How to Inspire Your B2B Audience with Killer Content Marketing

How to Inspire Your B2B Audience with Killer Content Marketing

B2B content marketers: It’s time to get over our inferiority complex.

Yes, the B2C folks are over there marketing cool stuff like basketball shoes and energy drinks, while we’re stuck with cloud software solutions and medical imaging machinery.

Yes, we’re marketing to business professionals on a buying committee that has to commit to million-dollar deals. Which would buy a lot of basketball shoes and energy drinks.

But that does not mean B2C has more fun. It doesn’t mean B2B is boring. It doesn’t mean we have to play it safe.

Can B2B content be as compelling, as emotional, as vibrant—let’s face it—as cool as B2C?

As we say in Minnesota, yabetcha.

Not only can our content be all these things, it should be. We’re not marketing to robotic cogs in a corporate machine. We’re trying to have a conversation with actual human beings.

Make sure you’re a worthy conversational partner by following these tips:

#1: Don’t Skimp on Personality

It’s hard to create truly dynamic content when you’re stuck behind a brand façade. Corporations may or may not be people, but content that looks like it was written by committee rarely has that human spark.

Your content should bring out the people behind the brand. Don’t leave authenticity and transparency in your mission statement; show it in what you write. One of my favorite marketers for showing personality is Buffer’s Kevan Lee. Kevan isn’t afraid to show the whole gamut of human emotion on the Buffer blog, from taking pride in accomplishments to acknowledging failure. His post, We’ve Lost Nearly Half Our Social Referral Traffic in the Last 12 Months, is brutally honest but optimistic at the same time. Kevan pulls no punches in describing how Buffer’s traffic has fallen off, admitting he’s not sure why, and offering readers a chance to follow along as he learns.

A post like that not only helps build rapport, it’s valuable to every member of Kevan’s audience that is experiencing a similar dropoff. The result of Kevan’s unfiltered sharing? 3.8 thousand shares and over 418 comments on just that one post. It’s powerful stuff.

#2: Bring Your  Data to Life

Most marketers are familiar with Volvo Trucks’ “Split” commercial. It’s the one that features aging action star Jean-Claude Van Damme showing off his superpowers.

What’s often overlooked is that this video is B2B marketing. Volvo Trucks sells big rigs to businesses. That’s what this video is all about. While those not in the target audience see a cool stunt, truck drivers see amazing precision in handling, even while the trucks are in reverse.

Not only that, the commercial is an effective piece of B2B content marketing. After the ad aired, Volvo conducted a survey of 2,200 commercial truck owners. Half of those who saw the video said they were more likely to choose Volvo. A third had already visited the website or even contacted a dealer after watching the video.

B2B marketing relies heavily on data, much moreso than B2C. Tell a story with that data—give it tension and drama—and you’re more likely to persuade your buyer.

#3: Cut the Buzzwords

“Our cloud solutions actualize the potential of enterprise-level businesses to utilize resources and leverage best practices to ladder up their revenue.”

Is it just me, or is the previous sentence like being beaten to death with a damp sponge? What is it about corporate writing that makes people use words they ordinarily wouldn’t go near?

This concept is an extension of the “show your personality” mandate. Unless you go about your daily life talking like an instruction manual crossed with a thesaurus, drop the corporate-speak. And if you do talk like that in your daily life, seek help. Your friends and family will thank you.

On the minus side, if you start talking like people, you won’t sound like every other corporation. On the plus side…you won’t sound like every other corporation.

#4: Consider the Rest of Your Buyer’s Workday

What does your buyer think about when they’re not thinking about you? Most B2B content tends to focus on the narrow intersection between the buyer’s problem and the brand’s solution. That’s great for bottom-of-funnel content. But what are you doing to help your buyer the rest of the workday? How are you equipping them for success?

Some would say anything outside of the problem/solution framework is irrelevant. But it’s all relevant. The person you’re selling to has professional needs that go beyond your solution—help them advance their career and—again I say—yabetcha that will make a difference when the buying committee convenes.

