10 Keys for Starting a B2B LinkedIn Group to Generate Leads

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoMy friend Tom Skotidas and I recently talked about the keys to starting a LinkedIn Group as a means to generate leads for B2B companies. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation. This is part of an ongoing series of conversations about the intersection of sales and marketing, well as social selling.

1. Start with your Product or Service in Mind

The first thing you need to do is create a group that is connected to your product or service. This may be related to the product category or your specific industry, but general enough that the right people will find the group relevant and interesting. Choose a group name that reflects the topic and will be meaningful to your prospects.

2. Determine the Most Likely Buyer

Since we are looking at this group through the lens of lead generation, make sure you take into account your most likely buyers. The group should be targeted to them. As you are planning the group make sure to develop a targeted persona so you know who should be in the group.

3. Never Mention the Product

Even though you have the product in mind, the point of the group is not to sell the product. Market trends and solutions related to the product and services are what is important to the group.

4. Create a Closed Group

You can create a closed group or an open group on LinkedIn. Start out with a closed group as you are building it up. This way only people you invite can join the group. As it grows and develops some traction, you may want to make it an open group to take advantage of search and sharing benefits of things posted in the group. While an open group is visible to all, you can still moderate members and comments.

5. Manage it like a Community

The LinkedIn group you build is a community and it needs community management. That means you, or someone on your team, must be a manager of the group. This person must have the personality to interact with group members on a regular basis, reach out to them publicly or privately to ask questions or elicit comments, and generally keep the conversation interesting and flowing. A number of different people can serve in this role.

6. Build it like a 3-Layer Cake

Start the first layer by getting your staff to join the group so it has a bit of a head start. The second layer includes your closest business partners and some existing customers. Let them know the purpose of the group and that their interaction is encouraged. Once the group has that lived in feeling, invite some targeted prospects to join the group. This is the top of the cake. They are the ones to focus on, and it helps that they are joining an active, growing group.

7. Know What Content to Share

The purpose of this group is to provide value to the community, and especially the prospects, so they begin to build a relationship with you. You can do that through content. You can use third-party content related to the theme of the group or even conversation starters, which are just what they sound like. Comments and questions that get people talking.

8. Engage the Group

The community managers need to continuous engage the group members to keep the conversation going. That may include messaging someone with a specific and relevant post and asking them to provide their thoughts in the group.

9. Practice Both Inbound and Outbound Lead Generation

You can use this group to manage both inbound and outbound leads. Sharing content in the group that provides links back to your blog, website and landing pages encourages clicks and shares to drive more people to those pages. As you build relationships with your targeted prospects in the group, you can coordinate with the sales team to reach out to them. And this is no longer a cold call.

10. Remember Marketing Led, Sales Fed

Finally, keep in mind that social selling initiatives like this are run by the marketing team, but ultimately they support sales. You are generating leads for sales.

Are there other best practices you have developed in using LinkedIn groups to generate leads?

9 Steps to Highly Productive B2B Lead Generation

b2b-telephone-salesThe challenge of generating high-quality leads looms large in front of business-to-business marketers today. 78% of B2B marketers say lead generation is their biggest challenge. Just like any other large problem, the best way to address this is to break the process down into bite-size pieces rather than trying to digest it all at once. You need to develop a lead generation process, and support it with robust systems and the right people in the right places.

1. Create a Strategy


Start with the big picture. This should flow naturally from your overall marketing strategy. It should define your target client, including what positions they hold within an organization, the industries they work in, their company’s size, and their geographic locations.

2. Define Your Difference


Before you approach your target market you need to wrap your mind around exactly what makes your product, service, or solution different than competitors’ offerings. And, even more importantly, why that differentiation matters to your prospects and customers. For example, if you are selling a CRM system that can process millions of transactions and your target customer only handles hundreds of transactions, then you have a mismatch.

3. Decide the Criteria for a Qualified Lead


On the face of it, defining a quality lead may seem simple. This is, however, the place where many lead generation efforts fall apart. That’s because sales and marketing have different definitions of what qualified means. Your definition of a qualified lead needs to include:

  • The budget that has been allocated to solve this problem.
  • Whether or not the lead has the authority to make a buying decision.
  • Their need for a solution.
  • How soon they plan to buy into a solution.
  • The ability of one of your products and/or solutions to solve their problem.

