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Grow Your B2B Audience by Considering Size, Engagement and Value

Social Media B2B - Thu, 2014-04-17 07:00

Jeffrey K. Rohrs is the Vice President of Marketing Insights at ExactTarget, a salesforce.com company, and the author of the new book, Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans & Followers. I had the chance to talk to him about the importance of audience development in B2B marketing and how this idea needs to be considered as a crucial part of achieving success across social media, email and more.

What’s the premise of your book Audience?

Lots of people say every company is a publisher. Every company is a broadcaster. And we’ve seen some companies really embrace that quite well, and do some wonderful things through content marketing.

But what’s been gnawing at me for a while is that I go to a lot of the content marketing shows, and I hear people speak about what they’re doing in content marketing, and they have what I call Audience Assumption Disorder.

They think their beautiful, well-thought-out content; their wonderful ebooks; and their tremendous videos are just automatically going to get traffic. And it reminds me very much of the early days of website development, where people had that “build it and they will come” mentality. That’s simply no way to build traffic.

The days of “built it and they will come” never really existed in the internet, and yet people continue to operate under that assumption. So what I’m trying to do with Audience is reflect on my experience with email, mobile, and social, and boil it down into some thinking that parallels the growth of content marketing.

Newspapers and magazines have editorial, but then they have a nice wall, and over on the other side of the wall is audience development and circulation. And that’s true of broadcasting as well. There are people who are constantly thinking about how they can bring more people to the table so that when we do have content, they’re going to consume and share and amplify.

And right now, if you look across marketing organizations, you really don’t have audience development professionals, even though every single part of marketing is very dependent on audiences. These are audiences that we can build through email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, SMS and contests.

All these channels are siloed because as each new channel came around, you developed a tactical approach to it. How are we going to leverage this? Are we going to leverage this? I call it the Pre-cambrian period of marketing, where we had this explosion of all of these new, evolved states of direct communication in the last five to ten years.

After dust settles on all of these new channels and we know what we should do from a tactical and a strategic standpoint, there’s going to be a rise in new responsibility, and that is audience development. Without audience, content is a tree falling in the forest with nobody to hear it. And without content, the audience has nothing to consume and engage with, and doesn’t develop loyalty or interest in the brand.

So this duality of content and audience is very intriguing to me. Content marketing is still at its early stages of development. And you have great folks proselytizing out there, like Joe Pulizzi and Jay Baer and Ann Handley, but there’s nobody similarly carrying the torch of audience development.

And therefore we’ve been left to siloed responsibilities, where you have people who are in charge of email marketing, and in the back of their mind — or maybe it’s their third or fourth or fifth responsibility, they’re supposed to grow the email audience. But they often don’t have any influence across all of the different marketing tactics that they could use to grow the email audience.

The same is true with social media. It gets a little bit more traction because it’s visible in public how many fans and followers you have, so there is a little more top-line focus on audience growth. But across all these channels, growth is really a three-dimensional kind of object. It has size, both in terms of absolute number and quality and caliber of the data.

The second is engagement, which is always so touchy-feeling in social media. But what it means in terms of audience growth is you actually have an audience that’s paying attention, and ready to pay attention the next time you have something important to say.

And the third part is value. We measure the value, or ROI, of these channels focused on campaigns, instead of saying, “What is the aggregate value of this audience on an annualized basis?” If you look at your audience in terms of what it brings you over a non-audience member, for example, a customer versus a customer who’s an email subscriber, you start to see the value of that audience as an asset.

And it’s that asset-based mentality towards proprietary audience development that marketers need to develop. We can’t just look at the individual ROI. We can’t be so tactically focused all the time. We need somebody who’s looking horizontally across all of the different audiences as their focus. This role develop into a director, or a senior director, or a VP level of audience development.

You need to look out across every single channel and understand which channels produce the best audiences in terms of value. And then maximize what you’re doing across all those different channels to grow those audiences by those three dimensions of size, engagement and value.

B2B marketers approach social content, and even all of their marketing, from a persona-based perspective. How does the idea of personas layer on top of this view of audience development?

What I see is that your persona-based development now has to take place with consideration of where those personas live and what they are willing to do to become a part of your audience. When you’re thinking about creating your persona for Jamie, a small business owner and mother of two, or Bill, the 20-something Millennial who’s unattached and has a decent income, you’re not just thinking about their interests, their income level and where they live. You’re also thinking about where do they live in the virtual world, and what are the channels that they’re willing to engage with brands through. That becomes an important part of the development of the actual persona, which then translates into which channels you should prioritize in order to build those direct relationships, and build these audiences and assets.

That’s a perfect world scenario, because if you develop your personas absent an understanding of the channels they live in, then you’re apt to have some inefficiencies in your paid advertising and your owned media efforts. You’re also not going to get as much earned media out of it, because you’re perhaps chasing them in the wrong places.

So relative to B2B folks, it’s a matter of making sure your personas are also looking at what types of channels they’re looking at. The kneejerk reaction with B2B is to say, “Oh, well, you should consider LinkedIn.” Which is very, very true. But those personas may deal in some places where you might find that Facebook’s going to have some interests for you on maybe the HR employee development side of things. Twitter’s going to have certain implications for you beyond just your advocates and influencers. Instagram could have an amazing place in the world for certain personas.

Jay Baer cited the Maersk Shipping Company in his book, Youtility. Look at what they’ve done with photography, these giant vessels, and explaining what their industry is. And out of the woodwork come folks who really appreciate that industry and are willing to share it in what are ostensibly personal social networks like Facebook, as opposed to just professional ones like LinkedIn.

So I think my bottom line is to make sure that your persona is taking into consideration the channels through which your audiences are willing to have those two-way communications with you.

How does a content-based call to action sit alongside the idea of overall audience development?

This brings up the larger question of how large your audience needs to be so that you actually get results of people taking that action.

The first thing is that you really need to take a step back and decide, are we investing as much time in audience development and distribution as we should be relative to content creation?