HubSpot is a B2B outfit that has 100% internalized this idea. You will find plenty of marketing advice on their blog, but also posts on leadership techniques, mood improvement, and more.

#5: Take a Stand

So you’re committed to showing personality and talking like a human. The next big step is to bring a point of view to your content. Let your audience know what you stand for and fight against. Take sides. Stir up a little controversy, if it needs to be stirred.

Some brands steer clear of taking any kind of stand because they fear alienating potential buyers. Part of identifying your audience, however, is identifying who is not in your audience. The people who might be turned off by your brand expressing values, sharing a vision, or leading a discussion are people who were never potential buyers in the first place. Get opinionated and you can rally the people who matter to your brand and bottom line.

One of my favorite B2B marketers, Jason Miller, exemplifies this idea. He’s not afraid to counter the conventional marketing wisdom, or call out lack of diversity in the industry. This willingness to take a stand has helped make Jason a thought leader and helped bring readers to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions brand.

#6: Be a Mirror, Not a TV

Would you rather be a talking head delivering a monologue to your customer? Or would you rather reflect who they are, what they value, and then show how your solution can help? Let’s make the question even easier: Which do you think your customers prefer?

Your audience should be able to see themselves in your content. That means writing with extraordinary empathy. Or, better still, that means showcasing their stories whenever you can. My favorite B2B example of this is HSBC’s “The Elevator.” The bank wanted to show they understood small business owners and were committed to helping them succeed.

So they created a web-based reality show with entrepreneurs from around the UK. HSBC provided business coaching for each contestant and awarded a cash prize to the winner. But the series wasn’t just about creating a compelling drama—every video showcased exactly the kind of customer HSBC was trying to reach. The result was an estimated £9 million in revenue from leads generated by the campaign.

No More B2C Envy

It’s time to step out of the shadow of our B2C colleagues. You have my permission to make your marketing every bit as personal, emotional, unique, and dynamic as the best B2C campaigns. Regardless of your vertical, good marketing is good marketing, and every target audience is made of—gasp—people.

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How to Get 67% More Revenue Opportunities Using LinkedIn and Not Just Leads That Go Nowhere

How to Get 67% More Revenue Opportunities Using LinkedIn and Not Just Leads That Go Nowhere

In the “Ultimate Sales Machine”, Chet Holmes mentions that only 3% of your target market is ready to buy! 7% of your target market is open to buying but not looking, 30% of your market is comfortable with the status quo and 30% of your market believes they aren’t interested.

When it comes to LinkedIn marketing and social selling, where do you think everyone’s focus is? It’s on the top 3% of the market meaning they’re missing out on 67% more opportunities that my clients (like Schneider) are getting with a 40% to 70% improved chance of closing.

How sales & marketing professionals and social media lead generation companies are focused on only 3% of the target market…

In a recent article, SAP’s Nicholas Kontopoulos mentioned that social selling has become another form of spam! He wrote: “Social media is now just amplifying the bad selling behaviors of salespeople. Where a bad salesperson could deter dozens of potential customers, social platforms allow the same person to reach thousands of people…with the same one-night stand, transactional mentality and message.”

You see LinkedIn marketing and social selling has become a volume play. The focus is on how many connections are being made, how many prospects are joining the LinkedIn community, how many views the content is generating, how much website traffic are they getting, how many people are being reached with messages. They’re focused on how many people are being added to the pipeline even if they aren’t validated and qualified. They’re focused on lead generation even though most leads go nowhere – when the focus should be on prospect development.

Even social media experts are talking about social media being a volume play.

The majority of social media and social selling experts are coaching clients and followers to take a templated approach that lacks relevance to try to book as many calls and sales conversations as you possibly can. For example a digital sales prospecting trainer and coach, teaches clients to use templates like:

Hi, Sam.

How are you adding new capability to your ______________ [insert area of business your product addresses] at any time soon or in future? I work with organizations like _______ [prospect’s business] to make sure ________ [goal]. Would you like to quickly explore, via email, if a larger conversation makes sense? Please let me know what you decide.

