Many B2B corporations I work with have begun to understand the benefits of augmenting their traditional, offline relationship-building efforts with online engagement.
However, for most the measurement debate lingers and seems to be overshadowing some common sense networking. This fact was emphasised at a B2B conference I participated in recently where the attendees seemed to be more focused on the quantity rather than the quality measurement.
- How many followers do you have?
- How do you achieve greater Likes?
- How many RTs does your content get?
We know hat humans and businesses alike have a need to measure everything. And in business, the Return on Investment measurement is certainly king. A profitable return on investment is important for any business, yet trying to attain certain measurements can negatively impact how you strategize and execute engagement strategies. This is the case in any business sector but for me, its most evident in the B2B-social space.
So here are some practical tips on three of the more common B2B social engagement platforms from my recent discussions on the subject at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston.
LinkedIn seems to be the De facto-network for B2B professional relationships yet a closer look at the quality of those relationships shows them to be inconsistent and thin. Instead of trying to build larger volumes of connections consider:
- Dedicating time to better knowing fewer customers and prospects in your connected audience and introduce them to others in your network that could benefit THEM. Being a facilitator for your LinkedIn audience will elevate the trust within that audience for your brand and drive greater loyalty and inbound calls.
- Reach out beyond your connected audience by creating or participating in group discussions. Monitor questions and comments, and engage in the discussions by providing valuable information that helps them. Remember, pitching your products as a solution or answer to others questions in social communities is like skating on thin ice, its possible but perilous if not done correctly. Suggestions:
- Dont make every post about your product. Focus on the audiences needs and post advice, even when it has no impact on the sales of your products or services. This can position you as an industry thought-leader, which will result in greater inbound calls.
- Dont include product details, offers or pricing in your posts. Rather, suggest that you may have a solution by stating: If you wish to learn more about itclick here or call this number. (Then refer to the earlier point about too many sales pitches in one stream.)
- Include a disclaimer that lists the fact that you work for ABC company that provides a solution but then also suggest they consider your competitors. If you have the best product for their needs, they will hire you or buy that product. If not, social engagement will not help you. At the very least, customers who a competitor based on your comments will more likely recommended you to colleagues and be more willing to engage you in the future.
- When choosing which contacts you wish to connect with, dont just look at prospective customers. Seek those who may have value to your customers or prospects. Again, it goes back to becoming a facilitator for their business growth rather than your own. While it may seem counter-intuitive to the direct sales process, this relationship building will drive greater value in your relationships and long-term sales for your business.
Your goal on Twitter should not be to amass the largest number of followers. Its a meaningless statistic unless you can qualify each follower as a potential customer or influencer; and even then, only if youve identified how to engage them in a way that supports your business goals. Here are a few practical tips for engaging your B2B customers through Twitter:
- Use the advanced Twitter search filters and/or 3rd party Twitter clients to:
- Identify & engage those curating content relevant to your business. They are potential influencers.
- Identify & engage those asking questions or asking for advice that your business services or products can provide solutions to.
- Monitor your competitors conversations, insights and customers.
- Create a Twitter customer service account to allow those business customers who frequently engage in this network to reach out to you directly with questions for support.
- Create a product or service marketing account whose public mandate is to keep customers and prospects up to date on new releases, training information and industry facts relevant to your customers.
Businesses (most anyway) have learned not to spam customers with emails so why are so many spamming bloggers with press releases? The theory for blogger outreach, like spam e-mail, seems to focus on the numbers game. The more bloggers that the marketing or PR departments can get the message in front of the greater the chance the message will be shared to their audience.
The reality however, as with other social engagements, relationships produce greater referral and viral activity, especially within the B2B space.
Want to leverage the network of influential bloggers? First consider:
- Monitoring bloggers content and their audiences participation level. Just because someone writes about your industry, does not mean they have an audience listening to them or the right audience for that matter.
- Understand their point of view and views on competitors products before deciding to engage them or at the very least use this information as the basis for HOW you engage them.
- Send introductory packages, letters or videos to bloggers before you begin sending any press releases and ask them how they like to receive information or if theyre even interested. Better yet, pick up the phone and call them.
- Identify how your business or its marketing assets can add value to the bloggers business. Yes, blogs are a business for bloggers and each requires strong and relevant content for their audience in order to retain and grow readership. Consider what you can provide to make their business stronger. If you can demonstrate how you will take care of their business, they will help take care of yours!
- Read their blogs! Show you are paying attention. Find out where they are and have your team attend the same conferences or events to build personal relationships with them. Better yet, invite them to attend industry conferences with you.
Given the nature and sale-cycles of most B2B businesses, building social relationships is clearly not about quantity. And there is no magic-bullet that will serve all industries or drive equal results across all networks.
There are some common best-practices however, which includes a focus on the customer or influencers needs and building long term relationships vs. short term numbers. With the right plan and patience your B2B organization can also benefit from this powerful new networking channel.
What have your experiences been with driving B2B social engagements? Are you struggling or prospering in this area? Share your thoughts, learning’s or questions below.
By Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego