When someone tells you to follow the rules, are you more likely to take their advice or do you believe that rules were made to be broken? There are so many rules governing B2B social media and almost all of them can or should be broken at one time or another.
But the thing about social media marketing and rules is that nobody can agree on what the rules are. Even if you pull back from the strict approach of rules and call them guidelines, nobody can agree on that either.
In the real world, rules are created in response to some complaint or action by someone or many someones. I recently checked into a beach hotel and there was a list of rules on the nightstand. Along with a reminder that guests not clean fish in their room (really?), was one that said they were not responsible for inclement weather. Wait, does that mean that someone complained to the hotel about the weather? I booked my beach vacation and you were supposed to guarantee my family five out of seven sunny days.
In social media every blogger, speaker, consultant and street corner huckster has their own set of rules. And they all contradict each other. Pick a common question and try to find a single answer. Try this one. How many times should I tweet? Once a day? Ten times a day? Multiple times for each tweet? And is that my content or someone else’s? You can pretty much find any answer you want. Want to justify your plan to your boss? You can probably find a blog post out there that supports what you want to do. It may not be from the most reputable source, but someone has likely recommended it.
The makes it easy to follow the rules. But it makes it even easier to break the rules.
What’s a B2B marketer to do?
Since so many B2B companies have very different audiences and marketing requirements, here are some suggestions for creating your own rules for social media. And by following these steps you will have a much better understanding of why you are doing what you are doing. You won’t need some blog post telling you what to do. Well, except this one.
1. Establish goals and objectives for your social media efforts.
This will help you measure success.
2. Decide if you are using social media for lead generation or customer retention.
This will drive your content and calls to action.
3. Determine if you need a local or global presence.
This will set the times of day you share content.
4. Talk to your customers to learn what social media sites provide value to them.
This will identify what sites to focus on.
5. Review what your competitors are doing on social media
This is give you a sense of social media awareness in the industry.
6. Realistically examine your resources.
This will keep you from over-extended you or your team.
7. Test and measure everything you do.
This will ensure you keep doing the things that work for your audience and drop the ones that don’t.
8. Give it time.
This shows you understand that social media does not change your marketing overnight.
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All B2B marketers are aware of the funnel. The basic idea of attracting a larger number of buyers with marketing or advertising so that you yield a smaller number of customers has been around for more than a hundred years.
Whether you are a funnel-purist, who still firmly believes in this construct, or you think marketing has gotten way more complicated and customers enter the process at various stages through various means, there is still some value in using the funnel as a means to represent the overall approach of the marketing itself.
I call this the content funnel and it sits alongside the B2B buyer’s funnel. You create different kinds of content at each stage of the funnel to move buyers through the process of becoming a customer. Most content marketers focus on the top of the funnel, but important to think about content at all buyer stages.
Top of the funnel is the high level, helpful content that attracts the most people to your company. While not all B2B companies practice this form of content marketing, many do share content that they hope will work at the top of the funnel. For the sake of this conversation, let’s say that your content is entertaining, solves business problems and provides value to your prospects. They gladly fill out your lead form in exchange for your artisanal, lovingly crafted content.
They are now in your marketing database. What happens next?
They download the content, review it and form an opinion about your company. The next move is up to you.
Email them. Spam them. Nurture them. Ignore them.
You may think you know the right answer, but the answer may be it depends. You may actually want to ignore them to see if they do something else. Downloading an educational ebook does not demonstrate product interest. Ask any overzealous inside sales rep who followed up with a phone call. Maybe a high lead score precipitated this call, but the prospect may still not be product or sales ready.
What about an email thanking them for the download? Even though you are really thanking them for surrendering their email address so you can contact them again. But what is the most important thing in that email? A link to the content they just downloaded. That’s right. Here’s the thing that you just looked at in your browser. Or on your mobile device. It’s not always easy to save these things when you are reading them, especially on your smartphone. This also ensures that this email is specific to the content they just downloaded, rather than a generic email with links to other unrelated ebooks. If I downloaded something about social media management I really don’t need to know that you have more information about mobile marketing.
So what about that content funnel idea?
