Research from ITSMA and others has been highlighting how the B2B buying process is changing. For example over 75% of tech buyers are using Social Media like LinkedIn and blogs as part of the buying process and buyers are making use of search tools like Google which often deliver Social Media results.
A recent example from Booze & Company’s B2B Marketing Survey 2010 highlights how B2B marketers are changing their marketing mix to follow this trend.
The benefits of using social media in your B2B marketing mix
While there is lots of buzz about Social Media and B2B the practical benefits of a marketing mix that includes Social Media are:
- Search Engine Optimization
- More targeted market reach using your network
- More qualified inbound traffic
And when combined with a best practice mix of content, programs and pipeline marketing tools like Pardot’s Prospect Insight, Social Media can capture more prospects and deliver more visibility into your pipeline.
Along with these practical benefits, softer benefits like anecdotal market insight, corporate openness, customer engagement, and hearing what your customers are saying can also be valuable but BrainRider starts by focusing on how to use Social Media to attract and convert more customers.
The challenges in using Social Media for B2B
But social media also has some significant challenges. We often work with mid-market companies who compete based on specialized knowledge or expertise–not price. That implies a longer buying cycle, a very targeted market and a need to focus their marketing resources. For these client’s Social Media can be a challenge because of:
- The large number of options and platforms
- The demand for marketing content
- The investment needed to manage a real-time environment
- A lack of integration with their pipeline and sales process
However with the right approach these challenges can be managed and you can access the benefits of using Social Media as part of your marketing mix.
A best practice approach: Outposts and Anchors
Our recommendation is a low-hanging fruit approach designed to expand your reach and presence while managing your investment and channelling all your leads into your pipeline. This B2B specific approach is based on Chris Brogan’s thinking about Social Media outposts and anchors but it has been tailored to fit the needs of our clients.
First, think of your Social Media presence as a series of marketing “outposts” setup in channels where your potential buyers are active and where search engines index for results. This is a version of the age old recommendation to go where your customers are.
Use these outposts to share content designed to connect with prospects at each stage of their decision-making process. This content can be re-used in multiple formats, types and outposts but it should be focused on what your customers want to know and your value proposition. And because many Social Media channels can syndicate their content through feeds you can often efficiently post and cross-reference your content across multiple outposts automatically. This is a smart way to efficiently reduce the time it takes to expand your Social Media presence.
We often recommend starting with a combination of Twitter, LinkedIn, SlideShare, and blogging. These four social media channels are low hanging opportunities for most companies and they work well together. But ask your customers what they are using and experiment with new channels as they get on your radar. But don’t forget in each of these cases, the purpose of these outposts is to quickly connect with your prospects using light content and direct them into your pipeline by using an anchor offering more valuable content.
(To get you started here is a quick post on how to setup your LinkedIn profile to act as an outpost.)
Next create an “anchor” on your own website (BrainRider’s anchor is our http://brainrider.com/knowledge-center) . Your anchor should be designed to help your prospects quickly find more interesting thinking, knowledge, and expertise as well as to encourage them to easily opt-into for access to even more content. And because they are now on your website, you can use digital analytics and marketing automation tools to track a specific prospect’s interest in a subject area and nurture them through the decision process with additional relevant content. Click here for some thoughts on nurturing best practice.
As more and more research is showing, Social Media can be an important part of your marketing mix, I hope this post and the outpost and anchor approach is helpful in getting you get started. For more information or to discuss your specific needs please feel free to contact us.
For more insight on Social Media, B2B Marketing, and the Booz & Company research Courtney Wiley, Director of Digital Marketing over at INgage Networks has a terrific blog post looking at this trend and she leverages her own practical knowledge to share 7 great tips on what you can do for your own marketing efforts.
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