When Facebook first launched in 2004, its sole purpose was to connect college students socially. When Twitter started a few years later in 2006, it was designed to serve as a ‘headline-only’ version of a personal blog. The beginnings of social media were largely focused around connecting individuals with other individuals. And now, it’s predicted that the number of worldwide social media users will grow from 2.1 billion in 2015 to 2.6 billion by 2018.
While many B2C businesses have tapped into the huge potential and reach of social media by incorporating the medium into their overarching marketing strategies, many B2B companies are still hesitant to jump on board, convinced it’s too hard to successfully measure B2B online marketing ROI.
According to this article, via Business 2 Community, measuring social media ROI still poses a challenge to many:
“46% of B2B marketers say they’re not sure whether any social channels have generated revenue for their businesses. Only 13% believe they’ve proved the impact quantitatively – though that may be because just 14% tie social media marketing activities to sales levels. And for all the bashing of ‘vanity metrics’ in social marketing, those likes and shares (i.e. ‘engagement’) remain the most commonly used measures for evaluating social media success. 80% of marketers use these as primary success metrics; 56% base social success on website traffic.”
Regardless of whether your business needs to reach B2B or B2C audiences, the point of social is interaction. We need to remember that – at the core of all social media marketing, it’s simply people talking to people. People have jobs. These are the people you want to reach and influence with a targeted B2B social marketing strategy.
For B2B engagement, social media often works best as a tool to raise brand awareness, rather than act as a channel to direct sales conversions. Using social, businesses can make a genuine contribution to online conversations and add value to them. The end-goal is making sure each of your future clients is aware of your brand presence before they make that first contact to purchase something.
Here are some tips on how to effectively ‘do’ B2B social media marketing:
1. Have a plan
Before diving headfirst into B2B social, it’s important to take time out to think strategically about your business’s key messages, goals, and objectives, and some tactics for how to communicate these via social. What tone of voice should your business use to start or join conversations? What times of day and how often should your business post? What platforms should you use? Prepare a risk management strategy that covers what to do in the event of negative activity on your profile, do your research to find answers to these questions, and write it down.
Defining this thinking will help you form a more solidified social media strategy and ensure that you hit the ground running, confident that your social activity will reflect your business values and messaging.
2. Pick your social media team
Put the right people behind the levers. Your nephew might have a huge following on Instagram or Snapchat, but that doesn’t mean he’s the right person to implement your business’s social media strategy.
There are many examples of underling employees or interns who lack the ability and maturity to build and protect the business reputation online. The person posting on your behalf should know the business, employ the right voice, and be well versed in how to effectively respond to issues that might otherwise get out of hand.
3. Content marketing all the way
Content marketing should form an integral part of your overall social media strategy, so include governance on how to produce on-brand blog articles, photos, videos, GIFs and all other content that will help communicate what you do.
Whether you’re using social to create short videos that show people how to use products, or you’re hosting a live Twitter chat with a dedicated hashtag, the objective should always be to increase brand awareness among your B2B audience.
Your core audience may not be highly active social media users, but if your business’s content is good and consistent across all communication channels, your audiences will find you, remember you, and seek to work with you.
4. Cultivate content partnerships
All businesses have partners. They might be the very people who work for you, or for organizations outside your own, and these people have trusted networks of their own. Find these partners online and work to build them into your social media marketing plan. Engage with them to build a relationship of reciprocal content sharing. Follow their online business profiles and be present by sharing their posts, liking their photos and leaving comments. Your partners will help you influence and reach new audiences within your own sector and should be considered an ongoing priority.
Don’t get left behind. If you don’t have the resources to put together a solid social media team, there are agencies out there that offer social media strategy and ongoing community management services.
The latest Content Marketing Trends report from the Content Marketing Institute stated that 88 percent of B2B organizations are using content marketing, yet only 30 percent of them think it’s effective.
Some marketers believe that producing content for B2B industries is difficult and that B2C marketing is easy. I don’t agree. They’re just different.
And yet, they share one key similarity: regardless of what you’re marketing or who you’re marketing it to, you’re always marketing to a person. All you need to do is find a way to reach that person.
Here are three effective tips for reaching B2B customers using content marketing.
B2B Content Marketing Tips
1. Involve Industry Experts
There are many benefits to featuring experts in your content — or, better yet — getting them involved in its production.
- It lends credibility to your work
- It adds new knowledge and ideas
- It helps extend the reach of your content
The idea is to get well-known names in your industry to contribute to your content. This could mean asking them to provide a quote, interviewing them, or even persuading them to write a guest post for you.