4. What Information Should You Pass to Sales?


A quick handoff of leads from marketing to sales that includes the contact information is not enough. You need to define the information that will be included with the lead. Sales is going to be much more successful if they are given a deep understanding of the prospects’ buying situation, the problems they are facing, the decision-making structure within the organization, how the prospect has responded to content provided to them, and any perceived obstacles in the way of purchasing.

5. Capture the Leads


Now it’s time to determine how you are going to attract and capture leads. The best campaigns bring together these strengths of both inbound and outbound marketing tactics. While Web and content marketing are extremely effective in attracting people who are actively trying to solve their problems online, they can’t do all the work.

If your company is not highly prominent online, the web searcher may not find your content. Also, many executives are extremely busy and don’t have the time to do extensive Web searches. In both of these cases telemarketing is a highly effective and efficient way to reach specific accounts you’re targeting and to help them solve their problems.

6. Nurture Until Sales-Ready


Many marketing departments feel that the job is done once they have captured a lead. The problem, however, is that the majority of leads are not sales-ready.

Perhaps they don’t plan to buy in the near future, or they are simply not educated enough on the problems and solutions to make a decision. In these cases a lead will need to be nurtured. The nurturing plan should likely include email marketing, relevant content, and the occasional phone call to answer questions, provide relevant information, and, of course, add the all-important human touch.

7. Score Your Leads


You also need to define a system for scoring your leads. This system should be based on both on how the lead has interacted with your website and content, as well as judgments made by your salespeople as to the lead’s interest level.

8. Give Sales People Leads They’re Excited to Follow Up On


Based on the scores generated, you can finally pass the leads over to your salespeople. When you do, make sure you also provide all the juicy background information so they are prepared to make the sale.

9. Measure, Adjust, Optimize


Even when you have made the sale, the process isn’t over. You constantly need to be measuring the results, adjusting your process, and optimizing it.

Photo credit: Flickr

5 Ways to Use Your LinkedIn Profile to Attract Inbound B2B Leads

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoMy friend Tom Skotidas and I are at it again and this time we talked about how anyone, but especially B2B sales pros, can use their LinkedIn profile to attract inbound leads. Tom calls this inbound social selling. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation. We have been talking about the intersection of sales and content marketing for B2B companies. A lot of people call this social selling, but there is more to it than just that.

1. Re-Think the Purpose of Your Profile

Rather than just create a profile that shows your job history and qualifications, create a profile that shows how you can solve your target audience’s problems and serve their needs. Think of your profile as a piece content that reflects your company’s capabilities, rather than your resume.

2. Use the Right Keywords

Throughout your LinkedIn profile you should use keywords that are related to your products and services. Not just any keywords, but ones that your prospects commonly use. One way to determine those keywords is by using Google’s Keyword Ad Planner Tool. It is designed to help determine keywords for Google ads, so you need an AdWords account (connected to a regular Google account), but you don’t need to place any ads to use the tool.

3. View Your LinkedIn Profile as a Web Page to be Indexed

As you are re-thinking about your LinkedIn profile and using the appropriate keywords, remember that this is a web page that is indexed by Google and other search engines. LinkedIn is a high-ranking domain and can show up as a top result in searches for your keywords.

4. Don’t Forget About LinkedIn Search

Active LinkedIn users use the search functions within LinkedIn to find what they are looking for, beyond people’s names and companies.

5. Optimize These 9 Fields in Your LinkedIn Profile

Once you have your keywords to attract your prospects, what do you do with them? There are several fields in your LinkedIn profile that Tom identified as the most relevant.

