction types, taking away the control of the sales process from the hands of the sales person. Clearly the B2B sales landscape has evolved a great deal over the past few years. For those who believe that B2B sales is still the same here are some statistics that can help you change your mind:

1.   57% of buying decisions are made before engaging a supplier sales representative – Source : CEB

Google, social media, and other marketing channels such as email marketing and content on company websites are the first points of contacts for B2B buyers. It is only when a prospective B2B customer is satisfied by the content generated by a prospective seller that they engage with them with trust.

2.   Sales teams have a 56% greater chance to attain quota if they engage buyers before they contact a seller – Source: Openview Partners

Information delivery at the right time helps in moving a prospective buyer smoothly through every step of the buying process – including before they contact a seller. The internet has emerged as the number one channel for finding, vetting and connecting with potential vendors and partners. It only makes sense to use this channel to get into the eye line of the decision makers and make them find you.

3.   B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost 3X more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times per month – Source: HubSpot 2015

Content marketing is now an established B2B marketing strategy. Delivering the right information at the right time helps in moving the sales prospects through the different stages of the buying process more smoothly and assists the B2B sales people control the sales funnel better.

4.   90% of all marketers indicated that their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses – Source: Social Media Examiner, 2015

Social Media presence has become a non- negotiable part of any marketing strategy today. Being present on social channels and sharing the right content helps in generating greater business exposure by increasing organizational reach.

5.   71% of B2B researchers being their research with generic Google searches – Source: LinkedIn

Given that more than half of B2B researchers today are millennials and believe that their mobile devices are essential for work, having a mobile optimized and responsive website is now non-negotiable.

6.   89% of B2B marketers use content marketing as a strategy – Source: Aberdeen

Content beats the hard sell. Prospective buyers show more affinity to those who make an effort to educate them by providing insightful information and provide solutions to the problem that they might be facing. This builds trust and trust trumps the hard sell, any day.

7.   It takes approximately 18 dials to connect with a potential decision maker with call back rates being less than 1%. Additionally, less than 24% of sales emails are even opened- Source: TOPO

The key in B2B sales is now to take a more direct approach to generate and build conversations. Building a B2B brand online hence has become a business imperative.

8.   Only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment – Source:  LeapJob

This however does not mean that cold calling is dead. However, cold calling as we knew it is over. Research shows that 90% of decision makers don’t respond to a cold call. Before making a cold call, B2B sales representatives have to ensure that the prospect has some information regarding the company as the days of interruptive marketing are officially over.

9.   82% of customers viewed five or more pieces of content from the winning vendor before making a purchase – Source: Forrester

Online research is now an intrinsic part of a buyer’s journey. Consumers are constantly seeking information before making a buying commitment. According to a LinkedIn survey, B2B buyers are more likely to engage with a sales representative who can provide new insights about the industry or business. Pardot’s State of Demand Generation report states that 70% of buyers return to Google 2 to 3 times during the course of their research to dive into company offerings and assess how the solution can address their problems. Creating the right kind of content that engages a prospective customer, provides information on what you are selling and gives reason for them to be interested in your product become strategic in consolidating a buyer’s journey.

10.   90% of top salespeople use social selling tools to generate more sales opportunities – Source: 2016 State of Sales report

Sales is pivoting towards becoming faster, smarter and more customer centric. Generating social conversations become instrumental in achieving this. 82% of B2B buyers start their purchasing process with a referral with peer recommendations influencing more than 90% of B2B buying says HBR. Building relationships until the prospect is ready to buy and creating a strong group of brand advocates thus is an essential ingredient of B2B sales success. After all, three out of four B2B buyers depend on social media to engage with their peers before they make a buying decision.

11.   According to the 2015 B2B buyers survey report, 53% of the respondents depend on social media to assess tools and technologies when making a final selection.

Still think social media is not important for B2B marketing?

