B2B Social Media – Making a Case for Content Marketing

B2B Social Media – Making a Case for Content Marketing

Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” – Seth Godin

Well, when it comes from one of the most prominent names in marketing, you cannot ignore it. I am sure you have heard a lot about the importance and relevance of content marketing. Let us look at some holistic stats on content marketing –

  • If you create more customized content, 78% of consumers will trust your brand
  • According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.
  • As per the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B marketers plan to create more content in 2017 compared to 2016.
  • 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. –Stratabeat

While all these stats look amazing and enough to convince any B2B business to adopt content marketing, more often than not, there is a bit of hesitance, ignorance, and skepticism – possibly because of the lack of understanding on how exactly to proceed on that. However, when done right, it can result in more traffic to your website, more conversions, and improved search rankings for your site.

In this blog post, I try to cover the why and how of B2B content marketing and also share some tips to help you make your B2B content marketing program more successful.

What is Content Marketing?

Content Marketing Institute gives a very nice definition of Content marketing –

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

To understand content marketing better – let us understand the role it plays in the buying cycle. A typical buying cycle includes Awareness (Making the customers aware that a solution to their need exists), Consideration (Customer does the research and starts comparing different solutions), and Purchase (Customer makes the decision and the transaction happens).

Traditionally, all the stages were heavily driven by sales. Today, the buyer is more informed than before. The buyers do their own research, find the content that answers their questions, and if they find value in the content, they approach the vendor directly. Now, two things have changed here: one, the buyers are not engaging in any sales tactics since the beginning and two, they have already made up their mind before they even contact the vendor.

Content marketing, thus, plays a vital role in the awareness and consideration stages of the buying cycle.

How is B2B Content Marketing Different than B2C Content Marketing?

Now that we understand that content marketing is important and critical, let us understand how content marketing is different for B2B businesses –

  • B2B sales cycle is complex and involves multiple decision makers. Therefore, it becomes very important to create the content which talks to specific category of decision makers and answers their questions. This also means that you need to create various different types of content to address the questions of various decision makers.
  • B2B content requires understanding of the specific product and service. Therefore, the B2B content writers need to closely interact and work with the subject matter experts to create the valuable content.
  • The content you create cannot be about your product or service – it needs to provide answers to the questions of your target audience. Before writing the content, it, therefore, is important that you know their questions and needs.
  • One of the prime objectives of the B2B content is to build value and trust – hence, it cannot be promotional.
  • B2B content should help in building the thought leadership of the brand –therefore, the content needs to have a lot of maturity and depth.
  • B2B content marketing also requires a closer alignment with the sales and should help in generating leads for the sales teams.

Guide to Defining the Content Strategy

Your content marketing strategy should include the following steps

  • Define the target audiences, goals, and buying stages – your content needs to address all these points.
  • Identify the SEO keywords and phrases – if you want your content marketing strategy to help in your site ranking, it is advisable that you identify a list of keywords and phrases which are used by your buyers and use those judiciously within your content pieces. Of course, be careful about not stuffing your content pieces with keywords – that does not work anymore.
  • Define and stick to editorial calendars outlining the content pieces, objectives of those pieces, target audience, timelines, formats etc. This will help you streamline your efforts for maximum results. It will also help you in content reuse.

Traits of B2B Content Writer

Considering the fact that B2B content marketing is quite different than B2C content marketing, when you build your B2B content writing team, you need to look for specific traits. Apart from their writing talents, you need to also check their storytelling skills, they ability to connect and capture information from the subject matter experts, and their understanding of social media and various tools and technologies. I have written more in detail on this topic in a separate blog post.

Types of B2B Content

Here is a quick list of various types of content which you can create –

  •  Blog articles – Blog articles are the most common form of content which you can create. The articles reside on your website and help in enhancing the search ranking of the site. Typically, the articles should be in the range of 800-1000 words, should include images and provide answer to specific questions of your target audience. Blogs which provide educational content are excellent for establishing thought leadership.
  •  Whitepapers and eBooks – Whitepapers and eBooks are more in-depth form of content and more authoritative reports than blogs. Typically, whitepapers and eBooks address specific business issues in more depth. These are excellent resources for demonstrating technical or business knowledge. You can make these available on request and use these as weapons for your specific lead generation campaigns.
  •  Infographics – Since infographics are highly visual in nature and need to be very well researched, these form a good resource for establishing your thought leadership. You can use these to create awareness and drive traffic to your website.
  •  Webinar and Podcasts – I would term these as secret weapons of your marketing. Since webinars and podcasts offer a great opportunity to learn from experts, these are preferred a lot by various buyers during their research phase. You can use webinars to share your expertise and experiences. These are brilliant avenues to generate qualified leads and move the prospects up in the interest ladder.

I will soon write a more detailed post on various types of content to be used in B2B.

Closing Thoughts

Content marketing is a commitment, not a campaign” – Jon Buscall

I think this quote summarizes the essence of content marketing. You need to have a long-term strategy, meticulous planning, flawless execution, and continuous monitoring to make sure that your content marketing efforts are successful.

10 Mind-blowing B2B Social Media Stats and What Those Mean for B2B Companies

10 Mind-blowing B2B Social Media Stats and What Those Mean for B2B Companies

A few years ago, when I started Midas Touch, I found myself explaining to companies and business leaders what social media is and what is its relevance for businesses. Fast forward a few years, today, businesses come to us saying that they want to do social media but not really sure how to do it and what exactly to expectfrom it.

I know that all of us keep on reading a lot of stats and quotes around social media and get impressed, confused, overwhelmed, or worried by those – because sometimes, we don’t understand what those mean to us or to our business.

At Midas Touch, we specialize in B2B social media. We work with B2B companies to help them with their social media, digital and content marketing strategy and execution. I, therefore, very curiously and enthusiastically read various stats and quotes around #B2BSocialMedia.

Here I have picked up 10 such stats and let me take this opportunity to talk through each of these and what these mean for B2B businesses.

  1. 80% of all B2B social media leads come from LinkedIn (Source)

Well, this does not surprise me. LinkedIn is one of the largest professional social media networks. Most of the business decision makers at least have a presence on LinkedIn and they use it for professional networking. LinkedIn offers interesting options in the form on LinkedIn Pulse and LinkedIn Groups, which, when used properly, can immensely help in building thought leadership, connecting with the relevant audience, forming a positive impression about you/ your company in front of your target audience, and also driving traffic to your website. We have ourselves seen some phenomenal results through interactions in LinkedIn groups for our clients. As a B2B company, LinkedIn is a must-have for your B2B social media strategy – and mind you, it is not limited to creating a LinkedIn company page.

  1. 94 percent of B2B buyers conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product (Source)

Surprised? Don’t be. Think about it. As B2C buyers, we all do a lot of online research before any product purchase. Why should it be any different for B2B? Today, the B2B buyers are very clear about their requirements and what they are looking for. They are doing research online to find answers to their questions. If during their research, you appear in front of them and are able to create a positive impression, then your chances of appearing in their shortlist are much higher. This can very well be achieved through a strong content strategy and social media marketing on the platforms which are relevant for B2B companies.

  1. Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. (Source)

A lot has been written about why and how of content marketing. Adopting content marketing is no more optional. It has become almost mandatory for B2B businesses to have a strong content marketing strategy and a solid execution in place. You need to, however, remember that B2B content writing is fundamentally different that B2C content writing. Therefore, look for B2B content writer specific traits in the writers whom you hire for writing the content. More about the traits, here.

  1. 55% of B2B buyers say they search for product/vendor information on social media (Source)

Yes, social media is no more a channel just for networking or fun. People are doing some serious research and connections on social media. As a B2B business, therefore, it is not only important for you to have an active presence on social media (on channels like Twitter, LinkedIn or SlideShare) but it is also important that you create the right impression and connect with the right people through the social channels. The theme, tone, quality and quantity of social updates need to be carefully defined and executed.

  1. 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Source)

As the old saying goes “No one likes to be sold; everyone likes to buy.” Today, B2B buyers want to make an informed decision. So rather than going by what is simply “told” to them, they like to read up and get “convinced” before making the decision. This further reinforces the need for content marketing for B2B enterprises. A note of caution here, though – writing a blog about your product features and benefits is also a form of advertising J You need to focus on answering the questions of your buyers rather than focusing on selling your products and services.

  1. 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level or vice-president level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions (Source)

Another myth is busted! If you thought that the top level executives are not on social media, you are wrong. They are extremely active on social platforms, seeking information, connecting with the relevant people and engaging in interesting conversations. You just need to find them and engage with them in a right way.

  1. 57% of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier, and (Source)

Yes, gone are the days when the sales person could drive the conversation and the decision making. Today, the B2B buyers want to be well-informed even before they contact the vendor. As a B2B vendor, it is, therefore, your responsibility to appear as a knowledge partner to the buyer, be available and active on social platforms, listen to the needs and problems of the potential buyers, and connect with them in a non-intrusive way.

  1. By 2020, 80% of the buying process is expected to occur without any direct human-to-human interaction. (Source)

This means that the buyer is going to expect all the touch-points to be online. In a way, it is a good news and challenging as well. Good news because you get a level playing field. Your chances of being in front of the buyer are as good as any other vendor. Challenging because the onus lies completely on you to create the right online impression in front of the buyers and be able to connect with them through online medium.

