6 Ways B2B Companies Can Use Social Media Gamification

A recent article on Marketing Sherpa discussed the idea of bringing gaming mechanics, or gamification, to the internal and external operations of B2B companies. One of several definitions in the article is using game-style systems of “goal setting, real-time feedback, transparency, competition, teams, etcetera — to motivate and engage customers and employees.” While not expressly tied to social media efforts, game-like rewards can be more successful when users have the ability to share them using social media, thereby amplifying the effect of the rewards.

Below are six tactics B2B marketers can use to drive internal and external engagement.

1. Drive online community engagement

When customers, prospects and readers come to your site, you want them to engage with your content. One of the best ways to get them to engage is to reward them publicly for leaving comments, sharing and interacting on your site. Some comment systems have built-in point systems or even badges to make this easy.

2. Determine the reward

It’s important to understand what rewards will motivate your employees or prospects to take action. Online rewards could be simple recognition of the action taken, but traditional off-line rewards work too, like trips to Hawaii.

3. Motivate employees

Most employees want to do a good job, but if you introduce a little competition into the environment you can further motivate your employees. If you want to make sure a department completes a training program, offer up recognition for the employees who complete it first. You can also tie your reward efforts to company objectives and KPIs.

4. Create website engagement

When prospects come to your website, you need to get them to follow a path of action that moves them closer to a sale. It is one thing to have the path clearly defined, but it is another to make a game out of it. You can connect with them on a level beyond providing solutions to their business problems.

5. Get Sales to interact with the CRM

Sales organizations are used to meeting goals and comparing their results to others on the team. If one of the goals is to improve the participation in keeping the sales CRM up-to-date, look at ways to make this part of regular process. Gamification changes how you manage that and what behaviors you incent for your teams. In many instances, team goals, in addition to individuals ones, can drive greater results and more collaboration.

6. Avoid over-gaming

Making everything a game can get tiresome. Give people a break where some things just happen and don’t require a competition.

Have you used any of the principles of gamification in your B2B company?

Photo credit: Flickr

Charting the B2B Social Media Lead Generation Process

We wrote a book about B2B social media to share our ideas with others and to help them learn how to adopt social media in their B2B companies. One sign of success is when people take the ideas and make them their own. This is something that the web has always been good for. People gather ideas, remix them and create their own content from them. We were pretty excited to see the book review from Aarne Töllinen, Project Manager at University of Jyväskylä. And thankfully it is written in English, because we don’t speak Finnish.

The cool part of the review is that it includes a graphic showing the social media lead generation process. While not a fancy infographic, it still is easy to see the flow of the process. Leads come in from a variety of sources, including social media and search, and they go to the company home page or a dedicated landing page. The top of funnel (TOFU) offers like webinars and ebooks include a call-to-action which connects to a lead form. In this graphic, these leads leave the marketing realm and move into the sales funnel. Middle of the funnel (MOFU) offers can now happen on the way to purchase. After purchase, you can calculate the return on investment (ROI) using the total lifetime value of the customer (TTLV) and the cost of customer acquisition (COCA).

Thanks to Aarne for creating this graphic representation of the B2B social media lead generation process.

Share Your Experience of Global Business Social Networks

Even though LinkedIn has grown to over 85 million users worldwide, there are other global sites that people at B2B companies use to build their business networks. The two biggest are Viadeo with 35 million users and Xing with 10 million users, but there are certainly other smaller ones where people have found success, whether they are industry focused or regionally focused.

After creating a profile on Viadeo, in anticipation of writing about these other business networks, I realized that my perspective was limited. The first reason was because of the business cultural differences between the United States and Europe. So if something stands out to me as being odd on a business networking site, it may seem perfectly normally in a different business climate. The other is that by setting up a profile does not really let me understand how to use the site for success.

With this in mind I thought this would be a great opportunity to tap our global community and get some information about the use and success of these global business networks. We have created a short survey form for you to indicate your most used business social network and how it has been successful. We would like to know if LinkedIn really is the top network from an effectiveness standpoint, or have these other sites broken some ground. If you are based in the US, do you use any alternate sites to connect with customers and prospects in other parts of the world? This is not meant to be definitive study, but to gather some examples for publication.

Thanks for sharing your experience in the survey, and as always, comments below are welcome.

