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?

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

b2b-social-media-predictionsFor 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

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.