25 (Experience-based) B2B Social Media Tips You Can Start Using TODAY

B2B Social Media

Does B2B Social media need any convincing today? Not really.

When I ventured into marketing some 13 years ago, the whole world of B2B marketing was different. Companies relied heavily on brochures and such collateral, a lot of emphasis was given on website and SEO, and a lot of energies were spent in creating solid email marketing programs. Things slowly changed with the advent of social media and content marketing.

Today, the buyers don’t want to see your brochures. The buyer is more educated and well-informed. She is searching for information online and making her own decisions. Only after getting convinced, she approaches the vendors. Yes, social media and content marketing has changed the whole B2B sales scenario. No wonder companies are convinced that they not only have to be on social media but also do it well.

At Midas Touch, the B2B Specialist Social and Digital Marketing Agency, we help customers with their social media and content marketing efforts. Based on my experience of working with several B2B companies in various industry verticals such as technology, manufacturing, and engineering, here are a few tips which I would like to share to ensure that your social media marketing program is successful and delivers on its promise.

Putting these tips in simple lines below – if you need any clarification on any of these, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @radhagiri

  1. Start with a strong content marketing strategy – without a documented strategy; you are preparing yourself for failure.
  2. A good website is a must for deriving true value from social media marketing.
  3. Provide answers to the questions which your target audience might have rather than talking about your expertise and skills. Remember, helpful is new viral.
  4. Focus on education rather than selling – nobody cares about your products and services. Your prospects are looking for solutions to their business problems. Provide those.
  5. Add variety to your content if you want traffic from diverse sources.
  6. Have a strong content promotion plan in place – Remember, “Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants”.
  7. Don’t debate on quality vs quantity – the point really is how well you can leverage each piece of content which you create.
  8. Each type of content has a different objective and its use, therefore, is different. Don’t try to force fit.
  9. The world’s most popular social network may not be the best one for your business – identify the social networks which work best for you and your business.
  10. Don’t hesitate to reuse the content – convert your whitepaper into a series of blogs, or a PPT for SlideShare or an infographic. It’s absolutely fine to represent the same content in different formats.
  11. Webinars, podcasts, LinkedIn Groups are your secret weapons of marketing – don’t forget to use them well.
  12. For B2B companies, the personal branding of the top executives plays a key role – after all, people connect with people, isn’t it?
  13. If you are just starting with social media, don’t start with too much which you cannot sustain and at the same time, don’t do too little that it will not show any impact.
  14. B2B content marketing requires some key skills and knowledge – don’t make the mistake of thinking that anybody can do it and don’t have it as a side project.
  15. Have a strong collaboration between teams – marketing, sales, and product teams need to work together to make social media successful.
  16. Don’t forget to leverage offline events on social platforms.
  17. Email marketing works – but requires good planning, relevant message, and right targeting.
  18. LinkedIn is a great professional networking platform – make judicious use of status updates, LinkedIn groups, and LinkedIn company page.
  19. Whitepapers and eBooks are great choices to build an opt-in list and showcase your thought leadership and expertise.
  20. Use your employee network – today, marketing is not a job of only the marketing teams. Encourage your employees to share and spread the word about the company content and events.
  21. Identify and engage with influencers – share their content, ask them feedback and questions, and engage with them.
  22. Constantly monitor the results – see how the efforts are delivering to the set objectives and make tweaks based on the results.
  23. Do social listening – know what people are talking about, what do they care about, what are their problems. Use this information to tweak your social media strategy.
  24. Don’t use social channels for only self promotions. Connect with others, provide value to them, share other people’s content, and genuinely engage with people.
  25. Hire experts who understand social media as well as B2B marketing to handle your social media.

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?

5 Confidence-Sapping B2B Social Media Blunders

“Only 6% of B2B Product Marketers, and 17% of B2B Services marketers believe they can quantitatively establish the business impact of their social media.” -The CMO Survey

That’s a damning statistic if there ever was one, but to be honest it doesn’t really faze my agency, Midas Touch. Clearly, as B2B Social Media specialists we cannot afford to ignore this perception, but we firmly believe that when done right there is considerable, and real value to be had. Doing it right starts with knowing what could go wrong – and that’s what this post is about.

