Social media is about selling and can be directly monetized. I understand that this goes in the face of social media purists, but it is true. However, selling happens differently in B2B social media than it does in other channels.
When examining the lack of B2B social media adoption one of the core hurdles I have found is that B2B marketing executives are unsure how to build a lead generation pipeline using social media. Sure, social media lead generation strategy is different for every industry and business, but I would argue that any B2B social media lead generation pipeline shares some basic steps.
1. Understanding Online Analytics
Many people get caught up in much of the “shiny” aspects of the web and forget that its key benefit is data. Individual and companies that can best understand online data and use it to optimize their social media pipeline will be far ahead of the competition. Not only is understanding data from the web key to the development of B2B companies, it is also the first step in establishing a B2B social media pipeline.
Before you start a social media lead generation strategy, it is important to have some types of analytics connected to your Web site. Like man things on the web there are both free and paid web analytic tools that can be installed on your site. Google Analytics is the most popular free version, though services like Woopra and Clicky offer different approaches to web analytics. However, Google provides really good online video that explains analytics and you should watch it even if you don’t use their platform. I have embedded an introductory video that is a good resource for people who don’t understand the data available on the web.
We aren’t done with analytics yet. One major mistake that is easy to make is the assumption that you are covered as long as you have a way to collect data on your corporate Web site. In the world of the social web data, and subsequently lead generation, is possible across the web. Looking at analytics could be an entire post in itself, and maybe it will be. But it is important to have analytics across social platforms, even if it is simple data collection tools like Bit.ly for Twitter and the built-in Facebook data provided for Fan pages. Data from across the web allow you to see a bigger picture and readjust efforts as needed.
2. Develop A Content Strategy
Social media lead generation begins and ends with content. Content is king. That is preached on the web daily, so I won’t harp. However, I am going to discuss the issue many organizations fail to prioritize. If the goal of social media for your business is to drive leads, then it is critical that you have a content strategy to determine what content drives leads and how to best distribute it. How do you do this?
First you need to use your understanding of your customers and influencers to begin to have an idea of the type of information they are looking for online. You need to then overlap this content with content distribution platforms: blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, User Forums, etc. In the first 90 days of your content execution you need to produce different types of content: text, audio and video and distribute them at different channels and at different times. During this period use the analytics as described earlier in this post to see which type of content, distribution methods and timing drives the most leads and engagement. Through this process you should be able to develop a content strategy that can be continually tweaked to drive lead generation.
3. Build An Infrastructure To Gather Leads
Content can drive qualified traffic, but if no infrastructure is in place to make clear calls to action and collect lead information, your content strategy is more of a branding play then it is lead generation. The first step is to determine what a lead is for your product. Is it an request for a sales call, a subscription to an e-mail newsletter, or maybe be a simple request for more information?
Once it is clear what the lead is, then it is important to plan how to best integrate this process in the simplest way possible across not only a blog or corporate Web site, but across all social outposts on the web. And don’t forget to coordinate this with offline distribution channels too. When putting this system into action, be sure to make it as easy as possible to change calls to action and messaging, as that will be continually optimized during the year.
4. Establishing Back-End To Manage Data
Leads don’t matter unless your business can get the information to the right person who can close the deal. So depending on the lead data, it may go different places, such as an e-mail list or a database of a CRM system. Beyond having a system like this established, a critical step is segmentation. If you are using a CRM system, then all the leads that come into the system need to be marked as sourced from social media. This segmentation is a key component of determining ROI of B2B social media, as it subsequently determines future investment in B2B social media lead generation. Though for many, these data systems seem basic, but it is how the data interacts with the system that is the true point of value.
5. Construct Workflow To Maximize Conversion
This step is about doing the daily and weekly steps needed to make lead generation better. When you are developing your content and lead generation strategy for leveraging social media it is important to plan how the tactics will be optimized. Think about the data you need to see from the web and the frequency in which you need to see it to improve the overall conversion rates of your strategy.
Social data provides information in real-time in many cases. The biggest mistake B2B companies can make when thinking about B2B social media lead generation is to think that this type of lead generation is like a Ron Popeil rotisserie “you set it and forget it”. This type of content focused lead generation is constantly changing and because of this a business must include this optimization step to see maximum ROI.
6. Institute “Social” Sales Follow Up and Nurturing
Leads are useless without an appropriately timed sales follow up and subsequent nurturing. The point of this step in the B2B social media lead generation pipeline is to realize that customers’ expectations are changing. While they may want a call to discuss a product, they also might want a question answered on platforms like Twitter, Facebook or their personal blog. In understanding these customer expectations, sales organizations need to make sure that they have team members who can facilitate these social interactions once the B2B social media pipeline has been started.
This is another part of the funnel where social CRM systems and social media monitoring systems become critical in facilitating social actions and providing the information sales teams need. Ask yourself what training your sales team needs to get “social.”
7. Establish An Autopsy
All good plans have a goal. All good plans can likely be done better a second time. When planning your pipeline development it is important to schedule an autopsy at the end of each goal time period. Though you optimize the pipeline constantly, it is this autopsy in which all stakeholders gather to discuss the successes and needed improvement at each point in the process. The lessons learned from the autopsy can then go to directly improving the process and establishment of new goals.
A B2B social media lead generation pipeline isn’t really that different from a traditional B2B sales funnel in terms of process. The biggest issue is speed. It happens faster then other lead pipelines and this timeliness needs to be supported appropriately.
Would you add other steps? How did you build your social media lead pipeline?