  • Headline: The default is your current job at your current company. This is the most important thing to change to appeal to prospects.
  • Contact Information: This should include the best ways to contact you, plus a website or landing page that includes information to your target prospects
  • Summary: This is where you can really speak to the prospect about how you and your company can solve their business problems, using a good selection of keywords.
  • Experience: What you do in your job is another opportunity to tell the story of your success helping customers solve problems.
  • Marketing Assets: Work with your marketing team to get Powerpoints and PDFs to add to your LinkedIn profile and use your keywords in the title of the pieces.
  • Skills & Endorsements: Have others endorse you for skills that are most relevant to your target prospects. You have the ability to edit your list of skils.
  • Publications: Relevant blog posts, ebooks or articles quoting you can be listed here. If you don’t have any, this is a good time see if you can collaborate with someone to create some things to list.
  • Recommendations: Ask your customers for recommendations. They will use the terms that others in your industry use, and they will also validate your position as someone who is helpful.
  • Groups Joined: The Groups you join show on your profile, so make sure you join relevant Groups with names that look and sound good.

What have you done on your LinkedIn profile to attract B2B prospects?

B2B Sales Pros Need to Create Demand with Content Marketing

b2b-demand-generationI recorded another video conversation with my friend Tom Skotidas. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation. We have been talking about the intersection of sales and content marketing for B2B companies. A lot of people call this social selling, but that really oversimplifies the process.

Today’s conversation is about demand generation. Tom smartly points out that no matter how much content you create or share, if you are not creating demand for your product or service, nobody will want to buy it.

Highlights of the Conversation:

  • Without demand, there are no buyers.
  • Use authoritative third-party content to create demand for your products or services.
  • Create hybrid content that “wraps” your own content in someone else’s authority.
  • Speak the language of your prospects and customers.

How are your sales teams using content to drive demand for your B2B products or services?

Photo credit: Flickr

Marketing Team Drives B2B Social Selling Success

My friend Tom Skotidas and I recorded a video conversation defining social selling. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation.

Social selling, or #socialselling, is a term that is used by lots of people to mean lots of different things. It is more than my definition of sales people using the tools and approach of social media. Watch the video to hear Tom’s definition.

Some highlights of the conversation:

  • Social selling is really a social marketing program for sales enablement.
  • It is a hybrid approach between marketing and sales.
  • Conversations about social selling should always start with marketing. Not only because they bring the strategy, the skills and the process to move the market, but they also bring the budget.
  • A well-executed program lets sales people connect more effectively, get more meetings and build more pipeline.

How do you define social selling?

Photo credit: Flickr

How B2B Professionals Can Use Content for Personal Branding

b2b-personal-brandingI recently recorded a video conversation with my friend Tom Skotidas. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation. This is the first of several conversations that we recorded on the topic of social selling, but the topic really is broader than that.

The video below is about personal branding. If you are a B2B sales person, the conversation is perfect for you and gives you some things to start thinking about as you begin to incorporate social selling into your approach. But if you are a marketer, the concepts of personal branding that we talk about are appropriate for you too.

The big ideas we talked about are:

  • Building trust through awareness and familiarity
  • Modeling your personal branding consistency and positioning after known corporate brands
  • Understanding what success looks like in a personal brand

How do you approach your personal brand and are you consistent about it?

Photo credit: Flickr

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

b2b-social-sellingAre 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

Ways to Improve a B2B Cold Sales Call and Make it Social

b2b-sales-call-appointmentYesterday my cell phone rang and it was a Raleigh NC number that I didn’t recognize. I often get calls from numbers that I don’t recognize, but since I live in the Raleigh area, I answered this call.

“Hello, this is Linda from [company name]. I like to tee up a 10-15 minute call with [name], our CEO.”

“Can you say all that again? I didn’t understand any of that.”

“I calling from [company name] and I want to tee up a call with our CEO. It will only take about 10-15 minutes of your time.”

Since my number is out in the world from business cards, email signatures and contact databases, I was not surprised to get this random call on my cell phone. I also get calls from PR people pitching me on irrelevant stories for this blog. It was not clear to me which this call was, so I asked her.

“Is this a PR call or a sales call? What is the point of this call?”

She then proceeded to the next line of the script and briefly described what the call would entail. It had something to do with targeted leads and prospects. She did a terrible job explaining the product and phone call demo she was trying to schedule.

I still didn’t know the name of the company. I still didn’t know if this was a sales pitch or a PR pitch. Since neither of them were relevant to me, I told her thank you, but I was not interested. I hung up before she could respond. This is how I have always dealt with cold calling sales people that do not quickly demonstrate their relevance to me.

What was Wrong with this Call?

1. Linda was so unenthusiastic that I did not even understand her when she told me what company she was representing.

2. Her do-over was no better than the first time, and I still did not catch the company name or the CEO’s name. Because I didn’t recognize either name after two attempts, this was clearly a cold call.

3. She provided no context for the call. Not for how they got my name or what company they thought I represented. Did I sign up for something on a website? Did I meet them at a trade show? Did I drop my business card in a fishbowl at a restaurant? Did they buy my name from a list where I expressed an interest?

4. She was trying to schedule a call with no statement of benefit for me.

5. When I asked is this was a sales call or a PR call, she couldn’t answer me. All she could do was resort to phase two of the script, which apparently is where she provides some context for the call if I don’t automatically agree to talk to the CEO.

6. It is not common to arrange sales calls for the CEO. That’s more common with PR pitches.

Ways to Improve this Call

1. Linda needs to stop acting like she is reading from a script and get excited about her calls.

2. The script needs to change to incorporate a description of the company in the opening. Since this is a cold call, and I probably haven’t heard of the company, I can remain engaged in the conversation is I know what they do.

3. Add a mention of my company or position so we can determine if I am the right person to talk to.

4. Add a benefit to me. If this is a lead prospecting tool, let me know that companies similar to mine have increased their pipeline by 50% using their product, tool, service.

5. If they want me to talk to the CEO, which automatically makes me think the company is small, sell me on the experience and influence of the CEO so that I want to talk to him.

6. Unless they bought a list, or just mined some data from a list, let me know why they are calling me. Again, this is a way to engage me in the conversation. If the call is because I downloaded a content resource or registered for something at a trade show, share that context with me and I am more likely to accept the appointment.

Ways to Make this Call Social

1. Search for me on Google, Twitter and LinkedIn before calling me. My name on my business cards is the same as all my social profiles, so I am pretty easy to find. Learn a little bit about me so you can add context to the conversation that is relevant to me.

2. If you have one job, setting appointments, you need to come prepared to engage me in conversation. There are lots of things that I can talk about that you can learn from my social profiles. This makes me more receptive to your message.

3. Confirm that I fit your target personas by looking at my latest position. This did not seem like a product for marketers, but if she could make a connection with me as a way into my company, that is a step in the right direction. Very often you are selling to wrong people at the right company.

4. It is called social selling for a reason. Yes, it is about using social media, but it is also about being social. If you are engaging and friendly on this interruptive call, I will respond the same way. An attitude of “I can’t be bothered” presents that as the attitude of the company. And my response is that I can’t be bothered.

Have you responded to a cold call to set an appointment? What made you engage with the company, and what there any use of social media to help that engagement?

Photo: Flickr

5 Ways B2B Companies Can Generate Leads on Twitter

b2b-twitter-birdMany B2B businesses have a Twitter account these days, but simply being on Twitter is not enough.

If you or your employees are going to spend time using social media networks, there have to be objectives and it has to work for your business.

It’s fine if you want to use Twitter as a news publication feed – but there’s so much more you can do with it as a B2B communication tool.

Why not use Twitter as part of your new business strategy? If it’s not going to help your business grow and develop, then you’re really wasting time. Get your new business development team involved with planning your Twitter profile. You can also find out their tactics and make sure social media is integrated and woven in to really work together.

Twitter works best when there’s some level of personalization and chat. As well as a news feed, Twitter acts as an introduction service essentially, as it is so easy to connect with people.

There’s an old adage that says products don’t sell, people sell. So use Twitter for the communication tool that it is and get chatting.

1. Give your organization a face

Let people know who they’re talking to instead of a faceless organization. Having a corporate account is important, but it’s very hard to hold a conversation with someone if you don’t know who you’re talking to. Add the personal Twitter handles of those who are talking into your bio, so people know who you are, and can also follow your personal accounts.

2. Share content to drive people to your website

A varied content schedule should incorporate a mix of updates, interesting articles as well as company news. However, make sure you create and post content which gives people the opportunity to visit your website or specific landing pages.

This can be via blog and news posts, new sections or products which have launched or anything else of interest to your customers.

3. Mention people you have met

People like being mentioned on Twitter – it starts conversations and you get to know people and they get to know you. If you’ve been to a networking event, conference or meeting, give the event and anyone you’ve met a shout out and cement the contacts you’ve made.

This reminds people who you are, gives them your contact details and can often lead to further communication and a meeting.

4. Use Twitter to create warm leads

Your new business development manager could sit down and plow through a lot of cold calls with relevant businesses but this is really a shot in the dark. However, if you start connecting with other businesses and other business people through Twitter, this is a friendly way to introduce your company and start to form a relationship.

Start to follow any people or businesses you think have new business potential. You could mention a blog post they’ve written or comment on some of their business news – anything that opens a conversation. They key is to start that conversation, not start a sale.

5. Assess your progress regularly

It sounds simple, but this is something many companies forget to do. You need to decide on some objectives and metrics to measure these objectives. These might be to increase relevant followers by so many every quarter, to set up a certain number of business meetings and achieve a certain number of click-throughs to your website.

Have you been successful at generating new business for your B2B company on Twitter? Let us know in the comments below.

REPORTS: LinkedIn is the Most Effective B2B Social Network

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoLinkedIn has always been the social network that gets the business attention, especially from B2B marketers. If you are trying to justify resources (time and money) for focusing on LinkedIn, several reports combine to make the case that results are real. But like everything in social media, use these resources to guide your thinking while you discover if your customers are there.

1. LinkedIn Drives More Traffic

In this recent post, Webbiquity looks at the top social networks and analyzes how they drive traffic to B2B blogs and websites. On average, social media drove 5% of traffic to all B2B sites, however, it drove 17% of traffic to blogs and only 1.1% of traffic to commercial B2B websites. When they looked at the traffic by site, 90% of the social traffic was driven by the big three networks, with half of it coming from LinkedIn.
Share-of-B2B-Social-Traffic1

2. LinkedIn Drives More Leads

In a study of over 5,000 businesses, HubSpot found that traffic from LinkedIn generated the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74%, almost 3 times higher than both Twitter and Facebook. This was a mix of both B2B and B2C companies, but the large sample size clearly shows that a focus on driving leads from LinkedIn works.
b2b-linkedin-social-conversion

3. Your B2B Marketing Peers Use It

Across multiple studies, eMarketer has found that an average of 80% of mostly B2B and small and medium sized businesses use LinkedIn for marketing. A number this high, across multiple studies, really adds to the validity of the number. While this study doesn’t define what how marketers use the platform, or how effective they view it, the next point addresses that.
b2b-linkedin-marketing-usage

4. B2B Marketers Call It the Most Effective Social Network

In a recent content marketing survey of the 50,000 member strong B2B Technology Marketing community on LinkedIn, 85% of those surveyed indicated that LinkedIn was the most effective social network for distributing content.
b2b-linkedin-marketing-effectiveness

5. LinkedIn is Creating More Marketing Opportunities

A recent eMarketer report describes the changes coming to LinkedIn as they grow their ad revenue business with a variety of sponsored opportunities beyond text and banner ads. These include sponsored company updates, or what are called native ads in the feed, and ads that mimic the functionality of Slideshare, a platform they bought last year. As LinkedIn re-makes itself as a content platform, do not overlook the opportunities to post content directly on the platform as part of their thought leader blogging program, although it appears that they are not taking any new entries into the program.

B2B LinkedIn Takeaways

As you begin exploring the effectiveness of LinkedIn for your B2B company, here are some specific tactics that will build your following and drive traffic, leads and awareness. What are your favorite LinkedIn tactics?

  • Grow your LinkedIn Company followers by encouraging followers on other networks to follow the company on LinkedIn.
  • Share both gated and un-gated content on LinkedIn company page.
  • Encourage employees to share company content of their LinkedIn pages.
  • Discover LinkedIn Groups with your target prospects and encourage appropriate employees to participate in the conversation, not just share links.