12.   73% of sales representatives who integrate social selling with their sales process outperform their competitors and exceed their quota by 23% – Source: Aberdeen Group

Clearly social media is now becoming crucial towards building brand awareness and is becoming more relevant in today’s B2B sales story

13.   84% of C-level and VP-level buyers use social media for purchasing – Source: IDC

Using social media to therefor get into the eye line of the decision maker has never been more important

14.   96% of customers find videos useful when making purchasing decisions – Source: Animoto

The days of boring and droning B2B content are over. It’s time to make B2B content vibrant and interactive as well.

15.   86% of B2B buyers say they see “no real difference between suppliers” –Source:  Webbiquity

Much like B2C messaging, it is time for B2B messaging to get personal to generate a higher brand connection and ultimately translate into building consumer relevance which helps in generating quality leads.

In the in their “Navigating the New Path to Purchase” report, Millward Brown Digital elucidates “The traditional purchase funnel diagram, one which any marketer could sketch from memory, is officially dead. The singular, orderly sequence of purchase stages has been scrambled, and marketers need to conform. In today’s world, where consumers have access to constant information through computers, smart phones, and tablets, each person’s path to purchase is complex and unique.”

Time to take a close look at your B2B sales strategy, isn’t it?

‘Tis The Season To Be Campaigning

Selling into the US and International market from India the festival season starts in early November and carries on in fits and starts through till the middle of January – over a career in sales I was often conflicted by how to approach the holiday season. While this was a time of great personal joy I used to struggle with ideas to keep the sales effort going. The conventional wisdom is that no one takes any decisions then anyway and given the number of days off even when people were at work it would be a challenge to get any meaningful “face time” from any prospect. It is, of course, not possible to “give up” on this period given that many organizations finalize budgets for the upcoming year. The end of the year often coincides with the end of the Financial Year bringing with it all the attendant pressures of sales targets to meet.

Here are some ideas for campaigns that I have personally found to have a fair chance of working over this season:

  1. By far the most effective campaign that I believe could be run is to reach out to your own network. In most cases, the true extent of one’s network is larger than one imagines – what is needed is a systematic approach to reach out to them with a well-designed, targeted message. The fact that most people shy away from campaigns at this time works in favour of this tactic because it reduces the “noise”. The campaign objectives should, of course, be well calibrated to reflect the limitations of the period – don’t expect too many “hot” leads but aim to get in front of people and set yourself up for the busier period coming up.
  2. This may also be a good time to try and revive dormant contacts – people you have been in touch with in the past where the discussions have stalled. Reaching out to such contacts to catch-up, offer some new information or an update on where you and your company may be just the thing. This may not necessarily serve to revive specific sales opportunities but can definitely help revive relationships. In the long run, these could prove more profitable than a single sale.
  3. There’s perhaps some cosmic significance to the holiday season in the US starting with Thanksgiving – I would suggest this is pointing us towards a campaign to give thanks. There’s no time better than this to thank all the stakeholders – current and past customers, partners and associates and also employees. A simple, heartfelt message to give thanks to them for their support and reminding them that this support is extremely valued goes a long way to cement the relationship.
  4. One email campaign that I recommend to everyone is an end of the year campaign focused around “Seasons Greetings”. This is a wonderful platform to recap the significant achievements of your company over the year that has gone in a subtle, non-salesy manner – who could ask for more? Companies, their range of offerings and capabilities grow with time and sometimes this is not visible to everyone – current customers are more fixated on the immediate needs being serviced and old customers may still hold an image of you as you were “back in the day”. An end of the year email outlining the most recent events of importance could provide substantial evidence of this growth and help change this impression.

That’s the list of things that usually make it onto my own “To do” list for the holiday season – sometimes with good results. What do you think? How do you fill the time over the holiday season and what results do you get from these efforts? Oh and before you leave – please accept my best wishes for the holiday season wherever in the world you are!

