8 Reasons Why B2B Social Media is Easier than B2C

B2B B2C Easy HardAlthough social media is seldom “easy,” there are some distinct advantages that B2B companies have over B2C brands in the social media space.  Here’s a list of 8 reasons why B2B social media is easier than B2C:

1. It’s driven by relationships
B2C marketing is largely based on a product and its price. It tends to be a more impulsive or emotional buying decision than B2B. B2B purchasing decisions tend to be more involved and relationship driven, and that suits social media.

In a B2B sales cycle, businesses tend to interface directly with potential customers multiple times in order to inform and educate the prospect. Social media can play a big role in this process. Through social media you can interact with the prospect and nurture the relationship, which can ultimately influence the final purchase decision.

2. Your practices can lead to sales
Your social media practices can demonstrate your business value which can lead to purchases. Users can see that you are reliable, responsive, intelligent, etc. via your social media practices.

3. You have more control
B2B companies tend to have less people talking about their brand than B2C companies. In most cases that means less content, and B2B typically generates less negative sentiment than B2C. That means B2B companies have less content to control and less negative content to deal with. Therefore B2B companies can maintain more control over their social content which makes it easier to get their message through to the right audience.

4. B2B purchase decisions are more rational
B2B sales cycles can span months or even years. Buyers research products, educate themselves, review competition, seek opinions via referrals or recommendations and in many cases, interact with brands before making a purchase decision. B2B buyers also need the approval of one or more colleagues to make the purchase. Compared to B2C, the B2B buying decision is a much more considered process and it’s based largely on business value.

5. It’s easier to build long-term relationships
The goal for most B2B marketers is to convert prospects into customers. Because the sales cycle is longer, B2B companies need to focus on relationships as part of that process. Communication with prospects, engaging them, educating them and leading them towards purchase creates the foundation for a long term relationship. And in many situations, the social media relationship continues past the sale through support, updates and continuing education.

6. The B2B market is smaller than the B2C market
Compared to B2C, B2B is a smaller, more focused target market. Using social media to identify prospects, connect with them and start building a relationship is faster and easier in the B2B market.

7. B2B buyers trust recommendations and feedback
Because B2B purchases are typically more considered decisions, B2B buyers tend to value the recommendations and feedback they receive from colleagues and other industry professionals. Social media provides a great opportunity to solicit product feedback, which can help influence the purchasing decision of the buyer.

8. B2B content has a long tail
B2B products tend to change less frequently than their B2C counterparts, so the social content you produce for your marketing efforts will create value for a longer period of time. That can make B2B social marketing more effective (and likely less expensive) than B2C.

Do you agree that B2B social media is easier than B2C? Are there any other ways that you feel B2B social media has an advantage over B2C?

Does B2B Social Media Drive Holiday Sales?

Here in the US, this past Friday marked the beginning of the retail holiday selling season. As more shoppers moved their purchases online, social media contributed to their choices of websites and their knowledge of the latest deals. Can social media help with B2B sales as we close out the year and head toward the holidays? Let’s look at some examples.

  • If you sell enterprise software, does adding a Santa hat to your Twitter avatar help close those sales?
  • If you provide business consulting services, does adding a holiday themed landing tab on your Facebook Page bring in end of the year business?
  • If you sell forklifts to warehouse operations large and small, will a holiday video convert to sales of new forklifts?

  • If you answered yes to any of these questions, you haven’t been paying enough attention to this site and you need to go back and read more posts. Social media success in B2B is not about a single tactic, or even a single themed action, but it is just like B2B sales. It is based on the long term building of relationships. Each of the above examples can contribute to sales if they are in the context of larger activities and are part of the relationship building process.

    • Adding some holiday cheer to an active Twitter account where you communicate regularly with your customers and prospects can help humanize your enterprise software company and contribute to closing sales.
    • Create an engaging holiday themed landing tab on your Facebook Page for your business consulting services and encourage customers to share holiday stories. This building of community strengthens ties to your business and between customers.
    • Create a fun holiday video of your employees rather than mail a traditional card. Many of your customers may see the people they communicate with by phone or email for the first time. This is another way to improve your relationship with your customers, show the human side of your company and provide another touchpoint for your sales force.