You need to follow-up with something that moves them closer to your product or service. Are they interested in what you have to offer? If your top of funnel content is good, you may have no idea if a prospect has any interest in ever becoming a customer. But if they show some interest in a case study or how a customer has found success in their business by working with your company, they have moved to the middle of the funnel. They have a problem that they are looking to solve.
These middle of the funnel customer stories could be videos. They could be Slideshare decks. They could even be a series of animated GIFs. You can definitely include these in follow-up or nurture emails, along with other relevant top of funnel content. Remember that you are building a relationship with this prospect. If one ebook solved a problem, maybe another one will solve a related problem.
And why is this marketing funnel just as leaky as the sales funnel? Because you can also share this middle of the funnel content on the company social channels. And if they are smart, well-produced content pieces that tell good stories, they will attract buyers who may already be looking for a solution to their problems. And they never saw the top of the funnel.
Next is where content marketers start to get twitchy. The bottom of the funnel. We’re not responsible for that, they say. That’s sales’ job. Or product marketing. I don’t create content about the product. That’s like selling on social media. Oh wait, we do that now.
This makes a lot of sense if you think of this like a funnel and you have the content experts manage the whole process. Start at the top with the theory and strategy of how to do things. Follow that up with how specific customers have succeeded by doing those things. And finally, show how you do those same things with your products. Think of this as storytelling and the funnel moves your marketing from a general and theoretical place to one that is very specific. Rather than disjointed content across the different stages of the buyers’ journey, it is all connected.
And whether the buyers find and follow all this content themselves through search or social media or it is supported by nurture emails or sales reps, they will get a clearer picture of how your company can solve their problems. No matter what stage they are at when they discover your content.
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B2B Marketers are embracing social media like never before. A report by Content Marketing Institute found that these professionals increasingly view social as essential for developing business, with over 90% distributing content on LinkedIn and 85% on Twitter.
No doubt this increase is the result of B2B marketers leveraging the unique power of social media to deliver information to a customer. As many have discovered, creating and distributing targeted content allows a marketer to build brand awareness, demonstrate industry knowledge and even establish contact with buyers.
But while reaching out through content is important, many B2B marketers may be missing a source of intelligence found on these same channels: social data.Tapping In
Because social media provides unprecedented ways to share and engage with each other on a personal level, it is also a constantly increasing source of customer data. Even a professional channel like LinkedIn has gone far beyond the original resume format, providing a seamless connection between a user’s work and personal lives.
Take, for example, Virgin Founder and LinkedIn Influencer Richard Branson. His posts on LinkedIn cover a broad scope of his interests, from ending poaching and the war on drugs, to more expected content for a professional channel like company culture and entrepreneurship.
It’s not surprising, given that around 25% of the average American’s workday is spent on social media for non-work related activities, that a single platform now offers a combined view into our personal and professional interests. A user can make connections that often range across professional industries, non-profits and even community organizations. Like other social media channels, LinkedIn also gives its users a way to share and discuss topics of common interest, offering an even deeper view into an individual.
So in the same way a marketer’s content distributes information out, this level of social sharing provides data back at a level never before possible.The Opportunity with Social Media Data
Whether selling electronics or tires, B2B marketers must win their buyers’ preference over another brand. Often this starts by making a memorable connection — a key benefit of social media outreach. But by leveraging the social media data provided by channels like LinkedIn and others, a marketer might now be able to learn more about a buyer’s personal interests, the organizations that are important to him or her, and even his or her opinions on an issue. These insights can make connections even more effective.
These levels of data also improve the marketing communications process. By engaging with buyers on social media and paying attention to the information they provide on those channels, a B2B marketer can develop messaging that might better influence them. As a result, marketing content can be crafted to align with those influencers. The instantaneous environment of social media also allows immediate testing of messaging while at the same time identifying new target audiences and informing strategies. With this social data intelligence, the marketer can then activate outreach with greater accuracy and precision.
As its use within B2B commerce continues to increase, marketers will benefit most by leveraging the power of social media to work in two directions: as a means to identify and inform customers as well as engaging with them in a meaningful way. This can be best achieved by tapping into the vast resource of social data.
