While many of us are embracing the power of social media marketing in consumer channels, we still have work to do to educate our B2B clients (companies that sell to other companies vs. consumers) on the opportunity. In a recent survey by Satmetrix (provides the NetPromoter Score), 75 percent of B2B companies they work with do not measure or quantify social media. Let’s apply that to my favorite analogy about social media marketing: If you were sitting in a coffee shop and the person next to you was having a conversation about your product or service, would you feel inclined to jump into their conversation if you could? THAT is what social media is about. It’s a conversation about your industry that you have the opportunity to participate in.
I find that B2B businesses struggle with the value of social media marketing for several reasons. Top of the list is: “my clients aren’t on social media,” next to that “legal would never approve,” followed by, “we don’t have the budget or resources to build or run it.” As I have these conversations VERY often, I’ll try to help explain why it might be a great time for you to think about social media and why it really can work for your business.
Most businesses struggle to find value in social media marketing because they didn’t set a goal for why they are there and a plan for how they will be great at it. Just talking to talk does not build a following. You have to define your goals for why you want to expand into social media marketing and build a strategy for how you are going to provide value to your target market. You also must determine where you current customers are, find new ones and hire talent to run your platforms for you you if you do noalready have the resources.
Once you determine your goals and support plan for social media marketing, you then have to create a plan for what you are going to say. Randomly posting – or what we call “shouting” – via social media will not gain you support. What you have to provide is value. Your prospects are looking for solutions and this is your opportunity to help them with their problems. If you are the best in your industry and if you know better than the rest how to fix your customers difficulties, social media can be the channel you use to amplify that conversation.
You have probably heard this before, but content really is king. Providing valuable information in the form of a blog, podcast, video, photo or infographic can be critical to social media success. Creating a voice, sharing great information and solving your market’s problems are the key.
Let’s use an example to demonstrate how this works. Gartner Research™ sells subscriptions and various products to businesses that are interested in technology. Companies utilize Gartner™ to learn more about their industry and stay abreast of new developments (simplified explanation). Understanding the value of a Gartner™ subscription is not an easy sell, so they have implemented strategies on several social media platforms in addition to creating great content (blogs, research, whitepapers) that allow them to connect with their target market on a variety of topics that matter to them and solves their problems. They distribute this information via Facebook (13,800 likes), Twitter (96,623 followers) and LinkedIn (25,667 followers). Not only do they distribute their own content, they also provide valuable general industry updates, events and even share links to other sources of information. They are helping their target market get the answers they need.
What is important in this example is Gartner’s products are very specific to a very specific industry and client. Their sales are highly consultative due to the expense and various levels of service, but by utilizing social media they broke down the first level of introduction. They have tens of thousands of people that care about what they have to say that have networks of people that probably care too. That’s the power and magnitude of great social media.
Have you heard your sales team say, “Our products are way too complicated and expensive to sell over the internet?” While your sales process might be very high touch traditionally, you might be very pleased to learn that social media can be just as effective and often much less expensive. Remember, social media is a two-way conversation. If potential clients are in the diligence and learning phase, there is a lot to be gained pre-close through online, informal conversations.
Whether your goals are new clients, customer service, building your brand, new markets or promotions, social media can be a very valuable way to expand your company in new ways.
Photo credit: Flickr user Jason Howie. Used with permission through Creative Commons.