Generating leads is what B2B marketing is all about. Luckily, social marketing has demonstrated measurable power in support of that goal and many B2B marketers use it that way. In fact, according to a recent study by BtoB Magazine, 93 percent of all B2B marketers are engaged in some form of social media marketing, with most putting their focus on the most popular channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter).
Yet, the whole premise of lead generation seems contrary to the open, customer-is-in-charge nature of social media. Is it possible to get more leads without blatant self-promotion or ruining your online reputation?
Most definitely. In fact, some of our customers are seeing leads from social media convert up to 25 percent of the time - right on par with whitepaper downloads and even some outbound call centers. In working with several B2B marketers now who are integrating social marketing into their integrated marketing management programs (a fancy term that Gartner likes for marketing automation), we've been refining a 10-step process for success. Love to hear what is working for you and what you'd add or edit from this list.
First and foremost for anyone interested in utilizing social marketing is to join and participate. To be authentic, you must be active. I find it interesting that some of the most active players on Twitter are still those brands that market to marketers. Hmm. What does that say about us? Drinking the Kool-Aid, perhaps?
All marketing is content today. In fact, content is the currency by which we draw attention, enter conversations, and engage prospects. Most companies do a lousy job of leveraging all the content produced in the normal course of business. If you have a blog, start there. Services teams are typically spilling over with great content, best practices, and results that can be repurposed for social outreach (or any marketing content). Customers themselves provide wonderful insights. We've interviewed customers via Twitter or as part of LinkedIn case studies. It's a wonderful win-win.
To state the obvious, if you don't have a clear call to action, it's hard to nurture response or track success. A trackable call to action can be as simple as, "Comment below" or "Join our LinkedIn group." I'm starting to see more marketers refine their approach to social media, provide clear calls to action on their messaging, and drive leads and sales as a measure of success.
I can't think of a B2B company that shouldn't be blogging - and most should be doing it on multiple levels. The content and thought leadership that manifests from a blog is pretty essential for participating in social communities and validating your brand's authenticity and stature in the marketplace. Consider a blog for customers only, for employees, and even one that aggregates multiple sources for review and comparison. Blogs are also a rich source of the content needed to fully participate in a social strategy. Plus, they provide a lead generation destination during the discovery and nurturing stages.
Build brand networks.
B2B marketers have lots of communities that are not associated to networks - thus they limit ongoing interaction. Consider your customer advisory board(s), your university registrants, and your annual event attendees. All of these (and more) are the basis for ongoing branded networks. Don't set up networks (even LinkedIn groups) unless you can staff them and make them worth visiting. Do consider that networks on LinkedIn or other sites can be temporary - say, for the three months prior and post your event.
Devices are the key aspect of digital marketing that most B2B marketers still struggle to understand and leverage. First, understand if your customers are accessing your content (email, blog, social networks, branded applications) on mobile devices. Then, use that data for customizing content across channels - selecting email, SMS, or social based on profile, time of day, and call to action.
Ensure information portability (open APIs).
Building on the mobile device aspect, information has become more portable and so the importance of open APIs will increase. We must be able to pull information together for a clearer picture of the entire customer lifecycle and our own organizational outreach. Siloed information is the way of the past.
Tap social search.
The more content you utilize on social networks for lead generation, the more important social search becomes. Be sure to adapt and allocate resources based on where your customers and prospects are actually searching.
Marketing automation technology allows you to manage data and customer profiles across channels. Use it for segmentation, publishing, and reporting to optimize right message and right time.
Measure and optimize.
As in all things marketing, none of this gets you anywhere unless you set measurable business goals and track every campaign. Your integration marketing management software should be enabling all this for you.
What do you think? Share your own experiences and methods with us and let's keep the learning going.
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.