Copyright © 2012 by Monica Paul
Marketing in social media has taken the interest and the conversations in the area professionals meetings. On the other hand, the B2B entrepreneurs ask themselves how to make this social media networks work to their advantage.
Nowadays, the activity in the social networks has become a bound activity for all the companies looking for the way to increase their brand awareness, its strength, and of course to get new clients and qualified leads using this modern tool. According to a research done by the agency Collective, 90% of the marketers are searching for new tools on line, and 62% predict an increase in the social media investment during the following 6 months. However, only 12% thinks that social media are really valuable tools able to generate ROI to brands and companies. Why this contradiction?
Social media came to stay, but not all the entrepreneurs have completely understood how to get tangible and measurable results in the ROI; and while the marketers working with massive campaigns for consumer products go in first place, the B2B companies are less active, however, they must not ignore the social media networks, on the contrary, they should learn to leverage them to their advantage.
A B2B digital marketing strategy involves integration of tools like a dynamic website, a blog, landing pages, digital PR, and a meticulous evaluation and selection of the most particularly convenient social media networks for the business profile. All these tools would be taking a homogeneous messaging and branding to media, industry analysts, target prospects, clients, business partners, etc.
It is a fact that social media have a very important role in the new decision taking processes, as well as in the brands positioning. As a B2B entrepreneur you should know that leverage the social media benefits are, far from futile, key activities which are an integrated part of the new age business processes. And, if used under a marketing strategy these networks can be used on your favor creating interactive communities through which you would be able to identify leads and very hot business opportunities, but farther than that, you would be able to become influential to decision makers.
Then… Let’s go social!
Social media are tools to easily create communities and exchange information. They take our message to our target audience attracting them and captivating them; but differently from other tools like advertising or traditional PR, social media allow us to communicate and listen to our audience, making our community dynamic. This active community exchanging information, allow us to recognize our target market and leads particular needs in a one-to-one format; this key activity can be defined as ‘interaction’. Social media, and social media communities are interactive, this gives them a high value that can be easily leverage by the B2B companies.
Before Google, getting quality leads was part of the sales executives’ tasks, and marketing area support them organizing targeted events and inviting possible leads, participating in industry events, using traditional PR; occasionally using direct mail, telemarketing, and traditional advertising. When Google arrived in 1998, the digital marketing era raised. Executives saw their inboxes full of advertising and promotional emails, some marketers focused on SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising; some B2B companies focused on the digital information – referential case studies and product data – delivery and webinars additionally to the events’ invitations. But a small detail was forgotten… How many B2B companies were doing the same, at the same time? Executives didn’t have enough time to do their work, read all the documentation that they were receiving and attend all the webinars and events. Facing this overload of information they had to filter it. Additionally the more experimented marketers realized that the leads delivered to the sales executives still needed to be qualified and the really hot ones filtered as a priority. A 1-to-1 approach and qualification was needed in order to give this real support to the sales area delivering hot leads and ROI.
All of these marketing activities are still on use, therefore they have evolved; both way the marketing tools and the marketing mix have added the social media networks. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, SlideShare, FourSquare, etc. and the blogs have ease the content publication and the interaction with the community in a unique and direct way allowing an easy qualification amongst the group to get the hot leads and leveraging the approach with the sales executives.
Experienced B2B marketers and entrepreneurs know that the prospects attend fewer events than they did before; now they browse searching what they need as well as for comments, references, and recommendations of the products or services that reached their interest, of course they approach first to those brands familiar to them, they compare them and validate them; they make an approach only when they feel comfortable with their research result. According to Forrester Research, 77% of these decision makers are active in social media, and use searching engines and social media to get referrals and information. Facing this, the challenge is to put the right information at their reach, not only published by ourselves but by third parties; and here is when digital PR and social media strategies interact.
This evolution in the marketing activities and tools are already giving positive results, creating brand awareness and qualified hot leads; however, the ROI measurement and analysis remains an interesting challenge. A wide range of applications and solutions can be found to monitor, analyze, and work this business and social media intelligence. From some integrated as HootSuite; CRMs, Alerts in Yahoo or Google, RSS feeds. Monitoring and measuring tools like Radian6, Social Mention, Steprep, or Social Rank amongst many others; Business Intelligence and Social intelligence tools like MicroStrategy Wisdom, Emma or Alert, Google Analytics, etc. No doubt this is an interesting work for the marketers responsible of evaluating and selecting the best social media technology mix to get the expected results. New skills needed… The world changes, isn’t it?
However, once again, and going back to the basics, the first step is to have a well defined marketing strategy; going even beyond, a complete set of punctual and precise messages from which high quality content would be develop in text, image, audio and video. Then, according to the strategy, a marketing mix has to be created including tools as digital PR, social media, advertising, a dynamic website, etc., defining activities that all integrated would build the brand awareness and making sure that the content reaches the correct media and website to help us to achieve the planned interaction and to become a source of this prospects’ “Social Validation” process; which is nothing but a psychological phenomenon occurring when the members of a community search for comments, referrals, clues, and whatever helps them to validate information they got and give it their trust.
In the marketing mix, we already have included social media, therefore the next step would be to evaluate and select both, the social media and the management+measurement+analysis tools that will be used according to the business needs and objectives.
Once all the elements are together and ready to start, it is important to keep in mind that our social media will have a key role in our prospect’s “Social Validation”, and that the interaction we achieve to establish with the community as a whole could be a turning point in the decisions to be taken by the community members. For instance, your company’s brand presence could be easily leveraged by a good digital PR support. This tool, interacting with others, would put your content in key media websites and social media where the prospects can reach it and be able to ask, vote, rank, comment, read, etc., completing their “Social Validation” process. This, with a well planned and nice interaction with your company could put this prospect in your list of clients pretty soon.
Social media are powerful tools for the B2B companies facing the buying process evolution and the ones that executives are now using not only to validate information but also to go through services and support issues.
Analyze your own company, don’t do what others are doing, design your own strategy and marketing networks, select the tools that better suite your particular needs. Always think in your readers and prospects, they are all part of your community, pay special attention to your content quality. Social media networks holds thousands of alternatives, take the ones for you and… Become a social B2B company!