How to Improve Your B2B Sales Workflow with Social Media

In my last post I defined social intelligence as a new form of intelligence that delivers a much broader view of the prospect. I discussed how in-context access to this intelligence will significantly boost sales productivity, enabling more successful outreach and engagement with the socially-savvy Customer 2.0. In this post I will provide three tips for implementing intelligence into your sales workflow (more specifically, directly into your CRM) and will elaborate on the effectiveness and applicability of social selling as an integral part of a business’ Social CRM strategy.

Intelligence Tip #1: Listen before you talk
Customers have increasing ownership of the conversation, but Social CRM levels the playing field for businesses by empowering engagement with customers within their preferred channels.

Social selling technologies and methodologies allow sales reps to:

  • Monitor what is being said about and by the customer
  • Analyze the relevant conversations
  • Automatically associate the findings with existing customer records
  • Use these insights to guide customer engagements going forward.

For example, by monitoring the blog posts and/or tweets of a prospect, the sales professional will not only be informed about what matters to the prospect, but also get a glimpse into their personality and style. Rich with insights about the prospect’s urgent business needs and challenges, the sales professional can then engage the customer at the right time with the right message – either via the traditional email/phone channel, or perhaps even with a response to their blog post or tweet. Of course, there is a lot of noise out there and not a lot of time to “listen,” which makes the use of technology, to identify what’s relevant to your sales team, critically important.

Intelligence Tip #2: Find a reason to call
How do you find a good reason to call your prospect? Social CRM allows companies to aggregate both official and unofficial social information about customers and prospects without any effort from or distraction to sales reps. Relevant content from customer communities can be automatically pushed into a CRM platform, enriching static prospect data with social intelligence. Intelligent monitoring of social conversations enable sales organizations to gain visibility into potential sales triggers such as upcoming business expansions, management changes or concerns about existing vendors that would otherwise be not available through more traditional news sources.

If you’re a systems integrator, for instance, you might want to watch target companies for contract awards or planned implementations of products in your market. If you sell litigation support services, you may want to monitor for news related to SEC or FTC legal investigations. Of course, any unofficial chatter about how your prospect isn’t satisfied with a competitor’s product or service will also give a great reason to call to showcase your differentiation!

These insights may be the difference between losing a deal (or not even being aware of it in the first place!) to catching a lead in mid air. This in-context intelligence, presented within the CRM workflow, drives sales productivity and accelerates deal velocity.

Intelligence Tip #3: Power the customer community
Companies have a very difficult time standing on the sideline while others discuss their business (I speak from experience!). However, adding input or marketing propaganda into customer conversations can interrupt the conversation and cause customers not to share their opinions, or maybe even lash out at you for the sales-y pitch. For example, most LinkedIn and Google groups I engage in have a no sales pitch policy that is strictly enforced by the group leaders. And specifically because of this policy, there is a great deal of open dialogue between the members about companies, products, business trends as well as best practices.

Social CRM cultivates business and empowers the customer community by:

  • Allowing customers to openly discuss a product or company – whether this includes problems, compliments or general inquiries prior to purchasing
  • Uniting happy customers so that they can influence, help, and nurture each other
  • Connecting the business with unhappy customers, enabling rapid response to make things right vs. have issues spiral out of control and affect the opinions of the others in the community
  • Providing sentiment analysis on aggregated conversations that take place in the relevant communities – helping companies notice signals of readiness (pdf)
  • Notifying when conversations are hot for engagement, or cold for simply monitoring

What will your company do to easily tap into and make sense of this highly valuable social intelligence to accelerate the sales cycle? How will you leverage new social insights to deepen customer relationships and drive business success? Hopefully these three tips will set you on the right path.

B2B Social Selling Meets CRM

I recently wrote about how intelligence is different, and much more valuable, than data for the B2B sales professional. I described intelligence as going far beyond the basic facts and figures about companies, and creating a broader view of the prospect, which incorporates recent business events, social conversations and social relationships.

In other words, social intelligence.

What do B2B sales professionals need to boost their productivity? The answer: easy access to this social intelligence within their workflow, at the point of need and at the time they want to engage the prospect in a relevant conversation. In-context access will render social intelligence an empowering tool for sales teams, instead of the distraction that it can easily become.