Most of the time, getting industry experts on board is as simple as asking. Just remember that it’s generally easier to get a “yes” from someone if your ask is very small.
So how do you ask someone to contribute to your content?
Email is your safest bet. However, it really helps to get on your prospect’s radar first by interacting with them on social media or by commenting on their content. Tools like Buzzsumo can help you identify and connect with the right people in your industry.
Another excellent way to get contributors for your content is through a service called HARO. HARO stands for “Help a Reporter Out,” and it’s essentially a tool designed to help journalists find sources for articles.
It’s a great way to gather original quotes for content, although not everyone who responds will necessarily be an “expert.” I can’t sing HARO’s praises enough, but you’ll get the best results if you make the first move and reach out to experts yourself.
If you can’t secure an original contribution to your content, it never hurts to include existing quotes from experts — especially if you reach out to the people you feature to let them know.
2. Target Various Stages Of the Sales Funnel
A “sales funnel” is a way of describing how someone moves through the process of initially finding your brand, to becoming a customer.
How many stages a sales funnel has, and exactly what those stages are, will differ. In some funnels, the final stage is becoming a customer. In others, it might be becoming a repeat customer, or even a brand advocate.
Today I’m going to talk about a simple three-stage sales funnel: awareness, evaluation, and conversion.
Creating content that targets potential customers at each stage of this funnel achieves two key things:
- It boosts the reach of your content, and
- It helps to increase the ROI of that content
At the awareness stage, the prospect knows they have a problem and they need something to fix it — they just don’t know quite what it is they need.
To target those prospects, you need to create content around top-of-the-funnel search queries.
For example, let’s say you offer task-tracking software that’s designed to help companies organize projects and manage workloads.
Your first job would be to establish what triggers a need for your product.
I can think of two types of prospects who might search for a product of this type:
- Someone who runs a small startup and needs a more efficient way to manage projects and workloads.
- Someone who is unhappy with their current task-tracking software.
Prospect number two is already at stage two of the funnel. We’ll talk about stage two in a moment.
Prospect number one is very much at the top (stage one) of the funnel. They might be asking questions like, “How can I streamline my internal processes?” or “How can I manage my employees’ workloads?”
Your job is to create content that answers those questions, in hopes of engaging them and moving them through the funnel.
This could consist of creating educational content such as blog posts, ebooks, or videos.
At stage two (in this case, the middle of the funnel), the customer is aware of your product and understands it might help them, but knows they have options. They need to figure out if your product is the best fit for their needs.
At this point, your prospect wants to know things like:
- Does this product do everything I need it to?
- How does this product stack up against the competition?
- Does this product offer value?
- Can I trust this company?
Blog posts, videos, and even infographics can be effective here. You need to educate prospects on the merits of your product, without being pushy.
At the bottom of the funnel, prospects are pretty certain they want to buy from you; they just need that final push in the right direction.
Up until now, you will have avoided being pushy or salesy with your content. At the bottom of the funnel, this all goes out the window. You only goal here is to sell. Reviews, case studies, and even demonstration videos are key here.
Of course, no industry or company is exactly the same, and your funnel might look very different from the one discussed. It doesn’t really matter what your funnel looks like; you just need to ensure you’re reaching the maximum number of B2B customers by creating content that targets them at every stage.
3. Tell Your Customers’ Stories
Each of your customers has a story to tell, and utilizing these stories in your content gives it a definite edge.
Most of us look for social proof in every area of our lives. We want to be reassured that we’re making the right decisions.
That’s where your customers’ stories come in.
What I’m talking about here goes far beyond case studies. A case study focuses on a specific incident or activity, like how a business solved a customer’s problem.
Case studies are invaluable. But when it comes to content marketing, there’s so much more you can do with your customers’ stories.
Remember, your customers have stories that current and prospective customers could learn from, stories that will demonstrate how others are using and thriving with your product.
An effective customer story doesn’t have to say they did x with your product and it helped them achieve y. A story that focuses on the amazing things a customer has achieved can promote your product without even mentioning it — the insinuation is always there that your product played a part in their success.
There’s no reason B2B content marketing should be any harder or less successful than content marketing in B2C industries. You’re still reaching people — you just need to reach them in different ways.
What other tips do you have for reaching B2B customers with content marketing? Let me know in the comments below:
B2B Marketing Photo via Shutterstock
To define the high-quality leads, you need to weed out the bad ones. Don’t waste time collecting on unqualified leads. You always want to concentrate your efforts on the leads that are most likely to say “yes” to your product or service.
With several social media platforms continuing to rule internet marketing and lead generation world, they are one of the most consistent ways to gain high-quality potential customers you should be devoting your attention to.
