Thursday, November 3rd, 2016 | 8 min read
When businesses make a buying decision, they employ the same strategies that a person might use when shopping for a new jacket. Companies shop around online for vendors, gain a thorough understanding of the available offerings and price points, consider feedback from their peers, and expect to be engaged by brands if and when they reach out.
It’s clear how important it is for B2B brands be just as engaged on social as any B2C company. They need to be present, yes, but also use integrated social strategies to increase sales, find and nurture prospects, care for clients, and improve their reach and brand trust through advocacy.
Here’s how they can do it.
Traditional sales methods are becoming irrelevant (alas, the cold call is officially dead: 90% of executives say they never respond to unsolicited outreach.). As a result, B2B brands must use social selling – leveraging social insights and relationship data to find, relate, and engage the right people with the right message at the right time – to improve their chances while saving time and resources.
This requires salespeople to not only build out their social platforms with thought leadership and leverage resources like LinkedIn, but also that they listen to customers, engage in relevant conversations, and solve real customer problems that they encounter via social.
Companies can use social trends to drive content strategy and ultimately provide the right people with the right material, on the the right platform.
Research shows that this sort of approach is successful for companies as well as individual salespeople. Social sellers are 51% more likely to hit their quota, and they see 45% more opportunity for promotion. This suggests that salespeople ought to be open to adjusting their approach in the B2B space.
On social, anyone can say whatever they want about your brand to a seemingly unlimited audience, and that’s a little scary. This dynamic, however, presents a prime opportunity for brands to reach new audiences and forge relationships.
By using social listening to identify consumers talking about your brand, a competitor, or even a keyword related to your products, you can spot people who may be interested in interacting with you.
Say you build software that helps enterprise brands host virtual meetings. You could listen for practitioners complaining about their current provider by setting queries for “virtual meeting” and ”virtual webinar” in combination with negative sentiment.
Once you identify interested individuals, you can engage them and nurture the relationship with relevant content. When you find that community of people complaining about “virtual meetings,” you can offer them materials that tout your solution to their problem.
And as you grow your network of prospects and attract more customers, you’ll improve your chances of generating brand advocates that will tell your story for you and build goodwill among your peers.
Once you’re listening to – and engaging with – prospects and nurturing them with content, it’s time to find people who could use a product like yours, but may not be talking about it on social.
By boosting helpful content to lookalike audiences, you can attract people who are similar to your current customers, whether by age, interests, job functions, etc. With the right social advertising software, you can not only target lookalike audiences, but also hone your audience targeting in real time and ensure your ads are being served to the right people, at the right time.
Just as a customer who recently bought a pair of jeans would be annoyed to see ads for the same company in their newsfeeds, clients shopping for a vendor are equally sensitive to ad solutions that don’t retarget dynamically.
While it may seem obvious, a proper social care solution is equally important for B2B and B2C brands. Though many B2B companies (especially SAAS companies) have success managers who handle client relationships, it can be difficult to scale that level of care if a company is quickly evolving.
Oftentimes, employees at agencies are the ones using software on account of a brand, which can cause some communication gaps. Also, success managers in charge of accounts can change without the software user knowing. In these cases, which become more common as a company scales, software users often reach out via social when they have a problem because it’s so much easier than searching for the right person.
Begin with a general dashboard that pulls in @mentions and mentions of your branded handles or company name. This will ensure that you don’t miss any direct customer care opportunities. Listen for hashtags related to your brand, and include those indicating negative sentiment, such as the classic “#fail.”
When addressing client issues, establish the necessary rules and approval flow to prevent non-compliant content from appearing on your social platforms. Also, develop a crisis management plan that you can deploy when a problem, such as a platform outage, emerges.
Reflecting the influence of customer-to-customer conversations in the B2C space, customer reviews and testimonials in the B2B space are trusted more than branded content.
This has led to growing employee and brand advocacy efforts, as well as influencer marketing in both realms. In the B2B space, leads that result from employee sharing are 7X more likely to convert and result in a new client.
Not only is content more trusted when it comes from advocates, it also increases reach of content substantially. Brand messages reach 561% further when they’re shared by your employees and employees can reach a 10X greater audience than a brand can alone.
B2B companies need to be as active and engaged in the social conversation as every B2C brand. They need to use social to enable salespeople to be social sellers, find and engage prospects, care for clients, and create advocacy programs.
As with the B2C space, a united front office is as important as ever. Clients will be researching you before they meet you, and they’ll expect aligned experiences throughout the entire sales process and beyond. Once they’re clients, they’ll have the same expectations of customer care as any client who just bought a product would.
B2B brands are not impervious to the transformation that has happened as a result of the rise of social. It’s time for them to adjust accordingly.