We have had more than our fair share of first discussions with prospects starting on the note, “We did social media but it didn’t work for us.” More often than not, we could trace this soul-sapping loss of confidence back to one these five mega-blunders.

Making it all about you

Take a quick peek at your blog site –do most (if not all) of the blogs out there talk about your products, your offerings, or about your company? Is that the flavor of your social channels as well? If so then I hate to say this, but you’re that self-obsessed guy at the party who tells everyone within earshot how he used to be a great athlete. You know, that guy standing all alone near the bar, desperate for an audience. Your content and your social channels have to be about the customer – give them the information they need, answer the questions they have, and essentially help them along the buying journey. This helps you create a perception of your company as one with similar interests and with the expertise to help them when it comes to actually deploying a solution. It’s all about information – this is why 59% of B2B Marketers cite eBooks and Whitepapers as the top B2B lead producers (Source MediaPost).

A Rush into Selling

There’s a disease sweeping through LinkedIn these days – have you felt the ill-effects? Just as soon as you accept a connection request, an elaborate mail follows with a laundry list of product or services offerings and an exhortation to do business. Other social channels are also suffering from the same “Connect and start selling” super-bug. In relationship terms this is like going down on one knee and proposing without putting any time, thought or effort into the “let’s get to know each other” phase. Do you see nuptials in the near future in this case – I don’t! The social channels have to aid the courtship – help to engage the prospect, build a bond based on respect, gain their trust, and help to start a conversation. If everything else fits then the inevitable outcome follows quite naturally!

The social channels can also play a key role in lead nurturing – just as valid an example of putting thought into building a relationship. This is worth the effort – 67% of the B2B Marketers who engaged in such structured lead nurturing grew sales opportunities across the funnel by 10%, and a further 15% saw sales opportunities increase by 30% (Source: Iconsive)

Broadcasting without targeting

It’s been said that if you’re talking to everyone, really, you’re talking to no one. By definition, you cannot target everyone – resources are limited, so is time – you have to prioritize and choose a limited set of target segments. Focus, Low-Hanging Fruit – these are all ways to acknowledge the need for targeting your messaging, your social efforts, and your content. The tighter the targeting, the more personal will be the message, the more specific will be the value proposition, and the greater will be the emotional impact. A Corporate Executive Board & Google survey of over 3000 B2B buyers revealed just why this is so important.

  1. 86% of the buyers surveyed said that there was no longer any “real difference” between vendors.
  2. Those B2B brands that formed an emotional connect with their prospects created 2 times the impact as compared to B2B brands selling purely business and functional value.
  3. The buyers were 60% more likely to consider, buy or pay more for a brand with which they felt a “high brand connection.”

Campaign not strategy

Good things come to those who wait right? This is definitely true in B2B Social Media. And it’s even truer that this isn’t for those not ready for the long haul. If you’re launching a new product, or a webinar program, then a flurry of tweets in the days prior to that is unlikely to significantly drive up visibility or interest. The audience builds up over time, as does their interest in what you have to say. It also takes the audience a while to take the action you want them to. 80% of B2B buyers now take longer to do their research and just as many of them view between 2 – 7 different pieces of content before making their decision on engage with a vendor (Source DemandGen Report). Clearly, this stuff takes time to work it’s magic – no instant miracles here!

The Channel Conundrum

Virtually every single one of your target customers has a facebook profile. Does that make it the right choice for your B2B Social Media efforts though – not unless you want to connect with your buyers in a space they consider personal. A lot of the disenchantment with social media is based on an improper channel strategy. The fact is each channel has its strength, its own audience, and that audience has a specific intent while there. This is not the place to try a “one size fits all” approach – the channel mix you pick has to be specific to your needs, and the needs of the audience you are looking to connect with. The content you share on the chosen channels, the language, tone, frequency, and schedule all has to be designed with the audience in mind too. Some channels work better than others here. This is the reason why 94% of B2B marketers pick LinkedIn for content dissemination, but only 29% pick Instagram, despite it being the fastest-growing social network out there.