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The latest social media industry report from Social Media Examiner is loaded with statistics about social media usage broken down all different ways. Since 39% of the respondents of the survey were B2B companies, many of the statistics are further broken down by B2B versus B2C. Since many of us use these kinds of statistics as benchmarks, I pulled out all the B2B specific stats and grouped them by platform to make it easy to find what you are looking for.
Do these stats reflect your usage of these platforms? Share your thoughts on Twitter with #b2bstats or in the comments below. You can also tweet any of the stats with the link after each one.
- 88% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn (Tweet this stat)
- 41% call LinkedIn their most important platform (Tweet this stat)
- 80% plan to increase their use of LinkedIn (Tweet this stat)
- 71% want to learn more about using LinkedIn (Tweet this stat)
- 88% of B2B marketers use Facebook (Tweet this stat)
- 36% say their Facebook marketing is effective (Tweet this stat)
- 30% call Facebook their most important platform (Tweet this stat)
- 53% plan to increase their use of Facebook (Tweet this stat)
- 57% want to learn more about using Facebook (Tweet this stat)
- 75% have run paid Facebook ads (Tweet this stat)
- 83% of B2B marketers use Twitter (Tweet this stat)
- 19% call Twitter their most important platform (Tweet this stat)
- 77% of B2B marketers have a company blog (Tweet this stat)
- 57% say blogging is their most important content (Tweet this stat)
- 56% have a mobile optimized blog (Tweet this stat)
- 61% of B2B marketers use Google+ (Tweet this stat)
- 55% of B2B marketers use YouTube (Tweet this stat)
- 39% of B2B marketers use Pinterest (Tweet this stat)
- 41% plan to increase their use of Pinterest (Tweet this stat)
- 38% want to learn more about using Pinterest (Tweet this stat)
- 26% of B2B marketers use Instagram (Tweet this stat)
- 40% plan to increase their use of Instagram (Tweet this stat)
- 39% want to learn more about using Instagram (Tweet this stat)
- 24% of B2B marketers use Slideshare (Tweet this stat)
- 43% plan to increase their use of Slideshare (Tweet this stat)
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The B2B workforce is changing with the arrival and promotion of millennials, but how does that affect how your company approaches sales. In the following interview, Dustin Grosse, Chief Operating Officer of ClearSlide, a sales engagement platform that empowers sales teams to engage customers, shares his thoughts about the changing dynamics of buying, selling and managing the generation that is out to save the world.1. As more millennials continue to join B2B companies, what is their role in the buying process? How are the roles of researcher, recommender and buyer changing as a result of this new generation’s involvement?
Millennials are an increasingly important — by 2020, it is estimated that they will make up more than 50% of the workforce. They are fast becoming decision makers in their respective companies and have a fundamentally different approach to the way they research, recommend and buy. Millennials were born with cell phones and computers in hand – with 87 percent of millennials saying that their smartphone never leaves their side. Competition for millennials’ business is only a click away.
Traditional sales processes have been linear in nature, from qualification to educating the buyer to creating interest to close. That approach is dramatically changing in part because of millennial buyers — they do research and learn about products on their own, through consuming content and consulting social networks and blogs. In fact, buyers are now as much as 57% of the way through the buying process before actually engaging with a seller.2. How does a B2B sales team adapt to selling to an organization populated, or even dominated, by millennials?
It is critical for modern sales organizations to learn to sell where buyers are, and most importantly by engaging buyers where they do their research. Social communities like LinkedIn and Twitter allow buyers to understand your value proposition while doing their own online research, and they readily consume valuable information like videos, blog posts, how-tos, testimonials, and more to form their impressions.
In fact, millennials are more likely to trust information found in these social communities because they believe they provide more accurate, authentic information — 62% of millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer. In order to remain competitive in this changing landscape, sales teams must make a strong effort to represent their brand positively across these platforms.
Since most of the information gathering happens before any direct interaction with a company, sellers have to learn how to adapt to where buyers are in the selling process. Linear sales pitches end up frustrating millennial buyers and risk lengthening the sales process. Sellers today need to ask questions, listen, and demonstrate value that aligns to what the buyer already knows and what they need to know to move the sale forward.