So, instead of taking an account based marketing approach and focusing on issues that are relevant to targeted organizations. key decision makers and influencers, sales, marketing and social media lead generation firms using this approach are hoping that if they send it out to enough people, it will be relevant to someone and stick. They are focused on “trying” to hit that 3% of the market – the people that are most likely ready to buy now. If those leads that may or may not be part of the 3% of the market do not move forward, then you have a high cost for business growth. And, your efforts on LinkedIn are nothing more than a cost center. It doesn’t matter how low your cost-per-lead is if leads are being stuck at the top-of-the-funnel. It’s still a cost and investment that isn’t leading to revenue!

Social media firm focuses on lead goals even though the leads they delivered went nowhere!

As I share in this cost-per-lead post, I recently spoke to the President and CMO of a logistics company – and they were both so focused on how many leads we are able to deliver on a weekly and monthly basis. They proceeded to tell me how another social media lead generation firm was delivering 5 to 10 leads for sales calls per week.

However, those sales leads they were delivering sucked! 90% of the calls were with prospects who were not in the right stage of the buying process at this time – or they were with people who were not even a decision maker or influencer. The people who said “yes” to a call was just looking for free information, to network – and maybe refer the company. What good were those leads if there were no relationships being created and leveraged to create revenue opportunities?

How sales and marketing can capture 67% more opportunities instead of just leads that go nowhere

1.Focus on relevance across all levels using an account based sales and marketing approach

Adding the person’s name or position to a message or talking about their industry does not make you relevant. When you’re engaging in prospect development, you’re not just relevant on one or two levels – you’re relevant to the industry, to the company, to the person’s role and to the individual decision maker or influencer.

Being relevant to each key decision maker and opening doors with different demand units is what account based sales and marketing is about. It’s how you can forge stronger connections within individual people within potential customer organizations. Remember, developing relationships require getting to know the potential customer and demonstrating how you can bring relevant value to them. This is how you’ll move those that are indifferent or think they are not interested in your solution.

2. Engage in marketing for sales alignment:

Marketers who go beyond lead generation and focus on Sales and Marketing alignment to achieve revenue goals using LinkedIn can prove a clearer, stronger social media ROI. By providing rich insights into buyers, their companies, and their territories, marketers enable sales to better prioritize their efforts. And by focusing on relationships and how to leverage them, marketers can become the social bridge between buyers and sales. They can help build familiarity between salespeople and their customers. Together, sales and marketing can improve sales effectiveness using LinkedIn.

But marketing has to use its influence on LinkedIn and become more of a sales enabler – and support sales in a more meaningful way so they can close deals.. There can’t be these silos anymore where marketing is focused on the company page, sponsored updates and the solutions that LinkedIn Marketing Solutions provides and relying on sales to make the relationships. Marketing needs to become a sales enabler on LinkedIn by focusing on the complete awareness to revenue customer life-cycle that includes a set of psychological transitions where customers become aware of, evaluate, like, advocate and invest in a specific product or service. We need to go beyond the awareness tactics that social media and digital marketing executives take and meld traditional marketing with LinkedIn to increase the percentages of transitions as well as increase the speed at which they transition.

3. Focus on breaking down the potential customer’s status quo

When going beyond the 3% of the market that is ready to buy, you have to spend time breaking down the customer’s status quo. As the CEB mentions in their Challenger Demand Gen Marketer Role Guide, “Without breaking down the status quo, potential customers may engage with your content, talk to your sales reps and nod along. But ultimately. they won’t take the hard actions to drive consensus and take the next steps toward investing in your solution.”

It’s not enough to just challenge prospects and show them a new approach. You need to give prospects a reason to change. For a positioning and messaging firm client, we were only able to help the firm gain clients once the firm’s President was able to show sales and marketing how their positioning and messaging was affecting sales and marketing performance – especially in the areas that were high on the priority list. Once we were able to target specific companies with specific positioning and messaging issues and show sales and marketing leaders why they needed to change, the firm gained clients like Membrain, Mariner Partners, Shift Energy, Idea5, Rocket Software and SmartOrg.

