Which Companies are Totally Nailing B2B Marketing?

B2B marketing can often be dry, stuffy, and an overall snooze fest when not done correctly. Businesses are slowly but surely learning that business-to-business marketing doesn’t have to be all direct mail and incentive promotions. Some companies are actually producing really creative B2B marketing.

So, which companies have totally got this B2B marketing thing down? Let’s take a look.

Salesforce

Salesforce is one of the most well-known B2B products on the market and since part of their business is actually providing social analytics to customers they’d better be good at social themselves. Fortunately, Salesforce really excels on social, particularly on Facebook where they consistently using their header image to promote upcoming events. They also use Facebook to prominently display links to everything from infographics to blog posts.
b2b-salesforce-facebook

Demandbase

Demandbase does a really great job of providing (and sponsoring) educational content for B2B readers. Typically using a mixture of slides, white papers, blog posts, and even microsites, Demandbase racks up leads and pipeline every time it releases a new informational program. Their oft-downloaded and entertaining series of webinars doesn’t hurt.

Microsoft

Microsoft has gotten a lot of flack lately for its aggressive marketing in the wake of the disastrous Windows 8 platform, but what they’re really, really good at is bridging the gap between B2B marketing and customer-facing campaigns. For example, the “Children of the 90s” campaign spoke to every millennial who saw it, from consumers to in-house developers at big firms. Reaching the target audience is half the battle and Microsoft’s doing it right.

Sungard

Sungard provides software and IT solutions for a wide variety of situations…kind of boring, yes. But Sungard hit on one of the biggest trends of the year with their “Zombie Apocalypse” campaign that linked their services with the risk of an impending zombie surge. Using an infographic, social campaign, and even an e-book, Sungard made a totally boring concept totally viral. Genius.
b2b-sungard-zombie

Atlas Copco

Atlas Copco is a producer of industrial equipment and they’re revolutionizing the way B2B companies use apps. Utilizing smart phone apps, Atlas offers at-a-touch technical specs, hazardous workplace information, and informational videos for customers to access anytime. The company didn’t just create the content and leave it there – they’re already on the 5th version of the iTunes app because they like to reevaluate and add new content often.

Clippard

You’ve probably never heard of Clippard and that’s because they’re a medical device company specializing in pneumatic actuators. They mixed up the boring trade show booth by creating an actual guitar made out of actuator valves that’s played by air. Get it? An air guitar! Their booth is now the must-see stop of any medical device tradeshow and they get to show off their product while engaging potential customers. That’s what good B2B marketing is all about.
b2b-clippard-air-guitar

In 2014, B2B marketing will evolve to be more strategy-focused, much like traditional marketing. Companies will have to work harder to cut through the clutter and they’ll increasingly find ways to utilize social media marketing for business-to-business interaction.

Always Thinking about B2B Social Media is a Requirement

Your approach to B2B social media must be thoughtful if you are going to be successful in driving business for your B2B company. Marketers and communicators need to focus on how they can make a difference, and that begins with thinking. Can you see the big picture of your organization, your industry and the business world in general? Can you read about examples of other companies’ efforts and think about the takeaways that apply to your company? Can you understand tactic execution plans and make them happen? If your answer to all these questions is yes, please read on, as you will find some value in the articles below.

If there are other things you are thinking about, or have been inspired to think about by a recent article you read, share it in the comments below.