According to a study by the Alexander Group, salespeople spend as little as 15% of their time actually engaging with customers. With so little time in front of the customer, it is imperative that every interaction is optimized for success. One of the best investments that organizations can make is in tools that help sellers read buyers’ digital body language, respond and sell when buyers are ready to be engaged, and tailor the conversation around their needs. Sales engagement platforms like ClearSlide can give sellers an edge by notifying and tracking what and when content is resonating, as well as helping them more successfully engage throughout the buying process.
Implementing sales mobility is also key. Because millennials are digital natives, they expect to be able to work from anywhere, anytime – and they expect sellers to engage with them similarly. Eighty-seven percent of millennials use between 2 and 3 devices at least once on a daily basis. Making information and engagement throughout the sales cycle available on mobile devices is already important and will continue to grow as more millennials enter the workforce and mobile tools continue to develop in sophistication.3. Since many in the millennial generation are digital savvy, does the educational approach of content marketing provide ways to connect and build initial relationships?
Content marketing is an important part of driving awareness and consideration for those buyers who are doing more research before engaging with a seller. It is important for companies to engage them before a person-to-person interaction through educational materials demonstrating thought leadership and expertise. This is an opportunity to educate buyers on what they should be thinking about when they are going to buy and position the value your product or service will deliver.4. This same shift is also happening on the sales side. How does a B2B company hire and train millennials as salespeople, when their motivations are different from traditional salespeople?
Millennial sellers still have an underlying desire to win and be successful. However, they have different motivations and preferences. If you hand your millennial sales team a training manual, they’ll likely hand it right back. A better strategy is to encourage your millennial reps to learn from their peers – and specifically from leading reps. Use technology to make this possible – a homepage of all sales activity (like a social network), daily update emails, or the ability to listen to how top reps pitch via calls or videos, are all great learning opportunities. Social learning and collaboration is far more impactful than the traditional “coffee is for closers” sales environment.
In addition, millennials thrive on competition and want to feel part of a team. They want to know that they are having an impact on their company (and the world) and that their contributions are recognized. Gamification can help introduce competitive spirit and foster teamwork, and can be as simple as a competition between reps or teams. You can also spark millennial salespeoples’ desire to over-achieve by making recognition visible. Leaderboards and simple recognition like balloons tied to chairs for top performers can serve as public reminders and motivators to succeed.
Encouraging peer learning and healthy competition requires transparency throughout the entire sales process. By tracking engagement in a platform that enables every sales person to see what others are doing, you create learning opportunities and engender competition at the same time. Savvy salespeople will be able to see what top performers are doing and incorporate that into their own selling practice. This higher level of visibility will also benefit sales leaders, because they will have more specific information on what works and what doesn’t.5. Is there something millennials should do to more easily adapt to traditional workplaces, or should they embrace their differences and push workplaces in a new direction?
I think this requires a balance of both. New blood in an organization forces everyone to learn new and modern ways of doing things, which is good. Buyers are changing, so you need sellers to change along with them. Millennials can push their workplace in new directions by advocating for openness and transparency, peer-to-peer learning, modern tools, mobility, and by engaging customers through social media. At the same time, millennials should recognize that they have plenty to learn from other, more experienced colleagues as well.6. Is this overall shift good for B2B companies?
I think it is. Millennials joining the workforce are helping B2B sales organizations evaluate new ways of approaching their sales process. The reality is everyone in business is being asked to do more with less – less time and less money – so the key is to be hyper-efficient and maximize every interaction between buyers and sellers.
The reality is that it’s increasingly difficult to get buyers’ attention, let alone a face-to-face meeting, and your company is just one of the many that are competing for business. It’s not personal, but a reflection that time is precious resource. Technology is helping salespeople adapt by providing access to data and insights that weren’t previously available to them. With the right tools, salespeople can prioritize their outreach based on their buyer’s digital body language, ultimately making them more efficient. An added benefit is that they may actually get more time with the buyer by making interactions easier and more efficient, helping them win more.
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Many B2B marketers are frequently looking for ways to enhance their social media presence and build more and stronger connections with prospects and customers. As you plan to wrap up big projects before summer vacation, this is the perfect time to focus on one specific social media platform: LinkedIn.
In the 2015 Social Media Marketing industry report from Social Media Examiner, 88% of B2B companies use LinkedIn and 41% of them cite it as their most important platform.