Your Price is Too High – This Q May Be the Answer

As a sales guy, one of the things that you are almost inevitably going to encounter is the price objection. This is always a tough one – not least because it usually crops up at the fag end of what is often an exhausting sales cycle. After months of effort in getting the prospect on board, understanding their specific business issue, building consensus around the solution you are providing and ensuring all technical and logistical objections are addressed it is sometimes deflating to hear something along the lines of “We like what you are offering but your price is too high.”. In most cases, this prompts a rush back to HQ with a frantic “We need to drop our price if we want to get the business.” I have been guilty of such panic attacks as much as any other sales person but somewhere along the way, I learned to ask a Question that I believe dramatically improves the chances of success of any follow-up action. The next time just when you are expecting to close a sale if a prospect tells you “Your price is too high.” ask them “Compared to what ?” The answer to that Q will give you a crucial guide to what your response should be.
1. The obvious one is you are more expensive compared to a similar solution from a close competitor. To an extent this is a solved problem – there is enough material out there on what to do in such a  situation to prove your solution better or yourself more deserving than your competitor or failing that a calibrated discount.
2. It could be that your price exceeds the available budget – this is a tougher one to solve. Assuming that not much room is available for dropping your price or for stretching the budget you would have to look for creative solutions – maybe break your offering or the billing across multiple budget allocation periods or make a distinction in the offering between Capital & Ongoing Maintenance or services that can be budgeted for under separate heads.
3. Another possibility is the price is higher than what the prospect was assuming he would have to pay – this is usually the result of an expectation mismatch. This situation is better avoided than addressed in that it’s far easier to ensure early on in the sales cycle the prospect gets a reasonable understanding of what this is likely to cost him than to try to convince them otherwise once the objection is raised.
4. In some cases the price offered may be more than what the prospect is willing to pay to solve the problem he is facing – basically just not worth the money. There’s really no solving this. This is a case of improper qualification at a much earlier stage of the sales cycle.
5. A variation of the previous theme is the prospect may not agree that the solution should cost so much. I had heard an old story about a space agency using a pencil instead of developing a pen that wrote in zero gravity. That being said the agency may have been willing to spend hundreds of thousands of $s to develop the pen but it is unlikely they would spend the same kind of cash for the pencil even though it solved the problem. This is the human tendency – we ascribe intrinsic value to things so we feel something simple should cost less. Like a magician keeping the mechanics of his trick under wraps maybe the best way is to retain some of the mystery if you want to avoid falling into this particular trap.
Assuming you have done most of the earlier steps in the sales cycle right the answer your prospect gives you to this particular “loaded” Q and your subsequent reaction may prove the difference between a futile last-ditch discount that may or may not work and a carefully calibrated response that provides a very specific solution to a genuine objection. After all don’t you need to know what is the Question is before you Answer it?

The Big Impact of B2B Social Media on The B2B Buying Cycle

Over 20+ years I spent in the B2B sales trenches, I maintained a healthy suspicion of “Marketing”. Now that I am the co-founder of a B2B specialist social media agency, I freely confess to a sea change in that attitude. This history does help us, though, as we engage similarly predisposed prospects. B2B Companies, because of a longer and more complex sales cycle, sometimes find It harder to visualize exactly how these new-fangled concepts like Content Marketing and Social Media fit into the equation. This post is an attempt to shed some light on the potential impact of B2B Social Media on the B2B buyer’s journey – and therefore on B2B Sales.

Let me share the story of a B2B sale I saw at close quarters, that provides some grist for this particular mill. A few months ago, we received a call from a mid-sized software technology company with some very specific ideas about their content and social media marketing needs. The interaction was unusual on a few counts, one their degree of familiarity with these activities, channels and anticipated impact, second the rush they seemed to be in and lastly in how little time we had to expend in building up our own credentials. They insisted on a proposal the very next day, which was discussed and negotiated within a couple of days and we saw a signed contract within a week of the first phone call. Great – so a B2B sales cycle that lasted just a week, right? Wrong, as it turned out.