    What are some ways you are reaching out to your customers with social media this holiday season?

The Changing Role of the B2B Sales Rep in Social Selling

Gone are the days of mass marketing and generic sales tactics. B2B customers today are savvier, less patient and have higher expectations for personalized communications to drive their purchasing decisions. Spam emails, newsletters and webinar invites are just about as effective as sending your prospect last week’s newspaper, and not surprisingly have low success rates.

Similar to their demand for more personalized sales and marketing outreach, buyers expect attention from people, not companies. One of Twitter’s most valuable assets is that it enables buyers to connect with a person rather than a corporate alias. Whereas the consumer once contacted a customer service hotline or bounced from call center to call center, today’s informed buyer knows the names, profiles and background information about company representatives from whom they seek information.

Out with the corporation, in with the individual
So what does this mean for the B2B sales profession? Now that buyers seek contact with individual people within a company, a corporate backdrop is less effective than a sales rep’s ability to connect on a personal level with their prospect. Tapping such buyer expectations is driving the social selling revolution. Social media and social networks are emerging as the new forums for sales people to build and maintain dynamic relationships with their prospects. This new level of social engagement is far from a fallacy, and it is shaping up to be the future of the sales profession!

As customers and prospects demand more relevant communication and personalized engagement from sales reps, two important factors must be addressed:

Sales professionals must get social
Those who are pushing sales through social media are reaping the rewards of integrating social processes into their sales cycle. After all, relevance comes from listening to your customers and understanding how you may be able to address their newest business challenges. There is no better place than social media to get the inside scoop about your prospects, nor is there a better or more informal way of engaging them at the right time, when they may be most receptive to your communications. Fortunately, jump-starting your social media presence is not difficult, and the immediate gain of information about your prospects will enable more personalized and timely engagement around their business needs.

Companies must break down corporate barriers and encourage autonomy
A prerequisite to the sales professional’s ability to dive into social selling is the removal of corporate barriers that restrict social engagement. This is not always an easy transition for major corporations, as the reputation of a company rests, even more so than before, in the hands (or rather posts and tweets) of its employees. Company execs can counter their doubt about tearing down this wall by setting loose restrictions and corporate guidelines for the use of social media as a selling tool and showcasing success stories. Take a look at this list of behavioral and etiquette guidelines for organizations for ideas on how your company may effectively tackle this important issue.

How is your sales team or company mastering the emerging art of leveraging social media as a business asset? The topic is one that will continue to evolve, but it is the companies that embrace new technologies that will see the greatest impact in the modern era of selling.

4 Ways to Bridge the Social Media Gap With B2B Sales Team

The common disconnect between B2B sales and marketing teams has recently been amplified by the emergence of social media. When it comes to B2B social media efforts, salespeople often have very little exposure and experience with both professional and personal usage of social sites and new media.

As this blog post points out, the two segments have different cultures, mindsets and compensation structures. Although sales staff may not understand the ins and outs of marketing strategies, timelines and budgets, they were at least familiar with more traditional approaches such as public relations, customer service and advertising, and understood these methods have proven returns for their overall sales goals.

As B2B communicators begin to use social media to support lead generation, it’s important to provide tangible measurements and examples of how sites such as Facebook, company and industry blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn can build new customer relationships, foster existing connections and, ultimately, move product out the door.

Here are four ways to begin to bridge the gap between B2B social media and B2B sales teams:

1. Create regular social media updates

Your sales force is constantly seeking information about new prospects, market news and sales forecasts, leaving little time to catch up on the latest social media news, scan competitors’ blogs or do a Twitter search on an upcoming tradeshow. A regular newsflash – sent weekly or monthly – can keep the sales team up to speed on general and industry social media news and up to date on internal and competitor updates.

Not sure what to include? Recap breaking social media news from the previous week (such as Twitter Ads or Facebook’s new “Like” feature) that could impact internal social media efforts; round-up blog posts from industry thought leaders; link to transcripts of applicable Twitter chats; point out changes and updates to competitors’ social media sites; highlight a post on the company blog that received more attention than usual; and suggest new blogs and Twitter accounts that could help the team learn more about sales, the industry or social media in general.

