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

Social Media Supports Changing B2B Buying Landscape

B2B marketers understand that they are operating in a different environment for a variety of reasons. These include a tighter economy, more rigor around business decision-making and the growing importance of social media in all B2B industries.

Two recent charts with survey data from Marketing Sherpa show a changing landscape of B2B transactions. The first shows the change in average deal size from 2010 to 2011. More than half of the deals closed by B2B companies are under $10,000, with the largest number of them (32%) between $1,001 and $10,000. This indicates that many of the larger deals, sometimes thought of as the hallmark of B2B sales, are not happening in the same numbers as before. It is easy to speculate that this is partially the result of the economy, and companies are just not spending the way they have in the past.

The second chart shows that the length of the buying cycle is shorter. This is defined from first lead inquiry to purchase. While the most common cycle is 1-3 months in both 2010 and 2011, the number increased in 2011. The number of responses of less than a month also increased. There were fewer in the ranges of 4-6 months and 7-12 months in 2011, and only cycles of more than a year held steady. This follows the first chart pretty naturally. If sales are down then the time to complete those sales is shorter.

B2B Social Media Marketing Takeaways:
1. If you sell an expensive, complex product, it is more important than ever to embrace social media. With fewer sales in 2011, does 2012 look any different? This means that every customer and prospect is more important to your sales conversion. You need to work harder to discover new leads and work harder to retain customers. Social media can assist with both discovery and retention.

2. Consider expanding service offerings or other smaller sales to support larger customers. If buyers are not upgrading products or systems, they will require more support in the near term. Look for ways that social media influenced content (ebooks, custom videos) can support those relationships in the absence of enhanced paid support models.

3. One of things that we have learned about the buying cycle in the social media era is that prospects contact a sales rep after 60% of the cycle is complete. This means that a company no longer contacts you for general information, but they seek it out themselves from the web, including social media platforms. This makes a social media presence an important part of reaching prospects. Your B2B company needs to demonstrate expertise by sharing valuable information to be included in the consideration phase of the buying cycle. This is no longer a linear process and there are many stops along the way.

How have your B2B buying cycles changed and are you able to use social media to address these changes?

62% of B2B Marketers’ Biggest Challenge: Lack of Resources

B2B marketers are always facing challenges in their marketing efforts, but in today’s competitive landscape and tough economic climate those challenges are more pronounced than ever before.

In a recent Marketing Sherpa 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, B2B marketers were asked to identify their top challenges in their marketing efforts. The results (click to view larger version):

B2B Marketing Challenges Chart: Marketing Sherpa

The most identified challenge for B2B marketers is the “lack of resources in staffing, budgeting or time.” It was 23% higher than the second biggest challenge, “lack of ability to stop executing and think strategically.”

The report also shows that even the most effective B2B marketing tactics such as website design, SEO and email marketing saw up to a 50% decline in their overall effectiveness from the previous year.

So what does this mean for B2B marketers?  Will B2B marketers embrace solutions that save time or money? Do you have any tips or tricks that you use to make up for lack of resources, time, or budget?