You’ve got a lot of companies who have it upside-down, who are out there creating content, creating content, creating content, and they’re not measuring results efficiently to understand that they might be creating the most beautiful content in the world, but they’re influencing such a small percentage of the available broader audience out there that their efforts would be much better directed towards more efficient activities.

This is called the Audience Imperative. We need to use our paid, owned and earned media to not just sell in the short-term but to increase the size, engagement and value of our proprietary audiences over the long-term. So the content is a carrot at the end of the stick. It certainly does attract people to us. But it often attracts three types of audiences: seekers, amplifiers, and joiners.

Data often attracts seekers. It attracts people who are looking for information or entertainment. But those are temporal audiences. They’re there. They’re gone. Once they get entertained or they find information, they leave. We know these people as Google searchers. We know them as television viewers, radio listeners, window shoppers.

The amplifier audience is the one that we most closely associate with social media. It really is just any sort of word of mouth. Social media just technologically enables word of mouth.

But again, with amplifiers, they don’t have to have a relationship with you. They can be there, and they can be gone in a split second of a retweet. They see some sentiment that they like and they retweet it. Somebody who follows them retweets that. They’re an amplifier. So they’re an audience of yours. They’re an amplifier of yours. But you have no relationship with them.

So with both seekers and amplifiers, we should be looking to convert them over to the joiners. The ultimate joiner, of course, is a customer.

Short of that, we’ve got these subscribers and the followers, and all these different types of channels that have different expectations and needs. And job number one of marketing is to make the sale, but one of our jobs now is to get more out of what we do with paid, owned and earned media. That means we need a secondary call to action, or in some instances a primary call to action, to join our audiences.

And that way, the next time you go out with content, you’ve got a bigger audience to impress. Content marketers don’t have the kind of collaborative relationship that they need with email, mobile, and social teams who are managing these very siloed audiences.

This is why I think there’s going to be a director of audience development at some point, because that becomes the person who is the peer to whomever is in charge of content marketing, and those who work hand in glove to say, “All right, how am I going to get you a bigger audience?”

That might mean advertising. It may be that I go over to the brand folks and say, “That ad you’re about to run, just having our logo at the end isn’t sufficient. I want you to have a really clear call to action to come join us on this site. Follow us, or subscribe, or what have you.”

Those conversations will start off the org chart conversations among people who understand this. Content marketing will play a really important role. Email and social media play an important role.

And out of that we begin to understand that if we’re truly going to appreciate and build our audience as assets, we need a leader of audience development. We need a person who can think about this. And it’s only going to benefit the content marketers, because they are going to get broader distribution.

Work in B2B? LinkedIn Can Supercharge Your Personal Brand

Social Media B2B - Thu, 2014-04-10 07:00

Employees at B2B companies know that LinkedIn is the B2B network. It can meet a host of individual and business objectives such as increasing awareness, enhancing SEO, driving website traffic, dripping on prospects and lead generation.

In 2004, when I was running digital marketing for a financial services company, one of my project managers told me he had joined LinkedIn. I asked him what it was. His answer? It’s kind of a digital rolodex that connects people. I didn’t really get it at the time but since I was the guy in charge, and supposed to be leading the digital efforts, how could I not join?

Well, a decade later, I am a believer. LinkedIn is more like a rolodex on steroids and then some.

I’ve used it for all of the things mentioned above, but today I’ll focus on a couple of my favorite tips which helped me become one of LinkedIn’s top 1% most viewed profiles and will help you to supercharge your personal brand.

Start Them Up With Your Summary

Your summary is the first piece of content your profile visitors will see. It’s where you can clearly differentiate yourself from others in your field. What you do in your profession are table stakes. For example, a financial advisor will typically help clients save for retirement, or create financial plans to increase wealth. If every advisor in town does the same thing, how does one rise above the rest? That’s where the summary comes in.

Think of your summary as the place to tell your story. Not in a static resume kind of way, as that’s what the rest of your profile is for, but in a more dynamic and engaging manner. Start by considering simple questions beyond who you are and what you do. What do you stand for? What have you done that’s cool, fun or different? How can you showcase your personality? And why would someone care? Consider what you write as the value proposition of your personal brand. Your value prop separates you from everyone else, so use that to pique your profile visitor’s interest and generate immediate interest in you.

Before you finalize it, consider your keywords. That’s right. Not unlike your website, consider the keywords you want people to find you with – not only via LinkedIn searches, but web searches. Search engines pay attention to LinkedIn profiles and using them as indicators of relevance so choose those keywords carefully and you’ll enhance both your search engine optimization (SEO) and your awareness generation efforts.

Stay Top of Mind with Status Updates

Businesspeople are starting to use the status update feature but there is plenty of room for more. In fact, LinkedIn is allowing people like you and me the opportunity to blog on LinkedIn as another form of status updates.

Status updates appear on the home page of your connections and group members. They can be shared, liked and commented on which will expand your reach even further. Your updates will get noticed if you post enough relevant and engaging content.

To be successful, begin with a content strategy. Decide what you want to post based on your value proposition and what you want to be known for. You can post original content, share other content, curate content – there are a lot of ways to do it, just choose what’s best for you.

I’m a content curator. I research content every day to source content that my network and prospects will find interesting. I schedule my posts a day in advance using HootSuite, and post every two hours starting at 7:00 am. I chose this schedule based on research I did about when my prospects are online and engaging with content. Though I may not get as many views and shares as Jeff Weiner or Richard Branson, I know my content is seen, as I’ll have people stop me in the supermarket asking to chat about something I shared.

Increase awareness, stay relevant, and support your brand with status updates.

What else have you done to supercharge your personal brand on LinkedIn?

8 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Marketing Video

Social Media B2B - Tue, 2014-04-01 07:00

A recent Animoto survey revealed that 73% of adult consumers are more likely to buy a product or service after seeing an online video that explains it. B2B companies should take note of this survey too, since online video can help support a business’s overall content marketing plan.

