8 Steps For B2B Social Media Success

By John Hogg


Blog Enlighten IC

How your business can succeed on Social Media

In the age of social media and all things digital, we continually hear buzz words such as content marketing and customer engagement, on the other side of the coin, we also hear about how companies that sell business to business have no use for social media.

A typical comment we often hear when we’re out and about goes something like this:

I sell software to business customers, why do I need social media?

As a provider of out-sourced social media solutions (amongst other things) for several organisations, we often hear comments such as this. Others might say,

We’re on Twitter, we’re on LinkedIn, we’re on Facebook, but nothing seems to be happening? We’re not winning any new work.

These are very real comments made by very real companies and need to be taken seriously. To take them seriously, however, we need to bring it back to basics and understand what social media is and what it can do versus what it is not and what it cannot do.

Social Media is not a silver bullet

Let’s deal with the negatives first. Social Media is not a silver bullet. Just because you set up a Twitter account you cannot expect your business to go into orbit. You need to take time, you need to build a social media plan (as an integral part of your overall marketing plan) and you need to keep at it before things start to kick in and you gain some traction. If you set out to simply increase sales from day one you are missing the point. Selling is just one facet of what social media can actually deliver for your business.

So what can Social Media do for my B2B company?

1. Listen - what are your networks talking about?

By building and maintaining your social media network you will have a fantastic opportunity to listen in on what is happening within your marketplace. Social Media allows you to listen in on relevant news for your target market, you can listen to what your competitors are at and you can also listen to what your customers are saying. By listening in this way you will be very well informed on the key issues facing your customers. Taking things to an advanced level you could consider listening to the conversations the customers of your customers are having.

Listening to your network is very powerful for when you are communicating with your customers. You will now be communicating from an informed position and will sound knowledgeable about the key issues they may be facing. When harnessed effectively Social Media channels will become an additional source of market intelligence for your sales teams.

2. Research - find out who your real customers are?

Building upon your ‘listening’ skills social media can help B2B companies to better understand and research the markets in which they operate. Even though you may be selling to a faceless corporate machine, there are still people making the decisions at the end of the day. Social Media can be used effectively to build a picture of the organisation and the people making those decisions.

Before conducting any future sales activity your sales teams should therefore harness their ‘listening’ and ‘research’ skills in order to hone and refine their sales pitch so that it is tailored to the specific people it will be going to.

Another benefit of researching your network is that over time it will begin to generate leads for your sales team. This will include prospective customers who may see what you are doing online and decide to get in touch and ask for a quote. Similarly, given the collaborative nature of social media you need to think about the key influencers within your industry as they may endorse your product or even refer you to a potential customer you have always wanted to get an introduction to.

Important Point: Remember that Social Media is a ‘two-way street’ We therefore need to realise that potential customers may be ‘listening’ to what we are saying on social media and similarly they may also be ‘researching’ our company and our behaviour via social media. This is why we need to ensure we have a 360 degree Social Media strategy in place. We need to ensure we are communicating the right messages and in the right tone via our social media channels.

3. Awareness - give your brand awareness a lift

Raising your brand awareness via social media is a huge plus from your B2B social media activity. Bearing in mind there will be people out there listening and researching the social media landscape for potential leads, for potential suppliers and to find out more about the people they do business with, it is extremely important that you establish clear brand guidelines and agree your tone of voice before embarking on your social media journey.

When harnessed correctly social media can establish B2B brand awareness through a number of different activities. This can help to provide credibility for your business and ensure you are taken seriously when you finally meet your potential new customer face-to-face.

4. Engage - go on talk to me... you know you want to!

OK, so you’ve listened to your network, you’ve researched your potential and existing customers and through your social media activity you have raised your brand awareness amongst the key influencers and stakeholders in your target market - what next?

You engage! Social Media is all about the conversation and if you are not willing to go onto social media and engage in free and honest debate there isn’t really any point starting. Some companies are reluctant to say anything via social media in case it goes wrong and goes viral. At the end of the day, if everyone took this approach there would be no social networks. We need to engage in order to convert any potential sales targets into business. We also need to engage in order to be taken seriously and not be seen as just using social media in the same way we would a radio ad!