  1. 90% of B2B buyers say when they are ready they will find you. (Source

It has become extremely important for B2B companies to understand the buyers’ journey and align their marketing and sales efforts on those lines. Today, the buyers’ journey is digital. They are already aware and in some cases, they are already in the consideration phase and ready to make the purchase decision. They are developing their vendor list, doing a social media analysis, engaging with possible vendors, and exactly know what questions to ask. Are you ready to be found?

  1. There may be 7-20 people involved in any given B2B purchasing decision. (Source

Not surprising, right? B2B purchase decisions are more complex, affect a larger set of individuals, and have a bigger business impact. It is obvious that multiple people will be involved in the overall decision-making. What the vendors need to know is that they should be able to talk to all these people – of course, online. They should be able to provide answers to the questions of all the decision makers and should be able to connect and engage with all of them. This means that you will need to rely on a variety of content types such as blog articles, whitepapers, case studies and also depend on a wider variety of channels such as social media, emails for connection and engagement.

 

Have you come across any such compelling stats? Do share as comments and I will include all the relevant ones in the article – of course, with due credits to you!

B2B Social Media Marketing 101

B2B Social Media Marketing 101

Of course branding and awareness are also roles that can be played effectively by B2B marketing, but from my point of view these are only supporting roles—secondary to the primary objective of helping drive sales.” — Mac Macintosh

If you ask how is B2B social media different from B2C social media, I believe this quote summarizes it all. In B2B social media, influence matters over popularity. Relevance matters over numbers. More than the features and functions of the products, businesses want to do business with trusted advisors.

Gone are the days when the sales person of the vendor could dictate and decide the flow of information for the potential buyer. Today, buyers have become much more informed and aware of what they want. They are doing their own research online, searching for the answers to their questions – it is important for you, as the vendor, to ensure that through your content marketing and social media, you are found and are in front of them when they are looking for the information. As per SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete before the prospects even engage with a salesperson.

Let’s understand the various aspects of B2B social media – any B2B business wanting to start with their social media initiatives should consider all these factors

Objectives

The first and foremost thing, like all strategic initiatives, is to identify and finalize the goals and objectives. “Getting more leads” is a good and obvious objective but remember that it is a long-term objective. Do note that social media offers many great opportunities and you should not miss on those – aim for things like “establishing thought leadership”, “getting in front of more audience”, “engaging with prospects and customers”, “driving more traffic to the website”. As Chris Brogan has very aptly said: “Marketers need to build digital relationships and REPUTATION before closing a sale.”

Content Marketing

Yes, any conversation about B2B social media is incomplete with the mention of content marketing. You have heard stats like “88% of B2B marketers currently use content marketing as part of their marketing strategy”. But content marketing is a lethal weapon and needs to be used accurately. B2B content marketing is a different ball game altogether. It is about telling stories. It is about not about you or your products. It is about your buyers, their problems, and solutions to their problems. It is about telling stories where the potential buyer is the hero. B2B content marketers need to have specific traits. Apart from being skillful writers, they are process oriented, they are storytellers, they understand social media, and much more. (You can read more on this here).

The importance of choosing a right channel

You might be very comfortable using Facebook, but does it make it the best social channel for your business? You don’t know of many success stories with Twitter, does it make it an irrelevant channel? How can you leverage LinkedIn? There are 700+ social channels and putting your energy in leveraging the right channel is very important. Our experience at Midas Touch has been that Twitter and LinkedIn are very effective channels for B2B social media. Twitter is a great medium to connect with prospects, customers, and influencers. It is a wonderful medium to share the content which is relevant to your industry, show your interest areas and also share your own content. LinkedIn, of course, is undoubtedly the number one professional network and, therefore, very relevant when it comes to B2B social media. LinkedIn company page and LinkedIn groups can be very well leveraged for engaging with the prospects and opinion makers in the industry.

What to expect?

Of course, the end objective is to get more leads to the business and that’s where social media is going to help. But if you expect that people are going to read your content and are going to fill out the contact form on your website immediately, then, that’s not how it works in the B2B space. Social media and quality content will help you establish your thought leadership, be in front of the right audience when they are looking for answers to their questions, and help the vendors form a positive opinion about you. The key is being patient with the efforts. At the same time, constantly measure and monitor the results and the impact in terms of visits to your website, engagement with your content, social connection etc. Remember, social media is a strategy and not a campaign.

Keep your customer at the center of the social media strategy is – leverage the best channels, have a strong content strategy and use an integrated approach. You are sure to benefit from it!

The Secret Weapons of Online and Social Media Marketing

The Secret Weapons of Online and Social Media Marketing

Marketing channels have evolved a lot – from print, TV, radio, websites, emails, online to now, social media. Today, online marketing and social media have become the most preferred channels for most of the businesses. But as anyone would agree, these are still evolving and many businesses are trying to figure out what works and what does not work for them. Having said that, while it is natural to stick to the commonly used marketing activities such as SEO, email campaigns, paid ads and social media, I always suggest that businesses should be open to explore the newer and powerful avenues too.