As we started engaging, we asked them just how they came to hear of us – a niche player in a town many hundreds of miles away. The answer was revealing. Apparently a little over six months earlier, their COO had received an email we had sent out as a part of a campaign when we launched a specific offering for technology companies. They did not reach out to us at the time but the agency and our B2B focus seemed to stay in their collective consciousness. Over the following months, they noticed each time we created content touching upon specific aspects of B2B Marketing, be it a Slideshare presentation on an integrated B2B LeadGen approach, or articles we contributed to startup or marketing focused publications about effective Content Marketing and high impact B2B Social Media tactics. Unseen to us, they were educating themselves and forming their own conclusions about what was likely to suit their specific business needs. Their COO eventually proceeded to connect with me, and another senior colleague at the agency, over LinkedIn. It’s fair to assume he reviewed our profiles and visited our website before getting on the phone to us. Clearly, this was a B2B Sale that took a good 6 months from start to finish – just that a large part of this was invisible to us.

We have all heard just how much of the buyer’s journey is completed online before the seller company gets engaged – estimates ranging from 55% to even 80% are floating around. The numbers in the B2B space are just as clear – here are a couple of particularly revealing ones.

  • 77% of B2B buyers claimed that they would not even engage with sales people before they had taken the time to do their own research. (Source: Corporate Executive Board)
  • Over 70% of B2B Buyers admit that they use social media to help them in making their decision. (Source: Dell)

So, the B2B sale mentioned earlier started conventionally with an outbound email campaign and ended conventionally, with contract negotiations and closure, but all that happened in between was driven by content and social media. This is representative of, what is now, a fairly typical buyer journey.

  • In the “Discovery” phase of the buyer journey, prospects are turning to social media to discover content that helps them identify for themselves what their specific business issues are, the possible impact on their business goals, and just what it will take to make that change.
  • The “Consideration” phase is when they seem to start forming opinions about potential solutions worth considering. Social Media offers opportunities to connect with and learn from, other individuals from companies, that might have been similarly placed. Content seems to play a key role here in helping prospects make comparisons and draw up the contours of what could work for their specific needs.
  • Vendors who have solutions to offer can get an early look-in into the “Decision” stage, only if it is their content the prospects are referring to over the early stages. This is a big change from the early B2B Sales days, when sales pros like my own younger self, were in control of the information flow to our prospects.
  • Then coming to the final stages where the “Closure” happens – the role of social channels (like LinkedIn) in establishing a warm connection that can grow into a meaningful relationship cannot be overstated.

Zig Ziglar said, “Stop selling. Start helping.” This has always applied in the world of B2B Sales, only that in today’s Content & Social-driven world, the prospects are likely to turn to an online source to help themselves. It is this behavior that drives the big impact of B2B Social Media in B2B Sales – is your sales engine ready?

 

B2B Social Media – Answers to 10 Most Fundamental Questions

B2B Social Media - Answers to 10 Most Fundamental Questions

Midas Touch, the company I run, is a B2B Specialist, digital and social media marketing agency. Through that, over the past few years, we have got an opportunity to interact with hundreds of businesses offering products and services to other businesses – also called as B2B services. A few years ago, businesses were almost convinced that social media does not work for B2B. However, things have radically changed now. Several studies, stats, research, and experiences have convinced organizations that if they have to survive in today’s competitive marketplace, they have no option but to adopt social media optimally.

The challenge, however, occurs when the team handling their social media does not understand the intricacies of B2B social media – one needs to understand that it is very different than B2C social media and needs some special expertise.

As a starting point, I am sharing answers to some of the most fundamental questions about B2B Social media –

What is the importance of a blog for a B2B business?

In our experience, we have seen that the blog section is typically one of the top three most viewed sections on the website. The blog offers you a great opportunity to create fresh content for your website (Google loves fresh content), it allows you to answer the latest questions of your target audience, it helps you establish your thought leadership, and it helps you appear as a knowledge expert in your industry. I would highly recommend having an active blog section on your website.