Here are tips for using online video the right way for your business:

1. Keep it short


Internet users are, by and large, an impatient group. They want to get in, consume your information and move on as quickly as possible. Keep your videos limited to three minutes or less in order to engage users right then and there. Research also shows that that users are apt to give up on an online video if it doesn’t load within two seconds. Shorter videos will take less time to load and keep eyeballs on your content.

2. Break up longer posts into multi-part series

Take a note from television: leave a cliffhanger at the end of each of your video installments. Breaking up your content into shorter pieces that form a larger series not only helps your content marketing plan by generating more pieces of content, but it also gives users a reason to come back to your site. You can promote your multi-part series just like an entertainment brand does by setting a launch date for your next installment and using your social media presence to promote it before it “airs.”

3. Use inserts

Cutting away from the main action (such as a speech or presentation) to show what the speaker is referring to is called adding an “insert” (because you’re “inserting” content into your scene). If the speaker in your video is referring to something that you can easily show (such as a slide from the presentation behind the podium or a reference to something that would be helpful for the viewer to see), use your software to include that image. The experience will flow more smoothly for your viewer and your video will appear to be seamless.

4. Use title cards

In your video editing software, create title cards that you use at the beginning and end of your video with your business name, logo, website and a call to action. Viewers who are interested in your content might want more, and a title card will help them remember your business name and your company’s visual branding.

5. Create uniformity

Continuity is part of building a strong brand. This extends to your video content marketing plan as well. Your videos should look similar in production value, open and close title cards or even use the same person to deliver information from video to video.

6. Share your contact information

Use your video as a filter to obtain your user’s contact information post play. Displaying company website, social media channels or even a toll free number will provide a way for interested viewers to contact you. The information you receive will be pre-associated with warm sales leads because these users are ones who are invested enough in what you have to offer to exchange their information for it. Use your video as a way to grow your mailing list, social networks and overall outreach.

7. Check audio issues

Don’t waste time creating video content that no one will want to watch. People will quickly abandon video with poor quality sound so invest in a good microphone system (with an additional clip-on mic). If your business doesn’t have a dedicated audio/video department, you’ll have to do a sound check yourself before you begin to record your content.

8. Edit out the mistakes

No one wants to watch video with dead air, a host who stumbles on their words or any other technical glitches. Using simple video editing software like iMovie, Pinnacle Studio Plus or Animoto, edit out any mistakes you’d rather the public didn’t see before you post it.

Quality online video can give an added boost to your B2B content marketing plan. Be sure to follow the steps above and you’ll soon see deeper engagement with your content that can lead to social shares and new business leads.

Photo credit: Flickr

3 Actionable Items B2B Marketers Can Take to the Bank

Social Media B2B - Wed, 2014-03-19 07:00

B2B marketers need tactics that can move the needle on business growth. Below are three very actionable marketing tactics that can drive that growth. They will lead to more conversations (because you love people), more deals (because you love to see opportunities), and more money (because that’s what makes a business run).

Marketing is being held more and more accountable for top line growth. It’s critical that your tactics drive conversations, opportunities and dollars. Focus on these things that you can take to the bank and watch the dollars flow.

1. Double down on what’s working

Start by understanding what is working. Do not add anything new before knowing what’s working. Then double down on it. I frequently see businesses trying new things, but there’s nothing better than doubling down on what’s already working. Whether it is blog content, social media interaction, webinars or events, you need to double down on those marketing activities that are working well for you.

You should already be measuring each marketing channel that you operate. Take a look at your top three channels, look at your budget and put more into them. This might mean that you have to pause another initiative lower on the list.

2. Support your sales team by creating marketing they can give away

I know the sales process. I’ve lived it, worked in it and won with it for a decade. It’s a process that constantly includes give and take with the prospect. Seek to understand your business’ sales process (especially places in the process where they are asking for things) and find places where you can provide content of value that they can use to keep the prospect engaged. Arming them with ebooks, white papers, cost calculators that can be helpful can shift the perception of your brand.

As the buying cycle gets longer, there needs to be more in your arsenal to give to the prospect as they progress through the buying cycle. Your sales team should be doing plenty of asking to discover these opportunities.

3. Clearly communicate why you exist.

If your marketing collateral does not clearly state why your brand exists, then you must change that. This is the vision, the purpose, the “why” of your brand. Four things will result from this clear communication.

  1. Existing clients who currently buy from you may share other needs that you can fulfill (oh look – more conversation, more deals and more money).
  2. You will see an increase in prospects that have a higher degree of trust in the brand (people trust people and brands that believe what they believe).
  3. The number of prospects that take up more of your time in your sales cycle will go down (well, people who don’t believe what you believe will not trust you and this will increase your cost to acquire them). It is often overlooked that these customers have a higher retention cost.
  4. But what about those folks who don’t necessarily agree with you, but also don’t disagree with you? This is a wonderful group for you. They will engage with your brand. They will challenge you to clarify what you believe in. You may even convince them to believe what you believe and help them discover their path in life. (this one gets deep).

These actionable items will help your B2B business grow, so you can visit the bank more often.

Photo credit: Flickr

I Went to a B2B Trade Show, Was Underwhelmed by Your Presence and Kept Walking

Social Media B2B - Mon, 2014-03-17 07:00

B2B companies make products to solve problems and make their customers’ lives better or easier. B2B service organizations help customers run their businesses more efficiently or more cost effectively. These are noble causes. Sure, if we are successful at it, we make money, but a business product that doesn’t add value to the business is not worth considering.

And social media doesn’t help this problem.

If you have a bad product or service, social media provides both an outlet for frustrated customers and the means to amplify the message further.

So let’s assume that you have an awesome product that solves problems, a great team to provide services, and even a great sales staff to explain the value proposition and close deals. With all that awesomeness in mind, take a look at your trade show presence.

Really take a look at it.

Are you telling a compelling story? Are you enticing prospects to stop by and chat about your great products and services?