Vince Lombardi said, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” Speaking for my agency, we have seen so many times how B2B Social Media done right can create a positive overall impact that amps up the sales and marketing effort – you should try it too!

 

 

 

A Practical Guide For CEOs On Using Social Media – B2B Edition

“Some CEOs say they’re too busy for social media. I say it’s part of the job.” Jack Salzwedel – CEO of American Family Mutual Insurance Company

Salzwadel’s advice seems to be falling on deaf ears if a Domo and CEO.com study is to be believed. The report, published earlier this year, found that fully 61% of CEOs of the Fortune 500 had no presence on any social channel and the usage of social media by even the other 39% is underwhelming. No one is saying this is a good thing, though, and digging deeper into the “why” of such low CEO participation reveals that many of the reasons are internal to them rather than business-driven. Apart from a belief that social media is a young person’s game and a fear of repercussions from sharing something inappropriate, among the chief causes cited by CEOs was a lack of understanding of what to do on social platforms. At Midas Touch, we work with a bunch of B2B clients. As we go about getting their company on the social media wagon, the question of how the CEOs in these companies should use social channels often comes up. Let me use this post to share the recommendations we usually end up giving.

First some caveats. In keeping with the “practical” nature of this guide – this is a “nuts and bolts” set of suggestions intended for CEOs of mid-sized companies looking to leverage social media to help their business get ahead. We are not really addressing loftier goals like branding or creating thought leadership. Using social media for personal branding is also a story that will have to wait for another day.

LinkedIn

A TrackMaven analysis of content shared by B2B brands across the leading social media networks over a 12-month period starting mid-2015, revealed that across several measures LinkedIn was the most popular and effective platform. That’s reason enough to have it front-and-center in our plans too. Here’s what the time-strapped CEO should do on LinkedIn.

  1. Networking really is LinkedIn’s primary raison d’être. As soon as the, hero of our blog, CEO connects (meet, emeet etc.) with a customer, prospect or influencer, we recommend connecting on LinkedIn as well. As a matter of practice, the connect should occur very soon after the meeting so the interaction is still fresh in their minds. This also means that the LinkedIn profile of the CEO should be complete, with a professional head-shot and the relevant amount of information about the organization they represent.
  2. This CEO should post occasional, but regular LinkedIn status updates from their profiles. Except to share significant news, preferably the updates should be to about the industry at large rather than about their own company. This is to get into the eye line of a wider audience, positioned as someone with an interest in and a contribution to make to the space.
  3. Our, now emerging from social exile, CEO should follow the company’s LinkedIn company page and like and share the content being posted there, especially if it leads back to the company website. This will help the visibility of the posts.
  4. Keeping in mind that the CEO, who is the subject of our post, is time-strapped, having a regular blog may remain an ambition only. That being the case, blogs from the company blog absolutely can be posted from the personal profile of the CEO (with attribution). The topic of the blog, their tone and message and even the frequency of posting has to fit in with the overall positioning and network of the CEO. This helps to showcase the thought leadership of the company.

Twitter

Last year Social Media Today reported that B2B Marketers who used Twitter generated twice as many leads as compared to those who didn’t. Most B2B Marketers rate Twitter as the 2nd most effective social platform behind LinkedIn. Here’s how the CEO can work Twitter like a (near) pro.