Can the in-house subject matter experts write the blogs?

Before I answer this question, let us first understand what is a relevant and appropriate blog article. A relevant blog article should answer the questions of your target audience, it should educate your audience (and not sell), it should talk about the solutions to the buyer’s problems (and not the features of your product/ service), and it should make the reader the hero (your product should not take the center stage). B2B content writing is a specific skill. I have earlier written about the traits of successful B2B content writers. If you have subject matter experts who are skillful writers and understand all these aspects, they can absolutely write the blogs for your business.

What all types of content can I create?

B2B businesses think that blog posts are the only form of content which they can create. However, that’s not true. There are multiple other options such as infographics, eBooks or whitepapers. Infographics are highly visual and extremely useful for establishing thought leadership. You can use these to create awareness and start conversations with your target audience. Whitepapers and eBooks are very good authoritative reports and more in-depth than a blog. They can be used to address specific business issues in detail with in-depth research and original point of view. These are excellent sources to demonstrate technical knowledge or business information. These can be your very good weapons for specific targeted campaigns and lead generation. You can also use other forms of content such as webinars or podcasts.

What is the role of webinars and podcasts?

Webinars and podcasts are great mediums to generate awareness about your brand and also to get qualified leads. These are brilliant tools to move the prospects up in the interest ladder. You can conduct webinars with your customers or industry experts. Product webinars are also very effective for keeping the prospects engaged.

Which are the most relevant social channels for B2B content promotion?

LinkedIn is the most active and vibrant social channel for professionals. People use LinkedIn not only for job search but also for professional connections, social selling, thought leadership (through LinkedIn Pulse) and group participation. So you definitely have to consider LinkedIn, LinkedIn Company Page, and LinkedIn Groups as your prominent social channels. Next, I would recommend Twitter. Twitter is extremely effective for sharing your content, easily connecting with industry experts and influencers, and joining the ongoing conversations. SlideShare is an another good channel for lead capture if you have very high quality, educational presentations. The tight integration of SlideShare with LinkedIn makes the promotion of those presentations easy. If you have very good quality videos, you should consider using YouTube because that’s the second most used search engine. In the B2B context, you can upload your conference speaker videos or product videos on YouTube. There are many other channels as well and the choice depends on where your target audience is. However, these four would top my list in most of the scenarios.

Is Facebook relevant for B2B?

It’s very tempting to say “It depends”. But let me elaborate more on this. Facebook is a great channel to reach out to the audience outside your sphere of influence. However, remember that people are on Facebook to connect with their families and friends. When they are on Facebook, they usually have no intent of doing any research or study for their business needs. Therefore, while Facebook makes it a great channel if you are running a restaurant, eCommerce site, or a salon, it is not a great medium if you want to reach out to serious buyers when they are looking for solutions to their problems. Having said that, Facebook is a great platform for talent acquisition and talent branding for B2B businesses.

Within how much time can I start getting leads from social media?

Let’s understand this – Social media and content marketing are (crucial) parts of your overall sales funnel. These are not the ONLY channels for your sales. B2B sale is a complex process where multiple stakeholders are involved and they are evaluating the vendors at multiple stages for various things. You, as the vendor, need to ensure that you are in front of the buyer when she is doing her research, you are helping her in her decision making, appearing as a knowledge partner, and creating a positive impression about your company. Let’s be honest here – It is quite unlikely that someone will read a piece of content written by you and immediately fill out the contact form on your site (aka convert into a lead).

How should I measure the RoI?

Almost everything about social media is highly trackable and measurable – which, of course, is good. I would highly recommend you measure both the qualitative as well as quantitative RoI. By qualitative RoI, I mean things like who is engaging with you, what are the questions people are asking you, which hashtags are working for you etc. By quantitative RoI, I mean you can track things like impressions (which is a great measure of visibility), overall engagement with your content, visits to your site, time spent on your site by the people who are coming from social channels, downloads for specific items like eBook and whitepaper etc.

What is the best way to integrate the offline events with social media?

Social is a great way to leverage the offline events like conferences and events. For starters, you can always create online buzz about your event through social platforms by creating specific event hashtags. If you are attending a conference, you can engage with other people who are talking about the conference. You can also engage with specific speakers or exhibitors since almost everyone is on social these days. Twitter works very well for all such things. The other way is to do live promotion of the event – as the easiest option, you can do the live tweeting. Post the conference, you can share your experience and learnings through blog posts.

What is the role of personal branding of the founder?

People connect with people and not with companies. In the B2B context, therefore, it is very important to remember that your company brand also needs a face. People want to know who are the people behind the company, their backgrounds, and their expertise. Having a well-developed LinkedIn profile is just the starting point. The founders of the companies should focus on building their personal brand through blog articles, active online presence through LinkedIn and Twitter. I have shared more detailed views on the importance and how to of personal branding, here.

I hope this article helped you in getting answers to your common questions. If you have any more questions, I will be happy to answer those. Just post those in the comments below!

Butchers Block: Climbing The B2B Sales Value Chain In A Digital Age

Full disclosure – I have never visited a butcher but this story I heard about one tempts me to confer the title of “Sales Guru” on the protagonist! The story goes something like this:

Commodity

An old lady in a village went to the market to buy supplies for her home each week. She would buy meat from whichever butcher had the better product on the day at the best price. She was buying a Commodity which offered the sellers little opportunity for differentiation or for long-term customer retention.

 

Think about your online footprint in this light, do you have anything there that showcases the unique value of your offering? Is it available to your target customer segments, when they go looking for that information, where they are likely to go looking for it? If not – why should a customer view you differently? The butcher may have a solution.

Product

Over time the old lady started buying meat more often than not, from the same butcher. He seemed to usually have better quality goods & a reasonable price. This butcher had made the transition to selling a Product with some kind of assurance of quality & a greater potential for garnering customer loyalty.

 

If you are at this stage, chances are your digital presence is conveying a certain sense of your brand – what it represents, and therefore what the customer’s experience is likely to be on engaging with the brand. Is that enough, though? Let’s get back to the butcher to find out.

Service

After a few weeks of serving the old lady, the butcher told her that he had noticed her buying items from a few different shops each week. He suggested that she give him a list of all the things she wanted in the week in advance.  He offered to buy all the items & keep them at his shop for her to pick up when she came to buy the meat. This would save her time & effort & she could still get everything she needed.  The lady eagerly accepted the Service the butcher was offering. The move from a Product to a Service allows much greater scope for differentiation & for tailoring unique benefits for customers that could potentially reduce the need for the customer to consider competitors.

 

In the online context, this stage calls for much greater engagement between the organization and the target audience. This is now becoming a two-way communication – you listen, and then you talk. Online, this would also be the time to start thinking about much finer targeting – not all segments will have similar needs and even if the difference is one of nuances, the service offering needs to reflect that subtlety. Oh, so does the butcher have more to offer? As it turns out, yes.

Relationship

It so transpired that the lady fell ill & could not make it to the market for a couple of weeks. While recuperating at home she was surprised by a visit from the butcher. He had with him a basket of goods typical of those the lady usually ordered, along with some choice cuts of meat. In response to the lady’s incredulity, he said that he had inquired from one of the lady’s friends at the market, the reason for her recent absence & learned of her illness. He thought of paying a visit to check how she was doing & of getting some supplies along since she would not have been able to stock up on provisions for two weeks. Clearly the butcher, apart from being a nice guy, was a true sales genius. With that one step, he moved up the ladder. He formed a genuine Relationship with his customer – something that most sales people dream of. After achieving this stage, as long as, one can consistently deliver value you have a customer for life.