Or are you giving away pens and hard candy? Maybe you have progressed to give away squeeze balls in the shape of the world. Maybe you made enough of them that it is in the shape of your logo. These are perfect for the conference attendees who need a gift for their children. I know it has always worked for me. Even as a teenager my daughter still loves kitschy trade show giveaways.

And don’t even get me started on collecting business cards, scanning badges and any other means of gathering leads. “I just need a business card to give you one of those squeeze balls.” What’s the follow-up plan for those leads? Gathering dust on the sales manager’s desk?

Are you building awareness at the top of the funnel? Are you qualifying prospects or are you just trying to hit a metric that someone else imposed on the marketing team?

How about sending them an email newsletter or your latest ebook? It’s better than many of the emails I get. “Thanks for stopping by our booth. Did we tell you how awesome we are while you were there? Can we schedule a phone call with our junior level inside sales person to remind you how awesome we are?” This is not a follow-up plan. This is spam. And nobody will respond.

This is what happens when your only trade show metric is gathering leads rather that acquiring qualified prospects. And it is obvious to everyone who walks by your booth.

Here are 5 tips to change the outcome of your next trade show:

1. Adapt your personas for the trade show audience to make sure you present the correct message to the onsite audience.

2. Focus on qualified prospects as a metric of success, not raw lead numbers.

3. Don’t bother giving away something with no connection to your business that provides no value.

4. Create a true follow-up plan with a timeline, prepared emails and phone scripts and areas of responsibility.

5. Enhance your trade show presence with social media by posting and sharing content resources before, during and after the event to provide value to all attendees, but especially your targeted prospects.

Photo credit: Flickr

3 Ways Your B2B Content Can Provide the Most Value

Social Media B2B - Thu, 2014-03-13 07:00

Most of us wouldn’t give a friend or relative a highly flattering portrait of ourselves as a gift. Yet, B2B marketing organizations and marketing agencies do it all the time on social media and in other marketing communications. They push out self-promoting content about their brand, news, successes, or participation in industry events. You don’t have to go any further than the nearest press release to find examples of this self-serving marketing prose. Has anyone ever described themselves as anything other than a leader, an innovator or an industry disrupter?

The fact is that we know what makes a good personal gift, but we sometimes fail to put that knowledge to work in our marketing.

1. Understand What Content People Care About

Content is based on an understanding of what’s important to others, what interests them, what they care about. To do that you have to listen. In B2B marketing, one thing that fills the lead and demand generation pipeline is content that gives your audiences insight and information on the subjects they care about.

On top of your regular social media engagement, you can go one step further to connect with your buyers by following industry forums, blogs, interest groups and webcasts where they also share content. For example, IT.Toolbox.com does a fantastic job of not only understanding their IT audience, but engaging them with the right content. You can find blogs, research and discussion groups ranging from topics like technology trends and business intelligence to storage and security hardware. Content is available in real-time to stay relevant and engaging, while providing insight into industry behavior and patterns.

2. Make Your Content a Gift That Gives Continual Value

Give people content they can use long after their initial visit. After a lead becomes a buyer, valuable content will keep them engaged. Cisco Communities is a great example of how you can provide a wealth of buyer-generated content around trends, implementation and performance tuning. Help your buyers share what delivers results for them.

One organization found that its Facebook posts generated more interest and followers when it provided tips on using social media effectively, than by simply announcing product marketing news. Everyone wants to know where technology is going, so start a conversation. Ask “what, why and how” questions. Give your audience direct links to industry research and to the thought leaders who are talking about tomorrow’s technology.

Promote others’ relevant content, including that of your industry’s thought leaders. Find out who the thought leaders are in your industry and what they’re talking about. For example, searches in Cisco Communities not only include Cisco’s own product marketing content, but content from other partners and interest-based communities as well. Cisco even provides a filter so visitors can get to that non-Cisco content directly.

3. Be Surprising

People love a surprise. One sure-fire way to surprise people these days: give them content without asking for something in return – their personal information or an offer to chat now. Highlight your buyers’ successes, even when it has nothing to do with your solution. Offer an unexpected additional service or a one-time upgrade at no charge.

Stepping outside the “just business” zone can also favorably surprise your audience. Find out what community service organizations your top buyers support and get involved. Rotary International is one organization with a long track record of proven success at building business by building goodwill. Work with them, or a similar organization, and share what you are doing.

In a nutshell, your content strategy is all about giving content “gifts” that raise your value in the eyes of your buyers. Differentiating your brand isn’t only about your product marketing. It’s also about how you engage with your buyers: Understanding what they care about, reaching out to them wherever they are, supplying content with ongoing value, and, finally, surprising them with unexpected value.

What are some ways your content has given great value? Share what you’ve done in the comments below.

The preceding post is inspired by my podcast interview with Rishi Dave, former Executive Director of Digital Marketing at Dell.

Photo credit: Flickr

Increase B2B Traffic and Reach with a LinkedIn Blog

Social Media B2B - Thu, 2014-02-20 15:54

LinkedIn has long been the place where B2B marketers could build a professional network, create an online resume and share compelling content with that network. As part of LinkedIn’s content marketing push, they launched the Influencer program to bring top quality content from thought leaders across multiple industries into the platform. And they picked who could participate. And they worked with editors.

Now that this program is well established, LinkedIn is opening their platform up to all members. This doesn’t mean you and I can become part of the Influencer program. It doesn’t mean that you will instantly become a thought leader. It does mean that you can now blog on the LinkedIn platform and have it associated with your profile. Following will now become part of the regular vocabulary on LinkedIn. Someone can follow your posts without asking your permission to connect.

Create a Plan to Drive Traffic

Now matter how starry-eyed you become about the potential, and I mean potential and not real, reach of these blog posts, you should create a plan that still drives readers back to a site you own, like a company blog or web site. LinkedIn is still a platform that you cannot control. As they roll out this platform, things will change.