  1. Well, of course, create a Twitter handle and tweet regularly. Yeah – we already agreed that the CEO doesn’t have a lot of time so this does not have to be a flood of tweets daily. Let’s start with a measured, steady, sustainable pace. Remember, the tweets cannot all be promotional. We suggest a mix of personal thoughts that relate to the business, company news and content and also relevant content from the industry at large. People will follow the CEO if they see the twitter channel as a worthy source of informative content.
  2. Something that should please the sales team – this is also a good way to connect with senior prospects, customers, and decision makers directly. I’m fond of saying that if you start a tweet with @BillGates, it will reach the man – he won’t react to it in all probability but really which channel gives you that kind of direct access? With such great power comes great responsibility, though – these connections are not to be milked too blatantly, be slow, be sure and don’t be salesy.
  3. This is also a great place for our, now socially-savvy, CEO to listen. The aim is to participate in ongoing conversations by searching for #s (sorry – I should explain that is this an easy way for those in the know to identify tweets across the Twitterverse that refer to a particular topic) that are relevant. This gives great insights into what others have to say about the area you work in, or even what customers, prospects, and competitors consider important at the time.
  4. Now that our CEO has become quite the social media pro let’s up the ante. Next on the agenda – live tweeting. Think of the many events and occasions CEOs attend. This is the time to make the handle more active – live tweeting the occasional relevant impression from the event floor is a great way to contribute to a larger conversation and gain some visibility for your own and your company’s point of view.

I think our CEO is now ready for the social world – right? In closing a word of advice. Not from me, but from Marketing and Customer Service thought-leader Jay Baer. He said, “Focus on how to be social, not how to do social.” That’s sound advice for all CEO’s looking to dive into social media.

 

 

7 Reasons Why B2B Companies Fail at Social Media and Content Marketing

7 Reasons Why B2B Companies Fail at Social Media and Content Marketing

Through Midas Touch, the B2B specialist social media agency which I run, we have worked with several B2B organizations – especially in the technology space. We have strategized and executed several social media initiatives and have seen tremendous success.

We all know the stats as well –

  • 57% of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier (Source)
  • 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Source)
  • 94 percent of B2B buyers conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product (Source)

And yet, many B2B companies fail in their social media efforts or are not able to derive the desired results. What could be the reasons? Are they not serious about their efforts? Are they putting in efforts at the wrong place? Are they clueless about what to measure and what not to care about? Or there are some other reasons?

Here is my take on why the social media initiatives of B2B companies could fail –

No Strategy

“Strategy is thinking about a choice and choosing to stick with your thinking” —Jeroen De Flander

Strategy – probably the most overused word in the business space today. To me, the above quote summarizes the meaning of strategy. It helps you tie together your goals into plans and helps you achieve those goals. Organizations, when they start their B2B social media efforts, need to think hard and formulate a coherent strategy – what do they want to achieve, how do they plan to do it, what are the available resources, should it be done through in-house team or outside agency, how to engage the subject matter experts, how to monitor, and how to measure the ROI – all such aspects form the components of a solid strategy. Hiring an experienced marketing professional cannot be termed as the strategy 🙂

Lack of Consistency

“If you want to be taken seriously, be consistent.”

Pretty hard-hitting, isn’t it? It, however, is absolutely true in case of B2B social media. If you start with an assumption that you want to “try” social media for three months and then decide whether you would like to continue or not – I would say don’t even start thinking. B2B social media requires influencing multiple decision makers (right from CFO to technology director), the sales cycles are long (something running into months) and the decisions are not taken based on one article (social media is part of the overall sales funnel and not the only channel) – considering all these aspects, it is extremely important that you start your initiatives with a long-term plan. Have a mechanism to monitor the response and results at regular intervals and do ongoing tweaks.

Too Much Focus on Technology

“Our business is about technology, yes. But it’s also about operations and customer relationships.” – Michael Dell

Sure, you are into technology business. Your team has technology ninjas who are extremely passionate about technology and can give an hour long talk on the latest tool. But do you know that not “all” of your target audience may be “always” interested in your technology understanding? Businesses need to understand that technology is just one of the many tools to solve business problems – businesses care about solutions to their business problems. I have seen that many time, technology companies go overboard with their passion for technology and talk only about that instead of focusing on how that technology is going to help in solving a business problem. The B2B content which the company publishes needs to focus on answering the questions of the target audience – it is less about you and your knowledge and more about customer questions and answers to those questions.

Incorrect Choice of Platforms

“Do what is right, not what is easy.”