How Social Digital Is Your Company?
from Harvard Business Review blog
Recently, the CEO of Edelman wrote a blog post celebrating a company milestone. In it, he referenced our efforts in the non-analog world as “social digital.” To most, this may seem insignificant because the word “social” is often overused in professional circles. But the addition of “social” to the “digital” is immensely significant because it symbolizes that the current revolution is not only digital, but codependent on social behaviors and interactions from human beings. If the digital revolution was about computers being connected (the internet) then the social-digital revolution is about people being connected (the social web).
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25 business-tastic B2B social media case studies
from Econsultancy blog
I’ve been asked quite a few times over the past couple of weeks for examples of social media marketing being used in a B2B context. This is actually more prevalent than a lot of marketers appear to realise – and is certainly something that’s not new to the marketplace. Here’s some great examples of B2B organisations using social media with commercial purpose. Some are old, some new, some you might be familiar with, others perhaps not.
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4 B2B Social Media & SEO Blunders to Avoid
from TopRank blog
There are some things that you can’t take back: including what you release on the Internet. With over 93% of B2B marketers using social media, online sales has very much become a social business. As marketers we need to do our best to present as well online as we do in person (if not better). Creating an effective online marketing plan amongst all the changes on the social web isn’t easy, but here are a few things you may want to avoid.
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Take the guess work out of B2B guest blogging
from MLT Creative blog
One of the best ways to add more voice and variety to your B2B blog is to open it up to guest bloggers. Your blog may start out with one individual responsible for all of its original content. If that’s showing positive results and attracting engagement from your marketplace, you’re doing a great job. But you can do better.
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Updated B2B Facebook Page Examples with Data

This short post is to let you know that we updated the 10 Examples of B2B Facebook Pages post. As that has been one of the most popular posts on this site, and still generates regular traffic, we wanted to make sure the information was updated where readers are still going. But the best way to let you know about something in an old post is to write a new post that shows up at the top of the home page, in RSS and in email subscriptions. That was just a tip I hope you caught.

The original post now has a curent number of Likers, since they are no longer fans, and some updated observations about best practices and changes to the pages. Since I can’t let this post go without putting a little content in it, the following is a list of the pages and increase in people who like the page since December 2009. Note that over this time, Facebook users increased nearly 43% from 350 million to 500 million and almost all of these B2B Pages grew faster. The CDW Employee Perks Program page must not have worked for them, as it no longer exists.

Page Dec 2009 July 2010 %Increase
Dell 51,183 183,554 259%
Cisco 24,289 74,400 206%
Salesforce 3,569 8,513 139%
Sodexo 2,069 4,194 103%
Cintas 1,156 2,260 96%
Gartner 2,059 3,943 92%
Hubspot 8,046 14,123 76%
Forrester 2,593 3,726 44%
Ernst & Young 34,478 47,611 38%
CDW 753 0 -100%

And always, if you have B2B Pages that you think are doing a good job providing information and creating engagement, or just doing something different, let us know in the comments below. You can even share your own if it is worth sharing.

Presentation: 10 Examples of B2B Facebook Fan Pages

Last week we published a post 10 Examples of B2B Facebook Fan Pages and it was very well received by our readers. Since one of the goals of Social Media B2B is to educate people about the value and benefits of social media in B2B and provide advice on how to get started, I have converted that post to a slideshare presentation. Now, as you are talking internally about your social media plans for 2010, here is an easy reference to use to discuss Facebook Fan Pages.

The presentation includes some introductory bullets highlighting some of the benefits of having a Fan Page; 10 examples of Facebook Fan Pages including a link, number of fans and a brief explanation of why the page is notable; and a summary page of the 10 examples. Share this presentation with your colleagues and your boss to start the conversation about what you could do with a Facebook Fan Page for your company.

[Updated] 10 Examples of B2B Facebook Fan Pages

July 2010 Update: This post was written seven months ago and many things about Facebook have changed. People are no longer fans of company pages, but they Like them. This causes confusion in referring to them. Are they Likers of a Page? And this week Facebook passed 500 million users. So we saw this as a great opportunity to re-visit this post and provide some updates. All new additions to this post will be indicated. Note that screenshots have not been updated. You can click on them to view the live page.

As Facebook continues to grow, now over 350 million users worldwide, more and more B2B companies are setting up Facebook Fan Pages. These pages give a business a home on Facebook and allows their content to be shared with their fans, in the same information stream with updates and links from their friends. Studies have shown that many people follow brands on Twitter looking for special deals, but Facebook is different. People become fans of companies and brands on Facebook for two different reasons. The first is that they want to keep up with the company and learn more about them. The second is they want to associate themselves with the company. That is they want to express their love of the company with others. The origin of the word fan, after all, is fanatic.