Write Unique Content

Your plan needs to focus on great content. If you really want to make an impact on LinkedIn look at the popular Influencer articles and see what resonates with professionals. There are no cat videos or list-based articles. It’s a look of good, solid advice that appeals to a general audience, but with a focus on careers, business growth, technology and entrepreneurship. Don’t syndicate your content between your blog and LinkedIn. Create unique posts for LinkedIn and offer more on your own blog. If your LinkedIn posts are general, your content on your blog can be a bit more specific and focused on your prospects.

Include Calls-to-Action

Have you seen what many of the influencers do on their posts? Subscribe to my blog. Follow me on Twitter. Sign up for my newsletter. While this overload of actions can cause readers to do nothing, the idea is still sound. Blog posts need calls-to-action. A connection to stay informed about future posts or activities is fine. Connecting them to another post you have published is great. Driving them to a landing page to download additional content works too. View these posts as above the top of your funnel and think how can you convert them with content and identify those who are prospects.

Use the Platform to Grow Your Reach

Posts will show up on your personal profile, so make sure you share them on the company page and within any active groups. Ask your colleagues, partners and customers to share these posts on their LinkedIn profiles (and other social channels) to get more reach on LinkedIn. There may be a most popular posts, like the Influencers have, so it will be beneficial to get lots of views on your posts. And don’t forget that you can tag people in updates that include a link to the post to make them aware of it, but don’t go overboard. You can also follow others and they may see you followed them. Until this is fully rolled out, we don’t know the complete functionality.

Share Your Unique Posts on Other Platforms

Each LinkedIn post has its own URL, which means you can share these posts on Twitter, Facebook and any other platforms where your prospects spend their time. You can even include them in an email newsletter to drive more traffic to them.

What are you thinking about the new blogging platform embedded in LinkedIn? Are you working on that plan yet?

7 Ways Your Sales Team Can Get Results with B2B Social Media

Social Media B2B - Thu, 2014-02-20 08:00

Are your salespeople actively engaged in social media as part of their lead generation efforts? If not, they (and your business) are missing out on great opportunities for researching potential B2B clients, building new networks and uncovering prospects by investigating their social media profiles.

Here are ways to encourage your sales team to embrace social media:

1. Direct your salespeople to refine their profiles

Start by making sure they have social media profiles on the appropriate channels. The marketing team can help determine where your customers and prospects those platforms. Their profile pages need to attract potential customers. While including the basics on an individual salesperson, the profile should mostly focus on your business and the solutions you offer to prospects. Also include videos, PDFs and links to your business website in these profiles.

2. Schedule time for focused social media activity

It takes discipline to use social media properly (and avoid wasting time watching cat videos!). Work with your sales team to plot out a schedule of focused activity on various social media networks, whether it’s a half-hour a day or 2-3 times a week.

3. Generate content your sales team can use

Back in the day, salespeople handed out brochures or fliers to interest prospects. Today, it’s all about customized content marketing. So it’s up to you to ensure your salespeople can refer prospects to first-rate, problem-solving content on your business website. Not only will this draw more traffic to your site, it also supports the sales team’s efforts to position your business as an industry and thought leader.

4. Promote sales blogging

It’s no longer enough to feature a blog post from your CEO or CMO. Members of your sales team should also be blogging and steadily building a rich network of followers. Encourage team members to think about new ways to focus on prospects’ needs and business challenges by answering common questions that prospects ask in their buyer journey. They should also think and blog more broadly about general industry issues, rather than shilling for your business. Again, focus on solutions your sales team can provide and that will draw more interest from prospects.

5. Keep an active LinkedIn presence

For sales of B2B products and services, LinkedIn is probably the most significant platform for your sales team’s activities. Your individual salespeople’s LinkedIn profiles are the first place a prospect will check out, so as noted above, be sure these are up-to-date and contain the right messaging.

Also, each salesperson should be gathering new LinkedIn connections as frequently as possible. Have them build their network by reaching out to past customers, colleagues in the industry, friends and family members. It’s important to have a robust network of connections as part of your LinkedIn profile.

By joining and participating in LinkedIn discussion groups, salespeople will come in contact with a wide range of potential customers — though it’s important to remember these discussion groups are about specific issues, not a venue for blatant self-promotion. Encourage your sales team to answer questions that demonstrate their problem-solving knowledge. An interested prospect will often follow up on his own.

6. Use Twitter to make connections and follow trends

The businesses and prospects you want to connect with may be tweeting. Shouldn’t you and your sales team be listening? Twitter offers a wealth of opportunities for staying abreast of industry trends, which can in turn help your team anticipate future sales opportunities. Once your salesperson has become comfortable on the platform, he or she can reply individually to a prospect’s tweet, thus initiating a one-on-one exchange which turns a cold lead into a warm one.

7. Have a vibrant Facebook presence

Your business should already have a Facebook page. From there, encourage members of your sales team to create a Facebook group that relates to your business offerings and invite people to join. Once the group starts talking, there’s always an opportunity to send targeted messages to individuals within the group and get the sales process moving forward.

Being active in social media isn’t a substitute for picking up the phone or firing off an email to prospects, but it represents a dramatically different way of cultivating leads and enriching your sales pipeline.

Photo: Flickr

The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing

Social Media B2B - Thu, 2014-02-06 09:00

Our friend Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners has written a lot about the what and the how of B2B marketing, but never the why. In this amazing Slideshare presentation called The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing, and embedded below, he tackles the question of what makes his career in B2B marketing meaningful.

In addition to the ideas expressed, pay attention to the presentation itself. Presented as a notebook with handwritten notes, sketches and more formal type, this comes across as the simple musings of a creative guy (which Doug certainly is). He really captures the right tone and visual style in this piece. And the voyeuristic quality of reading someone else’s notebook makes it even more fun.

The honesty of Doug’s writing really creates a connection with his audience of B2B marketers. While he is working out meaning in his own career, he hopes that it helps others in the field. My favorite line is:

When you were a kid, you never said, “I want to be a B2B marketer when I grow up.”