2. Leverage existing communication tools

If your PR staff is doing its job, your sales team has discovered communication tools that pull double-duty by satisfying brand awareness and supporting lead generation at the same time. Perhaps you’re already sending out a quarterly e-newsletter to influencers, providing special offers to new customers or hosting a monthly networking event for industry members to meet and mingle, and the sales team has seen measurable results.

Find ways to integrate social media efforts into the communication tactics your sales team has already bought into: In the e-newsletter, drive readers back to your blog for more information on a new product. Post those special offers on Twitter and Facebook. Record and tag videos and photos from networking events on Flickr and YouTube, which provides another touch point for sales to reach out to potential customers.

3. Track leads that come from social media

Your B2B sales staff is already tracking the source leads in your CRM system. The sophistication of this system depends on the size of your company, but it is still important to know whether leads are from your Web site, tradeshows, advertisements, referrals or press releases. Similarly, it’s also important to track when leads stem from social media efforts.

Make sure your organization’s sales team can note when a lead comes in from the company blog, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn pages. Close the loop by routing this information back to the PR and marketing team, especially if those leads result in sales, so the data can inform future social media efforts. It may sound simple, but this small step will begin to show B2B salespeople the sales impact of social media.

4. Provide monthly analytics reports to sales team

Just like B2B social media pros use weekly and monthly analytics to measure sentiment and create content strategies, salespeople have specific numbers and measurements that will help shape their own goals.

Find out what information would be helpful to them. Do they want to see blog visitors broken down by location? Would knowing the ages of Facebook fans help them better target their B2B sales efforts? What page within the website receives the most traffic from Twitter, and should it be beefed up with a lead generation form? Knowing the measurements your B2B sales team is interested in will help you provide them with more targeted numbers.

What techniques have helped you communicate social media’s value to your salespeople?

5 Ways to Create Core Content for B2B Blogs

For all blogs, content is king. Between status meetings, financial reports, marketing planning and sales team ramp-ups, however, creating regular B2B blog content can be daunting.

“5 Types of Posts to Feed Your Business Blog” was a Hubspot blog post that compared five very different types of food to the different types of content that best populate a business blog. Author Rick Burnes maintains that between spinach posts (longer posts that showcase your expertise) and roast posts (in-depth posts that require research and showcase data and analysis), all bloggers need some raisin bran:

Raisin Bran – Useful, Everyday Posts

Most of your posts should be raisin bran. They’re very practical and usually framed as how-to advice. Serving dentists? How should they use new tools? Serving restaurants? What’s the most efficient reservation software?

You should work hard to make sure you’re good at these posts — that you can whip them out, and that your readers engage with them and like them.

No matter what industry you’re in, these types posts will serve as core content, round out monthly editorial calendars and allow more time for your staff to focus on “big picture” blog posts. These planned features, which could be included weekly, bi-monthly or monthly, provide readers with regular, expected content.

Here are five core content ideas to start with:

1. News roundups

B2B companies seek and receive news every day, whether it comes from a daily monitoring e-mail sent put together in PR, a Twitter stream, mobile news app or (gasp!) the newspaper. You’re always on the lookout for breaking news, feature stories, columns and opinion pieces that affect your company, your competitors, your customers and your industry. So why not share it?

Putting together a weekly news roundup post helps your readers (and potential customers) stay on top of of the same issues you are monitoring, and provides added value to them by putting all of the week’s important stories in one easily shared post.

Make it happen: Monday is a great day to post a news roundup, as many people are actively seeking news to start off their weeks. Pull together five to seven news articles or blog posts from the week and bullet each out, including the article title, source and a brief excerpt or summary.  Take it one step further by adding your own thoughts and engaging readers by asking a question about each article.

2. Twitter roundups

Similar to a news roundup, a Twitter roundup highlights the people and organizations you find valuable to follow. Memes like Follow Friday exist for a reason: Just like in the business world, it’s worthwhile to recognize and thank people who are valuable contributors.

Make it happen: Use the “favorite” option on Twitter to flag tweets that make you pause, think, disagree or set off a lightbulb in your head. Pull those tweets together at the end of each week and use the data in different ways: The first week of the month could be a list of key industry tweeters to follow; the next, a collection of linked screenshots that connect to interesting blog posts. Feeling extra adventurous? Post tweets that offer up advice, suggestions and opinions sans links – it’s hard enough to relay a worthwhile idea in an entire blog post, let alone in 140 characters or less.