While many large B2B companies and brands do have their fans, and we will see some below, why would someone become a fan of company they don’t love? The reasons are no different than connecting on other forms of social media. These are building relationship with the company, getting value from the content, customer service, and yes, opportunities for special offers. So below are 10 examples of B2B companies using Facebook Fan Pages in a variety of ways.

Dell (Dec 2009: 51,183 fans; July 2010: 183,554 People Like This)

dell-facebook-page
Dell’s Page
features a custom landing page and a set of custom tabs. They also tell people why they should become fans. July 2010 Update: Some have commented that this is a consumer page, and since we published this post, Dell has called this a Consumer Facebook Page and created a Dell Business Page on Facebook with 583 Likers. They have also created a hub listing all of their Facebook Pages and Groups: dell.com/facebook

Cisco (Dec 2009: 24,289 fans; 74,400 People Like This)

cisco-facebook-page
Cisco’s Page
does a great job of adding links of other Facebook Pages and other places to find them on the web. July 2010 Update: As this page has grown its Likers, on page engagement has continued to grow. Make sure you read our interview with Cisco’s Social Media Manager about their Facebook Page. That interview occurred as a result of this original post.

Hubspot (Dec 2009: 8,046 fans; July 2010: 14,123 People Like This)

hubspot-facebook-page
Hubspot’s Page
does a good job of providing content makes people comment. These comments show up in people’s profiles and with the revised Facebook News Feed, updates with more comments are more likely to show in fans’ information streams. July 2010 Update: Hubspot has expanded their wall posts to feature posts from other blogs, as many people do on Twitter, including a recent SocialMediaB2B post (Thanks Hubspotters). They also have regular features like a question of the week to increase engagement.

Salesforce.com (Dec 2009: 3,569 fans; July 2010: 8,535 People Like This)

salesforce-facebook-page
Salesforce.com’s Page
displays photos and videos, including user-provided ones, from a recent conference. July 2010 Update: Here’s the latest announcement on this page: Facebook has selected Salesforce CRM to manage its fast-growing sales operations.

Forrester Research (Dec 2009: 2,593 fans; July 2010: 3,726 People Like This)

forrester-facebook-page
Forrester’s Page
informs fans about upcoming seminars and other events, in addition to aggregating feeds from their analysts’ blogs.

Gartner (Dec 2009: 2,059 fans; July 2010: 3,943 People Like This)

gartner-facebook-page
Gartner’s Page
promotes its latest research findings and promotes its events.

Ernst & Young (Dec 2009: 34,478 fans; July 2010: 47,611 People Like This)

ernst-young-facebook-page
Ernst & Young’s Page
was started as a recruiting tool for college students when Facebook was mainly a college-based social network. It’s usage has grown as Facebook has grown. Rather than using a custom tab as a landing page, they use the boxes tab to show a variety of content instead of their wall. July 2010 Update: While they continue to post content on a weekly basis, much of the wall posts are job seekers posting questions and the E&Y page managers responding with comments. They also no longer us the boxes tab as a landing page, people who do not yet like the page go directly to the wall. They do however, have targeted content in other tabs, as they did in December.

Sodexo (Dec 2009: 2,069 fans; July 2010: 4,194 People Like This)

sodexho-facebook-page
Sodexo’s Page
is also used for recruiting and is a channel for customer service and followup with applicants and interested parties. July 2010 Update: Customer service and communication with recruiters continues to be an important element in this page.

Cintas (Dec 2009: 1,156 fans; July 2010: 2,260 People Like This)

cintas-facebook-page
Cintas’ Page
also uses the Boxes tab as a landing page to show a variety of content. There is a large custom graphic promoting their company values, along with links to social initiatives, posted videos and press release. This page also includes a Facebook FAQ describing why they are on Facebook and what is expected.

CDW (Dec 2009: 753 fans; July 2010: This page no longer exists)

cdw-facebook-page
CDW’s Page connects employees and partners to an outsourced discount program and they inform their employees about about current items in the program. July 2010 Update: I can only guess that Facebook was not an effective way to manage this program and they moved to a different solution.

And finally, become a fan of the Social Media B2B Facebook Page. It is another way to receive the content from our site, within your Facebook information stream. And we are using Network Blogs to push our feed to Facebook, rather than just importing it to the Notes tab. This provides some additional sharing opportunities for the content.

Hubspot has created an ebook (posted on Slideshare) that features 15 more examples of B2B Facebook Pages. Are there other B2B Facebook Pages that are connecting with fans in different and innovative ways? Let us know in the comments below.

UPDATE (12/10): This post is now available as a Slideshare presentation, making it easier to share and discuss with your colleagues.

HubSpot Customer Generates B2B Leads and Customers Using Inbound Marketing

This post is a recap of a case study presented at the recent B2B Social Communications event held in New York City. Rick Burnes (@rickburnes), Inbound Marketing Manager, HubSpot explained how one small business took advantage of modern, inbound marketing techniques, including search engine optimization, blogging and social media, as well as landing pages, lead intelligence and marketing analytics, to get found by more prospects and convert higher percentages of these prospects into paying customers.

The concepts of inbound marketing allow a business to get found. While businesses think of leads and customer sales as a funnel, inbound marketing occurs above the funnel. These techniques brings prospects to website, and it is up to the website to move prospects through the process to make a sale. A well-considered blog is a huge traffic-driver to a website when it addresses potential questions. These posts are found in searches, the primary way all people interact with the web. In the presented example, the business supplied materials to make fences for commercial applications. A blog post about the size of holes in fence mesh brings prospects to the site because it answers a question contractors have about what to purchase. Facebook and Twitter pages featuring information about and photos of fences also helps drive traffic to the company’s website.

The inbound marketing program saved money that was not spent on advertising, plus each blog post gets indexed in search engines and continues to drive traffic.

SocialMediaB2B Site Creators to Speak at Social Fresh

Kipp Bodnar and Jeff Cohen will be speaking at the upcoming Social Fresh conference in Charlotte, North Carolina on August 24. Even though the conference is now sold out, we wanted to give you a heads up about this panel on Social Media B2B moderated by Kipp and featuring Jeff, along with Nathan Gilliatt of Social Target and David Thomas of SAS. See our interview with David in two parts (Part 1, Part 2) to learn more social media practices at SAS.

We will discuss social media in a business to business environment by looking at best practices and real world examples. Even though many b2b companies question the use of social media, we will address the principles of engagement and the importance of two-way conversation for any business. And finally, we will expand the notion that social media is just for marketing, and discuss other examples of its use in other functional areas.

Social Fresh brings together social media thought leaders to discuss how to make the social web work for real business. Social networking and online word-of-mouth tools are getting faster and providing more access to the customer every day. To remain competitive, every company needs to discover how to make social media work for their bottom line. And to keep business communicators on the edge of what’s next, leading web application developers will comment on where they see social media and big business moving in the coming years.

If you are coming to Social Fresh, make sure you find us. We would enjoy hearing about your experiences of social media in B2B. Even though the conference is sold out, go to Social Fresh.com for all the ways to follow the content from this event on August 24.

B2B Social Media Example: Boeing

The next profile in our series of B2B Social Media examples is Boeing, specifically the Commercial Airplane Business Unit, located in Seattle. The cornerstone of Boeing’s social media presence is a longtime blog, started by Randy Baseler, Vice President, Marketing Commercial Airplanes in January 2005 as a way to expand the conversation of commercial aviation to the Web. In its first two years, Randy’s Journal, as the blog was named, saw more than a half million individual visits, according to Randy’s bio statement.