You definitely need to check out the whole notebook, but here are the seven things that give his work as a B2B marketer meaning:

1. I like helping companies grow.

2. I Like helping our clients achieve success in their careers.

3. I love working alongside talented, engaged, positive people who also love what they do.

4. I love learning new things.

5. I love work that demands creativity.

6. I like honest work that asks me to build a great case for my client.

7. I like figuring out how the business of business works.

The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing from Velocity Partners

Are there other things that give meaning to your career as a B2B marketer?

Break Through the Content Clutter with Cool Infographics

Social Media B2B - Wed, 2014-02-05 08:00

Infographics are key to many B2B companies’ content marketing efforts. Randy Krum is the president of InfoNewt and the author of the new book, Cool Infographics. Featuring over 100 infographic examples, this guide prepares you to create compelling infographics for online marketing, business reports, posters, presentations, and even design your own infographic resume. Randy answered the following questions about the business of infographics.

Data visualizations and infographics have become interchangeable terms to some. What is the difference and why use one over the other?

I often have to define the difference between Data Visualization and Infographics, because when a client asks for an infographic design it’s not always clear what they are requesting. I define the difference like this. Data visualizations are visual representations of data, usually in the form of a stand-alone chart or diagram. Infographics are larger designs that combine data visualizations, illustrations and text together to tell a story. For example, a data visualization chart could be one element of a larger design, as seen in the Could You Be A Failure? Infographic.

How do brands use infographics for storytelling, both within a single infographic and as part of a larger content strategy?

Infographics are a perfect medium for brands to tell the many stories behind their company, products and services. They have the potential to break through the information filters of customers that don’t want to take the time to read product descriptions, product reviews or packaging claims on the shelf. Specifically for brands, they can offer a fast-to-read and easy-to-share story, and visual nature of infographics increases customers’ recall when the time comes to make a purchase decision.

You make a point to say that you can’t just publish an infographic, but you need a launch strategy. Can you describe that?

Publishing an infographic without any promotion or strategy is like a tree falling in the forest when no one is watching. People can’t find or share an infographic online without a successful launch strategy, and it’s disappointing to watch companies publish an infographic online, and then just wait for people to find it. That doesn’t work. In the book I outline my three part Infographic Release Strategy that includes designing the landing page on your website, self-promotion through your existing communication channels and finally outreach to other sites and influencers that have audiences that would appreciate the infographic. This extra effort can exponentially increase the success of an infographic online.

Many B2B companies use content to drive leads. In the book you don’t mention putting an infographic behind a gated lead form. Are there any exceptions where it makes sense to gate an infographic?

I’ve seen a few companies put their infographics behind a form requiring your email address before you can view the infographic, but this doesn’t work in practice. It goes back to the data visualization vs. infographic question you asked earlier. An infographic is meant to be easy to share, and as soon as the first person shares the infographic image in social media, it’s freely available to everyone without completing the form. The nature of infographics also implies quick to read, which is perceived as only a small reward for giving up your contact information. On the other hand, including many good data visualizations within a longer content piece, like a white paper or research report, behind an form can increase the value of the overall piece, and make it more valuable for readers.

One of my pet peeves with infographics is the inconsistency of listing data sources. Can you share best practices for identifying where the data comes from?

Absolutely! This is a pet peeve of mine as well. I recommend designers include links to the original, specific data sources in their infographic designs. The original source may take some research, but the readers are expecting that from an infographic designer. Don’t list the news article or wikipedia entry where you found the information. Instead, track the data back to its original source and include that link as the data source. Also, being specific is just as important. If a designer lists just the home page URL as the data source, that doesn’t help anyone track down the original data on their own. Include the link directly to the specific data so readers can easily access the data on their own.

How has the explosion of mobile affected infographics? Is anyone making it easier to read those really long infographics on a smart phone?

Surprisingly no. I have seen a few attempts at mobile responsive designs, but nothing I would consider to be successful. Data visualizations are being used fantastically within mobile apps, but viewing full infographics on a smartphone is still a challenging process.

We’ve seen animated, interactive and video infographics used on a limited basis. What are some of the pushing-the-envelope trends of infographics? Will we see augmented reality or 3D printed infographics?

We will continue to see experiments with interactive, animated and video infographics as well as other new formats like augmented reality and zooming interfaces. I fully expect the art of infographics to continue to evolve along with the most current interfaces, but infographic image files are still the most successful because they are so simple and easy to share online. As people move towards wearable devices like Google Glass and smart watches, I expect new areas of data visualization to be developed to take advantage of the new displays.

Download Chapter One from Cool Infographics here.

6 Tips for Managing a B2B Crisis Using Social Media

Social Media B2B - Wed, 2014-01-29 08:00

Every B2B company, regardless of size and industry, will encounter the occasional crisis. Whether your company botches a product shipment or endures a network outage that affects the mission-critical software you deliver, your customers will be upset. In times of trouble, B2B companies can find high-dollar contracts at risk and strategic relationships in jeopardy, and these threats can shake an organization to its core.

Social media has raised the stakes when a crisis occurs, given that customers can communicate their dissatisfaction quickly and broadly. If not managed properly, social media can amplify a crisis and severely damage your business before you have even had the opportunity to troubleshoot the problem. But even though sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may make managing a crisis trickier, they can also help you communicate with your customers, demonstrate your commitment to them and bolster your reputation. In fact, a well-managed crisis can not only help you retain customers, but it can lead to new customers and additional deals.

Following are six tips for effectively managing a B2B crisis using social media.

1. Develop a Strategy

Crises emerge without notice and leave little time to do much more than react. To respond in a way that is best for your business and your customers, you must develop a crisis management strategy for social media before issues arise. Take the following steps to develop your plan:

  • Gather your key team members and brainstorm the best strategy for responding in times of crisis using social media.
  • Assign someone to draft the various communications that will be required, and determine what additional review and approval will be needed before they post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other channels.
  • Establish parameters for follow up posts, including how frequently your team will post or tweet updates.
  • Consider using email and your blog to deliver updates.
  • Document your plan.

By the time the meeting is over, your team should fully understand the plan that will be set into motion at the first sign of trouble.