 

In some ways, this is the stage where your online presence can deliver the maximum impact. The online channels should be focused on delivering them the experience they expect, the information they value, and the engagement they want. It’s time to pull out all the stops on the content you create, and the messages you deliver over the social channels. These will be the long-term customers, and most likely the most profitable ones – they deserve all that attention.

 

The story of the butcher & the lady serves up a road map for those of us in sales – the aim should always be to move up the value chain from a Commodity to a Product to a Service & finally a Relationship. The higher one goes the greater the opportunity for differentiation & for cementing customer relationships that last. That, and the fact that the digital footprint has to be in lockstep with the move up the sales value chain!

 

Note: I had published a version of this blog on my personal blog 4 years ago, given how the sales landscape has changed so much in that time with the advent of digital and social I thought it was time for a refresh.

B2B Sales In The Time Of B2B Social Media

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I used to sell computer networking equipment to large enterprises. The pressure cooker sales environment was replete with war stories of every hue. Perhaps the one that used to inspire us more than most was the “Legend of the CEO Meeting”. The story goes that each time a specific senior officer used to visit our office he would ask for a meeting to be fixed with the CEO of a specific large corporation. The guy on that account, like most sales people, would put it off thinking there was no real opportunity there. Eventually he caved and set the meeting up – what followed was a sales masterclass by the senior officer. Legend has it that over the course of a single, repeatedly-extended meeting he got the CEO to identify his key business pain points, worked out a monetary amount that was acknowledged to be the business impact of not addressing those problems, proposed a networking based solution to those problems and walked out with a purchase order for a value of Rs.xxx (insert absurdly large amount here).

These days I look around for the pinch of salt the story obviously needs to be garnished with but there is great instructional value there too. Here are the steps the super salesman followed:

  • Identifying and getting in front of the key decision maker
  • Helping him (or her) define the business problems and
  • Making a clear assessment of the impact in terms of cash (or time or effort) being wasted
  • Proposing his organization as possessing an appropriate solution that specifically addresses the business problem and
  • Then closing the deal by handling all objections

This is a great process to follow in complex sales. In these days of the ubiquitous reach of social media would this process change at all? Is the impact positive or negative?

Prospecting

For starters finding or getting into the eye line of the decision maker can be less of a hit-or-miss effort through #socialselling. Examples abound of companies mapping the social media habits of key influencers or decision makers and then engaging with them in a subtle but sustained manner. The approach is to follow them on Twitter, show genuine interest in what they care about, read and comment on their blog and build a relationship with them by interacting with them on their terms.

Engagement

Customers today are uber informed – research shows that anything from 55-60% of the buying process is done by the time they start engaging with individual vendors. Customers turn to the web to help them define their problem areas and find potential solutions and vendors with the capability to offer those solutions. The B2B sales guy used to heavily leverage this stage of the sales process to establish credentials as a “trusted expert” – no longer as easy when the customer knows as much as you. The emphasis has shifted to #contentmarketing – creating content likely to prove useful to customers seeking information and making sure it is found by them when they need it. The most useful content is likely to position the vendor providing it as the “trusted expert”.

The role of content

Lastly Since the content in the online world will speak for an organization chances are even at the very first interaction with the customer they will have a reasonably well-formed opinion of the vendor they are talking to. The opportunity to tweak the positioning to fit the possible opportunity is perhaps less than was available in the story above. The onus on the B2B vendor is to ensure that the content they create talks very specifically to the target customers and addresses their specific concerns even before an opportunity arises for these to be stated.

The changed B2B sales cycle

There is a legitimate expectation that the duration of the sales cycle can be shortened as customers run the initial part of the pipeline themselves – this is partially true or at-least the visible portion of the cycle can be reduced. Key will become the ability of the B2B sales organization and more critically the B2B sales professionals to adapt their time tested ways to the demands of the digital marketing and #B2BSocialMedia world. Sales guys are nothing if not instinctively attuned to identifying shifting tides and correcting course to sail though – my own expectation is the best sales guys will still come out smiling at the end.