There is lots of reader engagement with many regular readers contributing comments. In addition to aviation industry people and airplane enthusiasts, many commenters appear to be Boeing employees expressing both positive and negative opinions about their employer. And Randy became so popular that the post where he announced his retirement has 73 comments from his well-wishers. Boeing lucked out in finding his replacement for the VP position, as his name is Randy as well. This meant that neither the blog name, nor the URL needed to change for this corporate blog to thrive. Now written by Randy Tinseth, the blog didn’t miss a beat, as it has reached near a million visits in another two years.

Since airplane projects are long term affairs, he may write about a single plane over a series of years. The latest project that is working its way through the process, as well as Randy’s blog is the 787 Dreamliner. As the plane finally moves out of testing to the flight line, Randy is completely honest in his blog.

I don’t need to tell you that it’s been a tough, tough couple of years – on many levels – and we’ve taken a lot of knocks and endured a lot of criticism. Through it all, though, the teamwork, emotional resilience and dedication of this Boeing team – and our partners around the world – has been nothing short of incredible. It’s been a nearly superhuman effort getting to where we are today.


Here’s a photo from the blog of the 787 in the paint hangar

As Randy’s blog is another communication outlet for a large public company, he also includes transparent reflections on quarterly earnings, orders and and how the impact of results financial results on production and development of ongoing projects.

We’ve just been through another tough quarter, not only for Boeing but for our industry. So, understandably our results are somewhat parallel to what’s happening in the global economy and its deep effects on the commercial airplane market. Boeing’s first-quarter earnings dropped 50%, to $610 million.

As for the 747-8 Intercontinental, engineering is proceeding as planned. However, we announced today an adjustment in the schedule for the Intercontinental. The first passenger model is now expected to deliver during the 4th quarter of 2011 rather than the 2nd quarter of 2011 because of the softening freighter market and our resulting decision to delay a planned the increase in 747 production.

Randy’s blog also has a simple guidelines page that states that the opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Boeing company. This gives Randy the flexibility to be open and honest on his blog without worrying about misrepresenting the company. Yes, he is still VP of Marketing for Boeing and does represent them, but nothing he says on his blog will cause harm as a Boeing statement. This is a pretty major condition of this blog and I would like to hear more from Randy about it.

And finally, a couple things that could be done better on the blog, because even the leaders in social media B2B space can use a bit of advice. I was unable to find any link to Randy’s blog. It is very easy to find using a Google search for Boeing Blog or even a search on the Boeing home page, but both of those assume I know of its existence. There needs to be a link somewhere on the Commercial Airplanes home page. There is a quicklinks box on the right hand side that contains a link to Wallpaper, and nothing else. That would be a perfect place to provide a direct link to Randy’s blog. I also have a problem with the navigation of the blog itself. When you come to the blog you only see six posts. There is not a link at the bottom to see older posts. You must click on the Archives link in the right hand sidebar to view excerpts of all the posts. While this is perfectly functional, it is not an intuitive way to navigate a blog. Randy should explore the possibility of this navigation upgrade.

My last thing that I think Randy needs to address is more interaction with his readers. His blog gets a decent amount of comments, especially for a corporate blog, but I have not seen that he has responded in comments. In one recent post, he calls out “informed outsiders” who blog about aviation projects and frequently post misinformation. This post generated great discussion in the comments, which is a sign of a good blog post. Write in such a way that your readers respond, but Randy missed an opportunity to further engage on this topic within the comments.

So, in summary, if you are looking for a good example of a corporate blog from a large public company, check out Randy’s Journal. Subscribe to his RSS feed so you can see how he addresses a variety of topics over time. And Randy, if you leave a comment below, I will reply in the comments. We can also do a follow-up post, as we have done with others.

ArcelorMittal Social Media Review Follow-up

I previously reviewed the online presence and use of social media by a traditional business to business firm, steel company, ArcelorMittal. Today I had the chance to follow up by phone with Stefan Schwartz, General Manager of Internal Communications at ArcelorMittal and the person responsible for the web video series and coordinated blog. We talked about the goals of the series, the results and some challenges with moving forward in today’s economic climate.

The complete interview is below in an embedded player. It is nearly 20 minutes long, but it is worth hearing to gain insight into B2B social media from someone who has created a significant campaign in a large, global corporation.