2. Acknowledge the Crisis When it Occurs

At the first sign of a crisis that impacts your customers, quickly gather an understanding of what is happening and set your plan into motion. In your early messages to your audience on traditional and social channels, make sure to communicate what steps you will be taking to resolve the issues, and confirm how frequently they can expect updates.

3. Be Honest and Explicit

Don’t sugarcoat the problems at hand or address them in vague terms. Be honest and explicit, and stand accountable. Social media has ushered in an era of transparency and it is one of the most important values in a crisis. If you receive questions or feedback from customers, respond in a calm, calculated manner to ensure they are aware that you are putting them first and that you understand their needs. All responses in social channels are considered public statements and can easily be shared. Another reason honesty really is the best policy.

4. Keep the Information Flowing

Keep the information flowing, and strive to provide meaningful social media updates according to the schedule and on the platforms that you have established. If there is no new information to report, let your audience know. However, make sure they understand the steps that are being taken. By communicating frequently, and in multiple places, your audience will be confident that you are working as hard as you can to resolve the problems.

5. Apologize and Close the Loop

Once the crisis passes, complete the due diligence needed to understand what caused the problems and create a plan for avoiding similar issues in the future. Once you have this information, craft an apology email or blog post to your customers that provides a full picture of what happened, why it happened, and how you will prevent this from happening in the future. Speak candidly and be direct. This is the stage of the process where you reaffirm your commitment to your customers and the relationships you have with them.

6. Prevent the Same Crisis from Occurring Again

Simply put, don’t make the same mistake again. If you do, you will drive away any of the goodwill that you created through previous crisis management efforts and further damage your credibility. This can prove troubling for existing clients and those considering engaging with your company.

Social media can be your company’s best friend during a crisis, and if used effectively, it can help you provide assurance to existing customers while building your reputation in a way that impresses prospective customers.

What best practices do you use to manage crises through social media?

Which Companies are Totally Nailing B2B Marketing?

Social Media B2B - Wed, 2014-01-22 08:00

B2B marketing can often be dry, stuffy, and an overall snooze fest when not done correctly. Businesses are slowly but surely learning that business-to-business marketing doesn’t have to be all direct mail and incentive promotions. Some companies are actually producing really creative B2B marketing.

So, which companies have totally got this B2B marketing thing down? Let’s take a look.

Salesforce

Salesforce is one of the most well-known B2B products on the market and since part of their business is actually providing social analytics to customers they’d better be good at social themselves. Fortunately, Salesforce really excels on social, particularly on Facebook where they consistently using their header image to promote upcoming events. They also use Facebook to prominently display links to everything from infographics to blog posts.

Demandbase

Demandbase does a really great job of providing (and sponsoring) educational content for B2B readers. Typically using a mixture of slides, white papers, blog posts, and even microsites, Demandbase racks up leads and pipeline every time it releases a new informational program. Their oft-downloaded and entertaining series of webinars doesn’t hurt.

Microsoft

Microsoft has gotten a lot of flack lately for its aggressive marketing in the wake of the disastrous Windows 8 platform, but what they’re really, really good at is bridging the gap between B2B marketing and customer-facing campaigns. For example, the “Children of the 90s” campaign spoke to every millennial who saw it, from consumers to in-house developers at big firms. Reaching the target audience is half the battle and Microsoft’s doing it right.

Sungard

Sungard provides software and IT solutions for a wide variety of situations…kind of boring, yes. But Sungard hit on one of the biggest trends of the year with their “Zombie Apocalypse” campaign that linked their services with the risk of an impending zombie surge. Using an infographic, social campaign, and even an e-book, Sungard made a totally boring concept totally viral. Genius.

Atlas Copco

Atlas Copco is a producer of industrial equipment and they’re revolutionizing the way B2B companies use apps. Utilizing smart phone apps, Atlas offers at-a-touch technical specs, hazardous workplace information, and informational videos for customers to access anytime. The company didn’t just create the content and leave it there – they’re already on the 5th version of the iTunes app because they like to reevaluate and add new content often.

Clippard

You’ve probably never heard of Clippard and that’s because they’re a medical device company specializing in pneumatic actuators. They mixed up the boring trade show booth by creating an actual guitar made out of actuator valves that’s played by air. Get it? An air guitar! Their booth is now the must-see stop of any medical device tradeshow and they get to show off their product while engaging potential customers. That’s what good B2B marketing is all about.

In 2014, B2B marketing will evolve to be more strategy-focused, much like traditional marketing. Companies will have to work harder to cut through the clutter and they’ll increasingly find ways to utilize social media marketing for business-to-business interaction.

Guarantee Your B2B Social Media Marketing ROI in Just 7 Steps

Social Media B2B - Wed, 2014-01-15 08:00

When social media first started gaining traction, CMOs and other B2B marketing heads saw the value of the new marketing channels. Since that time, social media marketing budgets have increased substantially, yet a majority of businesses fail to deliver a quantifiable return on their investment.

What can marketers do to ensure their efforts are generating a true and effective ROI? They can take these seven steps:

1. Know your why and set a goal

This is the critical first step that is needed to explain why an initiative is important enough to spend money on in the first place. State upfront what you are trying to accomplish and why you’re doing it. It’s important to outline clear deliverables such as increasing the number of leads from a source or securing a specific number of email sign ups from a certain initiative, and communicate why it’s important.

2. Identify and target the right audience

Without knowing who the key customers will be, you run the risk of a scattered approach that may dilute your message and drastically increase your costs. Some sample questions to ask yourself to help: who in your current customer base is the right fit for your product or service? Who buys the most and why do they buy? What have they purchased from you before? Do their purchasing patterns suggest they might be a good target?

3. Develop specific content for the audience and determine the correct outlet or channel

Determine the best avenue and media format to communicate your content to an engaging audience. The answer is not typically a one-size-fits all approach. Will video communication work better than written content to better showcase your product? Should you write a 600 word blog post or are 140 character tweets more logical? Do status updates on Facebook make more sense?