The world’s most active social platform with the largest user base may not be right for you. B2B social media is more about education more than emotion. It is about building thought leadership than creating just another blog. It is about providing answers to the buyer’s questions than talking about the greatness of your product and service – all such things make B2B social media different than B2C. While you are still interacting with humans, the purpose is different and, hence, the choice of platforms also differs. It is not possible to send a “friend request” to your prospects but you can certainly “follow” or “connect with them” – getting the difference? The choice of social platforms can make or break your social strategy. You will end up doing a lot of “social activity” without any results. Talk to B2B social media experts or read up to understand and know which could be the right platforms for your business.

RoI Misconceptions

“When you say RoI, do you mean Return on Investment or Risk of Inaction.” – Paul Gillin

B2B companies often make the mistake of thinking that the R in RoI is always Revenue – actually the R in RoI is Returns. You will be able to achieve the RoI from your social media initiatives only if you know what to measure, how to measure, and when to measure. Enhanced awareness amongst your target audience, visits to your website, thought leadership, social conversations – all these are valid returns from your social efforts. When you measure the RoI, ensure that you look for qualitative as well as quantitative metrics. Qualitative metrics could include interactions with an influencer, valid product feedback, appreciation by your prospect on your content and so on. Quantitative metrics could include visits to your website, visibility on social platforms, the number of interactions, the number of downloads of your eBook or whitepaper, and so on. It is important to keep monitoring these metrics and tweaking the strategy based on the results.

Lack of Synergy with Sales

Stop trying to sell with marketing, instead use marketing to help customers buy.

B2B organizations need to ensure that there is a very tight integration between sales and marketing – these two teams HAVE TO work in alignment and not in isolation. The sales and marketing strategies need to work together for acquiring customers – essentially because the sales cycles are long, evaluation periods extend in months, building trust takes time, and building thought leadership takes even longer. Marketing needs to understand the sales campaigns and needs to align itself according to those – for example, if your sales team is focusing on a particular industry vertical in a particular quarter, your social media presence has to reinforce your knowledge and expertise in that sector through blog articles, webinars, eBooks, and social promotion. Similarly, the sales teams need to leverage marketing and the social channels to build connections and engage with prospects on social channels.

Completely Ignoring Executive Branding aka Personal Branding

“Your personal brand is a promise to your clients… a promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability.” – Jason Hartman

Be it B2B or B2C, finally, people connect with people and people trust other people. Thinking that you don’t need a “face” in the online world is one of the most common mistakes which most of the B2B companies make. Companies need to ensure that all the external facing profile – be it the CEO, your sales director, your marketing head, managers who interact with the client or sales execs who interact with the prospects – need to have a strong online presence. It is absolutely critical that the top management has a strong online brand – they need to demonstrate their values, the expertise of the company, and build trust in the minds of the prospects, customers, suppliers, or future and present employees. Unfortunately, this is often the most ignored aspect – especially by the top management of technology companies. Believe it or not, it has a strong impact on the overall company brand as well.

Hope this helps you in knowing what to avoid so that your B2B social media initiatives are successful. Do share your feedback and comments!

B2B Social Media – What Impact Can You Expect From Each Channel?

It’s the start of the Financial Year and there is the whiff of freshly minted marketing strategies and budgets in the air. If articles like our previous posts on B2B Social Media have convinced you that money spent here will not be totally wasted then read on. In this post we will take a look at the most popular social media channels to try and identify how the same channel offers a different view through these rose tinted B2B spectacles.

facebook

Clearly an unexpected place to start a discussion on B2B Social Media but there are some situations where facebook is better than most other channels. For starters if you have Visual Content to share like photographs with a short explanatory note, well longer than 140 characters, there are few better options out there.  Despite the shifting goal posts of facebook’s reach algorithms this is still among the best ways to offer up an enticing visual tidbit to prospects to tempt them into sampling the wider menu on your website.

Another place where facebook scores is in the potential it offers to create first level customer or user communities. Although facebook groups have died an unlamented death the Brand Page is still a great platform for users to get together and a good place for them to engage with you. There is enough evidence that an engaged user community, “fans” to use the more familiar terminology, is a tremendous asset.

Twitter

The “real time” nature of this channel makes it the best place to make announcements – company news, events, new content and so on. It is mandatory to post multiple times in a day – thus providing the opportunity to “curate” nuggets of information of likely interest to your target customers. This is a great way to show that you belong in that community.

Twitter is also a great place to track down, monitor and engage directly with the big fish – Influencers, opinion makers and those elusive top decision makers your sales guys are trying unsuccessfully to connect with. Like no other social media platform Twitter gives this direct access. Every tweet starting with @BillGates will reach the man – no guarantee he will answer it though! With great power comes great responsibility  – the objective should be a slow and steady progression from getting onto the radar of these Influencers to building a real relationship through a series of calibrated moves.

LinkedIn

The undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world of B2B Social Media. A scarily high 50% of LinkedIn members are likely to make a purchase from a company they engage with there. There are so many ways LinkedIn can be leveraged in the B2B context. A well written profile of your key outward facing employees with regular, relevant status updates is an easy way to create a perception of these employees and by extension your company’s expertise.   The Company Page is an under-utilised resource of high potential. Updates are extremely effective in driving traffic to your web properties and it is expected that the Showcase pages will only multiply that effect.

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn groups are almost a channel in themselves – these highly targeted groups of motivated professionals are a dream-come-true for most B2B marketers. This is the platform to participate in ongoing conversations, start discussions and share content of likely interest to the group. Apart from getting into the eye-line of a community that you should care about it also offers the opportunity to build the desired perception of your company through these interactions.

As you can see the channels may be the same but the storyline playing out on them in the B2B context is just that little bit different. So B2B Social Media marketers – don’t change the channel this program also has a rewarding ending!

 

 

 

“To B2B Or Not B2B?” – Just How B2B Social Media Is Different

It is true that B2B Marketers these days are finding their thoughts turning more towards social media than ever before. Surely one of the issues causing concern would be the relative lack of documented information on how social media should be different for B2B marketers as opposed to the more traditional usage in the B2C environment. Especially in the Indian context there is a reasonable lack of specialists in this area and this probably contributes to the general lack of information. In this post let us try to redress that balance if we can by defining some key ways in which Social Media would be different in the B2B context.

  1. B2B decision making is complex. Several people influence the decision and each has a mandate to seek answers to different questions. Different people could be looking separately at cost, appropriateness of the solution, ease of deployment and use and so on. The demand from Socialmedia then would be to provide each of them the answers they specifically are seeking – a question of tracking the social media consumption patterns of all the relevant types of influencers and ensuring that content reflecting your capabilities in a suitable light is available to them when they choose to go looking for it. While considering the areas requiring this specific B2B tweaking the buzz words you are looking for are #SocialSelling and #ContentMarketing.
  2. It can be said that B2B buyers seek information that reassures them their problem will be addressed – in other words they are seeking solutions. The focus of the #MarketingMessage, thus, should be on utility, form, function and the more tangible benefits rather than on the potentially more emotional nature of the appeal to the typical B2C consumer.
  3. If follows from the point above that the content one would create in the B2B context would have to be more descriptive or in-depth with a focus on educating. Success stories or user case studies showing how others in similar situations have benefited are most valuable. So are audio and video content like webinars, podcasts, user reviews or “how to” guides. B2B buyers are uber informed and while a lot of the information they collect will end up as column-fodder in a vendor comparison excel, providing them the right kind of info is as good a way as any of rising to the top of that comparison.
  4. B2B SocialMedia strategies need to be tied much more closely into the business operations – sales, demand generation, customer services / support etc. An overarching integrated strategy is much more likely to be effective here than a social media strategy performing in splendid isolation. The imperative is to ensure that all the different siloes are aligned – if the campaign of the month is “Quality Assurance services” then the content being created and promoted should be about QA, the influencers being engaged on social media should be in that area –you get the idea.

As someone who has been in B2B sales for 20 years let me share a pretty open secret. As far as the VP Sales is concerned the expected output from most B2B Social Media efforts is leads that the sales team can close. In the end the only metric in B2B Social Media Marketing that really matters to them is “Revenue”- can your #B2BSocialMedia strategy achieve that goal?

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.

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?