With this reassurance, how do we now proceed with lead generation through social media? Here are 5 strategies to help you get started.
1. Align your business with the right social media channel
Not all social media platforms will be compatible with your business. The ideal social media for you depends on your target demographics as each social media platform also has their specific audiences. First determine which platform is best for your business and select just one to start with. If you try to focus on too many networks at once you will find it very challenging to achieve consistent results. Once you find what work then you can scale it and move on to the next one.
2. For B2B leads, start with LinkedIn
It only makes sense to concentrate your B2B efforts on LinkedIn given that it is the platform most professionals network and connect on.
To generate high-quality leads, you will need to grow your own network by connecting with others as you would in other social media channels. The difference here is that, unlike Twitter or Facebook, you are not here to socialize as is anyone else. LinkedIn is where professionals go to further their careers or business, and not connect with people who share a similar hobby.
Optimize your profile with a professional-looking headshot. A white background would be ideal. Corporate attire is recommended but smart casual works as long as you look clean and put together. You don’t need a trained photographer as most camera phones these days already take impressive photos.
Polish off your profile with an impressive “professional headline” and well-structured summary that is easy to read and engaging. Just because this is a professional network doesn’t mean your summary needs to be lacking in personality.
Create your own group:
Do you sell products to retail companies? You could create a group for leaders in the retail industry.
Are you a supplier to local businesses? You could create a group that has your location in the group name.
Do you sell products to marketers? Create a group for marketers.
Once you’ve created a group, you will need to target the right people to invite to your group. Invite potential leads, and eventually, you can connect to their connections who are likely to be from the same industry.
Breathe life into your group by posting relevant content.
Creating your list of high-quality leads:
LinkedIn has a little under half a billion users. It’s not impossible to challenge yourself to compile a list of 500 – 1,000 potential customers. To find them:
- Click the “Advanced” link located on the side of the search bar at the top
- Narrow down your results by Title, Location, and Industry
What you’re looking for are CEOs, Founders, or even Marketing Managers – anyone who holds a high enough position to make judgments on switching suppliers or vendors.
B2B marketing comes with plenty of challenges and reaching the actual decision-makers of a company is one of them, but this is where your efforts on LinkedIn can pay off.
Remember that group you created earlier? If you were to reach out to your list of leads now with your title to say that you were the founder of the group that they are now also a member of they will perceive you as more of a peer vs. someone trying to sell them something.
3. Connecting with your potential leads directly. Offer freebies of your product.
For your LinkedIn prospects, open with a convincing message inviting them to connect with you. Mention that you feel that your connection will be beneficial to both parties. Alternatively, you can check out their profile first and find something you have in common. It could be that you went to the same university or live in the same state.
Once they’ve approved the connection, continue to engage with them. When you feel the time is right, offer them a free sample of your product or service.
4. Investing in lead-generation on Facebook
Generating any usable leads via Facebook is going to require you to spend. Fortunately, Facebook ads are half the price per click compared to Adwords. Sure, there are free services you can use on Facebook that can help you reach your target market but just like any other method, you’ll get optimum results with their paid tools.
Facebook’s paid advertising process, when done right, can generate valuable leads for you. This method identifies your target market based on everything from age bracket, gender, location, educational level, and profile interest.
You decide if you want to promote your products or services directly or simply create a lead generation sales and marketing funnel. Lastly, you can split test everything from your ad messages to interests and images.
5. The new player in lead-generation – Twitter
Twitter may not be the favored channel for B2B lead-generation but there’s no harm is covering every angle. Twitter now allows businesses like yours to show specific Tweets to your target audience even if they don’t follow you.
The catch? You have to pay. Consider it advertising.
And to make it interesting, Twitter urges businesses to create ads that Twitter followers will most likely favorite, comment on, and retweet by introducing a quality score.
Much like Facebook, Twitter offers target marketing. Your ad will be seen based on your specified criteria. You can reach a specific audience by choosing the “add tailored audiences” under “add interests.” Tailored audience will allow you to create a list of ideal users that you can target on Twitter. Adding that tailored audience to your campaign settings mean you can now target them with specific Tweets.
You can expect to generate substantial leads when your practice the strategies we’ve mentioned. Lead generation with social media isn’t about luck, hoping that the perfect leads will be at the right place at the precise time that you post your ads. It is about doing the research and formulating a plan based on a combination of proven tactics that will work for you and your business.
If you have anything to add or need to learn more about lead generation and social media, feel free to connect with us here.
Jason Gordon, Founder – Strong Social