4. Allow the product to market itself

Many businesses don’t yet realize it, but providing a great product experience allows customers to determine if your product really fits their needs. One simple way to do this is to offer customers the opportunity to experience the product for free. The freemium strategy of the 21st century has created billions of users and spawned tremendous new business opportunities.

5. Generate brand advocacy

Creating and amplifying advocates should be front and center on every marketer’s agenda. The blueprint for how to turn advocates and owned media into a powerful marketing force is the key. Get your brand on customers’ pages in social media channels and have them share information with their networks about the product or service. This generates word of mouth marketing, which is one of the most effective kinds of marketing.

6. Engage with people on social networks

Too many businesses lack this step too. If your product or service is mentioned on a customer’s social media page, engage with that person. Start a conversation directly with customers – it will make a huge impact of their perception of your product or brand. Engaging with customers on social media is one of the fastest and most effective ways to create brand advocates.

7. Track and analyze your success

Defining and determining a technology solution to track important metrics must be done proactively. You need to know what data you need to show, how to go get it, and then show it simply. There are a variety of services that can help you proactively gauge the impact of your strategy, so that in the end you have a tangible ROI that is defensible in front of any CMO or CEO.

Social media marketing is the biggest opportunity to marketers since the web, and it’s now time to develop a clear strategy, create advocates, and generate leads and sales.

Next time you have to justify your budget to implement a successful social media campaign and provide a tangible ROI, rely on these seven steps to get you there.

Photo: Instagram

5 Ways B2B Companies Can Take Advantage of Facebook

Social Media B2B - Wed, 2014-01-08 08:00

Facebook is a platform used by brands to reach millions of consumers, but don’t discount it for B2B companies. The most commonly used social networking site for many B2B companies is LinkedIn, but Facebook is an easy-to-use option as well.

1. Develop a Strategy

The first way to take advantage of Facebook is to create a content strategy. Instead of planning out how your company will market itself on Facebook, you can plan how you will market across all types of traditional and online marketing, then work Facebook into that plan. This creates marketing materials that are more consistent with the brand image that you want, and also gains more exposure throughout various media, which allows you to reach more people.

2. Keep Things Visual

When prospects look at your company’s Facebook page, your cover photo and the images you share will stand out. The more photographs and other graphics that are on a page, the more scannable it becomes. You can accompany the images with creative captions since prospects are more likely to read a caption on an image versus reading plain text. If your business participates in community events or charity initiatives, consider sharing photos of those on your B2B company Facebook page.

3. Generate Buzz

With Facebook you can build an audience of fans that follow your business and you can try to activate them to take additional action. Some companies spotlight their fans to help them feel more appreciated. Hosting giveaways and offering free or discounted items also helps promote your page and gain more followers. Getting fans to engage with your posts, especially sharing, can get your content in front of their friends.

4. Connect with Your Partners

If any of your partners have Facebook pages, make sure to like their page and ask them to like yours. You might share relevant content or link to their blog posts or other content. This can help build the connection between your business and theirs, and fans of their Facebook page can view your company’s page because of the shared content.

5. Mobile Access

If someone posts a question to your Facebook page on a Friday evening and your staff won’t be back in the office until Monday morning, you may lose a potential customer in the interim. Staying connected during hours that you are closed is crucial in maintaining the constant connection that people have come to expect. Purchase a tablet and assign a staff member to check in regularly. This also improves your company’s customer service, which is a key part of a successful business strategy. With so many avenues for disgruntled customers to voice their opinions, it is best to try to support a good relationship with all of your online fans.

Using Facebook for your B2B relationships is very beneficial to growing and activating your network of customers and prospects. How has your B2B company utilized Facebook?

Why I’m Not Making Any B2B Social Media Predictions for 2014

Social Media B2B - Mon, 2014-01-06 08:00

For the past four years we have shared our predictions about where B2B social media would go in the coming year, but this year I am not going to do it. You can stomp your feet, hold your breath and even throw things in my general direction, but I am just not doing it. When I look back over the predictions for 2010, 2011, 2012 and even 2013 they all pretty much say the same thing: more B2B companies are going to adopt social media practices for their businesses.

Sure, there is more nuance to them than that, but that’s the basic idea. There have been specific predictions over the years that focus on the importance of mobile, social websites, blogging, better metrics, visual content and marketing automation, but at its core, all of the predictions are about greater adoption of social media.

Has this been happening? Yes. Will it continue to happen? Yes.

There are lots of statistics that point to growth in social media spending and commitment towards both content marketing and social media, but there’s nothing surprising or shocking about those statistics. No marketing manager is going to get fired for wanting to spend more of their budget on social media. And it does nobody any good for me to predict that this will happen. We all know it will happen.

The real problem with B2B companies adopting social media is the quality of their results. Many are still in such early stages of activity that signing up for a Twitter account and tweeting press releases allows them to convince someone that they are using social media. This makes it really easy to check a box on a survey to skew the results of adoption. But you, your boss and the executive team at your company will be disappointed in the results from this effort. That’s because there won’t be any results. You might pick up a few followers, but they will be of limited value.

So rather than regurgitate the same feel-good predictions about growing social media adoption, whether based on inaccurate survey data or anecdotal reviews of social media activity of real B2B companies, I would rather provide you, the B2B marketer, with helpful advice. If you need statistics or predictions to make your case, click the links, but if you would rather have some advice on how to be truly successful with social media lead generation for your B2B company, here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  • Who are your prospects?
  • What are their biggest pain points in their business?
  • Can you provide advice to help them solve their business issues?
  • Where do they spend their time online?
  • What are they talking about on line?
  • Who do they respect, follow and retweet?
  • What are the goals and objectives of your company?
  • How does the rest of marketing measure success?
  • Can you align your metrics with other marketing and company activities?

If you are not even to the place where you can ask these questions to begin your social media efforts, here are some B2B social media myths and objections that can get you closer to your own adoption of social media.

Photo credit: Flickr

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