With this in mind, rather than wait until a busier time later in the year, here are 10 ideas that you can use to refresh your LinkedIn presence for your B2B company over the coming months as people are in and out of the office.1. Review Company Page Description
The company page description is the kind of standard copy that not many people review and update, but you may find that it has gotten a little dated. That product launch is no longer new. You have added new capabilities or new locations to your business. You might even have a new brand position that totally changes how you present your B2B company to the world. Making updates to this page is simple, and won’t take you very long if you already have the new copy available. (Tweet this idea)2. Change Company Page Image
This image was probably uploaded when you created this page and it has a very corporate look. Consider changing this image seasonally, or change it to highlight a current promotion. Visual content is making waves on other platforms and you can take advantage of that here. Make sure you resize your image to 646 pixels x 220 pixels so it will appear as you expect it. Since followers don’t usually visit your company page, but view your updates in their feeds, consider a brief update about the new photo. (Tweet this idea)3. Review Results of Posts
If you have not already been reviewing the results of your posts, this is a great time to do so. While it is easy to review likes and comments on LinkedIn, clicks on links that drive visitors to your blog or website are more important to track. This will help you understand what content drives engagement. You should be using a URL link shortener that lets you track clicks, as well as a web analytics tool that lets you track where traffic came from. Google Analytics tracks Social traffic by platform, and you can even look at it by individual post. (Tweet this idea)4. Add Relevant Showcase Pages
If your company does not have any Showcase Pages, this is the perfect time to plan them. While these were created to replace individual product pages, it makes sense to create these as topical pages about areas of interest to your prospects and customers. This is an easy way to segment your audience and post content that is relevant for each segment. Consider adding two or three Showcase Pages, and make sure that you promote them on your main page and other appropriate channels. (Tweet this idea)5. Create Editorial Calendar for Updates
If you already have an editorial calendar established for your other content, make sure you include your LinkedIn updates as part of it. After reviewing your successful posts, you should have a better idea of what works on LinkedIn. Focus on that content and develop a regular cadence of posting. Consistency is key to engagement from your B2B prospects and customers. (Tweet this idea)6. Throw an Employee Lunch and Learn
Something that is often overlooked in updating a B2B company’s LinkedIn presence are your employees. Most, if not all, of your employees have personal LinkedIn profiles. Each one of those profiles links to your company page. Teach your employees the importance of supporting the company with their LinkedIn profiles. Providing lunch will entice them to attend a meeting. It can also be done virtually for distributed teams. You can explain your overall plans on LinkedIn and some of the ways they can help. Consider sharing the ideas in the rest of this post. (Tweet this idea)7. Create a Standard Company Description for Employees
Even though an employee owns and manages their own LinkedIn profile, you can make suggestions for their job description. Many job descriptions begin with a description of the company. You should provide a standard, two to three sentence description of your B2B company that has the appropriate keywords and brand positioning. You cannot force your employees to use this, but you can explain why it is important. Each employee can market the company within their own network. This standard description helps employees appear in the right search results. (Tweet this idea)8. Encourage Employees to Share Company Posts
Just like providing the company description above, you want to encourage employees to share company updates with their LinkedIn networks. Since this also needs to be optional, your goal should be to make it as easy as possible for employees. The easiest way is to select what you want employees to post and give them suggested language to use. You can communicate this to them through your intranet, internal social network or even an internal newsletter. You can also encourage them to follow your B2B company on LinkedIn and Twitter and to share what they think their network would find interesting. (Tweet this idea)9. Identify Groups for Employee Participation
There are many LinkedIn Groups that provide value in your industry or the target industry of your prospects and customers. If you identify some of these Groups for your employees and give them a tutorial on interacting in those Groups, your B2B company will have a larger presence in these Groups besides just someone from marketing posting there. Real employees with real industry knowledge and connections will get noticed. (Tweet this idea)10. Select Subject Matter Experts to Blog on LinkedIn
And taking that industry knowledge and expertise one step further, you can identify the most likely subject matters experts and encourage them to publish blog posts through their LinkedIn profiles. This becomes even easier if they are already blogging for your B2B company and you can just ask them to syndicate their posts to LinkedIn. Make sure they include a link back to the original post. This is another way to leverage not just your employees, but their knowledge, to improve your company presence and ability to connect with prospects and customers on LinkedIn. (Tweet this idea)Bonus Idea: Create a Slideshare Deck for Employee Profiles
One of the easiest ways to add visual content to a LinkedIn profile is to import a Slideshare deck. Create a short deck describing your company, or even presenting some industry opinion or research, that is no more than 3-5 slides. After your post this to Slideshare, your employees can add it to their profiles by simply choosing edit profile and moving their cursor to the right margin on any job description. Click the box in the middle with the square and the plus sign to upload or link to a file. You can also add the content to a different position. (Tweet this idea)
By taking these simple actions now, your B2B company will be in a better position on LinkedIn once vacations end and your employees, prospects and customers are back in full swing for the fall.