In this post, I am going to talk about few such online marketing activities which, when used right, can deliver great results – but unfortunately these are not talked about a lot.

# Webinars

I am a big fan of webinars. Webinars offer a great opportunity to learn from experts – without worrying about geographical boundaries and right from your work station. All you need is good Internet connection and a headset. Hundreds of experts are happy (and many a times, for free) share their expertise and experiences through webinars.
Now let’s talk about it from the business perspective. How can businesses leverage webinars? Well, in many ways –
  1. Customer Webinar – You know your customers love you and are raving fans. They really appreciate your work and you have made a significant difference to their business. Why not invite them to speak about their experiences, their business and their expertise through a webinar? Don’t you think others in the industry will value it? If you host one such webinar, you can reach out to many more prospects from the same industry and invite them to attend it. Since it is a purely educational exercise, you won’t appear salesy but at the same time, you will get an opportunity to reach out to a larger set of audience with something really credible.
  2. Industry Leader Webinar – People always love to hear the views and opinions of the industry leaders/ gurus. They offer industry insights and their opinions are unbiased. You can organize a webinar with an industry leader on a latest topic from your industry (which aligns with your offering) and invite people to attend that. Being associated with an industry leader will go a long way in positioning your business. Remember, I am not talking about being a mere sponsor for such webinar. The webinar should be organized and hosted by you and it should show that you have invited the speaker to speak.
  3. Product Webinar – If you are a company selling software products, then chances are that your sales teams give multiple product demos to the prospects. Why not cut it short by organizing product webinars every week? You can have multiple webinars covering different time zones and different industries. If you organize an industry-specific webinar, it gives you an opportunity to customize the webinar content for that specific industry. Such webinars can be pre-scripted and well thought out. You can build a good scalability in this model by training multiple people for the webinar. Having a fixed schedule displayed on your website will create a good impression in the minds of the prospects. You can also choose to make these webinars interactive by allowing the attendees to ask questions so that you get an opportunity to handle objections.

# Podcasts

Podcasts are small audio bytes popular amongst people who prefer audio over text/ images. There has been a trend of people using their commute time in listening to podcasts.  So what can the podcast be about? Like the webinars, podcasts can be with customers, industry leaders or even with your internal expert team. Pick a theme and record podcasts around it. While I have heard podcasts of 30-40 minutes also, I prefer the shorter podcasts– say around 12-15 minutes at most. What are the advantages from business perspective? Well, many advantages –
  • You get an opportunity to connect with influencers from your industry and be in their eyeline and establish connection with them
  • You get valuable content to share with your target audience. This content be then reused in many ways – through your website, blog, newsletters, email campaigns, and so on and that too on a continuous basis.
  • You get to take a position in the industry as someone who is interested in the latest topics and taking efforts to assist the community through knowledge sharing.

# Influencer Marketing

With social media, it has become easy to connect with anyone. But there is a difference between connection and conversation. If done rightly, you can meaningfully connect with influencers from your industry, engage with them and then take the conversation to next level. Influencer marketing is often misinterpreted as celebrities endorsing your brand. That’s a very superficial way of looking at it. Influencer marketing really means – identify a list of influencers from your industry, map their social presence and interact with them on the platform of their choice. Interaction does not mean asking them to RT your link 😉 Let’s think – Who can be the influencers for you? These are the people who are decision makers in your industry or the people whom you care to connect with. For example: For an organic food store, chefs could be the influencers and for a solar power energy company, possibly the environmentalists could be influencers. You got to identify these and map their social presence – some might be active on Twitter, others might have strong LinkedIn presence. You need to first study that and then engage with them on those platforms. Once you establish a relationship with them, you can take the conversation ahead by requesting them to write a guest blog, invite them for a webinar or record their podcast.

# LinkedIn Groups

Having a profile on LinkedIn does not mean that you are active on LinkedIn. There are many more ways in which you can leverage this powerful platform. LinkedIn groups are very powerful to connect with like-minded people and establish your thought leadership in front of a targeted group of individuals. As a company, you can start your own LinkedIn group around a theme or a topic – note that starting a group in your company name is not useful. The group needs to connect people with similar interests. They should derive value from being part of your group. As an administrator of the group, it is your responsibility to keep the group activity relevant and ongoing. While it is an effort intensive and long term activity, if done well, it can be a brilliant way of creating a community of people with similar interests. In case you are interested to understand this in more detail, here is a great presentation on dynamics of starting and maintaining your own LinkedIn group.

Don’t get  so swamped in doing regular activities that you forget to take advantage of such secret weapons. Always keep  room for growth in your digital marketing plan.

* This post was originally published on YourStory.