3. Meet the team

Use what – or, this case, who – you’ve got.

Social media helps put a voice, face and name to organizations, making it easy to spotlight employees in your organization who make your business successful. Using an interactive medium such as video breaks up the usual text-heavy paragraphs of blog posts and makes an employee more than just a voice on the other end of a phone call.

Make it happen: Invest in a Flip Cam for less than $200 and use it to interview members of your staff. Blogs are about personality, so dig deeper than questions such as “Where did you go to college?” Use the opportunity to let employees show off their expertise, passions, hobbies and anecdotes. Let them deliver first-hand stories about their experience in the company, without relying on canned talking points. In the text of the post, offer up their contact information so readers can continue the conversation. If your organization is small, use subsequent weeks to check in with team members to see what they’re doing, their thoughts on industry news and predictions for coming months.

4. Mailbag

Think of this feature as an interactive version of the FAQ page on your Web site, and use it to point out features, services, Web site pages, contact information and facts about your organization that readers may not know.

Make it happen: Utilize your sales team – they’re on the ground, talking with customers everyday. What questions do they hear most often? What misconceptions do they run into about your product or services? Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are also good places to find out what kind of information people are searching for.  Invite people to leave their own questions for future Mailbag posts in the blog’s comment section.

5. Social media and (your industry here)

If readers are finding your blog (and using Twitter and Facebook to get there), chances are they’re interested in social media. Spotlight non-competitors, customers, researchers, educators, media and others in your industry who are engaging in social media. This builds relationships, gives the person you interview a reason to link to and promote your blog, and helps you learn something along the way.

Make it happen: Keep an eye out for good candidates and approach them with an interview request. If they’re from out of town, send them a few questions via e-mail, record a podcast over the phone or get extra mileage out of that Flip Camera and interview them in person. Focus on takeaways other could implement from their experience, and ask them how they feel the social space is impacting the industry. When you post the interview, send him or her the link so they can promote it on their sites, and tweet it out using their Twitter handle.

What other types of core content do you use to build out your B2B blog’s editorial calendar?

The Role Of B2B Sales Teams In Social Media

I had the honor recently of doing an interview with Chad Levitt for his New Sales Economy Blog. Chad asked some important questions about the role of B2B sales professionals and their role in social media. We discuss the responsibilities of different departments within the organization as it relates to social media as well as the importance of social media integration.

If you are interested in the role of sales in B2B social media, I recommend checking it out. A big thanks to Chad for the opportunity!

5 Steps To Get B2B Social Media Funded In 2010

Investment and funding are the cruel necessities needed to fund all of those great B2B social media ideas that are floating around in your head. If management won’t invest in social media efforts, it is likely many won’t ever see the light of day. Sure, hard working and clever professionals will find a way to execute some social media strategies with little or no budget, but these will be only a few components of a larger strategy that has been abandoned because of lack of funding.

In order to do what you ultimately think is the best strategy and execution for your organization, you will need to have the resources to make it happen. Like any business function, convincing executives to invest is all about doing your homework and laying down a foundation.

5 Steps to Get B2B Social Media Funded

1. Understand The Numbers – To get money you have to show that you can make money. The first step is finding some of the little things that many in your organization don’t like to do. You need to determine areas of your business that you think B2B social media can support and help grow, help reduce cost, or foster innovation. Once you understand these areas, then it is important to know the numbers tied to these business functions. How much is a lead worth? How much does a call center call cost the business? What does better R&D mean to long-term product sales. These are the answers you must be armed with.

2. Develop A Strategy Based on Financial Gains – Does social media have benefits past direct financial gains? Of course, but it is the financial modeling for your plan that will get investment, not the branding and engagement benefits. If you want your B2B social media plan to succeed then you need to build it like a business plan, not a communications plan. Make no mistake, the web is a business. The two key things to focus on is how you will drive results on current business indicators that you can demonstrate with your knowledge from step one. Additionally if you can demonstrate new sources of revenue and/or cost savings that can be generated by your social media strategy, then you will greatly increase your odds of executive support.