Photo Credit: Me
Recently Domino’s Pizza announced that customers will be able to tweet Emoji to order a pizza. Emoji are those little symbols that teens and millennials text, tweet and load up in their Instagram comments.
Lots of people missed the real point about this announcement. It is not about Emoji. It is about serving existing customers. Not only do you need to be an existing customer for the Emoji tweet to work, but you need to have a standard order saved with your account. This means that this is more than a system designed to meet their customers online. It was designed to serve only their best customers. The ones that order regularly enough to have a standard order.
If you look at the best customers of your B2B company, do you have some that have standard orders? Do these orders have a regular frequency? How do they confirm them? These days it is probably an email. Can you remove some friction and make these orders even easier to place?
When I worked for a small manufacturer in the 1990s we required that all orders came in via fax. We needed a paper copy of each order and we were discouraging telephone orders. The fax copy served this purpose and it had a signature. This did not change when email came into the picture. For a while we still required the hardcopy fax. We did eventually move to email ordering and it made life much easier for everyone. Not only did we have a paper copy, but we had a digital copy too. But more importantly, it was a lot easier for our customers.
Do you know what percentage of your customers have smart phones? Do you know how many would be willing to place orders if you removed the friction? According to an IDG global mobile survey, 92% of senior executives own a smart phone and 77% report using it to research a product or service for their business. Most use a laptop or desktop to make their purchase, with 45% citing security concerns of the mobile web and 43% noting the lack of a mobile-friendly website.
And if you take this one step further and think about a Twitter order. Do you know how many of your regular customers are on Twitter? Let’s ignore the marketing problem of that question and examine the steps of the process:
- Your customer enters a standard order that can be shipped or invoiced based on a tweet.
- Your customer authorizes certain Twitter accounts to place these orders.
- You and your customer agree on the text of the tweets. These don’t have to be Emoji. They can be text. Since Twitter is a public network, your customer will want to mask their order a little bit. And note that this process only works if it is already known that your customer buys from you.
- You establish a confirmation response, whether through Twitter or another means. You can establish a separate Twitter account to automatically respond when the order is processed.
This becomes like an automated subscription service, but with a manual trigger that happens to be public. Maybe you are selling 500,000 bolts to a manufacturer every month. Due to a slight production slowdown, they need their next shipment in 33 days instead of 30 days. This can help them easily manage that delay of just a few days.
A benefit of a program like this is some social proof. Having companies order from you in public becomes another form of a socially-promoted customer testimonial.
This is not just for products. Service companies can consider a system like this where existing customers regularly renew monthly service agreements based on their needs.
Share why an approach like this would work or would not work for your B2B company either in the comments below or on Twitter.