Social Intelligence: It’s more than just CRM
Naturally, this is where one would expect CRM to come into play because it is intended as the ubiquitous technology infrastructure to facilitate customer-facing interactions. Unfortunately – and to the disappointment of many sales organizations – CRM hasn’t delivered on its promise of significant sales productivity gains, or on its ultimate promise of synchronizing the business process between two key stakeholders (the sales professional and their target buyer). Instead it has remained mostly in the ranks of workflow automation. This makes CRM useful for automating structured processes and reports for management, but not for enabling effective relationship building or customer engagement.

I believe social intelligence, integrated into the CRM workflow, has the opportunity to move CRM beyond its current limited application (and thus adoption) into a highly effective customer engagement platform, and in the process transform selling as we know it.

Social Selling: Enabling Customer 2.0 Engagement
Adopting this new model of social selling is not optional for businesses, rather a requirement if they want to meet the demands of a new breed of informed, socially-engaged customer who has taken control of the conversation. Integrated social intelligence can level the playing field for businesses by making it easy for sales professionals to listen to and participate in the conversion in a timely and relevant manner for successful customer engagements. Put simply, integrated social intelligence is an essential enabler for businesses in the quest to successfully engage Customer 2.0.

Powered in part by new methodology and in part by new technology, the usage of social intelligence by sales organization is one of the three primary use cases of what many are calling Social CRM (the other two being marketing and customer support). While there is much debate about the ultimate definition of this next generation approach to CRM, here are a couple of good ones that support my point:

Of course, the success of a Social CRM strategy for sales requires much more than access to social information about prospects. It requires a fundamentally different selling process. As Wim Rampen states in a post at CustomerThink, “Implementing social tools, and doing absolutely nothing differently than before, would not make it…a Social CRM [or Social Sales] strategy.” We now have access to vast new avenues to gather customer data and insights, but how the data is aggregated, transformed into intelligence and integrated into the sales workflow are the primary factors in determining the success of a sales organization “going social”.

So how exactly is social selling enabling a more successful outreach and engagement with the socially-savvy Customer 2.0? Next week, I will lay out three tips for implementing intelligence into your sales workflow, and will elaborate on the effectiveness and applicability of social selling as an integral part of a business’ Social CRM strategy.

Connect Your B2B Customers with Social Media Profiles

Business is getting more and more social. Understanding how social it’s becoming is a challenge to many B2B marketers. Where do you go to find out if your prospects and customers are on social networks? If so, which ones?

It’s now possible to append your B2B customer and prospect databases with social media addresses and other social marketing data. This new social layer makes it possible to connect and engage with your audience across multiple channels. With this data, you’ll know the “Four W’s” of your audience:

Who: demographics, occupation, location and more
What: interests, brand affinities, lifestyles, and influence
Where: social sites used and online hangouts
With Whom: friends and associates

Reasons why you should map your customers and prospects to social media:

1. Determine if you should be on social networks
If you are unsure about whether or not you should be marketing via social media, using social appending tools will help you understand the social activity of your contacts.

2. Determine which channels to use
Learn which channels your customers or contacts use most frequently and speak to them where they are most comfortable.

3. Determine where to best devote resources
Optimize the time you spend engaging and identify potential new channels to engage your key contacts.

4. Identify influencers
Do you know who your most valuable brand advocates are? Use the number of Facebook friends, tweets, followers, etc. to identify and engage your contacts with the most marketing influence. Create content or VIP offers to target and reward this very important group.

5. Increase relevance
Gather insights from a Twitter feed or LinkedIn profile to provide marketing intelligence which can be used to create more personalized communications. Those communications can then be distributed to the most relevant segments of your database.

6. Compare prospects to customers
If you know the social behaviors of your customers, compare that to your prospects. Learn about the differences between the two groups and adjust your prospect messaging accordingly.

7. Target new customers
Once you how your customers behave in the social networks, use that information to go after others with similar profiles or behaviors.

8. Be more effective with sales and retention
Provide your sales team with prospect or customer social profile information and allow them to learn more about the contact which will promote a more authentic conversation and sales experience.

Companies that provide social marketing contact appending or influencer identification services include:

Rapleaf helps you better understand who your customers are so you can personalize communications and boost interactions while lifting conversions. Using Rapleaf can help you reveal and understand your customers’ demographics, interests, occupation, social media memberships, friend connections and more.

Netprospex is a directory of user-contributed business contacts verified with their proprietary CleneStep technology. Quickly find, view and download business contacts including phone and email addresses. NetProspex has a large database of 14 million verified B2B contacts.

Klout allows you to find and engage Twitter influencers based on topic or hashtag so you can understand their network value.

When you have an email address, Flowtown allows you to find which social networks your customers are on.

Have you used social network data to customize your B2B marketing efforts? How did it work for you? Do you see this becoming more popular as B2B marketers grow more savvy in the social marketing space?

Enabling B2B Social Selling with Social CRM

These days any conversation about CRM probably leads to the mentioning of social CRM. Throughout the past two years, there has been much healthy debate about what social CRM is, how it’s being deployed throughout the enterprise and what makes CRM a social thing. Indeed, this will be a major topic as the CRM Evolution Conference kicks off today in New York City. The definitions line up along the varying uses of this versatile platform. Social CRM actually means a lot of things to a lot of people: community management, customer support through social channels, and social sales and marketing – benefiting both B2C and B2B companies.

While this social evolution of CRM provides fodder for thought-provoking discussions for industry analysts and pundits, for the B2B sales professional specifically, what matters most is on-the-ground usage, and the fact that you now have access to an increasingly more social – and thus more intelligent – selling platform.

A Birdseye View of Social CRM in B2B Sales
Recently, we’ve talked about Customer 2.0 and discussed how the control of a company’s brand has transitioned from corporate marketing departments to customer-to-customer conversations taking place in social media. Customer 2.0 has abundant visibility into the companies they are considering doing business with and is well-informed, and naturally, they expect the sales reps who call upon them with to be the same.

As companies are becoming more aware of their customers’ increased activity in social networks, they are looking to create a virtuous cycle by first listening to the customer, distilling the relevant bits and then using these insights as keys to accelerating their customer engagements going forward. But given social intelligence about customers can be anywhere and everywhere, how can we efficiently monitor the vast social media landscape without adversely impacting sales productivity? How can we easily associate any new social insights we discover with what we already know about our target accounts to try to create that 360° view of the customer? Essentially, how do we enable this new, social selling?

This is where social CRM comes in and is essentially the business’ response to meet these emerging requirements of Customer 2.0. Social CRM can be defined as the connection of the social data about customers, wherever it may be, with existing customer records in a CRM system, to arm companies with new forms of customer intelligence. It is the evolution of CRM from a repository of static customer data to include dynamic social intelligence. Social CRM enables social selling by engaging the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment.

Enabling Social Selling
As our lives are socialized, so, too, have the business processes and platforms we use daily. Whether it’s through native deployments such as the recent salesforce.com Chatter, which allows real-time collaboration with coworkers, or through the myriad CRM applications being developed for monitoring, measuring, filtering,or using social activity in a CRM-relevant way (think social sales intelligence on your prospects from LinkedIn and Facebook, or measuring a swell in customer complaints on Twitter), CRM has been pushed across the social line.

So how exactly does social CRM enable social selling? Not surprisingly, it starts with monitoring the social conversation, wherever it may be happening. By listening before talking, sales organizations can gain new perspectives and insights into the customer that are otherwise not available through more traditional news sources. Armed with these new insights, sales people can engage their prospects in more timely and relevant conversations about how they can address their urgent business needs – and even find out about opportunities they weren’t aware of before.

However, social CRM has to cross two hurdles to deliver upon its promise of more successful engagement with Customer 2.0. First, given the preponderance of social activity, it needs to tackle the quantity versus quality problem by filtering out the noise. Then, it needs to make these golden nuggets readily usable by presenting the relevant social intelligence alongside the rest of the customer data within the CRM framework. By powering sales teams with relevant intelligence, directly within their workflow, and enabling them to engage the customers at a deep and personal level, social CRM make social selling a reality.

So, the 4 key steps to how social CRM enables social selling can be summarized as:

  1. Monitor the social conversions
  2. Filter out the noise to hone in on what’s relevant
  3. Map these relevant insights to existing customer records within CRM
  4. Provide value by engaging customer at the right time with the right message

Remember that the “social” in social CRM does not refer to social media – it is about social engagement to gain the trust of Customer 2.0 to build a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. On the sales-usage front of CRM, that is, after all, what social selling is all about!

Have you experienced any brush with social selling or social CRM? We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.

Blackberry Apps for Your B2B Sales Force

After covering BlackBerry apps for B2B marketers and PR professionals, this week we’re taking a look at BlackBerry apps that facilitate B2B sales.

B2B salesmen and women are constantly traveling, and their nomadic lifestyles demand mobile support. In the field, even a laptop can be cumbersome, so it’s important to have sales solutions that fit in your pocket.

As the go-to choice for most sales teams, it makes sense BlackBerry has many apps designed to close deals and deliver results:

1. Salesforce Mobile

Customer relationship management (CRM) is an integral part of an organization’s sales strategy. Salesforce.com, one of the most popular solutions, has a mobile version for users to upload customer information in real time, right after important customer calls, e-mails and visits. The app helps to manage sales and prospect data outside of the office, which equals less time at your desk and more time in the field.

Thanks to a recent Salesforce update, the Mobile Lite app is now free for all Salesforce users, including Group customers.

2. Oracle Mobile Sales Assistant

If you use Oracle as your CRM system, its Mobile Edge app will take your CRM data on the road.

Mobile Edge puts all of the traditional CRM account, contact, opportunity, activity, lead and ticket information on your BlackBerry, syncs with your phone’s address book and utilizes custom objects, pre-loading device data, centralized administration and interface mapping. Its latest update in October 2009 introduced support in 12 languages, opening up new opportunities for global B2B companies.

While this free demo will give you a peek into the mobile app’s features, you’ll have to contact your Oracle rep for full installation and connectivity.

3. Kindle

E-book readers have become a part of B2B marketing tool kit, delivering novels, industry e-books and blogs (like Social Media B2B) in one sleek package – but what if that package is still too big for salespeople on the go?

Amazon just released a beta BlackBerry app that puts more than 400,000 books on your smartphone. Kindle owners can access their libraries and notes, and the app automatically synchronizes your last page read and annotations.

While it’s not a replacement – BlackBerry Storm owners will be at an advantage, as Bold, Curve and Tour screens require constant page turning and squinting – the Kindle app for BlackBerry extends the convenience of an e-reader.

4. VQ Mileage Tracker

Tracking mileage and gas on business trips and customer visits can be tedious and time-consuming. There are many mileage tracking apps available for the BlackBerry, but VQ Mileage Tracker (currently discounted from $14.99 to $6.99) goes one step further and does all of the work for you.

The app automatically calculates mileage every time you’re in the car, and stores the data until you generate a report with information on the date and time of each trip, address and miles driven. The app also uses BlackBerry or Google maps to pinpoint each trip.

5. MyCommission

More sales equals more money, and the MyCommission app ($2.99) helps salespeople figure out just how many dollars they’ll take home at the end of the day.

The app allows you to enter the account name and status (committed, in upside or are pipeline) of each deal and calculates the resulting commission.

What BlackBerry apps have you found to be helpful in the sales field?

Video: Social Media CRM – Connecting Your Sales Force To The Social Web

Mike Schneider recently presented about Social CRM at the recent Social Media Business Forum Event in Durham, NC. At the event Jeff did an interview with Mike about Social CRM and its impact on B2B companies. We heard from many of you that you would like to see Mike actual presentation. Here it is!

Below is video of Mike’s presentation. The first minute the camera is getting set up, but after that it is on a tripod.

Mike has spent his career solving problems using technology with a focus on marketing and analytics. He is currently Vice President Director of Contributions (an analytics and emerging technology group) at Allen & Gerritsen. Follow him on Twitter twitter.com/SchneiderMike.

Video: @SchneiderMike Explains Social CRM in a B2B Context

While Mike Schneider was in North Carolina speaking at the Social Media Business Forum speaking about Social CRM, he took a few minutes to explain Social CRM to me. He describes is as encouraging a buyer-led conversation around your products and services, and providing a place, or community, for those conversations to happen.

Mike has spent his career solving problems using technology with a focus on marketing and analytics. He is currently Vice President Director of Contributions (an analytics and emerging technology group) at Allen & Gerritsen. Follow him on Twitter twitter.com/SchneiderMike.