Click to Play

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B2B Social Media Example: ArcelorMittal

For the next review of social media examples in a business to business environment, we are going to look at the online digital footprint of ArcelorMittal, the world’s number one steel company. This global firm has over 326,000 employees in more than 60 countries and was formed in 2006 with the merger of two leaders in the steel industry. arcelormittal_logo

The centerpiece of their online strategy was the creation of a series of online videos to document the merger and speak to the employees as two very different corporate cultures came together. These professionally produced videos highlight regions, industries, brand creation and steps along the way in the corporate launch. And the corporate website features a prominent link to the web video site, which is a great way to promote online content. According to a company press release, “It proved one of the most successful communications exercise undertaken by the company, both internally and externally spanning 15 episodes, 544,431 unique visitors, 882,054 pages views and near 250,000 views of the video episodes.” I do wonder why less than half the visitors watched the videos.


The above is an embedded playlist of all 15 videos.

Since the goal of this video series was to communicate the message of the merger to an internal audience, they needed to make the content as accessible as possible. The videos were posted to a unique website www.arcelormittal.tv, and since they are a global company, each video features a subtitle function that allows the viewer to watch subtitles in 14 languages. These videos were available through an RSS feed subscription, as a podcast and as a download. The videos were also posted to Youtube, but the views are not a significant part of the numbers quoted in the press release.

After this initial series, they produced a second season of videos entitled “Inside Transforming Tomorrow,” to go behind the scenes of the company and examine how they are putting their brand promise, transforming tomorrow, into action. These videos are also embedded on the www.arcelormittal.tv site, but with an easy way to share, as well as including the embed code so viewers can place the YouTube-hosted videos on their own sites. While season one, now moved to its own tab on the site, spoke inward, the new season “takes a personal, more human approach where the viewer is invited to share moments of the lives of the men and women that are the very essence of ArcelorMittal.” This is meant to put a human face on the steel giant. The first video in the series highlights their investment in war-torn Liberia, which includes addressing infrastructure issues of medical facilities and schools. Another video in the second season features the steel beams made for the new Freedom Tower in New York that is being built on the site of the World Trade Center.

And there is no press release announcing a third series, or any mention of numbers resulting from the second season. These videos on YouTube have much lower views than the first series. The last video was posted in August 2008, so it appears that the series is over. There is no mention of a conclusion, and it has been nine months. This is clearly a company affected by the global slowdown in construction and manufacturing, so it is assumed that the video series is over.

The company has had a blog associated with each series of videos. The first version seemed to be more of a standard corporate blog that reported news in a more informal style than was possible for a public company to distribute in a press release. The second season blog is more of an extension of the second season of videos by bringing the human side of the company to the public. While there is very little interaction with the public through the handful of comments, the stories covered include community support, employee profiles, sports champions and the world’s largest shish kebob.

But reading between the lines of the posts finds no mention of the negative impact the global recession has had on this industrial conglomerate which has seen a drastic reduction in steel production, employee cutbacks and plant closings. They created a forum to communicate with internal and external audiences through blog posts and video, and they have abandoned them when times get tough. Honest, low-cost communications are served well by social media, and now could not be a better time to utilize these tools.

arcelormittel_cappucinoThese days even companies like ArcelorMittal have a Facebook presence, albeit small. There are three different groups, one for the company, one for the employees and one for the head of the company. None of them have much activity on them and they range from 300 – 600 members each. The most interesting is the employee group, which in happier times included a photo of cappuccino with the company logo in the foam, but now includes former employees trying to remain connected.

So, in summary, ArcelorMittal created two series of well-produced videos, both supported by blogs with appropriate, humanizing content, but achieved limited success in ongoing engagement with visitors. And in these times where real connections will help companies survive, there is little to no mention of the climate in which the company is operating. We will attempt to follow up with company officials to learn more about their goals and results of the campaigns, and any future plans for social media. Please leave any comments or suggestions about this post or the series below.