Even if your B2B company has been posting to social media sites for some time, it is always a good idea to review your activities to make sure you are getting maximum engagement from your followers. Below are five considerations that can help everyone from the beginner to the seasoned veteran.1. Post at the right time
Make sure you are posting to your social media profiles at a time when your customers and prospects frequent those sites. In most cases you might find that B2B buyers will show up on weekdays from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon, thus making this an optimal time for posting messages. Still, every B2B company has its own target time frame, so make sure you pay attention to when your audience is posting in response to your messages and when traffic increases.2. Add calls to action
You can add calls to action to your individual social media posts to encourage prospects to learn more about what you have to offer. Your posts should give B2B buyers the opportunity to raise their hands and express interest in your products or services. The best way to do that is to make a compelling offer that will drive them to a landing page on your website. Usually they will need to exchange their contact information for the offer. These offers can be a mix of things that generate awareness at the top of the funnel and things that help drive consideration. Sometimes it can also entail telling a prospect why a particular offer is more appealing than something else. In other cases it might involve telling a B2B buyer why the product or service in your offer is so important. Anything that can be used as a call to action will be worthwhile for your marketing plans.3. Keep from being overly personal
While you might have lots of friends that follow your B2B company on your social media profiles, you should treat your page as a business-first spot. You need to avoid posting too much personal information. Focus on posts that are relevant to what your business is doing right now and what it has to offer your customers.4. Take risks
Sometimes you’ve got to take a few risks in order to go places. You might want to take some small risks that will cause your B2B company to look more appealing. Don’t be afraid to post funny videos that are relevant to your customers and prospects. This could be your chance to break out of the “boring B2B” mold. The odds are people will see the human side of your business.5. Get special guests
Consider adopting the idea of the celebrity takeover on your social media profiles. Identify influencers from your industry, or even subject matter experts from within your B2B company. Customers and prospects are more likely to engage with these industry stars during the takeover. There is really no limit to who you can tap for this purpose, and it can even become a regular feature of your social media profiles.
If you follow these reminders for how to post and interact on your social media channels, you will create more engagement with your B2B prospects and customers, especially if you can drive them to your landing pages or website.
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Let’s face it; B2B buyers are unlikely to take you seriously unless you’re a big-name brand or they’ve heard about you from an independent source, for example through a recommendation on a social network. Unless you’re Google, Apple or you happen to know the buyer’s cousin, you might as well not exist, right? Wrong. You can establish B2B thought leadership and build awareness through a smart content marketing campaign.
You’ve likely read blog posts explaining how to establish thought leadership in 10 Easy Steps or other such nonsense. But establishing real thought leadership, the kind that can position you as a trusted source (and one worth buying from), isn’t some kind of cheap parlor trick. Content marketing takes work. With so many B2B brands out there clamoring for the sacred status of “thought leader,” you’ve got to go the extra mile with your content marketing if you want to position yourself as a truly trustworthy and authoritative B2B brand.
According to Michael Brenner, former VP of Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP, in an article for Forbes, “thought leadership is simply about becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.”
Rather than push out half-baked content that’s merely trying to give the impression that you’re an authority in your field, you need to actually acquire the necessary knowledge and provide B2B buyers with purposeful, practical advice. In doing so, you’ll build trust and develop a relationship that could eventually lead to a sale. This is what real thought leadership is about &mdash knowing your topic extremely well and pushing out informed, creative content.2. Do your homework
Do you know what pains your B2B buyers? You better if you hope to make any sales. B2B buyers will be more likely to engage with you if they feel comfortable with you and see that you’ve spent the time to get to know the kind of problems they deal with on a daily basis. It should not seem like you’re simply pushing them to buy your product.
Thought leaders are perceived as being entrenched in the pains that exist in the market, and that’s not something you can fake. You’ve got to spend ample time getting to know your B2B buyers’ pain points, by speaking with end users, reading relevant content, and attending industry events.
Spend the time getting to know the pain points of your B2B buyers and the content you produce will be more informed and more likely to make a positive impression on your buyers.3. Think outside the box
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with your B2B buyers’ pain points, it’s time to hit them with content that demonstrates your knowledge of said points. As mentioned above, it’s not as easy as spending millions of dollars (as if that were easy to begin with.) It comes down to creativity.
Your competitors are likely pumping out blog posts and e-books to establish thought leadership themselves. The Internet is practically clogged with this kind of content. If you want to stand out in the sea of would-be thought leaders, you’ll have to go a step further with your content. What this looks like (or sounds like) depends on your brand and its unique place in the market, but you can do it if you put in the time and effort.
What can you say that others haven’t said? How can you solve a problem no one else has been able to solve? Again, you’ll be better prepared to create more original content if you’re knowledgeable about the buyers’ pain points.4. Be a presence
You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind?” That certainly applies to B2B brands trying to establish thought leadership on the web.