4. Don’t optimize content for social media engagement

When you’re optimizing content for social media engagement, you’re optimizing it for reach. You’re optimizing the content for top of the funnel awareness which may attract that top 3% of the market that is ready to buy – but it won’t move the other 67% of the market. As the CEB mentions, you want to optimize your content for consumption of disruption or, in other words, focus on how your content is driving changes in thoughts and actions.

5. Focus on lead validation and qualification

The CEO of a popular social selling firm tells clients:

“With each new connection, determine if they are someone you’d like to speak with and tweak the LinkedIn message slightly: NAME, it is nice to be connected on LinkedIn. Typically I like to have a brief call with my new connections so we can explore ways we might be able to work together now or in the future. Here is a link to my calendar: xxxxxxxx. Please pick a time that is most convenient for you. I am looking forward to our call.”

So she’s telling business leaders and sales and marketing professionals to go for the call–don’t worry about lead qualification and validation. She’s saying don’t worry if they haven’t seen your value yet and that you haven’t demonstrated your relevance. Don’t worry if you haven’t identified a need yet and don’t worry if they are not in the right buying stage. This shotgun thinking assumes that getting the sales information “out there” may eventually lead to a sale. But all it really does is cost you time and money.

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How to Craft a Strong B2B Social Media Strategy That Supports Your PR Goals

How to Craft a Strong B2B Social Media Strategy That Supports Your PR Goals

A B2B social media strategy is no longer a “nice to have,” but a “must have.” Social media has grown from its infancy as a simple network for friends and family to a powerful moving force, especially in public relations.

Social media is what takes the Clark Kents of the PR industry, and turns them into Supermen. OK, that might be a stretch, but you get the ideat. You can use social media for B2B as a tool to empower PR professionals to do their jobs better and more efficiently.

How likely are you to purchase from a brand you follow on b2b social media

How Social Media Has Impacted PR

Social media puts your audience at your fingertips — literally just a few keystrokes away! While in the past it could take days to prepare and send out company announcements, now you get the word out in minutes, and quickly see the response.

We’ve known for a few years now that social media has a positive impact on a business’s bottom line. Just how much though? According to a study conducted by SproutSocial, 57.5% reported that they were more likely to purchase from a brand that they follow on social media. How can you use this to your advantage?

Social media puts your audience at your fingertips – literally just a few keystrokes away.

The following are 7 key ways that you can use your social media account to bolster your brand and engage with your audience.

How to Use Your B2B Social Media Strategy to Rock Your PR

1. Find Key Influencers

Would you like to reach more people with your message? Influencer marketing can help you do so. After all, influencers already have the willing ear of a wide audience on their social networks. You can use influencers to:

  • Promote a product or service
  • Heighten brand awareness
  • Protect a brand’s reputation
  • Create trust in a brand

Social media gives you direct access to many influencers — and it is an effective platform to create and nurture influencer relationships. Because social media is at the center of an influencer’s work, it is a good bet to reach and connect with them.

Start by following influencers to see what they post and how they engage with their audience. This can tell you a lot about the impact they will bring to your brand.

Use PR tools like Buzzsumo, Klout or Traackr to help you to find influencers in your industry. These tools show you who’s influential — with up-to-date information on likes, shares, and engagements Create and prioritize influencer lists to determine who is the best fit for your business, and then plan out your next move.

Social media gives you direct access to many influencers

2. Do Some Social Listening

Ever wish you could know what’s going on the mind of prospect? Stop guessing and start listening — socially! It is easier than ever to keep up with what people are saying about your brand and industry with social listening.

With social media you can keep abreast of trends within your industry. You can also use social media to discover any online threats to your brand’s reputation, and stop them in their tracks. Often brands have prevented a major crisis by addressing it in its infant stages on social media.

A great tool to help you listen more is Hootsuite. It provides special insight not only into what people are saying, but your brand’s overall sentiment — all in real time. Set it up to notifiy you immediately if negative conversations start to trend within any segment of your audience.