3. Understand The Resources Needed Before Starting - Getting something like social media approved depends a lot on your ability to impress executives and blow them away with detail and knowledge of your plan. Something I see a lot is strategies and plans presented and even approved that have a lack of understanding of the resources needed to be successful. Social media isn’t free. You will need support from current or new staff as well as budgets to pay vendors for things like social media monitoring, hosting, development, premium accounts and many others. Having these resources understood ahead of time shows that you understand the scope of work and that this isn’t just some kind of experiment. Step 3 is the information that you will present that will make sure that you are taken seriously.

4. Find and Build A Hero – The first three steps are great and may be enough for many executives, but some will want more. We have already agreed that you can’t implement the right strategy without support and investment. However, without support and investment you do have the resources to build one hero. You can find the time to work with one member of the sales team and train him to leverage social media to improve his sales results. You likely have someone in mind already. The point of this step is to demonstrate that with the right training and strategy that social media can help your sales team achieve better results. If you can showcase the example of one team member doing it right and demonstrate the results that have already happened, then it is easy to demonstrate the possible organization wide impact.

5. Set ROI Metrics and Time Table From The Beginning – Think of step five as the knock out punch in your fight for B2B social media funding. When closing out your presentation for executives it is not enough to show them the potential return for their investment. A time table has to be assigned. Make a slide with a timeline and show the increments of time you believe that will serve as ROI milestones. Setting these goals against dates will give the executive team a clear understanding and help them see how social media fits in with the big business projections calendar.

If you do these five steps and do them right it will be very hard for an executive team not to support you.

Do you agree? What do you think I left out?

The 80-20 Rule of B2B Social Media

Everyone knows about the 80-20 rule. No matter how you analyze your B2B company, it always comes back to within a few percentage points of 80-20. 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. While this one is usually okay if those 20% are stable customers, it’s the other common one that is troublesome. 80% of your resources seem to be spent on the customers responsible for only 20% of your revenue. This is the one that can’t possibly be true. It feels anecdotal. It’s just staff complaining about all the handholding required by the small customers. The reality is that larger customers are more efficient and your staff really does spend an inordinate amount of time with those responsible for only 20%.

Now let’s look at how the 80-20 rule applies to social media. Since social media is still so new in many B2B organizations, managers have not been running the numbers in a strict fashion to determine the value and ROI of the programs and campaigns. People still focus on the wrong numbers. How many followers, fans, retweets did you get? Sure this is a measurement of reach of the message, but if it is not aimed at a targeted audience, it is of little value. So many traditional marketers and seasoned PR folks throw their training and their instincts out the window for social media. They suffer from bright, shiny object syndrome. Many approaches are just not focused properly.

This is not the way social media will succeed and survive in B2B companies. Social media must be held to the same standards as other communication initiatives. If you can’t figure out how to engage with your target audience on social media, don’t do it. Be authentic. Be transparent. But your goal still needs to drive your target audience to a call to action. What do you need them to do that translates into sales?

What happened to 80-20? Well, it turns out that the social media audience that you are fitfully chasing is part of the 20% of your business. Why don’t you focus your social media efforts on the customers responsible for 80% of your revenue? Remember these are the customers that don’t require handholding. They currently don’t require excessive resources. Stop chasing the little guys and work with the big customers. They are already efficient. Use social media to make them more efficient. That would increase sales.

Sit down and spend some time to find their pain points. They probably relate to things like product information and shipping information. Set up private wikis or forums to post that internal information just for their eyes. Establish closed social networks for interaction with product managers. Set up video chats or webinars. Anything you have seen on the social web can be password protected and kept private. Treat these customers like they are responsible for 80% of your revenue and give them the tools they need to run their business. Oh yeah, they are responsible for 80% of your revenue.

What are some other ways you can leverage your business information in social ways to help your best customers?

5 Cases When Social Media Isn’t Right For B2B

Everyone gets caught up in the trends, the shiny applications, and all that social media has to offer, but sometimes it doesn’t work. Today is the day to talk about those times. Social media isn’t some kind of communications cure all that can fix any problem. I have spent my time making the case for how social media is applicable in the B2B space; however, today I am going to outline five situations when social media doesn’t work for B2B.