Once you’ve amassed a content arsenal, it’s time to get it out there. By strategically placing your content throughout the web &mdash on popular content marketing blogs, YouTube, podcasts, social media, online magazines, etc. &mdash you’ll start gaining more recognition.
The more B2B buyers see your name, the more they’ll think “Hey, I see this brand’s name out there all the time. They seem to understand me.” Just make sure that your content is honest, smart and helpful. Visibility is important, so long as what’s being seen is top-notch stuff. Remember, quality over quantity.5. Don’t Take Shortcuts with Your Content Marketing
Content marketing isn’t something you can “hack” or do in “just fifteen minutes a day!” It takes a concerted effort on your part and a willingness to really learn the pain points of your B2B buyers. By becoming an actual thought leader, as opposed to one solely doing it just for the sale, you’ll create more meaningful content and, in turn, will be more likely to have a more comfortable, open conversation with the buyer.
As we all know, word-of-mouth is the best marketing channel there is. Social media gives us the opportunity to create and scale word-of-mouth on a level that was impossible a few years ago. Top B2B companies are already taking advantage of this. According to a 2012 report by the Aberdeen Group, the top B2B firms gained 230% more leads via social media than their competition.
So how does this happen? The process has a few steps:
- Identify why customers love you
- Build a relationship
- Ask for referrals and get them started
- Make it a system
Why do your customers love you? It may be your unique value proposition (i.e. we provide a super simple way to create media clips), or something distinctive about your company (i.e. we provide great customer service).
If you don’t know this, the way to find out is simple. Just ask. Ask your happiest customers why they are so happy with you. Ask them why they love your product and your company. Ask them what drew them to you, and why they are staying.
Make sure you write down as much as possible. You’ll be able to hear directly from customers what keeps them with you, and you’ll use this exact language later.
Now that you know why your happiest customers love you, it’s time to build a deeper relationship with them.2. Build a relationship
When you’re dating, you don’t ask someone to be your boyfriend or girlfriend right away – you build a deeper relationship. And when you’d like a referral, you do the same thing. The goal is to transition from customers to happy customers, and from happy customers to evangelists.
To start, make sure that they’re getting top-notch customer service. Then get them more involved with your company so that they feel an emotional investment in your success. The best two ways to do this are through case studies and testimonials.
In a case study, you would feature the customer and their success using your product. If possible, try to make the case study a longer form piece of content, like a long form interview, a video, or a podcast. This gives your readers more quality content and allows you to spend more time with your customer.
Testimonials are also useful. It’s always good to have testimonials, and they also help build a stronger relationship with a customer. Remember, the more you interact with your customers (within reason), the better the relationship.
One you have case studies and testimonials, feature them on your blog or website. Share it on social media, and invite your customers to do the same. When they do, engage with them and have public, online conversations. This breaks the ice of you talking about your business on social media with the customer. It also makes them feel special, because they were highlighted on your blog and on social media. It’s a win-win.3. Ask for referrals and get them started
After you have established a relationship, directly ask for a referral. At this point, this should be easy. By now you have a long-standing relationship with them, beyond just being a vendor. You have talked to them about why they are happy and what makes them stay, you have ensured they’ve gotten top-notch customer service, and you’ve given them exposure in your blog and in social media. They should be delighted with you, and delighted to do it. If not, you can win them over using the same language they used with you when they said why they loved you.
How you structure the referral program is up to you. There are many different flavors of this. Dropbox has a referral program built into the product – they offered up to 16 GB of storage space for referrals. Many companies have referral programs that are simply discounts for both parties for a certain period of time. Some firms don’t have formal programs, they just ask for customers to refer others as a favor. Figure out what works best for you.
The key to making this work is to make it easy for them and to get them started yourself.
Take the time to create suggested LinkedIn posts, Facebook posts, or Tweets for them. In the suggested posts, use the language that they themselves used to describe you. It will resonate more with them and make them more likely to share it.
When they do share, Like/Retweet it, and engage in (another) conversation with them online.4. Make It A System
You should systematize this process in your company, moving new customers to becoming happy customers to becoming evangelists. In the process you’ll gain insight into your customers, create great content and testimonials, and ultimately, get more referrals.