5. Educate - let people know what your key features and benefits are

It would be fair to say that within the B2B space there will be a fair degree of complex product features and benefits, never mind confusing technical specifications. It is for this reason the B2B space tends more towards consultative selling rather than transactional sales. Customers need to be educated on the benefits their solution can bring. This is one of the reasons B2B companies invest so much in training their sales teams to sell solutions rather than products. We need to remember this point and use social media to try and educate our potential customers on the key features and benefits of our products/ service - in other words, we need to try and communicate our ‘solutions’ for each of our customer segments.

Depending on what you do within the B2B space, it is probably more realistic if you try and see Social Media as a source of lead generation rather than completed sales. If you have highly complex products it is highly unlikely that someone will simply log in and purchase it online. You may need to roll in a ‘real’ person every once and a while :-)

6. Loyalty - build loyalty and trust through responsive social media

If you build your social media network with the concept of building communities of like-minded people in the back of your mind you can engage with your customers, prospects and influencers on a whole new level. As well as establishing your credibility as an excellent provider of your product/ service you can also prove your responsiveness as a supplier. Your ongoing listening programme will keep you alive to the potential issues being faced by your customers (including any good news about your customer!) and will allow you to show a level of empathy that your customers might not have previously appreciated. Your Social Media programme should therefore attempt to build in customer loyalty as a core objective. And remember from loyalty comes better insight, a deeper relationship and higher level of cross selling!

7. Collaboration - give a little and get a lot

But I’m a sales person, why would I want to help anyone?

The very nature of social media is that it is open and the majority of people who use social media are helpful and supportive. You get the odd troll, but at the end of the day, most people on social media are willing to help. You should find that as you cultivate relationships on your social network you will identify people willing to help. Some people in your network may have that extra piece of insight into your potential customers behaviour that will help you to enhance your credibility. For collaboration to work it is again a two-way street. You need to give a bit to get something in return. Wholesome relationships are built on two-way interaction so if you can help someone online do so as you never know when they may be there to help you or even throw a referral your way!

8. Support - first class customer service wins fans

Last in this series of 8 steps to B2B social media success is about support. You’ve listened and researched, you’ve built awareness, engaged and educated your customers. You’ve collaborated and you’ve built loyalty and guess what, you’ll never believe it - you’ve actually won a new customer. That’s it, the role of social media is over...

Not so fast, it’s not over yet! Social Media can help you to build your brand loyalty further by providing excellent Customer Service. A number of companies do this already and allow customers to contact them via social media when they have a question or a problem. When set-up correctly this can bring many dividends for your business. Some companies may be reluctant to do this in case it exposes a problem online to a wider audience and in some industries information is confidential to the individual. However, this doesn’t mean we should hide from our social media network. We can still use social media as a contact point for customers and if it is a simple fix we can respond openly on social media and other customers may benefit from this without even having to get in touch. If it is a confidential matter an initial contact can be taken offline and directed to the relevant person in your organisation who will deal with it - again this benefits the customer as they have easily navigated through your organisation to the right person and hopefully they can resolve the issue for the customer without too much of a problem.

Social Customer Care is worth serious consideration.

OK, can you run that past me again?

So, there you go Social Media for B2B companies doesn’t really work and there’s nothing you have to do other than set up a profile and ask for likes. Simple! ;-)

Seriously though, I hope this 8 step process has helped to demonstrate that social media has a lot to offer B2B companies who feel that “it’s really not their thing.” It is more of a perception versus reality issue and the only way to find out is to jump right in (well, jump in with a proper social media strategy in your back pocket...).

As ever, I’d love to hear from you. I’m sure that as time evolves we can add to this list or even split some of the points into sub sections. Either way, I’d be happy to engage!

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John Hogg Enlighten IC

John Hogg

John is managing director of Enlighten IC and has been involved in legal marketing and technology marketing for over 25 years. He is passionate about how an inbound approach to marketing can help firms to drive leads and grow their business.

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