Other great social listening tools include

  • Mention — Use this tool to monitor social media and the web for any mentions of you, your brand, or certain keywords. This tool is free for up to 500 mentions, with moderately priced plans if you need more than that.
  • BuzzLogix — Use this tool to monitor any mention of you, your brand, and your products on social media — as well as an overall sentiment analysis. Plans are free for up to 3,000 mentions and 5 social media profiles, with moderately priced plans that follow.

3. Use Social Media in Your Press Release Strategy

If you want your press release to have a fighting chance, make it social-media-friendly. Some companies exclusively publish their press releases on social media because of the immense reach that such networks offer. To capitalize on this, create a blog post with links to your press release, and use short, tweetable sentences.

Make all of your images social-media-ready, sized and themed appropriately for your social network. If you use survey data within your press release, include a sharable graphic that highlights that data.

4. Connect with Journalists

Journalists frequently take to social media to get a quote or to research a story. Modern PR professionals need to engage with journalists on social media to profit from these opportunities.

Become part of your industry’s online conversations. If a topic is trending or a big story breaks, comment with your industry expertise or a fresh take on the subject. You never know what journalist might be on the other end.

You can build an even stronger rapport with journalists by liking, sharing, and commenting on their articles. Don’t make your comments stiff or obviously canned — be conversational. Write something personal that shows you read the piece and truly appreciated it.

These steps can pave the way for a working relationship between your company and the journalist. This way, if you pitch them a story in the future, you’ll have that rapport as a foundation to build on.

Follow key journalists within your industry, and establish a relationship with them. A simple way to do this is by retweeting their work. This a great way to help them by extending their reach, and puts you on their radar for future interaction.

5. Get in Front of Negative Press

Negative news spreads like wildfire. You want to douse those flames as quickly as possible — and social media gives you some powerful water power to keep flames at bay.

As soon as negative news hits, many will look for a brand’s reaction on social media. Use your company’s social media profiles to write an immediate, official response to the negative press. Then, if it’s appropriate, you can direct the public to another site for more detailed information.

Create a plan for how to handle negative press before it happens. Outline specific steps on how to address the issue on social media (even with specific wording), and how to proceed in order to quench the problem. Doing this before problems arise takes that initial panic out of the equation and helps things run smoothly.

6. Make Announcements

Do you have some good news to share? Social media is the perfect platform to make that announcement. This might include:

  • Awards
  • Product launches
  • New hires
  • Company updates or milestones

Whatever your news, social media can help you spread it quickly and thoroughly. Encourage fans to retweet and share your news and link back to your site for more information. Don’t be afraid to ask people to do so.

7. Publish Unique and Helpful Content

Social media is driven by content — and the more unique the better. LinkedIn, for example, has its own publishing platform, where you can post content that interests your industry. Publishing such content on social media shapes your brand image, and has the power to set you apart as a thought leader.

What makes you unfollow a brand on b2b social media

Consider having your company’s CEO publish this content. This puts him or her front and center on social media, and shows readers the driving influence for your company. When people can see the individual behind the brand, it creates a feeling of trust that is invaluable in business relationships.

Avoid publishing content that’s too self-promotional, and keep it relevant to your industry. In a recent survey conducted by SproutSocial, the top things that made people unfollow a particular brand included too many self promotional messages (46%) and information that was not relevant (41.1%).

It is your job to stay on top of what your audience appreciates and dislikes in the content they read.

Social media is driven by content — and the more unique the better

Key Points to Remember…

  • Use social media to find and engage with influencers in your industry
  • Keep your ear to the ground of your industry by paying attention to conversations on social media — and perhaps avert disaster.
  • Make your press releases social media friendly so people can easily read and share your news.
  • Get in front of negative press by addressing it immediately on social media, and directing people where they can find accurate information.

Social media is a wonderful tool that has a powerful impact on the PR industry. Use it to its full potential, and you too can reap the benefits

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