In these situations sure some aspects of social media will work and help support other inbound marketing objectives like search and branding, but the truth is, when it come to driving transactions, there are better options.

1. Your product has less than 5 customers
– In the B2B space some companies exist that are extremely niche. They fill a need by providing a product or service for only a handful of customers. When your customer base is so targeted, you have to be direct with your limited marketing budget. Regular face-to-face meetings, customer events and other tactics would be a better fit for this niche. Social media helps individuals and companies scale their social interaction, but when your scale is small you have less dependence on the scale that social media can provide.

2. Your decision makers spend all of their time behind a highly secure firewall
– In situations where you provide products or services to the military, electrical power grid maintainers and many others, key purchasing decision makers spend their time in a work environment that is secure and locked down from access to most or all of the information made available online. If this is the case for your customer-base then using the web probably won’t be a successful spend of your marketing budget. The success and engagement of social media depends on the ability to reach and connect with customers digitally and in person. For companies in this environment the digital option is off the table.

3. You don’t have an internal advocate for social media – Sometimes it is not about your customers, rather about your organization. One thing that successful organizations have in common when it comes to leveraging social media and word-of-mouth effectively is that they have buy-in from key advocates within the company. At many companies it is the CEO, but at least it is a key decision maker within the organization that can supply the needed resources and leadership to allow the organization to be successful. If you don’t have this, then spend your time finding someone within your organization who can fit this role instead of rolling out an social media effort prematurely.

4. You need to generate a high volume of short-term sales – Can social media drive sales? Yes. Can it drive targeted short-term high-volume sales? In most cases it can not. If you have a charge to sell X number units of a product over the next 3-4 weeks, then social media isn’t the right choice for you. As Chris Brogran, co-author of the book Trust Agents says, creating transactional opportunities on the web takes trust, but trust takes time to establish. If you don’t have time then you must go a different route, most likely direct mail, pricing incentives, and enhanced sales support.

5. If you don’t have the resources to be successful
– A major issue with social media regardless if it is for B2B or not, is that most people think that since most online platforms are free that it should be cheap to add social media to their marketing or communications mix. It isn’t cheap. Social media marketing done properly takes a lot of time and the support of staff that understand the business of the their customers. Many organizations now are simply letting social media happen as an experiment. The problem with this is that most of the time these experiments are drastically under-resourced and handicapped from the beginning. Understanding the resources that you need and having them in place is a critical factor for success.

I am not saying that companies in the situations outlined above, can’t use social media for their business-to-business organizations. Instead I am suggesting that for these opportunities there are better ways to leverage a limited pool of resources available.

Do you agree with the situations I have outlined?

Do you think you are in a situation in which social media won’t work for your B2B business? If so, what is it?

How To Use Twitter Search For B2B Lead Generation

Advanced Twitter Search

Online data is rampant and businesses need tools to help cut through the clutter to find what they are looking for. A question that I hear often from B2B companies is: how do I find my customers on Twitter? When businesses start using Twitter the hardest thing to do is figure out who else is out there talking about info relevant to your business. Many people know about Twitter search, but advanced Twitter search and additional Twitter search tools are often over looked.

Going Beyond Simple Twitter Search:

One of the major keys to mining Twitter for information is being able to find the most relevant information to your business: customers, thought leaders, media analysts. Using advanced search allows business to dig deeper into conversations.

Examples:
People Advanced Twitter Search

If you find a key reporter or analyst that covers your business on Twitter, leverage the people search feature to see who they have been talking to about your industry. This can help identify what your competitors relationships are like with influencers and help you determine the type of information and trends that they are covering. Knowing this can help your business to tell its story better.

Places Advanced Twitter Search

B2B sales team members can harness the places feature in Twitter Advanced Search to identify leads in their sales area by searching for users discussing questions related to products in key cities.

Searching Twitter Bios To Identify Prospects:
TweepSearch __ telecommunications

When identifying sales prospects and influencers on Twitter, bio information is a key tool. Tweep Search is a third party tool that enables users to search Twitter bios for keywords. As seen in the image above gathering listings of users by industry and expertise is free and simple. This information can be used to generate leads and build a relevant Twitter follower base.

Genrating leads can be time consuming and expensive, but using some advanced Twitter Search features at least make it a little easier.